Clit or Miss: How Well Do Men and Women Know the Vulva?
on Jan 25, 2023
How many people can correctly draw and label a vulva? The answer may surprise you…
If you’ve ever complained to a friend that men just don’t seem to have a clue where the clit is, you’re probably not alone - it’s a conversation many of us have had time and time again.
In fact, a TikTok video went viral last year after highlighting how men struggle to find the clitoris, with all five men in the video failing to do so. According to the comments, the general reaction was fairly universal: disappointed, but not surprised.
But do these five men really reflect how educated the male population is about the vulva? Or do men know more than society gives them credit for?
We set out to answer this question once and for all by carrying out a social experiment where we asked both men and women to draw and label a vulva. The results may surprise you…
The vulva experiment: Can men and women draw a vulva correctly?
Our experiment was simple; We recruited 30 men and 30 women to draw a vulva and asked them to label six important parts:
3. Opening of the vagina
4. Mons pubis
5. Labia Majora
6. Labia Minora
Sounds easy enough in theory - but in reality, a lot of people struggled.
The overall results
Video: What do people think a vulva look like?
Of the 60 people we asked to draw and label the parts of a vulva, only 42% labeled all six correctly. The parts that posed the most problems were the labia minora and labia majora – commonly referred to as the ‘lips’ of the vagina - which nearly a third of people couldn’t quite put their finger on.
As for the easiest part to identify, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the clitoris takes the crown: almost everyone (92%) who took part managed to point out the correct location of this small but mighty bundle of nerves. Maybe it’s not such a mystery after all - which means there’s no excuse for not giving the clit the attention it deserves!
Women’s interpretation of the vulva
We took all of the drawings the women in the experiment created and whipped up an illustration compiling them together and then adjusting based on the accuracy of their vulvas and labelling. It’s no masterpiece, but it's not half bad either!
Men tend to get the blame for being clueless about vulvas, but how much do women actually know about what’s going on downstairs?
Well, we found that over a third of women who took part failed to label all six areas of the vulva correctly, meaning not everyone knows their own anatomy.
97% of women successfully singled out the clitoris - which isn’t surprising considering many claim to have to put the work in themselves when it comes to the clit. But when it comes to other parts of their anatomy, some women were a little more lost: 20% struggled to locate the labia majora, and another 17% couldn’t find the labia minora.
In their defense, the Latin labels could have thrown these ladies off. Unless you’ve taken Latin 101, you may not know that ‘labia’ means lips, or that ‘majora’ and ‘minora’ simply mean big and small. That’s why we usually call these parts the outer (or big) and inner (small) lips of the vagina instead.
Men’s interpretation of the vulva
Based on the same approach to the women’s drawing, this is what men think a vulva looks like, according to the guys in our experiment. It's... unique, to say the least.
If you’re convinced that men can’t find the clit, these results might just change your mind.
While only 27% of men in our study labeled all six parts of the vulva correctly, 87% were able to point to the clitoris (though, knowing where to find the clit doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll know what to do with it when they get there!).
We also found that more men correctly labeled the opening of the vagina (90%) than the clit. Our previous study on orgasms found that men are more likely to prefer vaginal penetration than women (who tend to appreciate clit stimulation more), so this isn’t totally surprising.
Men had the most difficulty pinpointing the urethra and labia minora, with only 57% labeling them correctly. Perhaps most worryingly of all, one in 10 men who took part could only correctly identify one part of the vulva.
The Vulva Gallery
Fancy having a browse of some vulvas drawn by men? We’ve put together a collection of the diagrams for you to critique. Some of them are anatomical works of art, but others might raise an eyebrow or two…
It’s interesting to see that at least one man chose to include the fallopian tubes in his vulva drawing (and mislabeled them as the labia - oops). According to LGBTQ+ expert and activist Zachary Zane, this is probably down to the way we’re educated in school:
“Most of us didn't have a proper sex education in school, so we weren't taught the anatomy of the vulva. And even if we did, the focus wasn't on pleasure. Personally, the only thing I learned in school was where the fallopian tubes are, which isn't helpful information when having sex.” (He’s not wrong there!)
