Pleasure, Taboos, And Mystery: The Untold History Of The Clitoris

miércoles, 17 de mayo de 2017 13:49


What would be the point of women having an organ with the sole purpose of producing pleasure?

clitoris origins discovering
That question would not only change notions of the human body and its anatomy, but would also redefine the idea of pleasure, as well as start a discussion on evolution. Not to mention how it would affect the historical taboos that have repressed female pleasure throughout the ages.

Logic tells us that there is no tissue in the human body that is without purpose. Biology's efficiency dictates, through mutations, trials, and errors, the best traits for adaptation to ensure survival. It's all done for life's greatest goal: to create more life.   

clitoris origins bed flower

There's no organ as mysterious as the female clitoris. It has been regarded as the core of the treatment of hysteria, the peak of pleasure, and, believed to be an abomination by sexist ideologies, who punish its existence through mutilation or death. 

The study of medicine prides itself for discover the entire human bodies systems, organs, and tissues, one by one. However, there is a part of the female anatomy that has been kept away. It has been denied and forgotten with the subtle but definitive weight of history. 

clitoris origins bruise

Although the ancient Greeks knew about the existence of an organ located in the upper part of the vulva, which sometimes peeked from its place between the vaginal lips, they ruled out the possibility that caressing it could bring pleasure. The penis and the vagina provided a satisfactory explanation regarding the anatomical differences between men and women. Which is why this organ was left aside for centuries.

The Greek conception remained until the sixteenth century, when the clitoris was rediscovered once again, but it was not considered a sexual organ. Instead it was classified as  probably being part of the urinary system. Years later, an Italian surgeon called Matteo Colombo would discover the clitoris, and despite his religious beliefs, he was the first to state that it was the “the place of a woman’s pleasure.” He saw it as a phallus that grew in size, depending the degree of sexual arousal.

clitoris origins cat
Despite Colombo's giant step, this new piece of knowledge remained hidden for at least three centuries, until a "mysterious disease" brought its presence back during one of the most repressed moments in history. During the Victorian era, the image of the clitoris saw a slight revolution.  "Appropriate behavior dictated" that the only purpose of sex was conception, and any deviation from that norm was out of the question. Of course sexual contact took place inside marriage, but the emphasis was placed on masculine pleasure, rather than feminine.

clitoris origins sheets
The rigidity of this society made them neglect women's pleasure and replace it in the form of a cure for mental illness. Thus female hysteria was born as well as its many therapies to alleviate temper outbursts, "chaotic tendencies", and bad habits that doctors believed afflicted Victorian Women.

The clitoris started to be featured in orthopedic books and its location was revealed to physicians. In their doctor's office, women that suffered from hysteria, so specific to the female sex, were made to lie down on a comfortable couch, while the doctor in shift massaged their shoulders, back, thighs, and knees to finally reach their groins and touch the clitoris. As the patients arousal grew, the doctor would keep on pressing gently between the lips, kneading in circles until the long-awaited cure, "hysterical paroxysm" as the Victorians appropriately called female orgasm, took effect.

clitoris origins laying down
Obviously, it didn't take long for the medical industry to figure out a business opportunity selling therapeutic devices to massage all the female body. So it turns out sex toys had a shy beginning. At the same time, the clitoris was once again banished from anatomy and history books, only to remain a secret that former hysterical ladies would gossip about in whispers.

It would not be until the twentieth century that studies about human sexual response were resumed by Virginia Johnson and William Masters, who finally granted the clitoris its respective place as the epicenter of female pleasure. They discovered that it has 8000 nerve connections, twice as the penis, making it the best organ for climax.

clitoris origins history flower


Nowadays, evolutionary biology is looking for an answer to this article's opening question. The reason of the clitoris' existence might even be traced back millions of years, way before the menstrual cycle, as mechanism that could trigger ovulation through pleasure. It could have been a way for life to push through, which lost relevance in reproduction with the passing of time. In short, pleasure fosters life, and that's why women have the duty to explore that spot until they find their own way to reach climax.

The Smart Set


If you want to learn more history, don't forget to check out:

The Sex Toy That Awakened The Female Orgasm In The Victorian Era


Translated by Andrea Valle