1953, the year that public statements were made about the clitoris for one of the first times, “Intercourse is not the best means of pleasure for women… the clitoris is the centre of female pleasure”, Alfred Kinsey, Sexual Behaviour In The Human Female.
Roll forward to 1998 a mere 21 years ago, and Australian urologist Helen O’Connell publishes findings explaining the full internal and external structure of the clitoris.
And this is why cliteracy is so important. To hammer home the point, people born in that same year the full structure was discovered, are only allowed to buy alcohol legally in USA this year.
We understand that for women their sexual and reproductive organs, the clitoris and the vagina respectively, are separate structures, One an elastic canal situated between the vaginal opening and labia to the cervix of the uterus; the other a structure with a high density of nerve endings, erectile tissue, and it’s sole purpose being pleasure. The problem is, this is not what we are taught. Many, (less now the internet plays such a large role in our daily lives, but still many), may get to early if not later adulthood without a full understanding of their sexual anatomy and how it works. The clitoris and its role of pleasure giving are rarely mentioned in traditional sex education, where the focus is completely on reproduction. The clitoris was even removed from the 1948 25th edition of Gray’s Anatomy, the upmost authority on human anatomy.
But pleasure is our right, whether we are solo or with a partner, or partners, but the ‘orgasm gap’ tells us that we still aren’t where we need to be. Results vary by which study that you read, but the message is clear. In heterosexual relationships women orgasm significantly less than their male counterparts, and this difference disappears when the couples are same sex. We should not blame men for this; we should blame the culture and silence around female sexual pleasure. If there is no education, how is anyone meant to know what they should be doing. We learn by gathering information, and if that information is invisible or even at times missing, then we aren’t even to know that it is meant to be there.
In her Ted Talk entitled What young women believe about their own sexual pleasure, Peggy Orenstein focuses in on the role of education, conversation and communication about sexual pleasure as a part of the all-round discussion about sex, and this is cliteracy. Although the term comes from the #getcliterate work of Sophia Wallace who points out that the full structure of the clitoris was discovered 29 years after we put man on the moon, most importantly that language gives us a tool with which to communicate about important subjects and to affect change. With a basic understanding of female anatomy and how it works, and passing that message on we can start to make the orgasm gap a statistic of the past. So if you have one thing on your to do list, make it to #getcliterate.