I wanted to find out more about clit pumps and what they might be used for so I called upon Dr. Carol Queen
, sexologist and owner of Good Vibrations sex shop for some answers.
Lesbian Life: What is a clit pump?
Dr. Carol Queen:
There are two kinds, really. One is a cylinder that fits over a woman’s clitoris (or a transguy's phallus) and attaches to a source of suction via a cord. The one Good Vibes carried used a small, powerful hand pump that was made by the guys who used to make penis pumps for most of the gay men's market.
The second kind is a novelty toy that generally has kind of a dome shape, something that will cover the clit, with a squeeze bulb providing the suction. There's a fancy battery-powered version of this that was being sold by prescription only a few years back (description here, but I'm not sure that it did its thing better than the novelty type.)
Why would someone want to use a clit pump?
Someone would use a clit pump primarily for sensation. Suction stimulates the clitoris, bringing blood into it, which causes it to engorge. The sensation of suction on the clitoris can feel very erotic, and if you squeeze the pump rhythmically it can feel something like oral sex. It can be used solo or shared with a partner. For some women, its use could result in orgasm.
The first kind I described -- let's just call it the Hard-Core Pump for the sake of discussion -- is also sometimes used for clit/phallus enlargement. Karlyn Lotney, aka Fairy Butch, used to promote them for this all the time. (Please skip to the "dangers" question/answer if this use is intriguing.) The way this works: The suction stretches the skin of, and around, the clit, and blood engorges it; also, the tissues below the surface are pulled up into the cylinder as well, so the whole clit really does appear to grow. Once the vacuum pressure is gone, it will return to its ordinary size, and in order to get any permanent size change, most people would have to do a *lot* of pumping, which may not be safe.
How do you use one?
The cylinder or dome goes over the clitoris. The edges should contact the skin all the way around (sometimes you have to press it into the mons/labia tissue a bit to get it to "seat"--also, some women trim or shave their public hair to help with this, but really unless the hair is very copious it can just be brushed out of the way with one's fingers). Keeping that contact, begin to pump. Most pumps have a valve that allows the user to get just suction (where it sucks tighter and tighter against the body, and a vacuum is created inside), or light suction so that with repeated squeezing of the pump, you get more of a "suck... suck... suck" sensation. (This latter use is the way it feels most like oral sex.)
Are there any dangers associated with clit pumps?
Yes, the Hard-Core Pump can create a very strong suction, which, if over-used, may be enough to cause tissue damage over time. The milder pump does not create enough suction to pose this kind of problem, but hard-core pumpers should be concerned that any permanent changes (which often they desire) do not involve broken capillaries and small blood vessels or dysplasia. It's generally not recommended for people to use pumps more than 20-30 minutes at a time, and there are two main danger signs to look out for while using: pain, and bruising or red dots in the pump zone that are the evidence of broken vessels.
What features should someone look for when buying a clit pump?
Some models also include vibration, like the one GV carries
. (Check out the first review for a description of a woman using it.) Another common feature is "fingers" -- little protruding nubs that stimulate the clit while the pump is being used. (In that review, you'll note the woman removes that part so she can concentrate on the suction sensation, which is stronger without the nubs.) The circumference of the dome (or cylinder) that sits around the clit should be completely smooth, not scratchy at all. The ones that allow you to choose between constant and intermittent suction give you more modes of sensation to explore.
Anything else about a clit pump that lesbians should know.
They can also be used on a nipple, or anyplace else the sensation feels good -- I'd recommend against using over eyes, nose, or ears, though. Some women may want to use them to engorge the clit before partner sex, to give them a head start on arousal before oral sex, for instance.