Mystery of the disappearing clitoris

from In Her Pants: Forty years after the rise of feminist art, Seattle artist Lynn Schirmer discovers something shocking by Jen Graves

Rebecca Chalker narrates the unsolved mystery of the disappearing clitoris in her 2000 book, The Clitoral Truth. She writes, “Claudius Galen, the most famous physician of antiquity, was very straightforward about it: ‘All the parts, then, that men have, women have too, the difference between them lying in only one thing, namely, that in women the parts are within, whereas in men they are outside.'” Then in the 16th century, two Italian anatomists (Fallopius and Columbus) fought over competing claims to have “discovered” the clitoris; a Danish anatomist settled their dispute by pointing out that “the clitoris had been known to everyone since the second century,” writes Thomas Laqueur (in Making Sex). In 1844, German anatomist George Ludwig Kobelt published an exhaustive study of the whole clitoral system, including the arms and the bulbs. He noted a strange historical oddity—that descriptions of the entire clitoris had, by the Victorian era, “completely disappeared from Physiology.” His drawings were ignored.

Clitoris PenguinA hundred and fifty years later, in 1981, A New View of a Woman’s Body by the Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers “provided the first contemporary description of the internal clitoral organ. However, none of these works has had an impact on anatomy texts,”

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