Throughout history, the clitoris has been shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. Various institutions doubted its existence, and condemned the pleasure this vital organ can bring.
While this long-misunderstood organ may come in countless shapes, sizes, and colors, it’s almost always true that the clitoris is the center of sexual pleasure for women. Author Emily Nagoski calls it “the Grand Central Station of Pleasure” in her book Come As You Are. Despite the recent attention however, many women still lack a basic knowledge about the anatomy of the clitoris — and the countless ways it can be touched and teased for even deeper pleasure.
A History of the Clitoris
Discussion (and celebration) of the clitoris has been considered taboo for centuries. The 1486 guide to hunting witches, The Malleus Maleficarum, called the clitoris the “devil’s teat”. The discovery of clitoral tissue on a woman was enough to prove her a witch. Throughout the 1800s, doctors would treat women suffering from “hysteria” by stimulating the clitoris. And sometimes they would even going as far as to remove the clitoris through clitoridectomies.
The field of psychotherapy pathologized women’s pleasure, with Freud calling clitoral orgasms “adolescent” and prioritizing vaginal orgasm which requires a male penis in the mix. Freud went so far as to say that adult women needed to shift their focus “exclusively to vaginal intercourse or risk psychological disorder.” For a long time, the field of psychology defined “proper” pleasure as vaginal, heterosexual intercourse. It fueled the myth that women who climaxed via clitoral stimulation were prone to psychosis.
In her famous 1970 essay, The Myth of Vaginal Orgasms, Anne Koedt wrote, “The vagina, it was assumed, was able to produce a parallel, but more mature orgasm than the clitoris. Much work was done to elaborate on this theory, but little was done to challenge its basic assumptions.”
While science has come a long way in acknowledging the clitoris for what it is, our culture still struggles to celebrate it.