The Clitoris: The Final Frontier

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.”

Related stories:

Where are the Pro-Women Men?

Health Care Discrimination Costs Women One Billion Dollars A Year (Video)

Obama Administration Expands Contraception Coverage Again

Photo credit: 3-D sonography of the stimulated clitoris via Museum of Sex


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

interesting to say the least

Rosi Gone For A While

I really do not know to this day, where human beings get off!!!! Patently not at the same stop as the animals!!!!! Rosi Caswell Animal/Human Therapist

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago


Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

Not until 2009?! Crazy.

Charli S.
Charlotte S5 years ago

As more and more women enter the field of human study more time will be devoted to "female" issues. Of course all the books focus on men. Many men believe they are the "everything".v Look at the current political garbage out there about women needed notes from men or permission from men. We need to stand up and make our voices heard. Why hasn't the ERA been passed?

Diane F.
Diane F5 years ago

Here's a great link about this same topic with more pictures and a great video at the bottom (after the text & pictures) that is a must-see if you're interested in this:

I'm hoping there are still people checking this article out so they see my post.
(I'm working on a project that takes up all my time so I'm trying to stay away from Care2 until I'm done with it. But today I sneaked a peek and couldn't help myself on this one.)

Tom P.
Tom P.5 years ago

The clitoris was hardly noticed for years?

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert5 years ago

As one of the men (the women can comment as to whether I'm rare or not) who cares as much about his partners' pleasure as his own, I was fascinated that it took this long to have this study happen.

Juan P.
Juan P5 years ago

I too was surprised that it was not until 2009 that this got done, but when I started to think about all the horrors of inequality that women have faced, it did not seem as out of place. One of the worst things that I had ever heard of that was already stated by another commenter, was the barbaric practice of some culture to rub out a woman's clitoris, rendering her unable to feel pleasure, because men were the only ones considered worthy by that bunch. All of these crimes are hopefully in the past for good, though I know the fight goes on for women and the men who love them in the US and abroad. Thanks for the article now I can print out a picture and place it on my desk next to my other favorite body parts....the ear, and the brain.

Sandra L.
Sandra L5 years ago

Interesting article, thank you. And to the many many very funny posters here, thank you for the much needed laughs after a very difficult week.