In the space of less than one lifetime, as a society, we have gone from not thinking about the clitoris at all to focusing on it as the main organ of female pleasure, and we have changed our sense of it from just being the glands, where the pleasure is most intense, to being a detailed, largely internal structure. You can see a helpful diagram here
This is obviously a very welcome development, and goes some way towards redressing the shameful neglect of female sexuality which has characterised most of our history.
The enhancement of female pleasure is unequivocally a wonderful thing, but seeing the clitoris in this way – as simply an organ of pleasure – maintains a way of looking at our sexuality – female and male – which often has the effect of splitting off our sexuality from the rest of us, excluding a fundamental sense of ourselves as a joyful, feeling totality, intimately connected to an alive and responsive world.
And, viewing a part of us as simply “an organ of pleasure” is, I think, quite a male perspective. And if something is an organ of pleasure, shouldn’t it always welcome touch and be responsive to it? And if it doesn’t, does that mean that there’s something wrong with the touch, something wrong with the “organ”, or something wrong with its owner?
Added to that, there is a double problem with “viewing”.
The French thinker and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan famously talked about The Mirror Stage. The idea was that as infants, our consciousness is originally purely embodied. We don’t have a picture of ourselves. However, when the infant sees an actual or imagined reflection of themselves, they say “That’s Me!”. This creates a split, which is [in Lacan’s view, not mine] never healed, between our sense of ourselves ‘from the inside’, as it were, and our image of ourselves, a view ‘from the outside’. Frequently, the image is the more dominant part. You can observe this all the time. You ask someone to do something with their left hand, for example, and they will frequently look at their hand, as if the visual brings the body into existence.
I think this split shows up in sexuality, with all genders, but that women are particularly exposed to it because of the additional issue of the male gaze, the historical portrayal of woman from the outside, what they look like.
And this double problem is made worse by the largely internal nature of women’s sexuality.
I don’t want to generalise, but amongst many of the women I have worked with, the familiar way of regarding sexuality as body and arousal focused – racing up the mountain – isn’t wrong, but incomplete. It doesn’t work very well for them, and they tend to blame themselves for it. They think there’s something wrong with them.
What I’ve found is that a different kind of sexuality is helpful to them, and it often has the following characteristics:
- it isn’t orgasm focused
- it’s as if time slows right down
- there is a sense of deepening and enlivening, rather than travel towards a destination
- it’s holistic: the body, the imagination, memory and feeling are all included.
Another way of describing it is Chthonic. Imagine two people on the surface of a world. The first thinks the world is two dimensional, surface only. This person would think in terms of travel, of getting somewhere. A Hero’s Journey, you could say.The second person is different. This person can sense depth beneath them. By just being there, being present, the depth of the world opens up. And with that depth, a whole world of feeling, so all the tremors and movements of this world aren’t willed by this person, but experienced. The two experiences are totally different, aren’t they?
I don’t want to replace one orthodoxy with another. But I would like to encourage the idea that your sexuality is your sexuality. It is unique. The task is to find it, rather than try to bend it to fit a model which isn’t natural for you. I’d like to help you to do that.