Off the Board, Opinion

Stop skirting around the clitoris

Content Warning: Mention of sexual violence

Against a red background, my mobile browser welcomes a vibrating text box that reads “clit-me.” Clicking on the arrows to view the next page, I see a fluffy white avatar that I’m instructed to customize: A clitoris. I choose a wide-eyed smiley face, a bobble hat, and wavy pubes. The game then teaches me five moves—caressing, making circles, pinching, patting, and multi-tapping—before letting me freestyle. The goal is to please your customized clitoris by responding to the avatar’s visual and vocal feedback.

Clit Me is the product of eight l’Université du Québec à Montréal students’ collaboration with the National Film Board’s Digital Studio in Montreal. It was launched in 2019 to demystify female sexual satisfaction and, more specifically, the clitoris. A less important motive, I like to believe, was to give me something to make people uncomfortable with. I admit some of the sound effects make me uneasy, too, but everything else about the game strikes the perfect balance between educational and whimsical. Yet, learning about Clit Me was accompanied by the realization that the clitoris is an offensive word to the majority—two fresh discoveries for 16-year-old me. 

Giselle Portenier, the co-founder of the End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) Canada Network, introduced me to the mobile game. I joined the Network to raise awareness about the practice of altering and injuring young girls’ and women’s genitalia for non-medical reasons. As I campaigned across Vancouver’s hotspots, I soon realized that even some women would walk away at the mention of the clitoris. 

As disappointing as witnessing people dismiss female anatomy is, their disregard is far from shocking. Science has always been more interested in the penis than the clitoris. The first known count of  clitoral tissue, released in October 2022, revealed that the clitoris is home to 10, 281 nerve fibres. Previously, the scientific community estimated there were 8,000 nerve endings—based on a 1976 study on cows

With the historical absence of women in the medical field, the clitoris has been neglected. Which dinosaur has never been discovered? The Clitoraus, we joke. Its mystery is due to male scientists’ audacity to omit it from the 1948 edition of Gray’s Anatomy, a landmark anatomical guide, while rushing to name female body parts after themselves. Ernest Gräfenberg planted a flag on the G-Spot, even though the erogenous area may be nonexistent!

The medical field’s bias has plagued the rest of our society, too. The promotional film for Clit Me, titled Draw Me a Penis, humorously shows that we are more informed and comfortable with male genitalia than female genitalia. Doodles of penises, penis-shaped toys, and cookies are embraced, whereas the shape of the clitoris is unknown to many. Most still do not know that the visible “pea-sized” part of the clitoris is only 10 per cent of the organ. A plush toy of the clitoris would be seen as vulgar, and even mentioning the clitoris often results in censorship. Even worse, only a few provinces in Canada include the clitoris in their sexual-education curricula. 

Breaking the massive taboo surrounding the clitoris can be an end in itself, but openly talking about the clitoris is also a means for fighting against human rights violations like FGC. There are nearly four billion people with a clitoris in the world, and at least 200 million of them today have undergone some form of FGC. Despite its prevalence, research and care for survivors is alarmingly low. Those who practice FGC may believe that an uncut clitoris will grow into a penis, hinder fertility, or is unhygienic. Silencing our mentions of the clitoris only perpetuates those vilifying myths and the disregard that shapes medical science and our societies today. To support survivors and to protect the over four million women and girls at risk of losing their autonomy, we must openly and freely talk about female anatomy. Stop beating around the bush and call it the clitoris.

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One Comment

  1. Thats why we proud of you. Brave, smart and obviously ambitious like Elnaz.

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