There are lots of things that science still hasn’t told us. No, not that humans play no role in the climate or that we are not descended from ‘monkeys.’ Did you know that we didn’t know what a clitoris looked like until 2009?
I don’t mean where it is, that’s women’s stand-up comedy cliche 101. I mean exactly what it looks like anatomically. And the reasons why are kind of sexist.
It was only seven years ago that a — natch — women urologist, Australian Helen O’Connell, pointed out in a scientific paper that we didn’t have complete textbook descriptions, just ones of the surface and vague ones of the internal anatomy. She also pointed out that it was only in 1999 that an MRI had been used — by her — to examine the anatomy “in the live state” (work it out).
“The anatomy of the clitoris has not been stable with time as would be expected,” she wrote. “To a major extent its study has been dominated by social factors … Some recent anatomy textbooks omit a description of the clitoris. By comparison, pages are devoted to penile anatomy.”
It wasn’t until 2009 that researchers Odile Buisson and Pierre Foldés produced the first complete three-dimensional sonography of the stimulated clitoris (pictured) and — guess what — no one funded them to do the research.
Why not? Could it possibly be because, as the source for this post, ‘melodiousmsm’ at the Museum of Sex’s blog, puts it:
In over five million years of human evolution, only one organ has come to exist for the sole purpose of providing pleasure – the clitoris … Sadly, it is precisely because the clitoris has no function apart from female pleasure that science has neglected to study it as intricately as the penis.
Thanks to [Buisson and Foldés], we now understand how the erectile tissue of the clitoris engorges and surrounds the vagina – a complete breakthrough that explains how what we once considered to be a vaginal orgasm is actually an internal clitoral orgasm.
Dr. Foldès has been performing surgery on women who have suffered from clitoral mutilation, restoring pleasure to more than 3,000 circumcised patients. He also gets passionate about the lack of study with regards to the clitoris:
“When I returned to France to treat genital mutilation, I was amazed that they were never tried. 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, except for some cancers or dermatology – 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 that all surgeons have, you will find two pages above. There is a real intellectual excision.”
Photo credit: 3-D sonography of the stimulated clitoris via Museum of Sex
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