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The Clitoral Truth An Interview With Author Rebecca Chalker

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Updated June 02, 2014

Recently I had an opportunity to discuss one of the most misunderstood parts of the female anatomy-- the clitoris-- with women's health writer and activist Rebecca Chalker whose latest book is "The Clitoral Truth: The Secret World at Your Fingertips."

Ms. Chalker and I discussed issues surrounding female sexuality such as female ejaculation, how the clitoris compares with the male penis, the historical view of women and sexuality, the ancient Chinese spiritual traditions of Tao and Tantra, and masturbation and sex toys, as well as why it's important for women and their partners to fully understand the extent of the clitoris.

Q. Why did you write The Clitoral Truth?

A. In talking to women about sexuality, it became clear to me that the reason that so many women are disappointed in sex is that their sexuality is defined according to male standards. By this I mean that sex is intercourse-focused, which works very well for men, but not reliably for women. In addition, most women, men, doctors, and many sex therapists, still think that the clitoris is this teeny pea-sized bump, and that women's sexual response is not as powerful as men's. What people call the clitoris is just the tip (or glans), and is only one of many parts-that all have corresponding parts in the penis-and work in a similar way to produce orgasm. I thought that if women could understand how all of the parts of the clitoris work together to produce orgasms, that they would be better able to explore and enhance their sexual response.

Q. What is the extent of the clitoris? How does the female clitoris compare to a man's penis?

A. The clitoris has 18 parts some of which you can see-like the glans or tip, inner lips (called labia minora in medicalese) and the hood, which is equivalent to the foreskin in men. Then there are parts that you can feel, such as the shaft a cord about an inch long that is attached to the glans, and the urethral sponge which you can feel through the roof of the vagina. Then there are muscles, blood vessels, and nerves which you cannot feel, but which are essential in causing orgasm.

Before eight weeks of pregnancy, the genitals all appear to be female. At about eight weeks, the male fetuses begin to produce testosterone which causes the genitals to be rearranged to form the penis. None of this tissue disappears in the female fetuses, and consequently, the parts of the clitoris and penis are similar, just arranged differently. And both the clitoris and the penis work in a similar fashion to produce orgasm. The Clitoral Truth describes the clitoris in detail and explains how the parts all work together to produce orgasm.

Q. Is there really such a thing as female ejaculation? How can a woman experience this and how will she know when she does?

A. It is now clear that female ejaculation does occur, but that amount of ejaculate that is produced varies from a few drops which may be too small to be noticed, to gushes which may leave a wet spot on the bed, or impressive squirts which may reach several feet, similar to male ejaculation. Some women ejaculate consistently, while others only ejaculate occasionally. Many women say that their ejaculation is not associated with orgasm, but may occur a number of times before orgasm, and many more times if they have multiple orgasms. Unfortunately, some women believe that they are wetting the bed, and may suppress their sexual response to avoid ejaculating. Ejaculation for women is, as it is for men, a sign of intense sexual pleasure.

Female ejaculation comes from up to 30 or more tiny glands embedded in the urethral sponge, the tube of spongy erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra. Most of the fluid comes out of two ducts on either side of the urethra, although some of the glands may open directly into the urethra. The urethral sponge is the site of the "G spot." All women have a urethral sponge and there may or may not be an area on it that is more sensitive that can be felt through the vagina. But in general, all clitoral tissues are exquisitely sensitive when a woman is fully aroused, and this includes the urethral sponge and all women have one.

There are many reasons that some women do not ejaculate noticeable spurts of ejaculate. Under the intercourse model, many women do not become sexually aroused enough to ejaculate. The penis may block female ejaculation during intercourse, or it may be blocked by a hand or the head of a vibrator. The tiny glands on either side of the urethra (the paraurethral glands) may have been scarred over by infection. Lack of regular sexual activity may also be a factor. Perhaps the principle of muscle exercise applies: use it or lose it.

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