The lost and lonely clitoris: why can so few people find it?

Name: The clitoris.

Age: As old as men and – possibly more importantly – women themselves, would you Adam and Eve it? Older still, for non-creationists.

How so? In Greek mythology, after the prophet Tiresias was turned into a woman for seven years – as punishment (!) for bothering snakes (!) – he was questioned by Hera and Zeus about who got most pleasure from intercourse, men or women.

And? He said women.

Because of his clitoris? Possibly.

What did Hera think of that? Not a lot, she blinded him.

But that is the point of it, right? Sexual pleasure? Well, the clitoris activates a series of sexual responses – unless you’re a female spotted hyena, in which case you urinate, mate and give birth via your (admittedly and, thankfully, larger) clitoris.

So it’s not just female humans who have them then? Other mammals also. And ostriches.

And how big is it, in female humans? Well, the phrase “pea-sized” gets bandied around a lot, but this is another example of how the organ has been misunderstood down the ages. Its nerves and blood vessels extend extensively into the pelvis, in fact about 90% of its bulk lies beneath the surface …

Quickly altering course, to starboard … Is the clitoris etymologically interesting, as well as anatomically so? Yes, as it happens. It probably derives from the Greek kleitoris, which has been translated as “small hill” and “to rub”, perhaps suggesting a play on words.

But this is really about location, isn’t it? Always. Location, location, location.

Hard to find, is it? Go on, what’s the latest? Most people in the UK can’t name all the parts of vulva. In a survey, half of Britons couldn’t identify the urethra, while 37% mislabelled the clitoris …

Men, presumably. The women surveyed didn’t do any better. Poor lonely clitoris, no one can find you.

Well, it’s hard to see, down there. There’s always mirrors. And friends. Have you tried Google Maps?

I have now, and I’ve found it! Monte Clitoris, on Luzon, in the Philippines. There’s even a Catholic church on its lower slopes, rather perfectly. Lovely.

Do say: “Our lack of knowledge about women’s anatomy raises important questions about women’s health, and should be talked about seriously and sensibly.”

Don’t say: “I’ll just set up the satnav.”




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