The Clitoris Has Been Lost to Science for Centuries, but It’s Making a Comeback
Anatomical studies have long ignored the vulva. Scientists and doctors are now mapping the pleasure center of the vulva, the clitoris. This will improve sensation for survivors from genital cutting.
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University revealed that they had published their October report. Estimated For the first time, the number of nerve fibers responsible for sexual pleasure in the human clitoris is greater than 10,000. Comparable to the penis, which has been extensively studied, the vulva was largely overlooked in anatomical studies.
“I mean, like the general story about the clitoris it that it appears to be lost and found throughout time,” says Rachel E. Gross, science journalist and author Vagina Obscura, A book that examines how science has long seen the female body as a narrow focus on reproduction.
Helen O’Connell, a urologist, was first to complete the study of urology 20 years ago. Mapped The first time that magnetic resonance imaging and microdissection were used to examine the clitoris, it was clear that only a small portion of the structure below the surface can be seen.
Clitoral anatomy is still being taught in medical textbooks. This is partly due to the advocacy of Jessica Pin, a woman who lost her clitoral sensation in 2004 after having plastic surgery on her genitals.
Pin wrote an email, “I realized that surgeons were performing surgeries they weren’t trained to do on anatomy,” Pin wrote. “The dorsal nerves that supply the clitoris were not included in every anatomy textbook I could locate. They were absent from every OB/GYN book I could find. They were not mentioned in any OB/GYN literature or plastic surgery. They were not mentioned in literature on female genital surgery. Surgeons were blind to nerves.”
Pin believes that Pin went through a form “preventable female genital mutilation” because of her “carelessness and taboo surrounding female sexuality.”
In the U.S. and U.K., clitoridectomies were still being practiced to prevent masturbation as late as the 20th century. In the middle of the 19th century, such surgeries were used to treat “hysteria” as well as attitudes such as “distaste for marital interaction” and “great distaste for her husband.” UNICEF estimates that at least 200 million women and girls in 31 countries have been subject to genital cutting, also known as female genital mautilation or FGM.
Marci Bowers, a California gynecologist who focuses primarily on gender-affirming surgeries, performs clitoral reconstructive procedures for survivors. Genital cutting can cause severe pain, bleeding and infections as well as complications during childbirth. Very little research Its impact on sexual function has been investigated and solutions have been found.
Bowers states that when you consider that FGM affects only 200 million women around the world, it is an embarrassingly small amount. It was fascinating to learn that patients who had had FGM were not motivated by sex or sexual feelings, but rather the fear of losing their identity.
The fifth and final episode is here. Scientific AmericanThe documentary series A Question of Sex, We meet Bowers and one her patients to learn more about what it means for science prioritize female pleasure.
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The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.