Fingering is sexual stimulation of the vulva (including the clitoris) or vagina by using the fingers. Vaginal fingering is legally and medically called digital penetration or digital penetration of the vagina. Fingering may also include the use of fingers to stimulate the anus.
Fingering performed on the vulva or vagina by another person is a form of manual sex and is analogous to a handjob (manual stimulation of the penis). It may be used for sexual arousal or foreplay, constitute an entire sexual encounter, or be used as non-penetrative sexual activity.
Fingering performed on one's own vulva, vagina, or anus is a form of masturbation.
Parts of the vulva, especially the clitoris, are erogenous zones. Massage of the vulva, and in particular the clitoris is the most common way for a woman to achieve an orgasm. Studies indicate that 70–80 percent of women require direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm. The clitoral glans or shaft may be massaged, usually through the skin of the clitoral hood, using up-and-down, side-to-side, or circular motions. The rest of the genitals such as the labia are also stimulated by fingering.
While the vagina is not especially sensitive as a whole, its lower third (the area close to the entrance) has concentrations of nerve endings that can provide pleasurable sensations when stimulated during sexual activity.
Fingering the vagina is often performed to stimulate an area termed the G-spot. The G-spot is reportedly located roughly five centimeters (2.0 inches) up on the anterior wall of the vagina, forwards toward the navel. It is described as being recognized by its ridges and slightly rougher texture compared to the more cushion-like vaginal cavity walls around it. Fingering this spot, and in effect possibly stimulating the Skene's gland, is commonly cited as a method that may lead to female ejaculation.
Some women have cited the "come hither" approach as a significant catalyst to orgasm. This technique involves the middle finger, sometimes additionally the index or ring finger, making a hand gesture like "come here" with the palm facing upwards towards her pubic bone. Medical professionals suggest washing the hands before contact with the vagina, to ensure proper hygiene, especially when moving between different orifices.
Fingering the anus may be pleasurable because of the large number of nerve endings in the anal area, and because of the added stimulation gained from stretching the anal sphincter muscles while inserting the finger. A personal lubricant is advisable to both increase the pleasurable sensation and aid insertion. Some people prefer to simply stimulate the outer ring of the anus, while others will follow this by inserting one or more fingers.
Anal fingering performed by another person may also be considered a type of manual and anal sex. It can arouse the receiver, either as an act in itself or allowing them to relax their anus and prepare them for the insertion of a penis or any other sexual instrument.
Anal fingering is an effective way of stimulating the prostate in males and can also stimulate the perineal sponge in women.
Fingering is generally considered safe sex.
How digital penetration without consent is classified legally depends on the jurisdiction. For example, penetration of the vagina or anus with a finger without consent is rape in Australia and forcible rape in the United States— depending on the state/jurisdiction. In Scotland, the term rape is only used for penetration with a penis, whereas penetration with a finger can be "sexual assault by penetration".
Most women report the inability to achieve orgasm with vaginal intercourse and require direct clitoral stimulation ... About 20% have coital climaxes...
Women rated clitoral stimulation as at least somewhat more important than vaginal stimulation in achieving orgasm; only about 20% indicated that they did not require additional clitoral stimulation during intercourse.