Clitoris  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The clitoris (Greek κλειτορίς) is a female sex organ present in mammals, ostriches and a limited number of other animals. In humans, the visible button-like portion is near the front junction of the labia minora (inner lips), above the opening of the urethra. Unlike the penis, the male homologue (equivalent) to the clitoris, it usually does not contain the distal portion (or opening) of the urethra and is therefore not used for urination. While few animals urinate through the clitoris, the spotted hyena, which has an especially well-developed clitoris, urinates, mates and gives birth via the organ. Some other carnivorous animals, or mammals in particular, such as lemurs and spider monkeys, also have a well-developed clitoris.

Etymology

1615, coined in Modern Latin. The Italian anatomist Mateo Renaldo Colombo (1516-1559), claimed to have discovered it (De re anatomica, 1559, p. 243). He called it amor Veneris, vel dulcedo "the love or sweetness of Venus."

Recognition of existence

The clitoris has been rediscovered repeatedly over the centuries (Harvey 2001, Laqueur 1989). Over a period of more than 2,500 years, some have considered the clitoris and the penis equivalent in all respects except their arrangement. Medical literature first recognized the existence of the clitoris in the 16th century. This is the subject of some dispute: Realdo Colombo (also known as Matteo Renaldo Colombo) was a lecturer in surgery at the University of Padua, Italy, and in 1559 he published a book called De re anatomica in which he described the "seat of woman's delight". Colombo concluded, "Since no one has discerned these projections and their workings, if it is permissible to give names to things discovered by me, it should be called the love or sweetness of Venus."

Colombo's claim was disputed by his successor at Padua, Gabriele Falloppio (who discovered the fallopian tube), who claimed that he was the first to discover the clitoris. Caspar Bartholin, a 17th-century Danish anatomist, dismissed both claims, arguing that the clitoris had been widely known to medical science since the second century. Indeed, Hippocrates used the term columella (little pillar). Avicenna named the clitoris the albatra or virga (rod). Albucasis, an Arabic medical authority, named it tentigo (tension). It was also known to the Romans, who named it (vulgar slang) landica.

This cycle of suppression and discovery continued, notably in the work of De Graaf (Tractatus de Virorum Organis Generationi Inservientibus, De Mulierum Organis Generationi Inservientibus Tractatus Novus) in the 17th century and Georg Ludwig Kobelt (Die männlichen und weiblichen Wollustorgane des Menschen und einiger Säugetiere) in the 19th. De Graaf criticised Columbo's claims for this. (Harvey, Laqueur).

The full extent of the clitoris was alluded to by Masters and Johnson in 1966, but in such a muddled fashion that the significance of their description became obscured. That same year, feminist psychiatrist Mary Jane Sherfey published an article on female sexuality that described in detail the extensive nature of the internal anatomy of the clitoris and in 1981, the Federation of Feminist Women's Health Clinics (FFWHC) continued this process with anatomically precise illustrations. Today, MRI complements these efforts, as it is both a live and multiplanar method of examination.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Clitoris" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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