The clitoris is only “mysterious” because it’s been ignored for so long. This week’s Girl Boner Radio stories illustrate how mighty the clit truly is and how impactful it can be to discover and embrace it.
You’ll also learn about ways to bring more pleasure to sex, two sex toys you may want to consider trying and some spicy game recommendations from Dr. Megan Fleming. I hope you enjoy it as much as I appreciate the folks who shared their stories (e.g. a lot!).
Stream the episode on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio or below! Or read on for a lightly edited transcript of most of it.
“Unforgettable Clitoris Stories + Pleasure Tips”
a lightly edited Girl Boner Radio transcript
1998 was a big news year:
According to The Associated Press, the top headlines included President Clinton’s “sex scandal” with an intern, Sammy Sosa breaking a long-standing homerun record and two hurricanes: Georges and Mitch. There was also an Iraq shutdown, a Big Tobacco settlement and a shift to universal currency, to the euro, in Europe.
So big stuff. Definitely noteworthy.
But something incredibly important was missing…
That same year, Dr. Helen O’Connell, a urologist in Melbourne, authored a study called Anatomy of the clitoris. She had found that modern medical science had been making a huge mistake: the clitoris wasn’t only a small “button” on the vulva. Not nearly. She discovered that the clitoris is wishbone-shaped, with most of it living inside vulva havers, under the pubic bone. And, that it’s the anatomical equivalent of the penis: same erectile tissue, same capacity to grow larger and “erect.”
When journalist Melissa Fyfe heard about this study in the newsroom back then, that a doctor in her area was literally rewriting what the world had learned from anatomy books, she was sure it would be front page news.
But, when she picked up the paper the next day, she had to search six pages in for any mention.
Later, for the Sydney Morning Herald, Fyfe wrote, “Even in this, its moment of glory, the clitoris was treated as it had ever been: downgraded and difficult to find.”
I mean, imagine if someone realized the penis was so much more than anyone had ever realized. It seems like that might make waves?
Much thanks to Dr. O’Connell, there is a lot more buzz about the clitoris now. And still, we still have a ways to go.
So today we’re going to celebrate the mighty clitoris by looking back on a few unforgettable stories from past Girl Boner interviews and episodes, starting with Joan Price, a sex educator, author and filmmaker who recalls when even the tip of the clitoris wasn’t mentioned. Here’s a portion of our conversation from June, 2018.
When I was growing up—and this was in the 1950s, I’m 74 now—my sex education consisted of, ‘This is how girls get pregnant and here’s why you shouldn’t do it.’ My father was a gynecologist and this is what he thought was all of sex education for me.
I know. There was nothing about pleasure. There was nothing about arousal. There was nothing to let me know why on earth anyone would want to do such a silly thing.
There was nothing in school?
School was about menstruation. We were divided, the boys and the girls. I’m not sure what the boys learned. I should ask. [Laughs] What the girls learned was about menstruation and how the egg travels from the ovaries to the uterus and if it gets there and so on. It wasn’t sex education. It was sex fear. It was sex lack of information. To make it even worse, if it could get worse than that, I knew there had to be something more to sex so I went looking in my father’s medical books. You know something that was not in any of my father’s medical books? The clitoris.
When you had your first sexual experience and you’d only learned negative things, did you expect it to be pleasurable? I know by that time, the hormones are at least giving you some clue.
Well there is a context to this because my boyfriend and I had been what we called ‘necking and petting’ for two years already. We thought we were going to wait until marriage because of course we were going to get married, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing any of this. But from tenth grade into twelfth grade, we were having these make out sessions in his car and I was getting very excited, but there was never an orgasm. We didn’t really know how to do that for me. It was a little more obvious for him.
I thought, When we finally have intercourse, all will be revealed. But instead I had been very excited to that point and then it was, I’m still excited, although most of it has died down.
Anti-climactic, in a couple of different ways.
Yes, a-climatic, actually. And I felt, ‘Well if this is all there is, why is it such a big fuss? I loved the intimacy of it. I liked the excitement of our ‘foreplay’… But I didn’t know what it would take for me to have more than that. Women who did not have a climax through intercourse then were considered ‘frigid.’ It’s an awful word.
