Women have made great strides towards equality in the boardroom, but it’s about time we achieved equality in the bedroom. Many female-bodied individuals never fully experience the pleasure their bodies are capable of, largely due to cultural ignorance of the female anatomy. The clitoris is a woman’s primary sex organ, but the majority of us never hear the word “clitoris” in education, never see representations of it in visual culture, and never discuss it with our doctor. Let’s make a change; let’s get “CLITerate!!”
What is the clitoris?
It is widely assumed that the clitoris is a “magic button” located at the top of the vulva, but this external portion is just the tip of the iceberg. The clitoris is mostly internal, and is typically 9-12 centimeters long and 6 centimeters wide. It is composed of 8,000 nerve endings- more concentrated never endings than the tongue, twice as many as the penis. It is the only part of the human body designed purely for pleasure.
The glans of the clitoris and the glans of the penis are homologous; the clitoris has a foreskin (also known as the clitoral hood), a shaft, and it swells when aroused. The clitoris is comprised of erectile tissue and has a direct blood supply, which allows it to have orgasm after orgasm. This internal organ consists of two corpora cavernosa, two crura, and the clitoral vestibules. When erect, the corpora cavernosa encompass the vagina on either side, as if they were wrapping around it giving it a hug! Further, when engorged, the clitoral vestibules cuff the vaginal opening, and cause the vulva to extend outward. Why does this matter? Basically, it means that there’s really no point debating clitoral versus vaginal versus g-spot orgasms. When we understand what is happening inside our bodies, we can see these are pretty much just different versions of the same thing. Holy clit!
Why are we just learning about this?!
Unfortunately, the scientific community has ignored the clitoris for years. Once microscopes revealed the clitoris has no direct role in procreation, many doctors considered it to be unworthy of study. The clitoris was not even medically recognized until the 1990s! Since then, MRI technology has drastically advanced our understanding of the stimulated clitoris, and we now grasp the full scope of its internal structure.
New York artist Sophia Wallace created the “Cliteracy Project” to promote discussion about female body parts, and challenge misconceptions about the clitoris. Wallace explains, “Freedom in society can be measured distribution of orgasms. Women will never be equal to men so long as we’re having bad sex and lying about it!” Attention to the clitoris is often seen as optional, but we don’t expect men to get off from sex acts that ignore their primary sex organ. Why should we treat women any differently? Wallace advises, “Treat the clitoris as the alpha and omega of pleasure, always engaging it as a star, never as an afterthought, never as a warm-up.” It takes 237 muscles for a woman to fake an orgasm, but only 15 for her to speak up and say, “it’s called a clitoris, and its right there.”
Wallace explains that the “Cliteracy Project” is for everyone, not just for women. Access to scientifically accurate information about how our bodies work is liberating for men, women, and non-binary folks alike! She adds, “The clitoris can be seen as a metaphor for body sovereignty and citizenship.” When we acknowledge that everybody has the right to dignity and pleasure in sex, everybody benefits.