Sex Roles

, Volume 43, Issue 11, pp 917–926

Kept Under the Hood: Neglect of the Clitoris in Common Vernacular


  • Shirley Matile Ogletree
    • Southwest Texas State University
  • Harvey J. Ginsburg
    • Southwest Texas State University

DOI: 10.1023/A:1011093123517

Cite this article as:
Ogletree, S.M. & Ginsburg, H.J. Sex Roles (2000) 43: 917. doi:10.1023/A:1011093123517


Even though the “clitoris” is the organ homologous to the “penis,” this term may not be commonly used as the female counterpart to the penis. We conducted three studies to examine the usage of terminology for female sexual anatomy. In the first study 57 books in a university computer database for “sex instruction” were examined for the inclusion of terms such as penis, clitoris, vagina, vulva, and uterus. Penis was mentioned more often than either the clitoris or vulva in these books. In the second and third studies we investigated the terminology used by college students as well as their sexual attitudes and knowledge. Participants in the studies were Euro-American (76%/76%, Study 2/Study 3 respectively), Hispanic (18%/14%), and African American (4%/7%); students reported that they were overwhelmingly taught vagina as the female counterpart to the penis. Believing that the inner portion of the vagina is the most sexually sensitive part of the female body correlated with negative attitudes toward masturbation (Study 2) and agreement with sex myths (Studies 2 and 3).

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000