You Need Help: You Don’t Know What To Do With Your Clit

Q:

Hey there! When I was a child, for medical reasons, I had a surgery on my genitals that involved my clit. I lost most of my sensitivity in that one spot. It frustrates me a lot because I won’t ever feel what a woman with a functioning clit feels and so I may miss how to pleasure my partner if I ever get one. But I also think: if I’ve had trouble finding what I like by myself, how will I expose to her my instruction manual?


A:

I want to start by saying I’m sorry this happened. It sucks that you’re feeling frustrated and worried about your body. That’s stressful. I also want to start off my advice with a disclaimer: this is outside the field of my personal experience. But I wanted to answer this question anyhow, because I think what I can offer you is a ton of reassurance on the subject of sex, bodies and their accompanying histories, and communication. And then at the very end, I’m going to expand this out a little bit to include readers who may be having these same worries, but for a lot of different reasons.

First off, I wanted to take a minute to address the anxiety about not feeling what “a woman with a functioning clit feels.” Plenty of women don’t have clits; a clit is not a qualifier for being a woman. Plenty of folks who aren’t women do have clits, too. How all of these folks interact with their genitalia differs wildly. Lots of people like different parts of their clit, call it different things, and give it different meanings. Every individual body, with a clit or without, feels things completely individually and enjoys completely different things. Regardless of the history of your body, you would never feel in yours the same way someone else feels in hers (or his or theirs). And that’s… sort of glorious. There are so many different ways to be a person in this world!

So if every body, regardless of its history and its genitals, feels different things differently, even if you and your partner have identical genitals, you’d still be coming to that experience completely fresh faced and new. Because everyone is different. Even if you’d had a million partners with the same genitals, you wouldn’t know what you’re doing when you get in bed with any one individual person. “Experience” doesn’t mean you’re psychic. You still have to ask what feels good and do a ton of fun exploring and communicating to figure out what works. And if it feels daunting, just remember: the most common kind of coupling on this earth is heterosexual coupling and those are often folks with different genitals from each other. They seem to make it work.

You suggest that you’re afraid of asking someone else to explore. But by asking that, you’re just asking them to do more sex and sexy things in the name of exploring each other. That’s… not a bad activity to be engaged in? You are not making an outsized, burdensome request. Plus you’ll be doing the same for them! There’s more to sex than just this one spot on ourselves — the entire body is a playground, in this case, and all you’re asking them to do is play! Challenge each other to find other parts of the body and make those spots sexy. It ain’t all about the clit, not by a long shot!

You mentioned that you’re still working on your “instruction manual” — honestly, a lot of people are! You can keep exploring on your own to find things that feel good to you, remembering that you can explore sensation in parts of your genitals or parts of your body other than your clit, and that while orgasming is great it doesn’t have to be the one and only goal of either masturbation or sex. When you are having sex, you already know you’ll want to communicate to them what you like and don’t; one way is to simply tell a partner exactly what you want. Of course, put really broadly that can feel like a tall order — other ways of thinking about this are telling your partner what feels good, how the way they’re touching you feels, what you want a little more of, what you want more of but a little different, more of but in a different spot or with a different intensity, etc. This doesn’t sound sexy, but dirty talk can be incredibly sexy! And it’ll give you the opportunity to ask in return what sorts of things they’re into, how they want their genitals to be treated, talked about, etc. Might I recommend this worksheet we published four years ago to help folks clarify what they want and communicate about sex? Another fun way is to masturbate in front of each other — it’s hot, and each of you can see exactly what kinds of touches you like. And don’t forget communicating adjustments in the moment. Never underestimate the power of a well-placed “to the left, to the left.” Everyone has an instruction manual. And everyone’s is different. If any partner makes you feel bad for liking certain things and asking for them from your sex, you should dump them. It’s not you; they are not a good partner.

Now, to expand a little on this for the rest of y’all out there. I’m taking this question asker at their word 100% that this surgery was medically necessary because they are the expert on their own body and history and life. But I know when it comes to folks who have had surgery on their genitals at a young age, that might not be the case. Sometimes this can be the result of parents pressured into assigning genitals to an intersex child in infancy; sometimes this can be the result of genital mutilation practices. If you are reading this advice and have trauma around a surgical procedure done on genitalia, I want you to know that you are not alone, and you are welcome in the queer community. I recommend talking to your primary care physician or therapist to see if they know of any good support groups in your area. Absent those two kinds of people, take to Google and find some folks who know what you’re going through to talk it out! My research turned up many hyper-local support groups, so there might be one near you. Resources are out there if you need them. And the rest of the advice applies as well. You and your body, as you are — you’re wonderful! And if you want to be having sex, there’s so much fun to be had. Every body has a history; yours doesn’t preclude you from pleasure. Go forth and jam!


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Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 535 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. ” Never underestimate the power of a well-placed ‘to the left, to the left.'”

    This is a good way to make a partner finish the lyric in their head and then be snorting and giggling and lose focus. I mean, I assume, as I have in no way fallen into this error before. Really.

  2. I clicked on this because the headline made me curious, and even though it ended up not applying to me, I love this whole answer because it’s just so KIND and affirming to so many people. <3 <3 <3 A.E. Osworth, you are a stellar human being!

  3. Oh my god, thank you so much for posting this and answering it the way you did. I was in a similar place to the letter writer about a year ago, for very different reasons. And I’m still on that journey in some ways, but can affirm that everything you said was 100% correct for me.

    For me the hardest bit was (/is) accepting that my sexuality is NOT a burden. I’d had several experiences with partners who treated it as such, and coupled with some medical changes to my body (partners who are new to me usually need some help to figure out where everything is down there), it was really paralyzing at times.

    But loving people have showed me – and will show you, dearest letter-writer, if you let them – that the opportunity to explore my body with me is not just a pleasure, but a gift. Keep doing the work to recognize that, that gift you have to give lovers. It’s so, so fucking worth it.

  4. I think mentioning intersex people and history here is important and responsible, given the invisibilization they face in LGBT, straight, and cisgender circles. This further perpetuates stigma of intersex people. Including and naming intersex people is imperative for LGBT communities. Intersex children and infants are operated upon without consent with wide-ranging consequences, including loss of sensation. Oiiinternational.com is a very helpful resource. If you’re intersex, talking to a medical provider is not helpful and will likely be re-traumatizing. There are many intersex groups who can provide non-stigmatizing support. The medical industry immorally and unscientifcally pathologizes intersex people as a problem when the real problem is heterosexual, cissexual panic. Some useful books on this include Contesting Intersex by Georgian Davis (an intersex and queer person) and Sexing the Body by Anne Fausto-Sterling (a cis lesbian who has her limitations but the book is strong on connecting intersex and compulsory heterosexuality). Sending love and solidarity to the question-asker and question-responder.

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