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Clitoral Truth - Female Sexuality

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Updated December 02, 2003

After finishing A Woman's Book of Choices, I began working on a proposal for a book on women's sexuality. The book, as I envisioned it, would introduce the FFWHCs' stunning reinterpretation of women's genital anatomy to a wider audience, investigate how this information got lost, and explore why this information is so vital to our understanding of women's sexuality. As my work progressed, I found out how the tiny glans came to be considered the clitoris and why women's sexuality is defined by male standards, what I've come to call the "male-centered heterosexual model of human sexuality." Finally, I really understood what my colleagues at the FFWHCs and other feminist sexuality activists had discovered early on: sex was not going to improve for women until they began exploring and defining their sexuality for themselves. We need more than contraception and a public discussion of sexuality that the limited sexual revolution of the 1960s provided. (I say "limited," because the sexual revolution of the 1960s liberated men's sexuality more than it did women's.) What we need is a new vision of sexuality that encompasses women's needs, abilities, problems, and preferences.

I also started to read professional sexuality literature and sex advice books. One day, in preparation for a lecture on the history of sexuality, I made a list of the ways in which feminists had already begun to revise the male-centered heterosexual model. To my surprise, the list included well over a dozen specific areas in which major changes had already occurred. The feminist sexual revolution, I belatedly realized, had already started, and the theme of my book suddenly became clear!

The Clitoral Truth provides information about women's sexual response that has long been dismissed, undervalued, unexplored, or misunderstood. This in-depth exploration of women's genital anatomy and sexual response is intended to help women understand sexual sensations and discover how to enhance their sexual response, in a more concrete way than has any other sexuality advice book. Many women and their partners, both male and female, want to learn as much as they can about sexual response in order to discover new and more rewarding ways of experiencing and sharing pleasure. I know that the detailed depiction of our genital anatomy in A New View helped me to understand my own sexual response in a far more meaningful and useful way, and thousands of women and men who have attended lectures and workshops given by me and my former colleagues at the FFWHCs have agreed. The physiological information in this book is intended to render a more fully realized portrait of women's sexual response, one that will hopefully enable women to perceive the complexity, intensity, and rewards of their sexuality.

The Clitoral Truth also explores ways women are seeking to enhance their sexual response through masturbation, sex toys, videos, books, workshops, individual coaching sessions, and sexuality information available on the Internet.

The book is intended for a broad readership, from heterosexual women to lesbians, and anyone who has felt excluded from the male-centered heterosexual model of sexuality. Without the groundbreaking work of feminists, many of whom worked unacknowledged for years, this model of sexuality would remain firmly in place, and this book could not have been written. One of the most exhilarating things my research has revealed is that many of the changes that have contributed to the genuine sexual revolution for women were driven by feminists, and I am proud to call myself one.

Most medical dictionaries and textbooks describe the penis in glorious and meticulous detail, usually with informative illustrations. The clitoris, portrayed as the glans and a few associated parts, typically merits a brief paragraph, and usually lacks illustrations. If an illustration of the clitoris is included, it is often suggested by a little bump or a squiggly line surrounded by unnamed parts and white space. Using such truncated definitions and sketches, it is impossible to explain how women experience sexual response and orgasm.

For more than 2,500 years the clitoris and the penis were considered equivalent in all respects except their arrangement. After the eighteenth century, however, this knowledge was gradually suppressed and forgotten and the definition of the clitoris shrunk from an extensive organ system to a teeny pea-sized bump. The full extent of the clitoris was alluded to by Masters and Johnson in 1966, but in such a muddled fashion that the significance of their description became obscured. That same year, feminist psychiatrist Mary Jane Sherfey published an article about female sexuality that fleshed out the clitoris, as it were, and in 1981, the FFWHCs completed this process with anatomic precision.

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