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