Looking Under The Hood And Becoming Cliterate

Close-up of couple having sexBy Elizabeth Shore

If someone put a blank piece of paper in front of you and told you to draw a picture of a clitoris, could you do it? I’m not talking artistic ability here, but rather whether you actually know what it looks like enough to be able to come up with a reasonable facsimile. Yes? No? Kinda? 

Conceptual artist Sophia Wallace maintains that lots of people – men and women alike – can not. And it’s because, she says, the clitoris has been long ignored throughout history. In fact, it’s only since 1998 that the true anatomical scope and size of the clitoris has been known to science. 1998? Really? Polio has been cured, man has landed on the moon, mapped the human genome, and wired the world, yet the one organ in the human body that soley exists for pleasure has gone largely ignored. Well, no longer! It’s high time, says Wallace, for the world to #getcliterate. This is what’s behind her art project, Cliteracy.

Hmmm. Sounds stimulating! But what exactly does being cliterate mean? According to sex therapist Ian Kerner, being cliterate is about understanding and respecting female sexuality. Wallace herself adds that it includes “the ability to navigate the clitoris, based on an understanding that is fundamental to the female orgasm.”

This all sounds like a fine idea to me. After all, in an ilclierate society, sexual partners fail miserably to give their partners the big O. A little education could go a long way. Frankly, I would strongly argue that romance novels, especially those veering toward the more sensual (just the way we like ’em at Lady Smut), are a Cliteracy lesson unto themselves. Lovemaking and sexual encounters sure as heck don’t leave the female high and dry without achieving satisfaction. And the descriptions are hot and detailed to let readers know exactly how the heroine gets happy.

Of course, as a writer of erotic romance, one real Cliteracy problem myself and fellow writers face is looking for synonyms for the clitoris. I mean, you can use the word itself and its shortened version, clit, but the hotness factor is doused like a wildfire if the word is overused. Writers have come up with euphemisms like pearl or button or bud and, while those might work, they’re not particular sexy or sensual. And don’t even get me started on bean or pea. It’s not a veggie tray.

Jenny Block, author of O Wow: Discovering your ultimate orgasm, says we need to “start introducing the clitoris at dinner parties.” Um, well. A huge swath of the country still shudders in horror at an exposed breast on TV, so casually talking about the clitoris at dinner sounds ambitious. I get her point, although methinks that conversation may be a little … awkward. But hey, maybe I’m being invited to the wrong dinner parties.

Sophia Wallace’s Cliteracy art project brings together art, textiles, and photography to rid the world of ilcliteracy. Interestingly enough, she suspected – and received – backlash, but her effort also produced a groundswell of endorsement. People have begun talking about the clitoris. And as far as I’m concerned, there’s just nothing wrong with that.

What do you think? Is Cliteracy a topic of discussion in your house? Should it be? Sound off in the comments below. And when you’re done, hop on over to Goodreads and sign up to win one of four copies of The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires. We’ll be giving them away next month.

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  • C. Margery Kempe
    June 3, 2015 at 5:28 am

    I’m shocked people are still that ignorant.

    • Liz Everly
      June 3, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Me too!

      • Elizabeth Shore
        June 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm

        Apparently there are a lot of ignorant people, at least according to the artist.

  • Cara Bristol
    June 3, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Great topic, and I love the headline!

  • Madeline Iva
    June 3, 2015 at 7:45 am

    I just gave a great big cheer when men started going down on women in movies and thought we’d call it a day. No, seriously, you never see ANY movies wherein a guy — or woman — for that matter — gets the fingers going down there and the female does anything except close her eyes and shudder with bliss. Not to mention the very few times I’ve seen women masturbating in films….and meanwhile, how come women NEVER EVER masturbate in romance novels? Even the smexy ones we like? Do they? Is there some unwritten romance memo I’ve missed?

    • Liz Everly
      June 3, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      In one of my books (Like Honey), my widow, Jennifer masturbates frequently. 😉

      • Elizabeth Shore
        June 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm

        Bravo, Liz! Madeline’s right, though. Women masturbating in romance novels isn’t something we see a lot of. I see it for the hero – he needs to relieve his pent-up lust for the heroine kinda thing – but don’t see if much at all for the gals. Definitely something that needs to change.

        • Liz Everly
          June 5, 2015 at 7:22 am

          Ya, I know she’s right, but I was just pointing out that things may be changing. But also I’m not sure that many critics liked that part of my book. Unfortunately. So while we are ready for–maybe some others are not. Which shouldn’t stop us from writing masturbation scenes.

  • patientlee
    June 7, 2015 at 7:24 am

    NY husband is fond of “flicking the bean.” Good thing I’m the writer in the family.

    I didn’t find my clit until I was in my 20s. Sex ed at my house will include cliteration for the girl AND the boys.

    • Madeline Iva
      June 7, 2015 at 8:09 am

      Yeah — we still have a long way to go with sexual equality when it comes to masturbation for young women.


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