Whether you were 12 or 20 or today years old the first time you really examined what was going on between your legs, you probably made a lot of discoveries. Most importantly: You realized you have something called a clitoris, and it feels damn good to touch it.
But, you may still be confused by that cute little flap of skin that covers your clit. What does it do? Does it have a name? If you still need answers, listen up.
Meet: the clitoral hood. Basically, it’s the skin that protects the tip and outer shaft of the clitoris from abrasion and injuries, explains Katharine O’Connell White, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Boston University.
And yep, the hood also prevents your clitoris from being stimulated by random stuff, like your clothing or your seat, says White. When you’re horny, glands under the hood secrete a lubricant that helps the tissue glide over the clitoris without friction, White explains.
That said, despite its seemingly small surface area, there’s a lot more to the clitoral hood than you might think. (Like, did you know the clitoral hood is the skin that’s typically pierced during a clitoral piercing? Or that it’s kind of considered akin to the foreskin of the penis?) Here’s everything you need to know about the clitoral hood, per experts.
What is the clitoral hood?
The glans clitoris—the external, pea-sized part of the clitoris above your urethra—is surrounded by a fold of skin that protects it, explains Janet Brito, PhD, a certified sex therapist.
That fold of skin, which is technically the upper part of the labia, is referred to as the clitoral hood, and it keeps the clit’s 8,000 nerve endings safe from harm and irritation.
It can vary in both size and shape, explains Alyssa Dweck, MD, an OB-GYN in Westchester County, New York, so don’t worry about yours not looking “right.” Everyone’s is different. (And isn’t that beautiful?!)
What does the clitoral hood do?
The clit’s nerve endings, which give clitoris-owners a whole lot of pleasure, can also easily cause pain—either from too much pressure or too sharp a touch, says Brito. Luckily, that nifty clitoral hood adds an extra layer between the clitoris and a finger/penis/toy, so stimulation can feel pleasurable, not painful.
Not to mention, it keeps those nerves from getting irritated throughout the day by something as simple as tight-fitting clothes. For some, the hood is barely noticeable, while for others, it completely covers the clitoris. No matter the size, it’s there to help.
How do I find my clitoral hood?
As mentioned, the size and shape of the clitoral hood varies by individual, and it’s often mistaken for the clit itself. Before going on a hunt with your hand mirror, first familiarize yourself with what the hood looks like in general.
The clitoral hood is the arch of tissue that goes above the top of the clitoris, says White, and you can find your clitoral hood by searching with your hands from above or below. “From your pubic bone, you can gently trace one finger in the middle toward your vagina. You will feel the clitoral hood right above the clitoris,” says White.
“From your vagina, you can pull your inner lips (labia minora) apart and look to see where they meet in the middle. The flap of skin at the top of the arch above the clitoris is the hood.” In terms of color and texture, the clitoral hood typically has the same color and texture as your labia minora.
And remember this: “Wherever the hood is situated on your clitoris is normal,” White says.
For example, some people have a more exposed clitoral tip, since their hood sits farther back, while others hoods’ might be pulled forward like a sweatshirt hoodie, covering most or
Does the clitoral hood retract?
During arousal (a.k.a. when you’re getting all hot and bothered), the clitoral hood does retract, says Dweck. It does so to expose more of your clitoris, which is super sensitive, but it becomes more comfortable with direct touch the more turned on you get.
“You can retract the hood yourself gently, too,” White says. Just lightly pull it back with the tips of your fingers. “It’s similar to the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis,” she adds, which you can move up and down the shaft as you please.
Okay but what if mine is really, really big?
If your clitoral hood completely covers your clit, first and foremost: “Don’t panic,” Brito says. The reality is there is no “normal” size.
But, if you want a way to identify how your clitoral hood compares to the general pubic, here’s a good analogy: Think of the clit as the head of a person wearing a sweatshirt. For some, the sweatshirt hood rests below the head, some have the hood up just a little, and some have that hood all the way around their head.
That last scenario is what’s often referred to as a “hooded clitoris,” and it’s nothing to stress about. You’re not different or weird, and just because you can’t find your vagina’s twin in porn videos doesn’t make you any less capable of having excellent sex.
How does the hood affect orgasm?
When you get turned on, your clit swells with blood and gets bigger (kind of like a penis) and that usually pushes your hood aside, thanks to the help of natural lubricant produced by the hood called sebum.
If you have a smaller clitoral hood, you probably won’t notice your hood at all during sex, or you may feel extra-sensitive when your clitoris is directly stimulated (again, everyone is different!).
But if you have one of those aforementioned hooded clitorises, it may not move as easily, which could have an affect on the sensations you feel during sexual situations.
You may not feel enough stimulation to orgasm while the hood is down (don’t worry, you can push it back manually), or you may need extra pressure against your clitoris and clitoral hood to achieve orgasm.
It’s all about finding what works for you. “Some people may find that they need to apply more pressure; others may be able to draw the hood back and expose the clitoris. Others still prefer to rub the clitoral hood and clitoris together,” Brito says.
If you feel you have a particularly hooded clitoris that needs a li’l extra love, focus on direct clitoral stimulation more than penetration, Brito suggests. “Find positions where you or your partner are able to apply sufficient pressure to arouse your clitoris and increase sensation,” she explains.
What are some tips for stimulating your clitoral hood?
So you want to be sure you’re touching your (or your partner’s) clitoral hood in a way that feels grrrreat. These expert-approved tips will make your fingers seem dang near magical:
1. Directly touch the hood.
Clitoral stimulation often doesn’t happen from penetration alone, which can make it harder to reach orgasm. That’s why you may need direct stimulation of the hood, Dweck says.
Try having your partner touch the hood with their fingers (pro tip: use your ring and middle ones), playing around with varying pressures and speeds. You can also do this yourself. Fun!
2. Try a toy.
If you feel like you just can’t get enough stimulation, try incorporating a vibrator into the mix, White says. (Quick PSA: Brito recommends a wand massager, specifically, for super intense feels.) “A vibrator—through or around the hood—is an excellent way for many people to reach orgasm,” says White. Sexy shopping spree, anyone?
3. Grab some lube.
When in doubt, lube is always a good call, whether you’re using a toy, finger, or otherwise, Brito says. A little extra lubricant can help decrease any discomfort caused by friction or skin catching which, in turn, increases pleasure.
4. Experiment, experiment, experiment.
The number one way to have good sex with a hooded clitoris? Test out different techniques! Whether it’s with fingers, tongues, toys, genitals, or all of the above, the best way to find what’s right for you is to actually spend time exploring your body. So, light some candles, put on some music, maybe even grab a mirror, and get sex-ploring, Brito explains.
Can you get clitoral reduction surgery?
Yes, you can get clitoral reduction surgery, but it’s pretty risky and you should proceed with extreme caution. “One can pursue this if they have excess skin or are prone to infection, adhesions, or chaffing,” Dweck says. It’s also carried out for aesthetic purposes, changing the positioning of the hood on the clitoris.
However, the procedure must be performed by an experienced surgeon, since the potential risks include bleeding, infection, decreased sensitivity, pain, painful sex, and scar tissue, Dweck explains. It can even take over six weeks to recover fully from the surgery.
In addition to these risks, you’re also subjecting yourself to potential chronic pain and permanent scarring at the surgical spot if the procedure results go awry, White warns. In short, if you’re considering this surgery for cosmetic purposes only, it’s definitely not worth risking lifelong damage to your body.
“I want everyone to feel happy with their bodies, and not that they need to undergo procedures to make themselves look like some theoretical ideal,” White says. Noted.