Here’s just why articles looking to give a roadmap to the clitoris are missing the point.
There is a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this is probably never more true than when it comes to advice about sex. From the Year 8 rumour that you could not get pregnant if you did “it” standing up, through to internet memes which compare body parts to donuts, everyone has an opinion – and it is usually wrong.
It is even harder when the good intentions start from the place of wanting everyone who wants to have better sex to be able to do so. Yet, a good heart, and good intentions do not excuse the articles I find under the heading “clitoris roadmap”. I am sure you know the type of piece I mean. Cis men are berated for not knowing where the clitoris is, cis women are praised for having one. Radical credentials are proved by mentioning bisexuality (gasp) as someone tells an anecdote about how their girlfriend is so much better at finding the clitoris than a previous cis male partner. The article usually ends with a rallying cry to go forth and find the clit. A sex positive win, surely?
Well no. In fact it perpetuates a number of myths, beliefs, and erasures which actually cause harm. So, here are 4 reasons we need to stop offering to draw men road maps to the clitoris.
1) It is transphobic.
Body parts do not have a gender, some men have clitoruses, some women do not. When we write about sex avoiding the gender essentialism of saying that women have clitoruses and men do not is vital. Digging a little deeper, there is no innate knowledge of body parts which comes with being a certain gender. If a woman, or assumed to be female at birth person, happens to be an attentive sexual partner, that is not because of the body parts they were born with. Which brings me to my second reason
2) Road maps lead to bad sex.
The whole “if only men could find the clitoris” trope suggests there is a right way to have sex, and that clitoral stimulation is vital in order to have sexual pleasure.
Good sex, as in sex which all partners experience as the kind of sex they want to have is built on a foundation of avoiding all assumptions. As well as never assuming consent, and instead checking in as to how another person is experiencing sex with us, we need to pay attention to the body, or bodies in front of us.
One person may love clitoral stimulation, another may find it too painful for them, a third may prefer to do it for themselves. All too often someone has a less than satisfying sexual experience because they are not the person being seen, in the moment. Instead, someone is remembering their ex, or porn, or the amazing one night stand they had on New Years Eve. When we get caught up in the idea of how others might prefer sex, rather than the person we are with, then we cease to do those vital check ins.
The clitoris road map idea tells people that there is a magic bullet, that if they do this one thing, then it will be glorious sex. We need to be saying instead, there is no magic bullet, and not everybody reacts the same way to the same things. This is especially important for survivors of sexual trauma. The clit might be a particularly triggering part of the body, and without letting go of the idea there are rules which apply to everyone, a survivor may be re-traumatised.
Following “the rules” can also be used as an excuse for self blame and shame. If someone with a clitoris does not orgasm from it being touched, they can be left wondering what is wrong with them. After all, doesn’t everyone say, it’s all that is needed? At the same time their partner may be left thinking they had done all that was required, they had followed the road map, so the fault must lie with the person not orgasming or experiencing sexual pleasure.
Good sex is less about following a set of instructions, and more about creatively responding to the whole experience, and using all of our senses to work out what works, and what does not.
3) Faulty language perpetuates misunderstanding.
I have used the term clitoral stimulation here but of course I am using it incorrectly, along with 99% of people who talk about the clitoris. Road maps to the clit are only ever talking about the tip, the tiniest iceberg of the wonderful structure which makes up the clitoris.
The majority of the clitoris is internal. Now we could talk for hours about how Kyriarchy has pretty much ignored the structure, and function of the clitoris, or of how women and afab (assigned female at birth) people are discouraged from learning about, and exploring their own bodies.
It has taken until very recently for the actual structure of the clit to be described, and it is still sadly ignored in PSHE classes.
Roadmaps perpetuate the idea that the clit is just the tiny nub we see peeking above the surface, and keep everyone in ignorance of how it actually works. Or to put it another way, if we must have a road map, can we have one which isn’t sending us to Lands End when we want to go to John O’Groats.
4) Good sex is learnt, and we should not be ashamed of that.
As a society we have huge hangups even talking about sex. Hollywood does not help, with its depiction of sex as something which happens without fanny farts, or cramp, or having to change position because this one is awkward, and whilst porn can be better in showing a greater variety of body types, sexualities and ways of being sexual, it still rarely shows that no one is actually born knowing what to do. If we are lucky, we learn from each sexual encounter we have, including ones with ourselves, indeed, this might be the most important sex we ever have.
When articles by cis women talk of how sex with another woman was magical, because they simple “knew” what to do, it encourages the idea that sex is not a skill, but instead some arcane art some are born good at.
Some people may be better at listening, paying attention, and multitasking, and they may choose to use those abilities when they have sex. It is a choice, a skill which we can learn and develop, if we wish to. We need to ditch the Hollywood/Porn myth of sex magically happening, and instead embrace the idea that conscious, self aware, thoughtful sex is perhaps the replacement for roadmaps we need. Less a map, more a guidebook, with an infinite number of chapters.
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