- It's "Discovery" by Doctors Took 400 Years.
It seems almost ridiculous
that it should take the late 20th century for medicine to document
an important part of the anatomy. A study of history, however,
makes it perfectly clear that women's pudenda have been neglected,
ignored, dismissed, not to mention mutilated, for many many years.
Aristotle started it,
by claiming that women's genitals were merely an inferior inversion
of the penis, and this perception coloured anatomical study up until
very recently. An enduring prudishness towards looking at
the privy parts, combined with the biblical belief in the inferiority
of women, helped to slow scientific progress.
In the 16th century
Gabriel Fallopius boldly claimed to be the modern chronicler of
the clitoris - "it is so hidden that I was the first to discover
it, several years ago" - although Renaldus Columbus is also
thought to be the anatomical equivalent of his namesake, boldly
finding and exploring new lands. (No-one seems to have asked
the women about it.) At the time Pietro d'Abano was the only
one who understood the point of it. "Women are driven
to desire... by having the upper orifice near their pubis rubbed...
For the pleasure that can be obtained from this part of the body
is comparable to that obtained from the tip of the penis."
Despite this apparent
burst of understanding, medicine bumbled on for another four hundred
years. In this time Agnes Sampson was put to death for alleviating
labour pains, wombs were believed to "wander" around the
body causing every ailment conceivable (at one point the cure was
leeches, which sometimes got lost), and masturbation caused insanity
in one century, and relieved it in another. In the 19th century,
clitoridectory was widely recommended in Britain as a cure for "nervous
diseases" and unruly behaviour. "I always prefer
scissors," said Dr Isaac Baker Brown, who later conceded that
the procedure needed to be accompanied by careful "moral retraining"
in order for it to work.
In 1905 Freud further
confused everybody by declaring that the clitoral orgasm was an
immature method of pleasure, and the fully developed woman should
receive stimulation only from the vagina. Despite the fact
that Kinsey debunked the myth of the vaginal orgasm in 1953, gynaecologists
and sexologists alike perpetuated the theory right up until the
80's, further debasing the clitoris in the process.
This is an extract
from "Paradise Found", an article that appears on For
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