Is The Clitoris Just A Female Penis?

Photographed by Fernanda Silva.
Earlier this month, a father-daughter team of researchers — Vincenzo Puppo, PhD and Giulia Puppo, PhD — attempted to overturn conventional female-anatomy wisdom with a provocative review in the journal Clinical Anatomy. "The 'vaginal' orgasm that some women report is always caused by the surrounding erectile organs," they wrote. "Female sexual satisfaction is based on orgasm and resolution: In all women, orgasm is always possible if the female erectile organs, i.e. the female penis, are effectively stimulated." First, scientists deny the existence of the G-spot and take away our vaginal orgasms; now, they want us to call our clitorises "female penises"? What's going on here (or rather, down there)?
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As we've discussed before, we support the push from the scientific community to define the G-spot as a sensitive general region located on the front wall of the vagina — rather than as a discrete area you are (probably) failing to locate. Researchers are increasingly insisting that it's impossible to distinguish between the effects of stimulating the vagina's front wall — where the "G-spot" is commonly believed to be located — and the effects of stimulating other parts of a woman's genitalia. But, what of the Drs. Puppo's assertion that "vaginal orgasms" don't exist and that all orgasms result from stimulation of the clitoris — or, as they'd have it called, the "female penis"?
The debate over whether a pure "vaginal orgasm" actually exists has dragged on for decades, with no end in sight; the real-life Masters of sex (the psychologist William Masters, that is) and his partner Virginia Johnson were convinced that a vaginal orgasm was just another form of clitoral orgasm — that through vaginal penetration, a woman's clitoris is indirectly stimulated, leading to orgasm. Not only do the Drs. Puppo side with the pair in their denial of the vaginal orgasm's existence; they also posit that any woman can have an orgasm if her clitoris is stimulated. It's as if the clitoris were a surefire little love button that, if pressed for long enough, would certainly bring its owner to climax.
Photographed by Fernanda Silva.
For clarification, we turned to Debby Herbenick, PhD, Associate Professor at Indiana University (and author of The Coregasm Workout). Her take: Asking whether the vaginal orgasm exists is asking the wrong question. "It is clear to many women (and to many scientists) that some women experience orgasm from vaginal intercourse, and that the stimulation feels richest to them in the vagina," she explains. "That doesn’t mean that the clitoris isn’t involved; it likely is, very much. But, let’s not forget the role of the vagina in sexual pleasure and orgasm, too. I personally don’t talk in terms of 'vaginal orgasm' and 'clitoral orgasm' for the most part; what I feel is important to most women is that they be able to talk about what kinds of stimulation lead to orgasm (intercourse, oral sex...vaginal stimulation, clitoral stimulation, etc.)"
As for the Drs. Puppo's assertion that the clitoris would be more accurately called the "male penis," it's true that both female and male fetuses have an anatomical structure that resembles a clitoris — at about 12 weeks after conception, the structures start to differ, and the male's extends into what we know as a penis. The two structures do have a lot in common: Both penis and clitoris end in a sensitive, nerve-rich glans, which in females is also known as the clitoral head; both have a shaft, though the clitoral shaft, unlike the penile shaft, is hidden.
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Despite these commonalities, Dr. Herbenick vigorously rejects the proposal that we think of everyone as having a penis, as she explained in a Reuters story last week. "I absolutely see no reason to begin using the phrase 'female penis,'" she told Reuters. "Men interested in women don't want to talk about stimulating their partner's penis, nor do most women want to think of themselves as having a penis." Fair point. When Dr. Herbenick posted the story to her Twitter, users tended to agree with her point of view. Emphatically.
Click through to the next page to read some of the best responses.
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And, perhaps most eloquent of all:
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