Cliteracy is Here to Stay


Finally, the clitoris is getting the attention it deserves, both from artists and medical researchers alike.  And even more importantly, it’s getting an accurate, scientific, NOT dominated by males type of attention. Once associated with “foreplay,” a sexual term that is decidedly heteronormative, the clitoris is in fact the only known organ in the human body –  and in this case specifically the female body – that exists solely for pleasure. That’s right, whether male or female, no other human organ is like the clitoris in that way. With around 8,000 nerve endings all packed into one relatively tiny spot (source: Psychology Today) the clitoris is an extremely sensitive and unique part of the female anatomy. Unfortunately, until quite recently it was largely ignored for medical research purposes in favor of the vagina, which actually has very few nerve endings in comparison. Why? Well, in part because of the sexist notion that women don’t desire sex as much as men do, and in part because of the sexist notion that the female body is mainly intended for reproduction. But the almighty clit prevails!  And cliteracy is a real movement that is here to stay. In 2012, artist Sophia Wallace started her conceptual art project, “Cliteracy,” and it has since gained international media attention. The artist continues to explore the subject, and her most recent exhibition, “Clitical Thinking,” is currently  on view at Agnes Scott College in Georgia. Her work is concurrently featured in a group show at The Untitled Space in NYC.

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This year, art meets biology in a new Canadian animated film, Le Clitoris (in French with English subtitles), which seeks to correct the wrong done by old man Freud, who basically didn’t know shit about women’s bodies and spread around lies about vaginas being the center of pleasure for women. Of course that old misogynist would think that. Of course. Men have a history of trying to monopolize women’s bodies, and Freud loved to mansplain the vagina (oh and how women actually want penises….nope!) Yet, the clitoris is the part of the vulva that feels pleasure, and it has absolutely NOTHING to do with reproduction. Nothing at all. The good news is, Le Clitoris will educate us all, and the film’s creator, talented animator Lori Malépart-Traversy, is shining a truth light on this amazing part of the female sex. I for one look forward to seeing this! You can read more about the film HERE.

In France, more good news. Last year the country, which has always been known as very sex-positive, got its first 3D clitoris. Thanks to socio-medical researcher Odile Fillod who created the anatomically correct model, it is now being used to educate French schoolchildren from primary to secondary level. It’s the first 3D clit of it’s kind, and is part of a growing feminist movement in France to equalize female sexuality.


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Now, if you don’t think this is what a clitoris looks like, hold your horses because this info will make you better at sex. This is the INSIDE of your clitoris. The part you actually see is just the tiny little head that pokes out from under the hood (if you can see it at all) because only the clitoral hood and head are external. This visible part makes up only a quarter of the entire clitoris! The rest of the organ, including the shaft, glands, clitoral legs, vestibular bulbs, and erectile tissue, are all tucked away inside your body. And yes, every clitoris is slightly different, and they come in various sizes. But one thing is true for all – they all are wishbone-shaped and they exist purely for the purpose of receiving pleasure. Biology!

If you want to read more about the amazing clitoris and what it can do for you – and what you can do for it –  there’s a whole French fanzine dedicate to your sexy lady bits. French feminist group “Les Infemmes” have translated their original Idiot’s Guide to the Clit into English, along with “Clit Notes.” Find their website HERE, which has both French and English translations and downloadable versions of the zine.

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And if you happened to miss artist Sophia Wallace’s project, “Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws,” you are in for a treat. Follow the NYC-based artist on Instagram and check out her website where she describes the original project and her current work. Because “the world isn’t flat and women don’t orgasm from their vaginas.”

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“CLITERACY, 100 Natural Laws, is mixed media project that explores a paradox;  the global obsession with sexualizing female bodies in a world that is illiterate when it comes to female sexuality. CLITERACY is a new way of talking about citizenship, sexuality, human rights, and bodies. The project reveals the – phallic as neutral – bias in science, law, philosophy, politics, mainstream and even feminist discussion, and the art world – which is so saturated with the female body as subject. Using text as form, CLITERACY explores the construction of female sexual bodies as passive vehicles of reception defined by lack. It confronts a false body of knowledge by scientists who have resisted the idea of a unique, autonomous female body and rather studied what confirmed their assumption that women’s anatomy was the inverse of male anatomy, and that reproduction was worthy of study, while female sexuality was most certainly not. In the last ten years there have been tremendous scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of the clitoris. The clitoris is exponentially larger and more complex than commonly thought. What we think of as the clitoris, is only the tip of the iceberg.  While this discovery is shocking in its late arrival, the problem of global ILLCLITERACY is a salient allegory into the bigger problem of a female body, both cis and trans female, constructed with false information and a greater goal of control within culture that defines femaleness as inferior and female sexual organs as taboo. CLITERACY builds upon my photographic practice and ongoing exploration of how power shapes knowledge, often through use of the visual, for the purpose of reifying hierarchy.”

Sophia Wallace

Sophia Wallace

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