If you are a person who cares about women, Cliteracy–a deep understanding of the complexities of female sexuality–is now the baseline standard of knowledge.
This story begins (as many stories should, but not enough do) with science.
Despite being anatomically recognized as early as 100 CE, the full structure of the clitoris would remain a mystery for almost most of human history. It wasn’t until 1998, using MRI technology, Australian urologist Helen O’Connell published the first map of the clitoris, revealing its internal structure and massive amount of nerve endings. It would be another ten years before French researcher Dr. Pierre Foldes would use ultrasound to dynamically map a stimulated clitoris. Composed of at least eighteen interactive parts including erectile tissue and over 8,000 nerve fibers, the internal erect clitoris is as big–or bigger–than an erect penis.
In November of 2011, Ms. M–formerly the resident sexologist of the Museum of Sex and current Director for the Center of Erotic Intelligence–first published a sonogram of her now world famous clitoris, revealing once and for all: the bump at the top of her labia you thought was her clitoris, is literally just the tip of the iceberg. During arousal, the clitoris engorges with blood and wraps itself around the pelvic floor. The notable difference between penile erection and clitoral erection is: the former is external, and visually obvious. Because the latter is internal, visual differences are subtle.
In 2012 the artist Sophia Wallace popularized the term Cliteracy. This multimedia art project involves a “new way to talk about citizenship, democracy, participation, and bodies.” Through her “100 Natural Laws” art project, she’s educating people not just about women’s pleasure, but their agency as whole human beings.
If, like myself, this information is new to you: don’t be surprised. For large swarths of human history, women’s bodies have been politicized. “Because the clitoris only exists for a woman’s pleasure, and NOT reproduction” says Wallace, “knowledge is stigmatized and deliberately limited.”
This is indisputable.
Historically, women’s pleasure has always been politicized. Women’s bodies have been colonized; across the globe and across time they’ve been denied the right to determine their own reproductive and sexual choices. According to the World Health Organization, right now there are 200 million women alive today who’ve had to undergo forced genital mutilation, a non-medical practice which serves only to attempt to impede female sexual pleasure.
This phenomena is not unique to any geographic location or social strata. In 1947, for reasons known only to Dr. Charles De Mayo Goss, all references to the clitoris were removed from Gray’s Anatomy. He may or may not have been influenced by the teaching of Sigmund Freud, the preeminent authority on psychosexual behavior of the day. Not coincidentally, Freud believed that women could only achieve sexual pleasure through the act of vaginal penetration; he deemed clitoral orgasms “infantile.”
The amount of text that could be devoted to the shame religion has attached to female pleasure could fill volumes. It’s a subject to be address in another time and place.
In view of all of this, there is a single technique that binds all others into a coherent pathway to ecstasy:
“Women’s bodies have been sexualized without giving women agency” says Wallace. “They’ve been seen as property, as an avenue to pleasure, as a means to create and control a labor force. Culturally, women’s bodies have been mocked; pejorative and derogatory language is used to describe female genitalia. They’ve been villainized for enjoying sex for themselves instead of as a means to a procreative end.”
According to Wallace, “women are done with clitiots.” And rightly they should be.
A person who cares about women can and should be paying attention to the battle over women’s right to determine their own sexual health. Women (and people who love them) can and should refuse to be complicit in their own negation.
Men need to stand up and care about this publicly. No justice? No sex.
A lover who cares about their woman’s sexual pleasure understands that each woman has unique response mechanisms. If your focus has been on a woman’s external clitoris, you’ve literally been giving lip service to “just the tip.”
Understanding the clitoris and putting female sexual pleasure at the forefront of the sexual act changes everything about the way lovers engage. An aroused penis is (hopefully) fairly obvious. As a woman’s erection is internal, the visual cues are far more subtle. An aroused clitoris requires sophisticated attention, and heightened communication. The shape and nature of each woman’s clitoris is different, and changes not only from day to day, but during the act of coitus.
There are (at least) eight different kinds of female orgasm, which can be achieved through myriad manner of stimulation. There isn’t one specific technique which magically brings women in general to climax, as women exist as individuals, not in general. For that matter, there isn’t one specific technique that will bring the same woman to climax. An engorged internal clitoris serves only one purpose: to bring a woman pleasure. Active knowledge of this explains many hotly debated subjects, such as the argument over vaginal orgasms, or the elusive but absolutely real anal orgasm. Keen attention to your partner’s arousal will help explore the myriad possibilities. Every moment becomes an opportunity for awareness of your partner’s pleasure.
“We have all been misinformed” says Wallace. “All of us need to approach this with openness and humility.” If you really care about women and want to bring the woman you share a bed with to ecstasy, “wash your hands, trim your nails, get some lube, and LISTEN to whatever she tells you to do.”
All art courtesy of: Sophia Wallace