I thought it meant you weren’t interested in sex, which also is not a positive term. But wow.
‘Orgasm’ was one of those dirty words we didn’t say. We did not climax during intercourse, so we were ‘frigid.’ We were defective, in other words.
Which surely only made matters worse, adding stress which interferes with arousal.
Right. And we know now, in this day and age and being sex educators, that about 75 percent of women do not reach orgasm that way—but we didn’t know any better. [pauses] Should we be revealing all this? We should.
We should! Let’s take it all in.
I remember at one point having a hot and heavy time with my boyfriend. I was in my freshman year of college and I still didn’t understand where it would take us and neither did he. I was his first, although he was a little older. I was getting so excited, I started rubbing my own clitoris and he brushed my hand away, like, ‘No. I’m the one pleasuring you.’ He wasn’t touching me. He was just screwing me.
Because he thought that that’s what sex was. He was supposed to penetrate you. And there was probably no conversation.
We never seemed to know how to talk about it. We didn’t have the words and if we went looking, who would we ask? You don’t ask your guidance counselor…and certainly not parents. Parents weren’t supposed to know we were doing it.
It’s interesting to me how a lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same.
Yes… It took a boy, a classmate, when I was in my second year in college and had broken up with the other boyfriend for other reasons… He said, ‘So let me give you an orgasm.’ I said, ‘I don’t have them.’ It was still about the men and what they could do to you or for you, but at least he had it right in how to do it. [After pleasurable sex] I thought, ‘Okay, I want to keep doing it. I want to do this a lot. I want to do this with a lot of people. I want to see who else knows this.’
He found the clitoris.
Yes. He already knew somehow; he had learned. I’m 74 now, feeling quite happy sexually and enjoying it very much. But I’ve talked to other people in my age group who are not, who grew up as I did but never unlearned that or whose partners never unlearned that. It was a very repressive era. Fortunately, we can unlearn our upbringing. We can teach those messages to people of your generation so that you don’t have to go through what we did.
And so we have something to look forward to, because there’s still this idea that if we have a vulva, our eggs shrivel up and then it’s all over.
Well you know, the eggs don’t have much to do with orgasm anyway.
[laughing] Very good point.
So our eggs may shrivel up, but our responses don’t have to. Different kinds of blossoms when we were 20 or 30, so we have to enjoy having the whole floral bouquet.
[Encouraging guitar music]
So is the clitoris easier for us all to find these days? Yes and no.
In a study from 2013 involving a few hundred people suggested that 44% of cisgender men can’t seem to find the clit. Another study showed that nearly ⅓ of college-age women have trouble pinpointing the clitoris on a diagram. Finding it on a diagram and experiencing pleasure there are different things, of course. Case in point, even “vaginal” and “G-spot” orgasms involve the clitoris. Still, more knowledge is important.
Back in 2018, I interviewed comedian Emma Arnold at the Storyfort festival in Boise, Idaho. She was so excited when a guy found her clit that she – well, I’ll let her tell you, starting with some context.
My parents are mountain hippies—teepee living hippies—so sex was actually pretty groovy and talked about. I saw my parents naked a lot. We were nude hot springers. My lesbian aunts lived with us and they had a sweat lodge in the backyard, so there were always a lot of lesbians coming in and out naked and sweaty.
We had the book for children about sex. The cover has a rather robust couple standing in front of A bathtub, and it was like, “This is a penis, man.” Like it was just very cool. “Penises, hair!” It was very groovy.
I was the only kid like that, because I grew up in Idaho and all my friends were Mormon. So on our bookshelf it was The Joy of Sex and Our Bodies, Our Selves, and my friends would come over and pour through these books and be like, “WHAT?” So I had a pretty open sex ed.
So did you learn about Girl Boners? Did you learn about pleasure?
No. God, not at all. For as groovy as my family was, they still had that sort of American sexuality. And I don’t think anybody talked about orgasms. And it’s funny, too, since I grew up around a bunch of lesbians. Maybe part of it was one time we were all in the pool in the back and I looked up and I saw my aunt and her wife. We had a shower window that was like frosted, so you couldn’t really see in but you could see, and I saw them making out and I remember just being like, oh god damn it. Like that’s gonna stick in there forever. Like it’s right now I could draw you a picture of it.
