Clit Pumps: The Throbbing Truth About Your Throbbing Member

by Carol Queen

Dear Carol,
What are your thoughts on the clit pump about which I've been reading recently? My take on this is that I wouldn't define a woman's sexuality by the size of her clit. As an adjunct to play it may be fun, but I'd hardly recommend this to a woman experiencing sexual dysfunction. I think women's sexuality is more head-driven rather than genitally driven. What are your thoughts on this?
-- Fran

Dear Fran,
Mentions of the clit pump have come from two main directions of late: there is a medical device which has been getting some press as a sort of breakthrough in treating female sexual dysfunction, plus Karlyn Lotney, aka Fairy Butch, has promoted the use of a different device for erotic play, clitoral sensitization and enlargement. The first device is being marketed to MDs; I believe it is available by prescription. It is actually a much higher-quality variation on a toy that many sex shops have carried for years; it fits over the clitoris and essentially provides a cunnilingus-like amount of suction, drawing blood into the clit and surrounding tissues and promoting clitoral engorgement and erection. Nice, if your insurance company will go for it (especially if someone's not at your beck and call to go down on you whenever the mood strikes).

Then there's the other clit pump, which is just like the penis pump available at some sex toy stores, especially those which serve the gay men's community. It consists of a small but powerful hand pump attached by a hose to a Lucite cylinder (in its incarnation as a penis pump it's a bigger cylinder; in its incarnation as a clit -- or nipple -- pump it's a smaller one). The user places the cylinder over the intended area, pumps the pump, and suction again draws blood into the area. This pump is so strong that overuse can actually create tissue damage, and its active suction area is smaller than the other device's, so it can feel much more intense.

Now let's take a step back and consider why clitoral suction or pumping is enjoying renewed attention. In the case of the former gizmo, we are clearly riding on the coattails of Viagra and an increased interest in chemicals and devices that affect arousal and sexual functioning. We know that the clitoris and the penis function similarly in arousal (physiologically, they are homologous structures). This fact is frequently ignored, though, because "arousal" for men is so often taken to mean "erection" (and nothing more), whereas for women clitoral erection is not seen as relevant to erotic functioning -- that depends upon vaginal lubrication. All very heterocentrist (or at least penetration-oriented) -- but because women's various genito-sexual parts are packed into a fairly small area, clitoral erection depends on the same process of engorgement that will also engorge the vagina and result in lubrication.

More importantly from a pleasure-oriented perspective, it is an important step in her arousal process. Size isn't the issue here: you're not using the pump to try to make the clit bigger, just to engorge it and cause/facilitate erotic stimulation. The medical-model clit pump presumes that many women's sexual dysfunction comes from having sex when insufficiently aroused (a nice common-sense insight, for once). Instead of counting on partner play, masturbation, toy use, fantasy, or the various other things that might affect arousal, it zeroes in on getting the clit ready for action. Does this bypass the important role of the brain, the emotional state of the woman in question? Well, sort of, though if she thinks, "This will help me," she may well get what she needs from the device. You might also ask, "If there's a partner in this equation, why not negotiate a nice session of cunnilingus? Wouldn't it have the same effect?" That's a very good question indeed, but a doctor can't write a prescription for cunnilingus, can s/he? More's the pity.

Bottom line: this device is likely to do a good job for the woman who uses it in lieu of other sorts of "foreplay"-like, precoital activities. It is, after all, a sex toy (if more expensive and seriously packaged than most), and will have much the same effect as a nice session with a vibrator or an orally skilled lover.

Now, on to the Lotney-recommended clit pump. Does size matter? All by itself, no, at least as far as arousal and orgasm are concerned. Woman A, with a clit the size of a niblet, may have just as much pleasure as Woman B, whose clit is the size of my finger. However, if you are pumping for size, you are also creating the engorgement effects described above, and if you also like having a bigger clit, the erotic effect of that engorgement may be emotionally reinforced as well. The strong effects of this clit pump will indeed make the clitoris bigger, at least while the pump is being used. It may or may not cause any permanent enlargement. (This is also true of the device when it's being used as a penis pump. The penis will look bigger than usual because the suction has created that effect, though the erection may be softer than a natural one; an increase in size may be seen in some men -- along with that softer erection -- whereas in some men the size will revert to normal after the pumping session's effects have worn off.)

Read more about this kind of clit pumping in Lotney's new book, The Ultimate Guide to Strap-On Sex. (What has clit pumping got to do with strap-ons, you may ask? Depending on who you ask, nothing, but it's one of Lotney's specialties, and it's in her book.) Remember that pumping for size may result in damage -- that pump sucks hard on a highly vascular area, and I would recommend that pump play be engaged in cautiously and gradually, or not at all.

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