Getting Cliterate

An article I wrote in 2019 for a client.

I started this project with the intention of writing a blog expressing frustration at how Australian schools don’t include information about the clitoris in sex education. As I began to research the topic, I realised I was the one lacking in education. At the age of forty-six, I saw what the clitoris looks like for the first time.

I was shocked to learn that whilst I could label every part of the male reproductive system, I was completely ignorant about a vital part of my own anatomy. Seriously, why do I know what the vas deferens is but didn’t know the clitoris is more than a super sensitive button with a hood! Most of my family and friends were completely unaware to this too. It made for some fun conversations as I thrust images like below in front of everyone and demanded ‘Did you know the female sex organ looked like this?’

So why is it that so many of us can be oblivious to the anatomy of fifty percent of the population? Well, the poor clitoris has had a rough history, drowned in shamed. Early scholars viewed the female organs as simply the opposite compliment to the penis – little more than a receptacle. During the era of witch hunts, the clitoris was referred to as ‘The Devil’s Teat’ by religious leaders and the mere appearance of one was evidence that you were a witch. For more than two hundred years, thousands of women were tortured and killed based on their clitoris proving they had dealt with the devil. Vesalius, a 16th century anatomist reported that the clitoris didn’t appear in ‘healthy women’. The poor clitoris even took the blame for women diagnosed as suffering from ‘hysteria’ and the glans was surgically removed as part of their treatment. This practice continues in many cultures with an estimated 200 million girls and women alive today who’ve experienced female genital mutilation.

Into the 20th century, renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud further shamed the clitoris by claiming that a clitoral orgasm was immature. He believed that after puberty, healthy woman should outgrow sensitivity in their clitoris and the vaginal canal should receive enough stimulation from intercourse to experience vaginal orgasms. An effective way to place an exaggerated importance on the penis!This view was widely adopted and the inability to achieve orgasm through solely penetrative sex was considered as a sign of neurosis.

It wasn’t until 1998 the full clitoris was discovered. Read that again. 1998! The internet was invented before we found out what the female sex organ looked like! Australian Urologist Helen O’Connell mapped the full structure and changed the way we saw clitoral anatomy forever. What we’d been calling the clitoris, was only the tip of the iceberg. Dr O’Connell revealed that the clitoris ranged in size from 7 to 12cm with the bulk of it extending inside the female body. The overall structure shares many similar parts to the male sex organs. It has erectile tissue that, when aroused, can make the clitoris swell up to 300 percent in size. What had been described as vaginal orgasms, were still in fact clitoral orgasms as the internal parts are stimulated during sex. Many now believe that the elusive G-spot is also part of the inner clitoris.

Sophie Wallace Art – Cliteracy

With more than twice as many nerve endings as a penis, the clitoris is quite unique. It is the only part of human anatomy that exists purely for pleasure. Understanding how your body works is vital to becoming comfortable with having your sexual needs met. We need more than just an overhaul of our education system, as there are generations of women who are living in the dark about their own body.

We need to change society’s perception of female pleasure. For too long, women have been encouraged to be passive recipients in the bedroom, taught that pleasure was something you gave to men, rather than strive for yourself. Women were told to be desirable, but also unattainable. These mixed messages led to the orgasm gap. A United States study found that heterosexual men experienced orgasm 95% of the time, compared to only 65% for heterosexual women. Interestingly, lesbian women are faring better, with 86% reaching climax during every sexual encounter. This disparity could be due to lesbian women being better able to understand which sensations are likely to build towards an orgasm. However, these statistics show that all women could be capable of having orgasms more regularly if we got more comfortable speaking up about our own pleasure.

It is important to remember your partner doesn’t create an orgasm in you, they simply help get you there. You need an intimate knowledge of your own likes and dislikes so you can lead your partner in the right direction. Given that most of us women have been ill-informed about our own bodies function, education for all of us is key. So, take a good look at the diagram and maybe grab a hand mirror and get reacquainted with your full clitoris. Let’s bust the stigma around female sexuality and see if we can close the orgasm gap.

Want to learn more – check out some of these links to get more #Cliterate

Sophia Wallace – founder of the #cliteracy movement –

Her TED talk – A Case For Cliteracy

The Huffington Post as a project site dedicated to cliteracy and is well worth a look

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