About last night: All about the clitoris 10-02-18

February 13, 2018

Q: My friends and I are in our mid-20s, and can talk about anything. We’re all pretty intelligent and tuned in, but I’m surprised, in this post-porn world, how little many of them know about women’s sexuality, especially when it comes to the clitoris. I remember reading one of your columns when I was about 19 that taught me so much about the clitoris. Could you give us that information again?

A: In 1858, Henry Grey published Grey’s Anatomy, which became the Bible of anatomy for the medical profession. Continuously revised and updated, it remains a vital reference. However, until relatively recently, it contained no information about the female clitoris.

Sex therapist Cyndi Darnell has produced a series of videos for adults on the subject.
Sex therapist Cyndi Darnell has produced a series of videos for adults on the subject.Photo: Penny Stephens PKS

In the 1990s, urologist Helen O’Connell, from Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, decided to investigate the anatomy of the clitoris, using MRI, and other modern technologies. She was amazed to discover that the small nub of flesh at the top of the vulva that we call the clitoris is actually the external tip of an extensive, internal structure. The reason this was an important discovery is because, before this time, ignorance of this structure meant that bladder surgery, and other surgical interventions in the genital area often resulted in a loss of sexual sensation and, while this never killed anyone, female sexuality was, for the first time in history, seen to be important.

Unfortunately, a certain level of medical misogyny persists. When O’Donnell presented her findings to a group of final-year medical students, one young man’s assessment of the lecture was, “A complete waste of an hour”.

In 2009, building on O’Connell’s work, Dr Odile Buisson and Dr Pierre Foldes gave the medical world its first complete 3-D sonography of the stimulated clitoris. As a result, Dr Foldes has been performing surgery on women who have suffered from clitoral mutilation, restoring pleasure to thousands of circumcised patients. At the time, he remarked that, “The medical literature tells us the truth about our contempt for women. For three centuries, there are thousands of references to penile surgery, nothing on the clitoris … and nothing to restore its sensitivity. The very existence of an organ of pleasure is denied, medically. Today, if you look at the anatomy books … you will find two pages … there is a real intellectual excision.”

More recently, Australian sex therapist Cyndi Darnell produced a series of videos for adults. The Atlas of Erotic Anatomy offers sex education in a format that is accessible to the layperson, including information about the structure of the clitoris (https://cyndidarnell.com/atlas-of-erotic-anatomy-arousal/).

Interestingly, the clitoris is the only organ whose sole purpose seems to be to give pleasure. It is possible that a woman’s orgasm might play some role in conception but, unlike the penis, which is used for urination as well as ejaculation, it only has this one function. This fact might explain why it was ignored for so many years.

So, “the little man in the boat” is, in fact, only the tip of the iceberg. Most of it is internal, within the pelvis. This external glans has almost twice as many pleasure-sensitive nerve fibres as the head of a penis. It is connected to much larger, internal structures – the corpus cavernosum and the crus.

The former are two structures which, when erect, wrap around either side of the vagina causing it to hug the penis. Further back in the body, this then splits to form the crus, two branches which extend about 9cm, which point towards the thighs but stretch back towards the spine when erect. Near to these, under the labia majora and on either side of the opening, are the clitoral vestibules. When these become engorged with blood they cause the vulva to “pout”, and to grip. A tighter-feeling vagina, therefore, has more to do with the woman’s level of arousal rather than the underlying structure of the vagina itself.

Also, the 40-year-old argument about clitoral v vaginal orgasms is thus rendered redundant because the entire area becomes an erogenous zone.

Understanding how your body functions is empowering, especially for women, whose traditional ignorance about their sexuality has made them vulnerable to ignorant misconceptions for many years.

Email your questions to abtlastnight@gmail.com

. . . . .

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

 

Leave a comment