So surprisingly, I grew up with like all these empowered women around me but female sexuality wasn’t really discussed very much… Honestly, I don’t think I masturbated till I was like 21 – like not successfully. Like I kind of knew something was happening down there once in a while.
And I honestly married the first guy who found my clit like. I was like, Okay, he’s a, he’s a magic man. And this is love. This is what love feels like. So I married him. And it wasn’t till later that I was like, Oh, you can just do this yourself. You don’t have to get married when you’re 19, turns out.
I asked Emma if she had a sense of why she never really masturbated growing up, which led into where she’s at with clitoris talk today as a parent.
I think it just didn’t occur to me that girls masturbate… I grew up around a lot of boys, too. I was what we used to call a tomboy. I actually for three years identified as a boy, now what we would call non-binary. But back then it was just, “Emily’s a little weird.” So I hung out with our boys and they made a lot of jerk off jokes. And so I knew that boys did that. But nobody ever talked about girls doing that. And so I just didn’t know that it was an option. I think it’s part of the reason I became sexually active so young. I was like, well, that’s the only way to get that as a young woman.
I mean, I was a pillow humper. I’m not saying I wasn’t a pillow hamper. It’s not like I didn’t ever masturbate. I was humping pillows and stuffed animals like crazy. But I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just remember being like, this makes my head feel itchy. My body’s hot. What’s happening? But I didn’t really know what I was doing. And I would have never told anybody. Growing up, none of my friends, nobody would have ever admitted to it ever. So even even though we were pretty liberated, even though my sisters were really liberated, none of us would have ever discussed that or talked about it.
So did you question these ideas? It seems like you’re so bold in your work. Did you have this drive to like, you know, debunk this stuff? Or did you ever get frustrated that you didn’t know?
I think I did, but it only just manifested for me in boning more and more Mormon boys. Like I think I was so sexually frustrated when I was like 16 that I just was like if you if you have sex enough, it finally is satisfying. And so I was really overactive with it. But I think it’s because it’s all kind of hidden. Nobody was like, “here’s your clitoral. This is how you work it.” I mean, if they even have a manual on that now, I feel like there’s a couple of good ones. But we’re not teaching girls even now.
I was trying to have a conversation with my son last night, a very delicate conversation, because he was talking to me about sex. He’s 15 and I was like, how comfortable am I saying “clitoris” over and over to my son? I’m really pretty cool and groovy. But I was like, “vulva”, you know. I kind of surprised by how stopped up by I was even now you know, even with being someone who pushes norms, I was like, how far is this okay to talk to with my kid like, I was like, Oh, I need to sit down and examine this because I’m not even sure right now, you know? And he’s asking questions. It’s not like I just went to him. and was like, “vulva, let’s talk about it!” You know, like he was asking pretty pointed questions.
[Encouraging guitar music]
I love that she talks openly about sex with her kids when they have questions and has the wherewithal to look inward when we ourselves feel uncomfortable.
If you’ve been listening here for a while or read my Girl Boner book, you know that embracing solo play and learning my body have been huge learning curves for me as well. Since we are talking about clit stories, I figured I should share my own most remarkable.
Here’s a reading from Girl Boner that I did at a Skirt Club event in Los Angeles in 2019.
[Excerpt from my Girl Boner book. If you have auditory issues, feel free to contact me for the transcript.]
August (narration continued):
Whenever we talk about the clitoris, I think it’s important to point out that you don’t have to be a woman to have one. Plenty of nonbinary folks and male-identifying trans folks have a clit, too.
About four years ago, in June, 2017, I interviewed Hida Viloria, a Latinx author and pioneering intersex and non-binary activist and educator, about their journey after reading their powerful memoir, Born Both: An Intersex Life.
Before we get to the clit parts of our conversation, here is how Hida described being intersex, for anyone who may not be familiar.
