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11 clitoris facts you'll think about the next time you have sex

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

We did a little homework on the clitoris and things got interesting

I haven't even met you, but I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that your clitoris is amazing because all clitorises (clitorii, as I like to call them) are amazing. It's that mysterious body part that some sex partners just can't seem to figure out, but when they finally do it's well worth all the homework.

I spoke with relationship coach and sex educator Dawn Serra to understand the ins and outs of the clitoral pleasure bomb, and the facts she shared might just surprise you. At worst, you get to spend five minutes reading about your clitoris. How can you lose?

1. It gets an erection

Even though the clitoris is tucked away from view, it grows erect when a woman is aroused. "It's made of erectile tissue, and it engorges with blood like a penis," said Serra.

2. It's a lot larger than you think

Don't let the external nub of the clitoris fool you — it's actually much larger and more complicated than you'd think. "Most people don't realize that the clitoris is actually about the same size as penis," she said. It's about the size of a medium zucchini.

3. It's normal for it to look different

There's no such thing as a "normal" clitoris, because all women are shaped differently. Serra explained that some are large, small, protruding or hidden, but they all do the same job. However, it has been said that the distance from vagina to clitoris can impact your ability to orgasm (see number seven).

More: 6 Extremely common sex problems it's OK to finally talk about

4. It has one near-universal truth

"Dry fingers and [sex] toys on a clitoris don't usually feel good," said Serra. If you and your partner want a happy clitoris and there isn't enough natural fluid to make a wet environment, always use lube.

5. It's Greek

Have you ever wondered where the word "clitoris" came from? According to Serra, the root of the word is the Greek word for "key." As in, the key to a woman's orgasm.

6. It has a better orgasm than a penis does (take that, men)

"Both the penis and clitoris are full of incredibly sensitive nerve endings," said Serra. "However, the nerve endings in the penis are spread out over a much larger area while most of the nerve endings are concentrated in a more intense area in the clitoris." The concentration of nerve endings can spell out stronger sensations than even the penis can muster.

7. Its distance from the vaginal opening has everything to do with your orgasm

Not size, but distance. Serra explained that the size and placement of your clitoris can affect sexual pleasure. "The distance between your vaginal opening and the size of your clitoris can greatly impact pleasure during penis-in-vagina intercourse," she said. For those whose clitoris is further away from the vaginal opening, you may need to experiment with toys or other stimulation for a fabulous orgasm.

More: 10 erogenous zones you didn't know you had

8. Penetration isn't always its favorite game

Speaking of penetration, penis-in-vagina sex isn't usually the best for clitoral stimulation. "Most women can't orgasm from vaginal penetration alone, because the penis may miss the clitoris entirely," said Serra.

9. It's shaped like a four-legged animal, seriously

"Your clitoris is a massive network of swollen, tingly pleasure," said Serra. She explained that some sex educators call the clitoris a four-legged animal, because that's exactly what the network of clitoral structures look like within your pelvic floor.

10. You're not broken if it takes a while

Don't let anyone tell you that your orgasm should happen quickly — your clitoris is a slow-moving machine. "Remember that it takes, on average, 20-25 minutes of stimulation and foreplay before a woman is fully aroused," Serra said. Some women find that they even need 45 minutes of clitoral stimulation before they're aroused for intercourse.

More: The truth about low sex drive (no, you're not broken)

11. Its arousal patterns change, like the weather

Unlike men, who have fairly consistent arousal patterns, clitoral arousal changes according to the time of the month, stress levels and even hydration and nutrition levels. "The way you experience pleasure and arousal can change," she concluded. "Communicate, and have a sense of adventure about it all."

This article was originally published March 2015. Updated June 2016.

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