Clitoris Isn't Just for Female Pleasure. It Also Helps With Reproduction, Scientist Says

The clitoris is commonly thought to be the only body part which functions solely for pleasure. But a scientist has questioned this idea, suggesting it also plays a role in reproduction.

Stimulating the sex organ—the visible tip of which sits atop the vulva under the clitoral hood—triggers a number of processes which help with procreation, according to a review of existing scientific research published in the journal Clinical Anatomy.

It causes the brain to give off signals which prepare the reproductive tract for receiving and processing sperm. That includes sending more blood and oxygen towards the vagina, as well as making it warmer and more lubricated so a penis can enter more easily.

Arousal also helps to move the entrance of the uterus, known as the cervix, in order to stop semen from entering too quickly. This gives the cells a chance to get moving and swim towards the egg following ejaculation. These processes end when arousal is over, for instance when a woman has an orgasm.

Roy Levin, an independent researcher who formerly worked as a reader in physiology at the University of Sheffield, U.K., and conducted the review, said in a statement: "The often repeated mantra, that the sole function of clitoris is to induce sexual pleasure, is now obsolete. The concept changes a major sexual belief, and the physiological evidence is now obvious."

Removing or injuring the clitoris, as is done in female genital mutilation, therefore not only robs a person of sexual pleasure but also affects their ability to reproduce, Levin concluded.

The controversial cultural practice is carried out by some people from East Africa, such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. As well as a clitorectomy, where the organ is partially or totally removed, it can involve cutting away the clitoris and the inner lips, or labia minora. Some who undergo FGM might also have their labia minora and majora, or outer lips, cut to narrow the vaginal opening; or have their genitals harmed with piercings, incisions, cauterizing, and or scraping.

The study is the latest to shed light on the female anatomy. Last year, a study published in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology tried to answer whether there such a thing as a "normal" vulva.

The research involved 657 women aged between 15 and 84-years-old. Their vulvas, which includes the clitoris, inner and outer labia, were examined. The team found the body part, often mistakenly called the vagina, was different between the women. While the average inner labia measured around an inch in length, it could range from a tenth of an inch to over three.

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A stock image shows a couple in bed. A scientist has questioned the idea that the clitoris is only for pleasure. Getty