Behind Closed Doors: The erogenous zones

I cannot count the number of pop culture articles I’ve read about the female body in modern culture where the vulva was referred to as a vagina. I realize that in high school sex-ed (if you had it), the anatomy sections felt like the most obvious and useless information. I vaguely remember shaking my head at a dust-flecked projector diagram of the male reproductive organs, thinking, “This is all true, but what is one supposed to DO with this information?”

Anatomy lessons without indicating erogenous zones reduce sex-ed to half abstinence-only scare tactics, half snooze fest. And why? Education concerning safe sex and consent could be a whole lot less terrifying if you also talk about pleasure. And in an age where birth control is relatively reliable and sex-positive culture grows by the year, there’s no reason why education about sex shouldn’t be equally concerned with good sex as with safe sex.

A few terms you should understand:

Vulva: the external female genitals

Clitoris: a small, sensitive, erectile organ located externally at the front of the vulva, as well as internally

Glans: the head of the penis

Frenulum: a v-shaped band of tissue under the glans which connects to foreskin, if present

Scrotum: the pouch of skin containing the testes

Perineum: the area between the anus and the scrotum or vulva

1. Female Genital Erogenous Zones. 

Have you seen the 3D printed model of the clitoris that French schools use to educate students about sex? It includes the clitoris’s internal tissues, whose sleek wishbone curves remind me a bit of a future model of a pink starship Enterprise, slinging through galaxies and inviting partners to boldly go where hopefully some have gone before. I digress. According to the Guardian article, “How a 3D Clitoris will Help Teach French Schoolchildren about Sex,”

“The clitoris is made up of the same tissue as the penis. That it is divided into crura or legs, bulbs, foreskin and a head. That the only difference between a clitoris and a penis is that most of the female erectile tissue is internal – and that it’s often longer, at around 8 inches.”

8 inches. Take that, penis envy. So basically, if you didn’t know, the external part of the clitoris is hidden beneath a clitoral hood, which is this shiny pink nub (for lack of a more elegant description) that should be the number one tourist spot for those looking to pleasure a partner with female genitalia. Many women cannot orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone, so when in doubt, give the clitoris a helping hand (or tongue)! Keep in mind that different people prefer different pressures of clitoral stimulation, so if you’re dedicated to pleasuring your partner, make sure to ask: “More?” “Less?” “Harder?” “Softer?”

Not to be excluded, however, are the primarily external labia majora and minora, the lips which frame the vaginal opening and cover the internal crura and bulbs of the clitoris. In the words of Key and Peele in their “Cunnilingus Class” sketch: “flaps everywhere, a world of flaps!”

In other news, the G-spot, a sensitive patch of tissue in the vagina, may be located in a number of locations which varies from person to person. In 70 percent of vaginas, the G-spot is located in the front wall, and can be located with a simple “come hither” motion inside the vagina. With 15 percent of vaginas, the G-spot is located at the very back of the vaginal canal, close to the cervix (read: BACK and UP). Others’ G-spots may be located in the middle of or spread across the vaginal ceiling (UP, toward the cervix).

Regardless of placement, you should be able to locate the G-spot by its spongy, ribbed texture during arousal. Remember the G-spot: ribbed for her pleasure.

2. Male Genital Erogenous Zones

The penis. Not all areas of the penis are created equal. The glans (aka the head of the penis) operates in a similar nature to the clitoris in that therein lies the majority of the penis’s nerve endings. The most are along the outer ridge. The frenulum is the v-shaped spot just below the glans. Although some circumcisions include removal of the frenulum, and it does not contain quite as many nerve endings as the glans, if present, it offers another erogenous zone to provide attention to. The shaft has the fewest nerve endings (not to say that it should be neglected) and thus may be most responsive to varying pressures and sensations. One last note: that ridge or seam on the underside of the penis is called the perineal raphe, and it may also be a more sensitive area of the shaft for some individuals.

The scrotum and testes are a tremendously sensitive erogenous area and should generally be treated with care. Consider the discomfort and pain often associated with the testes. To treat the scrotum and testes with the tender love and care they deserve, as always, communicate with your partner. For some, good sex would not be the same without a little scrotal love, while others may prefer that you avoid this area altogether.

The prostate — how could I talk about male erogenous zones without bringing up the prostate? It’s a walnut-sized gland which can be stimulated indirectly either via the perineum or the wall of the rectum which faces the belly button (like finding the G-spot, you may wish to use a come hither motion).

3. Genderless Erogenous Zones

The lips, ears (for some), nipples and neck should also be your playground. Because, apparently, nipple orgasms are a thing. Also included in this list are the perineum, sphincter and anus, although partners may have varying preferences toward stimulation of these areas. Definitely ask your partner before exploring these areas, and do a little further research if anal play is on the docket for your day to ensure comfort and safety (and don’t forget your lube).

4. Pleasuring Intersex and Trans Partners (and a General Tip)

If your partner has a combination of the above erogenous zones, just ask them which they would most enjoy for you to focus on. Keep in mind that partners for whom genital assignation differs from their gender identification may have some erogenous zones which they disassociate from, find dysphoric, or otherwise find uncomfortable or traumatic. So just as with anyone else, communication is key to ensuring that all involved parties are having fun and feel supported and comfortable.

So a general tip for all: in addition to erogenous zones, everyone has different comfort zones, and being a good sexual partner means paying attention to both.

If nothing else, let these areas serve as a reminder to you that pleasuring someone is a holistic experience. You have a whole body to explore. Each person is a universe of pleasure zones. Make it your continuing mission to explore strange new worlds.

Elizabeth B. is a Behind Closed Doors columinst who wants readers to go boldy where they haven’t gone before in order maximize their partner’s pleasure.


    • What Dan Bollinger says was taken for granted for at least 2000 years, even by the foreskin’s enemies, who thought reducing pleasure by cutting it off was a good thing, focusing men’s minds on higher things.

      It is still taken for granted outside the USA. The above article would be (is) an object of scorn anywhere else in the developed world.

  1. I agree with Dan Bollinger. As an intact male, I can testify to this. But sadly, the erogenous zones of the male, aren’t talked about alot, anywhere. Except if you are into tantra.
    Otherwise they are dismissed quickly, as male sexuallity are often regarded as being simple.

  2. As mentioned by others, the article misses the main male erogenous zone, the inner foreskin. The part called the ridged band is lost to genital cutting but it is the number one pleasure spot for men as to masturbation and vaginal sex. It is interesting that the author flags the clitoral hood (FEMALE FORESKIN) as the number one tourist spot for those looking to pleasure a partner with female genitalia, but is in the dark as to those having all of their NATURAL male genitalia.

    Somehow the cutting cultures (which now includes the US) hush up the sexual pleasure loss and sexual function loss that is clearly present with male genital cutting. The denial of loss is pathetic and those that understand the nerves and male genital tissue need to correct the misinformation.

  3. “columinst who wants readers to go boldy where they haven’t gone before in order maximize their partner’s pleasure”, not exactly, you do not know anything about male anatomy, or at least intact male anatomy.

  4. Unlike the rest of the commenters, I found this article very informative! The author really attempted to cover most important errogenous areas. She probably did not want to delve into the politics of the intactivist movement in this article meant for college students. Should it have been mentioned? Maybe. But as a generalized begingers anatomy lesson, this really fit the bill!


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