I think one of the easiest ways to think about intersex people is we are on the spectrum between male and female in certain ways. And so you can have people who are more female-bodied, in terms of reproductive traits and chromosomes, but a little more masculine-looking because they were viralized in the womb with more male hormones than most women typically are. I fall into that category so I’ve always had kind of broad shoulders, musculature. There can also be physical differences in genitals. I fall into that category, too.
And then there’s almost the flip side with men who have low testosterone and they have little body hair. And then also, you might have people who are mostly physically male, but with a smaller than average penis. There’s also another type where people who grow up to be women, almost all of the cases we’ve seen, actually, it’s called CIS. They look externally female. You’d really never know they weren’t female, except that internally, they don’t have typical female traits and instead have internal testes and XY chromosomes, so they can’t get pregnant. So our differences are visible sometimes and sometimes not at all.
One of those potential physical traits involves the clitoris. Sadly, many intersex babies with physical traits that don’t fit the classifications for male or female, such as having a relatively large clitoris, are operated on to “correct” them. Hida’s parents, a doctor and a former school teacher, opted against putting their child through such a surgery.
I have to ask you about Girl Boners because I remember when I first met you at World Sexual Health Day, I think the first thing you said to me was, “we have to talk about girl boners,” because you actually have a clitoris that becomes more erect than a clitoris more frequently would, and so you’ve been able to to penetrate people. And I remember a part of your book where you’re talking about how good that can feel and you understood why that was a pleasurable thing for people with a penis. Ad then also that the clitoris is so pleasure-centric; it’s made for pleasure. It’s so sensitive. Do you think sometimes that you have the best of both worlds in a way? Like from a genital pleasure standpoint you experience very different things that not everybody gets to?
I really do. And I think that one regret is that our society is so sex-phobic in certain ways, right? It’s not when it comes to parading bodies around in magazines and such; that’s okay. But to really talk about sex and pleasure and orgasms isn’t something that we do, so thank you for bringing it up. It’s an important topic, and I have not been able to really talk about it enough and share how I think that honestly, my intersex body is a blessing. And people in my life, my close friends, say the same thing. I have women joking, “I wish mine was as big as yours” quite frequently because it is. It’s a positive thing.
It’s ironic that [larger than average clitorises] are treated so negatively that they’re often literally cut off. I mean, that’s the crazy irony. Although, I don’t think it’s ironic if you really get very deep and philosophical about it. On the one hand, you could say, okay, parents are just afraid of their girls being different, but on the other hand are these gatekeepers, the professionals who kind of decided in the beginning, and then keep deciding in the current period, that this isn’t a good thing.
It was one thing in the 50s when women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex and very little was known about female sexuality. People didn’t want to know about it, frankly, and it was suppressed, it was one thing back then for people to have this attitude of cutting a clitoris off. But now that we have presumably evolved and female sexuality is presumably important, it’s crazy to me that people are still arguing for these surgeries when common sense, as well as firsthand accounts like mine, have shared that [an intersex clitoris] is actually a positive thing.
And I think that part of it is, frankly, that there still is sexism against women having sexual pleasure and being sexually empowered. While all the women who have had it done to them are complaining and deeply upset about it, male doctors hearing this and even female doctors are not getting behind them. They’re not getting behind the need to have sexually empowered women who are treated as equals to men who are supposed to just have access to sexuality, right? It’s considered a birthright for men. It’s like, “Oh, that’s what you have to do. And that’s what you look forward to.” But for women, we see this birthright being taken away, and the experts and professionals are still condoning it. So I think that there has to be a remnant of sexism and internalized sexism for the women doctors, where part of them just doesn’t want women to feel that good.
Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. That’s really profound, and I think resonates with a lot of what’s going on in our culture right now. And this brings up those important conversations that I think you’re helping to inspire. Chapter five of Born Both is so powerful and heartbreaking. It’s called Gendercide, and you talk about what you call non-consensual genital surgeries. I know many people call the surgeries intersex genital mutilation. Would you share why it’s important to you to to avoid the mutilation word?
