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The Cultural Ignorance of Clitoris

The Cultural Ignorance of Clitoris

Hi babe, what’s up?

Before we get into the real talk for today - let’s kick off with something vital. Knowing my body, and your body. It may seem so obvious, of course we are familiar with our bodies! We know about the clit. It’s the tiny bump we feel on the upper side of our vulva. But is that actually our clit?

Surprise, surprise! That tiny bump is just the external bit. The real magic lies much deeper. Here's the lowdown on what it actually looks like.

Around 90% of the clit is playing hide and seek beneath the surface. It is a thriving underground kingdom of electrifying nerves and pulsating vessels.

How long have we actually known about the clitoris?

The journey of understanding of the clitoris traces back to ancient Greece - but fast forward 2,000 years, and we're still playing catch-up. The clit has been MIA, then found, then MIA again throughout history. They even gave it the unfortunate nickname 'membre honteux' - which means, ‘shameful member’. Talk about a major facepalm moment!

We've had dudes telling us it's all in our heads, or worse, that we're doing it wrong. (I’m looking at you Freud - as you note that women can have fantastic orgasms through clitoral stimulation, but argue that mature women should achieve climax through vaginal penetration. You left many women feeling inadequate and confused.) And let's not forget the absurdity of physicians using early electronic vibrators to treat ‘female hysteria.’ What even was that?

Oh No Love GIF by juliaveldmanc

It’s only in 2005 (Yes. Please let that sink in. Despite half the population having a clit since thousands and thousands of years - in 2005) Urologist Helen O'Connell brought the full anatomy of the clitoris into the spotlight. She compared the clitoris to an iceberg: “beneath the surface, it was 10 times the size most people thought it was and boasted two to three times as many nerve endings as the penis.”

But why are we only now discovering an organ we've had all along? It's actually not on us. How were we supposed to know? It’s the messed-up cultural definition (and total buzzkill) of sex, which basically boils down to vaginal intercourse between a cisgendered man and a cisgendered woman. National surveys back it up too - vaginal intercourse is the main sexual activity for heterosexual couples, even though it leaves one-third of women and vulva owners without an orgasm. (Pro tip -  If you want to experience targeted pleasure of the clit, you can use clitoral suction massagers)

 But why the heck is our culture so scared of the clit?

A threat to heteronormativity:

For eons, society has been fixated on the idea that relationships should fit into this neat little heteronormative box. They’re the only acceptable way of doing relationships. Now, the clitoris comes along, turning this idea on its head. Suddenly, women and vulva owners can experience mind-blowing pleasure without needing a guy or his, um, services. The clit has the power to shake up the whole dynamic of sexual relationships, making men feel a tad... redundant. And how does a man even deal with that?

Patriarchy, duh! :

Everything revolves around the male perspective – always has. Even female sexuality is viewed only through the lens of male sexuality.

You see, the clitoris, bless its little heart, exists purely for women's pleasure. It's got two to three times more nerve endings than society's golden boy, Mr. Penis. But here's the kicker – it doesn't cater to male pleasure at all. So, patriarchy decided to sweep it under the rug. Shh, don't talk about it.

By keeping us in the dark about the clitoris and female pleasure, women and vulva owners were essentially locked in a room, and the keys were handed over to patriarchy. Here you go, enjoy being disempowered while we stick to our good ol' patriarchal ways. Fun times, huh?

Style Deal With It GIF by Warner Bros. Deutschland

 Gendered sexual scripts:

Think of the last porn video you’ve seen. Tell me, how did it end? Exactly.

We're not just sponges soaking up explicit lessons; we're absorbing everything around us, even the naughty bits. Women and vulva owners have been fed a single storyline – that sexual desire, pleasure, and dominance all belong to men. We've watched porn credits roll every time only when the man reaches climax. We've seen women portrayed as passive bystanders, with low desire, and barely ever getting their own happy ending.

These gendered scripts deep into our subconscious, waiting to wreak havoc when we hit the sheets. They make us forget about the powerhouse that is the clitoris, sidelining our own pleasure and leaving us high and dry in the orgasm department.

There’s not even a language: 

I never met a man who told me he didn’t know how to come or didn’t know where his penis was. That pretty much sums up the dilemma of women’s sexual responsiveness. Lots of women have never even said the word “clitoris” or touched their clit, and don’t really have a good idea about their genitals at all.

—Suzie Bright, The Sexual State of the Union (1997).

How would the women in the past be empowered to discuss something that they didn’t even have the right words for? Body anatomy language has historically been monopolized by men of medicine and science. The Western tradition, up until the eighteenth century, was a hot mess of confusion. It was unable to craft a coherent vocabulary for female anatomy. The vulva, the clit, the labia—none of it was consistently separated from the vagina (Neither was vagina from the uterus, but that’s for another time now).

I mean, when we do not even know what to call a random bump somewhere on what we know as ‘vagina’ - how can we grasp the power it holds?

nana GIF

 The first learning place, school:

Sure, the birds and the bees might get a mention in the science curriculum, but it’s typically only in the context of reproduction. Sex and relationships education (SRE) is not a mandatory subject for any school. Now, as the clitoris does not play a part in baby-making, students can stroll out of school without ever hearing a peep about it – where it is, what it does, or even that it exists.

 “It’s tremendous,” Adia Terutel notes in her book Mujeres que follan (Women Who Fuck), ‘How can it be that we know there’s water on the moon and not where the liquid that many of us women release when we cum comes from?’”

And let's not even get started on the discomfort teachers feel when it comes to using words like "clitoris" or "vagina" in the classroom. If they’re uncomfortable, you can bet your bottom rupee that it's gonna rub off on the students. The teachers gotta be cool with it themselves if they want the kids to be.

Now, here’s another problem with sex ed at schools -
Pleasure is not often spoken about, hence, the teachers will never speak of pleasure. But come on, why else are we getting down and dirty? It's not just about avoiding STIs or unplanned pregnancies—it's about the sheer joy of it all. After all, what other reason could there be for having sex besides pleasure?

What if women would have been given the chance to explore and articulate their own anatomy throughout history? What if those studying women's bodies had truly listened to women and vulva owners? What if those researchers were women and vulva owners themselves? Imagine the radical transformation if we weren't constantly scrambling to prove that our anatomy and physiology is uniquely ours, and not just a deviation from the ideal, ‘normal’ male norm.

Today, as I write this - I’m hoping that we will refuse to let the clitoris disappear again. With artists like Pussy Riot and all and beautiful, beautiful Clit Catch-up ads, a revolution is brewing. And I need you to join me. All you have to do is just reach down and touch your clit. Remember, the personal is always political. Feels pretty darn good, right, my love?

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Let's talk about female masturbation – a topic often shrouded in taboo and misconception. Masturbation isn't just a physical act; it's a celebration of self-awareness and pleasure. To delve deeper into the world of female pleasure and discover more about the art of self-pleasure, check out our blog Facts about Masturbation you should know. Also check our blog on the great debate Is Masturbation Good or Bad or Blissful to have a complete idea about Masturbation.

About the Author :

Hemali (she/her) is an explorer of the realms of sexuality, intimacy, and dating. She talks endlessly about the evolving landscape of feminist narratives on the big screen and makes you reanalyze the portrayal of women in mainstream culture. If you're looking for alternative conversation starters, take your pick from: Biryani, Art Fairs, or Spoken Word Poetry.

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