This One is About Sex

Recently, I heard about a project called Cliteracy, work by artist Sophie Wallace that’s bringing attention to the world’s ignorance about female sexuality.

You’ll find a good collection of information here

The research that showed us exactly what the clitoris looks like in all its states was only published in 1998. We’ve known this information for less than 20 years, folks.

How long do you think we’ve had accurate, thorough information about the penis?

The woman (of course) who did the research had to do it on her own time on borrowed equipment, because she couldn’t get funding for the work.

Reading through this material, I’m struck by the repeated historical denouncements of the existence of the clitoris, of the insistence that there’s something bad about women’s sex organs (but men’s sex organs are never bad or evil or shameful, just women’s), and the outright disappearance of references to and illustrations of the clitoris in medical anatomy diagrams and lessons.

It’s as if the world wished that the clitoris didn’t even exist. This is the one organ in humankind that is designed purely for pleasure — unlike the penis, which has reproductive function — and it’s been excised from medical textbooks and disparaged by psychology for centuries.

I mean, I’ve known about the disparity in women’s healthcare for years, starting with the way women have been told their heart attacks are just “anxiety” because their symptoms differ from men’s.

And don’t get me started about the controversy over funding birth control by people who don’t bat an eyelash at funding erectile dysfunction drugs.

I was raised Catholic. We were told explicitly that “sexual relations” were specifically and exclusively for reproduction. End of discussion. And that was our “sex ed” component at the Catholic school, provided to us by a doctor and nurse. At home, the word “sex” wasn’t even uttered. The first time my mother was heard saying the word “sex” was when I was 20 years old.

My sister, by then 25, called me at 3 a.m. to tell me she’d heard my mother say the word. We marveled over that for hours.

But it turns out, sex is about SO MUCH MORE than reproduction. It’s about connection and love and enjoying your body with the person you love. Yes, many times children are made through this act of connection. But to limit our bodies to simply being delivery methods for the species is to reject one of the most powerful forces known to humans.

We truly are wonderfully and beautifully made, and that INCLUDES the clitoris, just as surely as it includes the penis and the vagina and the uterus and the testes. All of it. What numbskull decided to pick and choose what organs were better than others? Bring him here: I want to kick him in the nuts.

The clitoris is definitive proof that sex is NOT for reproduction. It is an entire organ (9 cm long!) unrelated to the creation or sustenance of human life, whose sole purpose is pleasure. The clitoris has two to three times more nerve endings than the penis.

Men sure enjoy using their penises, don’t they? They get a lot of pleasure out of that? I’ve seen it, I have a pretty good idea I’m right about this.

Women have the potential for at least TWICE that much pleasure. From an organ men in history (and as recently as 1998) decided to dismiss and degrade and disparage. This is the result of men running the world; the progress of history works to their advantage, and women are an afterthought, if they’re considered at all.

The Catholic Church has been lying to millions upon millions of people about our basic anatomy and the nature of our bodies for centuries. I bought the lies. My mother bought the lies. We were told to be good Catholics and ignore what our bodies were telling us; that it feels good, that being close to our husbands and lovers this way is profoundly enriching, that there is great joy in the act of connection beyond the heated moments of passion.

So go on, ladies; explore. Discover. Experiment. Find out how that fantastic organ works. This is our Atlantis, our voyage to the bottom of the ocean, our Star Trek; Boldly go where no man has gone before. You have an amazing, untapped potential right in the center of your being. Take that baby out on the road and see what it can do!

There’s a whole world out there beyond being just a vessel for carrying another human being. I wish I’d known that a whole lot sooner, but I’m sure as hell glad I know it now.

I’m a Bitch

My mom was quite a looker. Not just the run-of-the-mill pleasant-looking woman in the 50s, but a tiny, blazing-blue-eyed fiery redhead who made her own perfectly fitted suits (no pants for that lady, strictly skirts) and wore 4″ spectator pumps to work in the city every day. She worked at the Daily News, one of the big papers in Chicago, as the secretary to an editor (on this my memory is cloudy). In those days before computers, when everything was hand delivered, her job entailed lots and lots of walking.

One of her daily routes took her through an overpass over Canal Street, between the old Daily News Building and the train station, the one now known as Ogilvie Transportation Center.

tiny bit of Meg trivia: My parents met in the second window to the right of the overpass. True story.

tiny bit of Meg trivia: My parents met in the second window to the right of the overpass. Tilt your head to the left to see it straight on. Every time I was in the city, I would stop and look at the window where my family began.










When she was working in the Daily News Building, that overpass was lined with benches where the men in the building would sit and eat their sack lunches and comment loudly on the women passing by. My mother, never an admitted feminist, but I suspect a defiant and independent enough individual to have qualified, despite her protests about the movement, did not suffer this insult gladly. One day, walking through the overpass with her arms full of files, she heard the catcalls from the men lining the halls, and she’d had enough. Stopping dead in her tracks, she set –probably slammed, if I know my mother — down the stack of folders, spun on her 4″ heels, crossed her arms (God, I remember that pose) and glared directly at the crotches of the guilty parties. She didn’t say a word, just stared them down, eyeball to balls, until they were squirming in their seats. Once she was satisfied that they got the message, she picked up her folders and went on her way.

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot these days, ever since the video of the woman walking around New York started getting passed around. It’s frustrating to hear people respond with such disdain to evidence of the distressing amount of unsolicited and unwanted remarks made to women largely about their appearance. Most of the time, the complaints are framed this way, “Can’t you take a compliment?” or “I was just trying to be nice!”

There has been plenty of discussion about the video, but for me, what it comes down to is this: every one of us is dealing with *something* every minute of the day. What catcalling apologists don’t understand is that most women they are “complimenting” are dealing with the fact that the moment we leave our houses, we feel like targets, bombarded by comments and judgement and stares from strangers (and sometimes, worse). We can’t simply BE, we also have to field distracting and sometimes demeaning input from people we’ve never met, from people we don’t know and, therefore, don’t know if we can trust to be kind and not harmful.

Some days, taking shots peppered our direction is no big deal, but some days, when we’re ALSO dealing with other things — sick child in the hospital, bad feedback from a boss, wondering how to afford the next car payment — it’s untenable. To be human is to be burdened with worry, but street harassment puts women in a different category; in addition to our human concerns, we also have to be constantly on guard for the potentially dangerous, threatening malcontent among those offering “compliments”. And let’s be frank; some men wouldn’t think twice about aggressively pursuing and threatening some women on the street. Some men wouldn’t think twice about much, much worse.

In the same way *you* have no idea whether we are dealing with something oppressive, WE have no idea whether you are a danger. So every day, every time we leave the house, we have to be prepared for that particular battle. Every single damned day. On TOP of the rest of the stuff we’re dealing with. And we don’t have a choice; this barrage takes place simply because we exist in a public space, because we are a collection of body parts men find attractive, because men can’t marshal their desires enough to keep their own mouths shut.

So the next time you open your mouth to say “oh, what’s the big deal?” think about what you’re fighting for. Is it so important that you have the right to shout “hey, baby! looking good mama!” at a woman you’ve never met? Is that so incredibly important to you?

If it is, if you have really looked deep within yourself and think that your catcalling right is more important than building a society in which every single person feels safe when they’re just walking from A to B, then…well, then you are a gormless, pathetic knuckle-dragger whose ignorance is an affront to humanity. My only hope is ┬áin the fact that your stupidity will be defeated by evolution, and your kind will soon die out.

I’d rather that death take place as a public stoning, with stilettos taking the place of the stones. And I wish my mother could cast the first shoe.