As first year science students my friend and I had to dissect a rat. After making the delicate cuts, and then gagging at the stench, we had to draw and label the organs. Once we got to the reproductive system, we noticed the little bump at the tip of the rat’s labia. My friend was stumped.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“A clitoris,” the lab assistant responded.
“What’s a clitoris?” my friend blurted out.
The lab assistant looked mortified. I hid my pleasure. I knew. I’d known for some time.
I was 13 and had been courting my breasts for a while. Heavy petting with myself late at night in the pitch black of my room was heavenly. Then one night the relationship went to that next level and my hands ventured down. I can’t recall if I was instantly an expert lover, but soon enough I was popping like Pepsi. I’d found my clitoris.
Did I know its name? At Catholic girls’ school they named for us our vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus, and even showed us how to put a condom on a banana, but they didn’t name for us our most important organ. The one we would need the most if we were ever to have satisfactory sex lives.
Sadly, not much has changed today. The Equality Rights Alliance Young Women’s Advisory Group (YWAG) is currently collating data from its survey “Let’s Talk: Young Women’s Views on Sex Ed”. Early results, provided by YWAG, indicate that less than seven percent of respondents learnt about pleasure in their sex education, and that, similar to my experience, the focus is still stuck on periods and pregnancy. One respondent laments, “I wish I’d known that it wasn’t only boys who experience orgasm.”
What this tells me is that, 20 years later, a whole lot of first year science students are still learning about their clitoris from dissecting a rat. But science is a great teacher.
Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography is an insightful piece of science writing that I wish all young women were given. It tells us a clitoris has 8000 nerve endings which is more than anywhere else on our glorious bodies and twice as much as a man’s penis. Also, unlike the penis, the sole purpose of the clitoris is to give us pleasure. It runs deep into our bodies and the infamous G-spot is likely to be the back end of the clitoris. Simply, the clitoris is the essence of female sexuality.
Over the years, my clitoris has been a generous lover.
During times of insomnia and stress, she’s given me a charge of dopamine and then oxytocin which has helped me to relieve tension and get to sleep. Also, when sex has been non-existent, I can independently feel fulfilled regardless of the presence or mood of another human being. Perhaps most important is what I gained when I was younger. In discovering my clitoris early I found the keys to pleasure well before I got into a relationship with anyone else, and when I did, I could show them what made me fizz. It also gave me the safest way to explore my sexuality with no risk of disease or pregnancy.
Isn’t this what we want for young women? Education about this most secret and awesome part of our bodies bestows young women with the knowledge that we are not simply subjects for men to gaze upon and lust after. That our bodies are not just receptacles for sperm and gestating a baby. That sex is supposed to be pleasurable and that if it isn’t than it’s ok to say no. Knowing our clitoris gives us sexual agency that society denies us at every turn and it is the responsibility of schools and parents to empower young women with this knowledge.
Let’s not leave it to the lab assistant.