Illustrations by Ruth Basagiotia
Let’s cut to the chase. If you’ve ever used a hand mirror to get an up-close look at yourself down there, then you’ve probably wondered about that flap of skin above your labia. What is it? Does every person with a vagina have one? Is it supposed to look like that?
That flap is your clitoral hood, a fold of skin that surrounds and protects your glans clitoris. It’s basically the female equivalent of the male foreskin. And just like labia, clitoral hoods come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Many women worry that their hood doesn’t look “normal,” but there really is no normal. Take a look at these pictures of different clitoral hoods to get a sense of how varied they can really be.
The glans gets all the glory when it comes to sexual pleasure, but there’s a lot more to the clitoris than just that little bud! Read on to learn what the hood is all about, how it affects sexual pleasure, tips for stimulation, and more.
The best way to understand what the clitoral hood does begins with knowing exactly where to find it. The glans clitoris sits inside your labia majora (outer lips) and labia minora (inner lips). You’ll find the clitoral hood at the very top of your inner lips.
Wanna get a closer look? Here’s how to find your clitoral hood:
- Get a hand mirror and get naked from the waist down.
- Sit on a chair or the end of your bed and open your legs, putting one foot up on the chair or bed.
- Hold the mirror between your legs and angle it so you can see your vulva.
- Use your free hand to pull your outer and inner lips apart.
- Look at the very top of your “slit,” and you’ll see a flap of skin that’s connected to your inner lips.
Voila! Your clitoral hood!
Pro tipArousal will cause your clitoris to swell, which should make it — and your hood — easier to find.
Your clitoris contains over 15,000 nerve endings. Imagine all of those nerve endings constantly rubbing against the fabric of your clothing all day and night — ouch! The clitoral hood exists to protect this sensitive tissue from excessive stimulation and external irritants.
Glands in your clitoral hood also produce a lubricant called sebum. This helps your hood move smoothly over the glans and shaft of your clitoris.
Yes, it does. When you become sexually aroused, your glans clitoris engorges, just like a penis. This swelling is usually enough to move your hood aside, exposing your glans.
If your hood is larger, it may not retract as easily. This is usually a sign of clitoral adhesions. Adhesions form when bacteria, skin cells, and sebum build up under the hood.
According to research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, more than one in five women who visit a sexual medicine practice has clitoral adhesions. If left untreated, adhesions can cause extreme pain and interfere with sexual pleasure and orgasm.
Washing more diligently can resolve or prevent clitoral adhesions. If you’re experiencing discomfort, try soaking in a warm bath and washing the area more frequently.
If that doesn’t work, talk to your doctor. They can take a closer look and remove any adhesions.
Generally, yes! Your hood is connected to your inner lips. If you place your fingers at the top of your lips and pull the skin up, you should be able to retract the hood enough to expose the glans clitoris.
You can also place a finger on each inner lip and spread them apart while gently pulling up toward your navel.
Maybe. Having a hood with more or thicker tissue may affect sensation, but manually retracting your hood or experimenting with different positions can remedy that.
Sometimes applying more pressure when you stimulate your clitoris over your hood may be all you need to up your pleasure.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you’re comfortable with. Some women actually prefer stimulation over the hood and find direct clitoral stimulation to be a little too intense.
According to a 2005 study, vertical clitoral hood piercings don’t have much impact on orgasm and pleasure. But they do seem to increase sexual desire and frequency of arousal.
It isn’t clear whether these findings apply to other clitoral piercings, such as the horizontal clitoral hood and clitoral glans piercings.
If and how a clitoral hood piercing impacts your sex life comes down to you. Personal preference, hood size and shape, and level of sensitivity vary from person to person.
With the right moves, you can get the pleasure you crave and use your hood — no matter the shape or size — to your advantage. Here’s how:
Use lube. It doesn’t matter if you’re solo or with a partner — lubricant is always a good idea. Even if you feel like you’re wet enough, adding a little lube can increase your pleasure and stop potential discomfort in its tracks.
Let your fingers do the walking. Exploring with your fingers is the best way to learn how to get the most pleasure. Try rubbing your clitoris over the hood and then rubbing it directly by using one hand to pull your hood back and expose your glans. Experiment with different amounts of pressure and strokes to see what works for you.
Try the “hand job” technique. Taking your hood between your index and middle finger and sliding it up and down is one way to get some major enjoyment from your hood.
Use a sex toy. Vibrators are a great way to stimulate your clitoris and can be especially helpful if you have a thicker hood that interferes with sensation.
Find the right position. Though intercourse on its own isn’t as likely to get you to orgasm as clitoral stimulation, certain positions may give you the best of both worlds.
Consider the “riding high” position: To try this, lie on your back. Your partner should angle their penis or dildo so that the upper shaft rubs against your clitoris as they thrust. When done properly, each thrust will slide your hood up and down or provide enough pressure over the hood to stimulate your clitoris.
A clitoral hood reduction, also called a hoodectomy or clitoral unhooding, is a cosmetic surgical procedure to reduce the size of the clitoral hood by removing excess tissue. The procedure is usually performed alongside a labiaplasty, which reduces the size of the labia minora.
Recovery time varies from person to person, but you can expect some pain and discomfort while you heal.
If you’re interested in a hoodectomy or other vaginal procedure, talk to your doctor. They can answer any questions you have, discuss potential risks, and potentially refer you to a reputable surgeon in your area.
Female genital cosmetic surgery, when performed by a competent and certified plastic surgeon, has low complication rates and high patient satisfaction.
A hoodectomy shouldn’t be confused with female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM refers to all procedures that involve the partial or complete removal of, or any injury to, the female genital organs. FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
If you’re uncomfortable with the size of your hood — or feel that it’s affecting your ability to experience sexual pleasure — talk to your doctor. They can discuss your concerns and answer any questions you may have about sensation, pleasure, and cosmetic surgery.