Tag Archives: women’s sexuality

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.

dodson_clit

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. 

clit

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.

Chasing the Ever-Elusive G-Spot

Laurie and Debbie say:

What better way could there be to start a new year of body image blogging than with orgasms, g-spots, and loony researchers?

The marvelous Dr. Petra Boynton goes after the ever-reliable team of U.K. sex researchers led by Tim Spector of St. Thomas’s hospital, who, four years ago, explained that “The theory is that the orgasm is an evolutionary way of seeing if men can prove themselves to be likely good providers or dependable, patient and caring enough to look after the kids.”

With researchers like these, who needs comedians?

The clowns are back, this time making the almost-flat statement that there is no such thing as a g-spot. Really? Fascinating. This conclusion is based on the fact that some pairs of female identical twins have different g-spot experiences. As Dr. Petra says:

Aside from being limited by self report and problematic wording of questions, the study really seems to capture the diverse ways women enjoy pleasure rather than the requirement of a g spot to have orgasms. It’s also concerning within the introduction of the paper the researchers repeat the message they’ve written in related studies – “knowledge of the anatomy, biology, physiology, and pathophisiology of female sexual function is limited. Female orgasm, in particular, is a complex phenomenon that is far from being understood”. This indicates a worrying lack of awareness of the wider evidence base on female sexual functioning that is not limited in scope, but does take issue with the stereotype of women’s orgasm being both complex and mysterious.

Here’s our favorite quote from the mainstream media reporting the story:

While 56% of women overall claimed to have a G-spot, they tended to be younger and more sexually active.

Note how the reporters are cramming themselves into the clown car with the scientists: in one sentence, they cooperate to 1) throw away the experience of more than half the women in the study as nonscientific; 2) turn the tables on the “distrust older and less sexually active women” so that the younger and more sexually active women can be distrusted; and 3) completely ignore the obvious conclusion that the more sexually active a woman is, the more likely she is to have experimented with looking for a g-spot.

Okay, now that we’ve thrown away the study, we have a few more points to make.

First, as with effectively every media treatment of body image, the main point is to make you feel inadequate. They used to make you feel bad about not having a g-spot; now they’re trying to make you feel delusional (and too young and sexually active) if you are getting pleasure from yours. This is particularly interesting since until very recently g-spots were not commodified: it’s only in the last few years that anyone has been making money on women’s nervousness about the existence and size of their g-spots. Body image shaming is certainly a huge source of income, but the underlying driver is simply making people (mostly women) hate themselves, which takes away their power. (And then, of course, industries spring up to take advantage of the energy that’s channeled into self-hatred.)

Second, Dr. Boynton makes a fascinating point about g-spots and the media:

The media have played no small role within this story, in particular women’s magazines keen to talk about sex but without being too raunchy. It’s no coincidence the g spot has had so much media coverage. As any journalist will tell you it’s much easier to get a g spot past your editor than mention the clitoris. Something that editors dislike and advertisers run scared of. It’s much easier to mention the g spot or show a picture of a g spot stimulating sex toy than it is to mention other genital names or frankly discuss what you actually need to do to stimulate a partner.

Third, of course, neither the reporters nor the scientists are the least bit interested in what is almost certainly true: women are different from one another. Some have very sensitive, extremely pleasurable, easy-to-find g-spots. Some have g-spots that are hard to find, or somewhat less pleasurable, or smaller, but identifiably there. Some women almost certainly don’t have g-spots, or at the very least don’t have g-spots that make any difference to their sexual pleasure. And some women couldn’t care less. We’re all different. Sadly, getting your editor to print that story is even harder than getting the clitoris into the article, so where this gets said is on the blogs. That’s Dr. Petra’s take-home message too:

Women are diverse. Some of us really enjoy vaginal stimulation by finger, penis, sex toy (or other item). Some women prefer clitoral, anal, breast or other stimulation.

Don’t miss Dr. Petra’s final link:

Research by the Institute for Studies found there was no physical evidence for the mysterious figure who shows any interest in female orgasms, erogenous zones and the idea that women are supposed to enjoy it too.

Professor Helen Archer said: “We tested 1800 pairs of male twins and each and every one of them couldn’t give a shit.”

When the clowns are driving the news media, real humor can be our best defense.

Thanks to oursin for the pointer.