“Clitoris,” is a word used to describe a part of the female body that exists purely for sexual pleasure, and quite literally embodies the pervasive ignorance and stigma towards female sexuality that exists across all societies. Recently, this ignorance became alarmingly apparent when I sat down to play a card game with a group of both male and female coworkers.
In the game, Cards Against Humanity, players create complex sentences using cards containing ostensibly humorous phrases, terms, and people. As the game progressed, the words, “penis,” “rape,” and even “Bukakke” – a sex act in which multiple men ejaculate onto a single woman – were greeted with laughter, but the word, “clitoris,” was met with disapproval. My coworkers (especially the women) responded with, “Oh, come on,” “Wow, that’s nasty,” and “Oh, jeez,” as if I had just shown them a photo of human feces.
This reaction served as a strong reminder to me that many women are still ashamed of their own sexuality, and this irrational fear of using vocabulary to describe their sexual needs may serve as a permanent barrier to all women’s much deserved pleasure, health and sexual autonomy.
The “Orgasm Gap” is a real thing, and it has nothing to do with women being physically less suited for achieving orgasm. Despite the fact that women have one orgasm for every three that men have during partnered intercourse, women are actually capable of being multi-orgasmic, and are able to get off in less than four minutes during masturbation. Even more, a recent study from the Kinsey Institute showed that lesbian women are more satisfied sexually than straight women, and researchers concluded that this increase in satisfaction is due to the fact that lesbian couples do not rely on intercourse, which, in 75 percent of women, is an ineffective route to orgasm due to the lack of clitoral stimulation.
Unfortunately, the clitoris is often overlooked during sexual encounters between heterosexual couples. Men go in search of the ever-elusive “G Spot,” which, by the way, DOESN’T EXIST, and women are too afraid to use their words to ask for the clitoral stimulation they need. As a result, we have a pleasure discrepancy between men and women – a discrepancy that is unacceptable because, believe it or not, women are entitled to mutually beneficial sexual relationships, and as long as a stigma exists around discussing this absolutely remarkable part of a woman’s anatomy, we are going to continue to see a largely dissatisfied gender.
Women’s fear of discussing their own clitorises, and the vast lack of education surrounding this part of female anatomy, has health consequences as well. Clitorodynia is a form of female pelvic pain concentrated around the clitoris that creates a sharp, stabbing pain in this highly sensitive area that is often debilitating and devastating for women. This condition can be treated through physical therapy, nerve-block procedures and highly effective medications; however, many women are too embarrassed to discuss their clitoral pain with their doctors, and as a result, never receive the care that they need.
The dangers of continuing to ignore the clitoris and being embarrassed to talk about it go beyond sexual pleasure and health within our society. According to the World Health Organization, more than 125 million girls have undergone female genital mutilation in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where this grotesque procedure is concentrated, and until recently, there has only been one known doctor who specializes in a procedure that repairs damage done by clitoridectomy (the total or partial removal of the clitoris).
It is absolutely imperative that we begin to discuss the implications of female genital mutilation more openly and educate our future surgeons on the actual biology of the clitoris in order to empower them to help girls who have been robbed of their sexuality. Additionally, we need to encourage women to advocate for their sexual autonomy and demand greater action from international organizations to bring a stop to this devastating practice.
Unfortunately, we will not be able to impact positive changes within our own sexual pleasure and health, nor will we be able to speak out against an archaic practice that brutalizes women across the world, if a group of adults cannot even handle the utterance of the word, “clitoris,” during a card game. One way we can strike down the unnecessary taboo that exist surrounding this piece of a woman’s anatomy is to start saying, “clitoris,” more often in our every day speech. Do not allude to it. Do not use safe words or euphemisms. Everybody just say, “clitoris!”