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What Is a Clitoral Erection?

By Alan Rankin
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A clitoral erection is a natural response to increased blood flow to the vulva, the pelvic region containing the sexual organs of females. This increased blood flow can be caused by many factors, although sexual arousal is the most common cause. The clitoris is an organ located at the top of the human vulva and mostly concealed within the body. It plays a key role in female sexual response and arousal. The clitoral erection is similar to the penile erection in males, although there are important differences.

The clitoris is located above the entrance to the vagina at the upper edge of the external labia, the fleshy folds that form the border of the vulva. Its appearance varies from woman to woman and can also change in different circumstances. In general, the external part of the clitoris, the glans clitoris, is concealed beneath the clitoral hood, a layer of skin also located at the top of the labia. The clitoris’ internal structures, twin bodies called the crura, extend back into the pelvis roughly 3 inches (9 cm). During early studies of human sexuality, scientists believed the clitoris was a tiny analog of the penis, but this view has since been considered an oversimplification.

Like the penis, however, the clitoris and parts of the vulva are composed of erectile tissue. This means that stimulation, particularly sexual arousal, will cause blood flow to these organs to increase. In women, this has a variety of results, including vaginal lubrication and clitoral erection; this can cause the clitoral glans to partially or fully emerge from beneath the clitoral hood. As this part of the clitoris contains 8,000 nerve endings, this often results in a cascading effect of increased sexual arousal. The highly sensitive clitoris plays a central role in the female orgasm.

Although rare, other events than sexual arousal can result in a clitoral erection. Any prolonged motion or vibration involving the pelvic area, even walking or the use of some motorized vehicles, can accidentally create this effect. Like men, women are sometimes prone to nocturnal erections that can occur during sleep, with or without accompanying sexual dreams. Scientists believe this may be a way to provide regular oxygen flow to the pelvis and ensure genital health. A clitoral erection will generally subside after orgasm or in the absence of continued stimulation.

If a clitoral erection does not subside after a reasonable time or recurs often and causes pain or discomfort, this could be due to priapism, a physiological disorder. This is a sign of problems with blood flow to the pelvis and should be promptly treated by a medical professional. The opposite problem, erectile dysfunction of the clitoris, is also possible. The drug sildenafil, commonly known as the male erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra®, has sometimes been prescribed for female patients with arousal disorders as well. Other treatments and therapies are also available for sexual dysfunction; not all of them involve the administration of drugs.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By dimchild — On Aug 18, 2020

@ANON1003198. "Why does my clitoral erection hurt? I have not had sex in 2 weeks."

Women are not normally aware of their clitoris unless it is in erection or abnormally enlarged. It does not hurt just like a flacid penis does not hurt. So if your clitoris hurts, it means it is under sustained blood engorgement, meaning prolonged erection. This is a medical situation called priapism, unless there is inflammation in or around the small organ. In either case you need to see a doctor for investigation. Take care.

By dimchild — On Aug 18, 2020

I would agree with ANON997076: women with particularly developed and large clitoris could be suffering from sex hormone imbalance, either from birth or acquired. If also the women have deviations from the female characteristics (behavior, sexual orientation, physical characteristics like beard, etc.), then they are almost certain to have an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen, in favor of testosterone.

As for the lady who wants to know how to enlarge her clitoris, she should try anabolic injections and see what happens. If she can cope with the side effects, she could get a positive result. But mind her, she needs a doctor's prescription for that. Haha!

By anon1003202 — On May 20, 2020

Yes, clitoral erections happen in the morning, though their owners are not as aware of them. Testosterone levels (and other sex hormones) are highest in the early morning, in addition to the usual nocturnal REM arousals. Often in the morning I'm extremely aware of that engorged feeling and when I roll over on my husband, things progress quickly. Some people don't notice or enjoy that early morning feeling as much, but it's a natural and healthy sign of the 24 hour circadian rhythm and its effects on hormones, circulation and behavior.

By anon1003198 — On May 19, 2020

Why does my clitoral erection hurt? I have not had sex in 2 weeks.

By anon1002942 — On Mar 27, 2020

No women don't just get erections in the morning like men. Women get erections when they are sexually excited like men not because they need to go pee! I have a big clitoris and I have always had great orgasms and love it. I had been so embarrassed about it but now I experience great sex with men and now especially love women! I find women much more sexy than men and sex is more fun with women, as we know what we like!

By anon1001957 — On Aug 04, 2019

Women have erections too, but the clitoris doesn't become stiff like a penis. It is more like half-stiff erection.

By anon1001605 — On May 21, 2019

What can I do to enlarge my clitoral?

By anon997076 — On Nov 13, 2016

I would like to offer my experience with this topic. I am a man, so I will try to remain objective, and not veer into obscenity.

I was married to a woman in Las Vegas. I'd been really pressuring her to allow me to perform orally on her, when at last she gave in. But not until she showed me why she'd been reluctant.

Her clitoris was enlarged, and the tip of it was the identical resemblance to a tiny penis-head; on the protruding end. It was so very sensitive that she was often not able to relax and reach orgasm. Against my reassurances, she was embarrassed nonetheless. I adored it.

So I thought that the clitoris is the female equivalent of the penis. I have no schooling on this, so what do I know? Since she did have a very aggressive feminine manner, I wondered if when she was a fetus in her mother's womb whether she were almost going to develop as a male, and then not.

But her clitoris would achieve erection, up to 1/2 inch, whenever she was really aroused.

I just thought I would add this to expand this dialogue. May I add that as a man I find the enlarged clitoris to be absolutely wonderful. I would encourage a woman with such to not be ashamed. I do miss her terribly.

By sexhysteria — On Dec 18, 2015

Clitoral erections are often spontaneous in childhood, as are penile erections in little boys. There is a hypothesis that excessive "inhibition" of self-stimulation and sex play in childhood causes neural pruning and atrophy of the relative brain area that controls clitoral function.

By anon971775 — On Sep 29, 2014

As the AM erection is because, in part, as the nervous system switches between sympathetic and autonomic, the erection(s) can occur. So, it stands to reason that the same might be true for women.

By anon926456 — On Jan 18, 2014

Good question. It's strange that there have been no other postings in this site. If it were about male genitalia, I am certain this would be a blog filled with answers!

By Axeleye — On Jan 14, 2014
Very interesting. Do clitoral erections occur in the morning? This is a common occurrence among men, so I was wondering if the same occurs in female sex organs.
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