From ancient to the present day, the anatomy of the clitoris has been discovered, repressed, forgotten, denied or shrunk and rediscovered many times.” – Mark Blechner
So, what you’re saying is, one more theory can’t hurt right?
What Is The Role Of The Clitoris?
It is often said (or gloated) that that the clitoris is the one organ in the entire human body that has the sole purpose of pleasure. Recently however, one researcher and former staff member of the Department of Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield is arguing that this isn’t the only purpose of the clitoris.
Roy J Levin, writes that it’s other reason is…you guessed it, reproduction!
While this argument might have some of us already on the defensive, it appears that this essay is to further the battle against the clitoridectomies that are “undertaken in a number of countries and cultures.” Of which versions include the psychological, symbolic, Freudian, ritualistic and medical clitoridectomy. It would seem, Levin is most interested in the latter.
So, what has the clitoris as a reproductive organ, Freud and clitoridectomy got to do with one another? And WTH is “tenting!”
Understanding The Latest Research On The Clitoris
In his lengthy The Clitoris—An Appraisal of its Reproductive Function During the Fertile Years: Why Was It, and Still Is, Overlooked in Accounts of Female Sexual Arousal, Levin shares key findings in 20th Century research, citing too the famous, Masters & Johnson. He lists ways that the clitoris, upon stimulation signals to the brain to set in to motion “a combination of changes in the female reproductive tract that creates its readiness to receive and process sperm to achieve possible fertilisation of the egg.”
These clitoris-brain-vagina changes are:
- Increasing heart rate and blood pressure to enhance vaginal blood flow
- Increasing vaginal lubrication—augmentation by neurogenic transudation facilitating painless penile vaginal penetration
- Increasing vaginal pO2—facilitating sperm motility and aerobic metabolism with increased energy production
- Partial neutralization of basal vaginal acidity
- Activating vaginal tenting and ballooning which delays sperm transport from the vagina facilitating their contact with capacitation factors
- Increasing vaginal temperature—enhancing male sexual arousal through penile temperature sensation (hedonic amplification)
All these points, with a little assistance from Google, are somewhat self-explanatory. One point that struck us however is Activating vaginal tenting and ballooning which delays sperm transport from the vagina.
How does delaying sperm help with reproduction?
Could Clitoral Stimulation Play A Role In Reproduction?
You may know that during arousal, the vagina tents, meaning it lengthens or pulls upward along with the cervix due to increased muscle tension. Meanwhile, ballooning to accommodate the male penis more comfortably and freeing up room for the semen because –
Immediately after ejaculation, semen solidifies into clots that are sticky and jelly-like in consistency. This is thought to protect sperm from the acidic vaginal environment. But, after about 5-20 minutes, these clots liquify, and semen becomes runny and clear. This allows sperm to swim free, so they can move into the uterus. – https://courses.edx.org
When the vagina tent and balloons, it gives the semen space to liquify, in order to move toward the uterus and then the ovum (female egg) . Given that only 30-40% of sperm, in one normal ejaculate, are forward moving, they need all the help they can get! In his appraisal, Levin argues that this is all usually set in motion by clitoral stimulation.
Bad Timing for Freud
Levin touched on Signum Freud and his disdain for the female organ, which could be argued caused immeasurable ramifications for the medical and cultural understanding and emancipation of female sexuality. He does note, however, that “the detailed physiological responses of the female genital tract to sexual arousal were not yet identified and described” in Freud’s day. This does cause an aching amount of cognitive dissonance when we think how women may not have suffered if Levin’s findings were mainstream before Freud’s misogynistic prognosis of the clitoral orgasm as “immature” and a sign un mental illness. Would he have reconsidered and instead championed the female orgasm as important, nay crucial, to the survival of the human race?
Clitoridectomy, A Reproductive Crime?
Levin shares that some “apologists” have argued that the ramifications of female clitoridectomy mean only an impairment on a female sexual enjoyment and so that this procedure is comparable to male circumcision. Levin goes on to share some post-surgery and post-reconstructive surgery stats of women who have undergone some form of clitoridectomy. This type of research is still lacking. However, it is known that a variety of complications, disability and death can result from FGM.
Citing back to the reproductive role of the clitoris or rather the neurological and physiological effects of clitoral stimulation, Levin states then that “clitoridectomy creates not only sexual disability but also a reproductive disability.”
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
WHO predicts 200 million girls and women currently living have undergone clitoridectomy.
Blog post based on Roy J Levins’ The Clitoris—An Appraisal of its Reproductive Function During the Fertile Years: Why Was It, and Still Is, Overlooked in Accounts of Female Sexual Arousal, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ca.23498