Yes, women get boners too. Here's what it feels like to have a clitoral erection.
- The penis and clitoris may look aesthetically different, but they're both capable of getting erections.
- They come from the same developmental cells, and they act in similar ways during arousal and sex, a urologist said.
At first glance, male and female genitalia may appear strikingly different.
But the truth is, penises and vulvas have more in common than you may think, including the ability to get aroused and become erect. That's right: Ladies can get boners too.
Though you likely didn't learn about clitoral erections during grade-school sexual education class, research shows that the penis and clitoris have the same biological origins, Dr. Fenwa Milhouse, a Chicago-based urologist, told Business Insider.
"The clitoris and the penis come from the same lineage, the same developmental cells," Milhouse said.
As a fetus grows, it begins to differentiate its genitals, with some becoming elongated into a penis and others take on more of a flat structure, becoming the vulva which includes the clitoris, according to Milhouse. She said that the main difference is that the penis contains the urethra, a hollow tube used to pee, and the clitoris does not.
But when it comes to sexual pleasure, these two organs behave in similar ways, and the sensations can feel similar whether it's a man or a woman having a boner, Milhouse said.
What it looks and feels like to have a clitoral erection
Generally, when someone experiences an erection, it causes blood to rush to their genitals and fill the corpora cavernosa, spongy tissue that makes up most of the genitals.
The penis and the clitoris — a ball of tissue that contains thousands of nerve endings and is positioned underneath where the inner labia, or vulva lips, meet to form a hood — are similar in this way, said Milhouse.
There are two corpora cavernosa in the penis, and the clitoris has one corpus cavernosum where blood rushes, Milhouse said. When the genital tissue engorges with blood, it makes the area more sensitive to physical touch and creates a firmer feel and appearance, according to Milhouse.
With penises, these erections tend to look quite obvious. The same is true of the clitoris; there's a distinct difference between a flaccid and erect one. It's just less noticed because it's not often talked about, Milhouse said.
She said that if you talk to people who check out their vulvas during masturbation, or who get close to their partners' genitals during partnered sex, they'll likely tell you it looks huge compared to what they expected or saw at the start of the sexual experience.
For someone experiencing a clitoral erection, they may notice their genitals feel more sensitive than usual, whether they're being touched or not. For some, the sensation might feel tingly, and for others, it could come with some discomfort, Milhouse said.
Often, these lady boners are also accompanied by an increase in vaginal secretions, according to Milhouse.
Women can have erection problems too, a urologist says
The similarities between an aroused penis and aroused clitoris also extend to sexual health-related difficulties, like erectile dysfunction, Milhouse told Business Insider.
She said that erectile dysfunction in men tends to be more obvious because it impacts their ability to have penetrative sex. But for women with clitoral problems, like decreased or no sensitivity, the issue is often ignored or hidden "because you can penetrate a vagina even if the clitoris isn't erect," Milhouse said.
She said that patients who have clitoral issues have never referred to it as "erectile dysfunction," but will instead say they feel numb down there, or are having difficulty reaching orgasm.
Though these issues are less discussed among women, you should still bring up any concerns with a medical professional, Milhouse said.
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