Tag Archives: cunt

How to Suppress Women’s Clitorises–And How Not To

Laurie and Debbie say:

Although we are almost a decade apart in age, both of us learned a lot about female anatomy during the surge of feminist knowledge in the 1970s. In that period, Betty Dodson, the artist, became a well-known sex educator and teacher of masturbation skills for women; consciousness-raising groups everywhere encouraged women to examine their own vaginal anatomy with a speculum and a mirror, photographer Tee Corinne published The Cunt Coloring Book. If you were around the feminist world, cunts and labia and clitorises and vulvas were discussed, and examined.


Under constant barrage from a masculinist culture, feminist language and discussion never went away, but in the mainstream, women’s issues were dismissed, trivialized, and suppressed. Joann Loulan’s Lesbian Sex, published in 1984, had the first diagrams of a clitoris that really explained how you feel your orgasms so far away from where you thought your clit was, and it came out from a small feminist press and was pretty much available only through small women’s bookstores.

When AIDS became an epidemic, we started hearing phrases like “anal sex” and “fisting” in at least semi-public discourse, and male sexual choices became the subject of subway billboards.  In the mid-1990s, thanks to the bizarre husband-maiming performed by Lorena Bobbitt, “penis” became an acceptable mainstream news word.

While all this was happening, cunts and labia and clits and vulvas never made the news, never were permitted in public discourse. And, as a result which the male culture is perfectly happy with, women have to work hard to learn anything important about our bodies. That’s why Amanda Chatel’s article at connections.mic, “Here’s What the Clitoris Actually Is … and What It Isn’t,” is still important more than thirty years after Betty Dodson started her crusade.

While there are plenty of spots on both men and women that serve as pleasure points (oh hello, penis), they serve other purposes, such as means for reproduction. The clit, on the other hand, does not serve a reproductive purpose at all; it’s just there to give women pleasure. 


Among other things, scientific knowledge about the clitoris has grown (slowly) in those thirty-plus years. And your clitoris has grown along with the knowledge.

it has been suggested that the smaller the clit, the more difficult it is for women to achieve orgasm. However, even those with a small clitoris can have hope for the future, because unlike the penis, the clit grows with age. At 32, a woman’s clitoris is four times the size it was when she reached puberty; after menopause, it’s seven times the size was when a woman was born.

That’s the fact in Chatel’s article that neither of us knew. But it does explain some things …

Although there hasn’t been a lot of scientific clit study (wouldn’t you think it would be irresistible?), a 2009 French study performed sonographic studies on five women who stimulated their “quiescent clitorises” with “voluntary perineal contractions and with finger penetration without sexual stimulation.” Conclusion? “The special sensitivity of the lower anterior vaginal wall could be explained by pressure and movement of clitoris’ root during a vaginal penetration and subsequent perineal contraction. The G-spot could be explained by the richly innervated clitoris.”

Each time a new set of clitoral studies comes into the light, three things happen: we learn more facts, more people gain access to the facts, and the masculinist culture gets more nervous. Every time we learn more about how our bodies–and particularly our sexual bodies–are put together and function, we learn more about how to notice, recognize, and appreciate what we like … and what we have a right to expect. And thanks to the internet, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep this information out of women’s hands.

Vagina Drama, and Why It Matters

Laurie and Debbie say:

Everyone is probably aware that Michigan Democratic State Senator Lisa Brown had a one-day gag order imposed upon her for using the word “vagina”  in a comment about state abortion clinic regulations. What she said was, “I’m flattered you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

This has led to all kinds of political responses, from a reading of The Vagina Monologues (by Eve Ensler) starring Brown on the steps of the Michigan capitol building to a tongue-in-cheek proposal by Dahlia Lithwick recommending a law “providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will.”

The leader in the fight to silence Brown, Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said, “What she said was offensive. It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” Our experience is that men who say “I would not say that in mixed company” are often the ones who say “cunt” in unmixed company, and in front of women, act like we don’t have bodies, unless they’re trying to get into the parts they won’t mention.

“Cunt” is a word a lot of people have trouble with, because in the United States (except in some radical circles), it is used almost exclusively as a negative description of women–not our bodily parts but all of us. “Pussy,” on the other hand, is used as a negative description of men. “Vagina” is effectively never used as a slur. It’s a formal, medical word, perhaps the only one that can be used without a lot of sexual innuendo.  And it makes lots of people uncomfortable. (This paragraph edited based on the comments, which have more information about different word use in Australia.)

Kayt Sukel, an author who writes about neuroscience and sexuality, has given lectures around the country on the issue. And there’s one word, she finds, that never fails to make some in her audience squeamish.

“There’s just something about the word ‘vagina’ that startles people — I don’t know what it is,” says Sukel. “People sit back a little bit. Sometimes they start giggling. I end up using euphemisms just to make them more comfortable, and more receptive to what I am saying. And we don’t seem to have the same problems with the word ‘penis.'”

We’ve seen the history of public use of medical terms in the media played out in our lifetimes. “Anus,” and a host of other sexual words, became acceptable because of the serious talk about safer sex required by the AIDS epidemic.  “Penis” made an extra jump to the national news when Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s in 1993. Eve Ensler gets the credit for bringing “vagina” into common usage in the media.

Of course there was a time when no one would say any of these words in a legislative setting. Brown probably, at least to some extent, meant to be shocking. She probably expected some reaction. But she wasn’t just criticized, or asked to behave differently, she was actually, legally silenced from saying anything in her official capacity for 24 hours. And the implication is clear that if she continues, they (the men/Republicans in the Michigan legislature) can do this for longer.

It’s not about the word. It’s not even about vaginas. It’s about men (and, horrifyingly, women) who believe that their right to legislate women’s bodies extends to their right to legislate our mouths, our minds, and our very existence. It’s about who gets to decide what words are dirty and which dirty words can be said where.

Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Penis. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Pussy. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Cunt. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina.

Oh, and by the way, Representative Callton? We’d like you better if you were a penis instead of a dick.