The human clitoris which gives pleasure contains more than 10,000 nerve fibers

A cross-section of the dorsal nerve of the human clitoris, which is mostly responsible for clitoral feeling. (OHSU)

According to new research led by Oregon Health & Science University and shown today at a joint scientific meeting of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America and the International Society for Sexual Medicine, the clitoris’ pleasant feelings are made possible by more than 10,000 nerve fibers.

The first known count of human clitoral nerve tissue led to this finding. It is also about 20% higher than the often-used number of 8,000 nerve fibers which is thought to come from studies of livestock.


Blair Peters, M.D., was in charge of the research and presented the results. He is an assistant professor of surgery at the OHSU School of Medicine and a plastic surgeon who specializes in gender-affirming care as part of the OHSU Transgender Health Program. Peters got clitoral nerve tissue from seven adults who had surgery to change their genitalia to match their gender identity. Tissues were dyed and looked at 1,000 times bigger under a microscope so that image analysis software could count each nerve fiber.

Nerves are made of bundles of thin fibers known as axons. Nerves send electrical impulses from the brain to the rest of the body. This makes it possible for people to feel and react to things like touch.


The clitoris is the only known human organ whose only job is to make people feel good. The most sensitive part of the clitoris, called the clitoral glans, is at the tip of its small shaft, which is outside the body. The rest of the clitoris is inside the body. Under the skin is the dorsal nerve, which is the main nerve that sends signals to the clitoral area. The dorsal nerves are symmetrical tubes that go on top of the clitoral shaft and then run down on each side like a wishbone.

Peters took samples from one side of the dorsal nerve tissue. During gender-affirming phalloplasty procedures, a small amount of this nerve tissue is usually cut away. Among the samples, an average of about 5,140 dorsal clitoral nerve fibers were found. Since the dorsal nerve is symmetrical, the average was multiplied by two to get an estimate of 10,281 nerve fibers in the human clitoral dorsal nerve. Peters pointed out that the human clitoris has more nerve fibers in total because it has nerves that aren’t as big as the dorsal nerve.


Peters said, “It’s crazy to think that more than 10,000 nerve fibers are packed into something as small as clitoris.” “It’s even more surprising when you compare the clitoris to bigger parts of the body. Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve, which runs through the wrist and hand. This nerve is known to have a lot of nerve fibers. Even though the hand is a lot bigger than the clitoris, the median nerve only has about 18,000 nerve fibers, which is less than twice as many as are in the much smaller clitoris.

While the penis has been extensively studied, the vulva, which includes the clitoris, labia majora and labia minora, is poorly understood. In the past, medical science hasn’t paid much attention to how people with vulvas behave sexually. This has left a big gap in the field of sexual health.


Peters looks at clitoral nerves to improve the results of phalloplasty surgery, which gives transmasculine people a new penis. He wants to use the information to help surgical patients feel better by choosing better nerves to connect during phalloplasty procedures. He also wants to use the information to come up with new ways to fix nerves that have been damaged.

The results could also help people who get a cosmetic procedure called labiaplasty avoid accidentally hurting nerves, which shrinks the inner flaps of skin on either side of the vaginal opening.

“Everyone can benefit from a better understanding of the clitoris, no matter what their gender identity is,” Peters said. However, it’s important to note that this research is only possible because of gender-affirming surgeries and transgender patients. “There’s something very important about the fact that more people are getting gender-affirming care, which also helps other parts of health care. All boats rise with the tide. Stopping or limiting health care for transgender people will hurt everyone.”


Peters also wants to study and count the nerve fibers in the tip of the penis, which is also called the glans penis. This is a part of the penis that makes people feel good. This information could help improve the way the clitoris is built during gender-affirming genital surgeries for transfeminine patients. It could also help doctors better understand how the clitoris and the penis have similar nerve structures.

In addition to the abstract that was presented at the meeting today, a scientific journal is reviewing a more detailed paper about Peters’ research.

Peters, Maria Uloko, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego, and E. Paige Isabey, M.D., of the University of Manitoba, are the doctors who wrote the study. Matthew D. Wood, Ph.D., and Daniel A. Hunter, both of Washington University School of Medicine, assisted with the study’s nerve analysis.



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