Review: The Clitourist

The Clitourist

The Clitourist: a guide to one of the hottest spots on earth

by Karen Salmansohn, Trisha Krauss (illus.), Annemarie Gilligan (design)

2002. Universe Publishing, NY.


This cutesy tourist guide to the clitoris features witty writing, stylish illustrations, fun design... and piss-poor information. Despite claiming to fill a void in clitoral information, The Clitourist seems to have been based entirely on hearsay and clichéd descriptions (can we please retire the phrase “come hither motion” from our collective vocabulary for G-spot stimulation?), and most pages led to me venting my frustration out loud. The author even seems to realize that she isn't standing on solid research, and couches several conclusions in “in most cases” or “maybe.”

Chief among my vented frustrations was Salmansohn's reliance on conformity. She gives tips like “the inner lips, and not the outer ones, are the more important lips to pay attention to during intercourse” without any inkling that this might vary for different women. I myself find that my inner lips are prone to chafing, and that I really enjoy pressure on my outer lips during intercourse.

Other pet peeves: defensively promoting women by bashing men for their inability to have multiple orgasms (which isn't even true) and their lack of an organ “designed purely for pleasure” (male nipples? anyone?); advising women who want to receive oral sex that “you should then shave your little chia pet zone” (I've left my muff au naturel for years and it hasn't inhibited my cunnilingury delights); comparing female orgasm to shoe shopping; and declaring that “it's funny, we can put a man on the moon but we can't put a man directly on a woman's clitoris during sexual intercourse” (yes we can— I do it all the time).

I could go on. About the only piece of information I didn't take issue with was that the vibrator was invented in Victorian times as a medical treatment for psychological ills, and about the only section I found entertaining was the discussion of pronounciation. The book is very cute, and the one-paragraph “chapters” seem to cover an appropriate array of topics, but in my mind the content is counter-productive to the book's proclaimed mission of educating and empowering women.

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For a truly empowering and educational look at female anatomy, including the clitoris, you could try Natalie Angier's Woman: An Intimate Geography. See my review.

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