Well I do use that word sometimes as well, but it kind of depends on the context. I don’t want to trigger people who have unfortunately been subjected to these surgeries. It might trigger them to hear it call that just another reminder of the pain that they suffered. Currently, I’m saying sex reassignment surgeries… We’ve called them all different things over the years. And some adults, as we know, from the trans community, voluntarily want to have surgery on their genitals to confirm their gender identity. So not all surgeries aren’t mutilation. Obviously, those surgeries are voluntary.
And the huge difference that people don’t realize is that ours are not. Even if they realize that, I think it’s really bizarre. I’ve had colleagues, fellow activists, point out how even some human rights bodies recently have made the mistake of calling our surgeries the ones performed on babies who obviously didn’t ask for them, sex alignment surgeries. But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is that these babies are being given sex changes that they never asked for—sex reassignment, basically. And if you look at it like that, I think it’s helpful because you think, Wow, who would give a baby a sex reassignment surgery?
A lot of people don’t even like it when adults do it; obviously, that’s transphobic. My point is that, how could you have strong feelings about this, and yet think it’s fine to do it to a baby? The problem is that being intersex has been portrayed as such an innate defect that you would have to change it. So of course, it would be “corrective,” right? And that’s simply wrong.
We are a natural variation. And the vast majority, we have no health issues, just like male or female babies. In some cases we do, just like male or female babies. But what we are is a variation of sex. We are a naturally occurring, different sex. And people just haven’t really wanted to admit that because they haven’t been ready to expand their notion of sex.
We have hundreds of years of “men and women,” and “man and wife,” and all these patriarchal ideas of what the sexes are, and what their roles are, and how opposite they are. So to admit that there are actually three sexes and a whole spectrum of sex—because even the third sex has a whole huge spectrum within it, from intersex people who look very male to intersex people who look very female, to everyone in between—that kind of throws the whole sexist, patriarchal paradigm on its head. It changes that ability to be like, men, of course, will have this role. And women, of course, will have this role. And it makes you begin to think, Oh, well, maybe people are just suited to whatever they’re suited for individually. I think our society, sadly, for so many years hasn’t been ready for that. But I think that we are getting there.
Do you feel because there are many people who have probably not come out yet or on’t know much about intersex or that they are intersex – do you think it’s more common than anyone realizes?
Yes. The stats that we have, if anything, are low because of that. You’re exactly right. We have very few people that have been coming out still, relative to the amount. And one really easy way to see that is that we know that there’s more intersex people than trans people statistically, and yet, you would never know that based on the amount of social recognition and understanding that’s out there.
I’ve had a lot of people approach me who think the opposite. And basically, the fact is that most of us have still been too shy. And I think it’s because there’s not enough information out there yet to come out, with educating everyone if they come out and feeling alone, because there’s not a lot of out intersex celebrities, politicians, etc. So, yeah, there’s probably even more of us.
People contact me all the time and say, “I’m not sure if I’m intersex.” And then they tell me the details of their body or their medical records, and they are completely intersex. My favorite is a woman who contacted me who is married. She had three children with her husband, and they were expecting the fourth. And she told me that her clitoris was four inches long, which is quite a bit larger than mine and really one of the largest that I’ve heard of for a woman that identifies and lives as a woman, is happily married and mind you can obviously get pregnant, right?
Yet she has this very big variation in her genitals. And she didn’t even know if she could use the word intersex, because nobody’s talking about it. And so I think that there’s just a ton of people out there like this. And I think that what’s going to happen, that’s started happening, is we’re going to reach that tipping point where enough people start talking about it that suddenly, more people start coming out, and at one point, tons of people come out and the world is suddenly different in a really positive way.
[Encouraging guitar music]
Earlier this year, Germany banned unnecessary surgeries on intesex babies, although critics have warned that the new law could too easily be sidestepped by doctors and parents. And recently a bill here in California to ban these surgeries was stalled for the 3rd year in a row. The author of the bill said that proposed amendments would have stripped it of most of its purpose. Here’s hoping that changes soon.
Our last clitoris story comes from culture shifter and media personality Jean Franzblau. Jean joined me in the studio back in 2015 and read a poem she wrote for the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest entitled, “A Love Letter to My Clit.” It talks about her own pleasure discovery journey, as a cisgender woman who used to really envy penis havers, until she started to explore and understand this incredible part of her body.
