Cliteracy: The History of the “Little Man in the Canoe”

Whether you have one or not, the clitoris truly is a fascinating study. It’s the only part of the human body that exists solely for the purpose of pleasure. It doesn’t aide in reproduction, it doesn’t carry out any other jobs or duties. Its only reason for being is to please and be pleased. This fact alone makes it worth getting to know … intimately!

 So who discovered the “little man in the canoe”?

Here’s the crazy thing about the clitoris: It wasn’t technically “discovered” until the late 90’s — at least not in its entirety. You may find this hard to believe, I know I did. But considering the fact that many men still couldn’t find it if you drew them a map to it in whipped cream … Well, some things just take time.

Since the 1500’s, male scientists have discovered and then forgotten and then rediscovered the clitoris, going back and forth over what it did and whether it even really mattered. General consensus was that the clitoris was the penis’ underdeveloped doppleganger (yeah, the penis wishes). Sigmund Freud saw it as a crutch for women’s penis envy, dubbing the clitoris and all of its pleasure as a sign of sexual immaturity. Even renowned sexologists Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson decided that the clitoris was definitely involved in female pleasure, but never thought to check under the hood, so to speak.

Finally in 1998, Australian Urologist Helen O’Connell said enough is enough. Using an MRI machine, she decided to look a little bit deeper into the clitoral situation. O’Connell was the first to uncover the full anatomy of the clitoris — and she published her findings to share this knowledge with the world. #Hero

From a button to an iceberg

Often referred to as a button or a bean, it would be easy to write the clitoris off as a small facet of women’s sexual equipment. But I think Sophia Wallace said it best:“What we think of as the clitoris, is only the tip of the iceberg.” As in, the bulk of its mass remains hidden beneath the surface. All in all, the entire clitoris is made up of several parts and extends about three-to-four inches inside the bod — the length of the average flaccid penis.

The little button that you can actually see is called the glans, and makes up only a fourth of the clitoris as a whole. Don’t let this guy’s tiny surface area fool you — it’s packed with somewhere around 8,000 nerve endings (twice as many as on the head of the penis!). These nerve endings connect to 15,000 more that service the entire pelvic region. That’s a lot of pleasure! Once you get passed the glans and underneath the clitoral hood, the clitoris extends into a wishbone formation, connecting the glans with two structures: The corpora cavernosum and the crura.

Who would have thought that all these interconnected structures lie just beneath the surface, waiting for a chance to fulfill their pleasurable life’s purpose? All you have to do is stroke the right spots.

Although it spent much of history being ignored and misunderstood, it’s time to give that little love button the attention it deserves. Women have such a huge capacity for pleasure, and the clitoris might just be the key to unlocking that orgasmic potential.

About The Author

Dr. Emily Morse

Emily Morse is a sexologist with a doctorate in human sexuality, and is the host of the top downloaded podcast, Sex With Emily. Emily is cofounder of Emily & Tony, the author of Hot Sex: Over 200 Things You Can Try Tonight, and a weekly cohost of Loveline With Dr. Drew Pinsky.

 

 

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