There’s no denying orgasms are one of life’s more pleasurable – and for many of us, accessible – experiences. But if it wasn’t a simple pleasure? How far would you go to experience the sweet, if short, release of orgasm?Embed from Getty Images
These days genital plastic surgery is quite common, to make us look prettier ‘down there’ or in an attempt to make orgasm easier to achieve. The removal of the clitoral hood has been popular since the Victorians believed it to be superfluous and that exposing the glans clitoris would make women more responsive.
In fact, the hood is made up of erogenous tissue – it is a pleasure receptor in itself and protects the often too-sensitive clitoris (direct pressure can be painful), diffusing it’s sensitivity so sex can be a pleasurable, not an uncomfortable activity. And why would you willingly remove even a small piece of the organ packed with nerve endings, present in the body for the sole purpose of pleasure? Without it, wouldn’t we just be depriving ourselves of part of our erogenous anatomy?
Back in 1925 Princess Marie Bonaparte (descendant of Napoleon) was treated by, and then studied with, Sigmund Freud. In her pursuit of orgasm, she studied over 200 women’s vaginas and came to the conclusion (a belief still held today) that the distance between the clitoris and the urethral meatus (a proxy for the vaginal opening) has a direct impact how easily a woman is able to climax – the smaller the distance, the easier orgasm is to achieve.
“Specifically it was proposed that if this distance is less than 2.5cm a woman is very likely to have orgasms solely from sexual intercourse.” It is unresolved whether this distance “reflects increased penile-clitoral contact during sexual intercourse or increased penile stimulation of internal aspects of the clitoris.”
Female Sexual Arousal: Genital Anatomy and Orgasm in Intercourse, Kim Wallen, Ph.D. and Elisabeth A. Lloyd, Ph.D.
Marie’s decision to have her clitoris surgically relocated closer to her vaginal opening was painful, traumatic – and unsuccessful. Orgasm did not become less elusive for Marie. She wouldn’t have known that the visible part of the clitoris is just the tip of the iceberg. Although the small area has an amazing 7-8000 sensory nerve endings and can affect 15,000 other nerve endings in the pelvic area, it is only a small part of the organ which includes the clitoral head, the hood, the clitoral shaft, the urethral sponge, erectile tissue, glands, vestibular bulbs and the crura (or the clitoral legs). Only the clitoral head and the hood are visible outside the body.
Removing the clitoral hood is female circumcision (a woman’s sexual anatomy is created from the same tissue and nerve endings as a male’s, just shaped and put together differently). “Male and female genitalia both develop from the same embryonic cells and they’re wired into the nervous system the same way. The genders don’t differentiate until late in foetal development. While one gender can’t know precisely how erotic stimulation makes the other feel, an understanding of genital embryology can help lovers appreciate each others’ bodies and pleasure more intimately.” Michael Castleman M.A. For an interesting description of the corresponding male/female areas of sexual anatomy at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201207/so-thats-how-it-feels
Some good news for any ladies worried about decreasing sexual pleasure as we age: the clitoris continues to grow from puberty, all your life. No matter your age, it will not (naturally) decrease in size.
And, in case you’re interested in what may have motivated Marie to undergo the painful surgical procedure 3 times, here is a brief history of Princess Marie Bonaparte…
Marie was born outside of Paris in 1882. Her mother died shortly after her birth and she was brought up by her father (whom she rarely saw), her grandmother and a series of nannies. Growing up, Marie was exposed to the household gossip that Marie’s father and grandmother conspired to poison her mother to get hold of her money. Although Marie worshipped her father, she was suspicious and afraid of him.
Marie was conflicted sexually. She witnessed sexual acts from infancy, when her wet nurse, and later her nanny, had an affair with the household’s head groom (rumoured to be Marie’s bastard uncle). Marie was often present when the lovers met to make love clandestinely – usually in the stables.
A later nanny punished her when she found young Marie masturbating, forcing Marie to wear a nightgown with drawstrings at the bottom and threatening that death was the price of erotic pleasure.
Marie was highly intellectual and yearned to study medicine, but her father forbade it, believing any unladylike behaviour would ruin Marie’s chances at a good marriage – and with it, his chance to return his line of the Bonaparte family to imperial status.
After a disastrous flirtation with her father’s secretary, who later blackmailed Marie in return for keeping quiet, Marie did end up marrying well – to Prince George of Greece and Denmark, who was more interested in his relationship with his uncle than with his new bride. They had two children together, but an unsatisfying sexual relationship. Although Marie engaged in affairs which brought her love, she was tormented by her frigidity.
No wonder she jumped at the opportunity to be psychoanalysed by Freud himself, and ended up working with him.
Marie had surgery on three occasions to relocate her clitoris, the first in 1927 aged 45, and again in 1930 and 1931.