Love Letter to my Clit. My darling clitoris, when I was younger and angrier I was jealous of men. Men seemed to have such explosive mind-bending orgasms. Not fair, I thought. What I didn’t know was that I was gifted with the only body part whose function was pure pleasure. That my sweet, is you…
[Jean reading the remainder of “Love Letter to My Clitoris” with nature sounds and piano music in the background]
[encouraging guitar music]
To learn more from Joan Price, visit joanprice.com for senior sex tips, sex toy reviews from a senior perspective and information about all of her works. To learn more about Emma Arnold and stream some of her comedy, visit emmaarnoldcomedy.com. For more about Hida Viloria and to check out their books, head to hidaviloria.com. Find more about Jean Franzblau and her work in intimacy coordination, professional cuddling and more at jeanfranzblau.com.
We’re going to shift gears a little bit now for some pleasure tips, toys and sexy games.
First, here are three simple and practical tips to add more pleasure to your play, inspired by one of our sponsors, Promescent:
- Use lube. I mention lube a lot and for good reason. It makes virtually all sex better. I have been loving Promescent’s aloe-based and water-based lubricants. They have an awesome texture and don’t contain risky ingredients that can cause irritation.
- Second, consider an arousal gel. Promescent also makes Women’s Arousal Gel, which you apply to your vulva, or a partner’s vulva, shortly before play time. It adds such a fun buzz feeling and can really get juices flowing where they count.
- And, if you have a penis and don’t stay hard as long as your partner would like, yet they love penetration, grab some Promescent Climax Control Spray stat. It’s the only clinically proven delay spray in North America to help you last longer in bed.
To save 15% of your first order, head to delayspray.com and use the discount code mentioned in the episode. All purchases are delivered discreetly, no prescription required, and backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee. To save 15% automatically, click here.
And speaking of clitoris play, I have to let you all know about the Womanizer. PREMIUM eco toy. I received one recently and it is so awesome. It uses Pleasure Air technology to give you a fun suction feeling on your clit. And here’s the part that blows my mind—pun embraced. It’s made from sustainable, renewable materials. So you can pleasure your way to a smaller eco footprint. It’s also elegant looking and has a really lovely texture. And yes, it is available at The Pleasure Chest.
Lasty, before we get to Dr. Megan’s Pleasure Picks, I received another toy for review from Tracy’s Dog called the Turboo Automatic Masturbation Cup. It’s a penis toy, and since I don’t have a penis, I offered it to one of the kind folks in the Girl Boner Patreon community. (Just one of many possible perks of joining us there – hint hint. ;))
Here is what he said about this “male masturbator” toy:
“First impression was what an amazing looking product. Super styling and extremely well built. I would never think it was a toy. It has all sorts of lights and is an impressive looking object!
I did not really know what to do with it at first. I found you should be erect before inserting your John Thomas into the device. It provides several speeds for pleasure control, and you can insert it to different lengths for various stimulation points.
Once you have proven your love to the flaming barrel of erotica, clean up is easy, just wash with soap and water and air dry. (Okay, I made that up!) [Side note from August: that sounds just fine to me!]
This would be an amazing gift for sifi and star wars fans, and trekkies, because it honestly looks like R2D2. A surefire way to make friends at Comic-Con, and a great conversation piece for your mantle.
Keep it away from children or you may find them using it as a rocket ship/time machine! And good luck with the conversations that may ensue.
Overall an extremely well made, very artistic looking product. You can see how much work went into it. Charges easily and it’s ready to go!!”
Thank you, kind patron. And I agree, it does sort of look like R2D2!
If that review intrigued you, order your own Turboo Automatic Masturbation Cup at tracysdog.com. Use the code TURBOO to save 30% on your purchase.
Stream the full Girl Boner Radio episode, which also includes Dr. Megan Fleming’s Pleasure Picks for July, up above or on your favorite podcast app! Or check out all of her Pleasure Picks on her website at greatlifegreatsex.com/pleasurepicks. And for more Girl Boner fun, join me on Patreon!