Time for the ladies to shine! Here’s the female vulva gallery.
Why is the vulva still such a mystery?
Since only a quarter of men labeled all six parts of the vulva correctly, it’s clear a lot of them still struggle to understand what’s going on down there.
We spoke to two experts, Zachary Zane (LGBTQ+ expert and activist) and Javay Frye-Nekrasova, M.Ed (certified sex educator) to shed some light on why the vulva still has people so mystified.
Javay: “It’s so commonly misunderstood because anatomy isn’t taught, especially not in regards to sex. It’s also because we live in a phallic-centered society - so much of research focuses on penises and not vulvas.”
Zachary: “Many men are also too embarrassed to actually Google or find the information themselves. Toxic masculinity has men feeling like they should inherently know how to please a woman and that they are a failure if they research sex-related topics, including female anatomy. Needless to say, this isn't true!”
How important is it for people to understand lesser-known parts of the vulva?
Zachary: “I think it's important to know yourself and your partner. Additionally, even some of the lesser-known parts of the vulva can lead to pleasure, so if you want to experience pleasure (or give your partner pleasure), you should know these parts and experiment with stimulating them.”
Javay: “All parts of the vulva can contribute towards experiencing sexual pleasure. It’s also important for hygiene purposes - if you don't understand the different labias, how are you properly able to wash them?”
Why is it so important to be comfortable and knowledgeable about sexual anatomy?
Zachary: “Knowledge, generally, helps to reduce shame. When you know what something is and what it does, it's no longer this mysterious, shameful entity. And if you and your partner want to experience the most pleasure possible while having sex (and why wouldn't you want to?), then you need to be knowledgeable and comfortable with each other’s genitals.”
Javay: “If you understand your anatomy, you can better explain to your partner how you like to be touched and stimulated. And understanding your partner's anatomy will help you in pleasuring them and stimulating them in ways they enjoy. The knowledge also helps to recognize that our bodies are normal, and that we aren't alone in the different things that they do!”
How can you approach the topic of gaining a better understanding of sexual anatomy with your partner?
Zachary: “As cliché as it is, communication is key! While there are some more universal sexual techniques that most vulva-owners enjoy, everybody (and every body_) is unique. Ask if your partner has certain places they like being touched and how to touch those places (soft, rough, nibbling, etc.). If your partner doesn't know what feels pleasurable for them, explore various techniques and have them give you feedback on what feels best!”
Javay: “Learning from comprehensive, inclusive sex educators. There are many educators who help teach people about the human body, how to stimulate it, and the different ways to experience pleasure, so that’s a great first place to start. You could also read some books to learn more: my biggest recommendation is ‘Come As You Are’ by Emily Nagoski.”
Discovering the delights of the vulva
Get curious: If you don’t have a vulva but your partner does, it’s okay to be curious about what’s going on down there. In fact, it’s encouraged! Communicate your curiosity and ask your partner questions. After all, you won’t learn if you never ask!
Get educated: As our experts pointed out above, sex education at school usually sucks. So if you want to gain a better understanding of how vulvas work and what they’re made up of, you’ll probably need to turn to other sources to educate yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, sex educators like Javay are a great resource.
Get experimental: Knowing your way around a vulva diagram and knowing your way around an actual vulva are two very different things. And knowing your way around one specific vulva doesn’t mean you’ll know your way around them all, either!
If you want to maximize pleasure, you’ll need to experiment with what works best for you or your partner. As Zachary said, there are some techniques that most people with vulvas enjoy, but there’s really no one-size-fits-all rule. Some people swear by clit-sucking vibrators for a mind-blowing orgasm, while others would prefer penetration with a dildo to get them over the edge.
Either way, you won’t know until you try!
Methodology and sources:
We asked 30 men and 30 women of various ages to draw a vulva from memory, and asked them to label six important parts:
Opening of the vagina
We then collected the drawings to create a vulva design based on the interpretations of both men and women.
Expert comments were provided by:
Zachary Zane (LGBTQ+ expert and activist) and Javay Frye-Nekrasova, M.Ed (certified sex educator).