“I didn’t hear words that were accurate, much less prideful. For example, I never once heard the word clitoris. It would be years before I learned that females possessed the only organ in the human body with no function than to feel pleasure. (If such an organ were unique to the male body, can you imagine how much we would hear about it—and what it would be used to justify?)”
― Gloria Steinem, The Vagina Monologues
“The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure.”
― Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
Christine, based in London, is completing a training (here in the states) to become a Fertility Awareness Educator. Interested in using my artwork (the reproduction system) as teaching material, she contacts me.
While the work is grounded in scientific medical illustration, it is also abstracted. I use symbolic color and line suggesting the subtle energy of the human body. As it turns out she is also a Massage and Craniosacral Therapy practitioner and understands why I explain – it may or may not work as traditional teaching material.
We share some goals, in this particular case, to educate and empower women.
I admit since beginning our correspondence, I’ve learned what (almost) feels like a new language! Christine asks if you were to draw something up from scratch for us – for example the internal anatomy showing the full anatomy of arousal, what is your rates? I respond in a practical way giving general information for a commission and prices.
Though all the while I’m wondering…what exactly is the full anatomy of arousal?
Eventually while speaking with her (where are my notes!) I realize I think sensual as she clarifies sexual anatomy. She explains more and I really do feel like I am hearing a foreign language.
She emphasizes the clitoris, crura (2 legs extending 9 cm into the pelvis), and bulbs of the vestibule (two – one laying to either side of the vaginal opening). She directs me to reference material, including images and books.
I respond to the information Christine sends. The plexus of veins and the arteries (like a hammock), and the nerves among all the forms also catch my attention. I know they will make for added (and beautiful) detail, shape and texture.
I am further educated by my friend Tara, a Pelvic Floor Specialist. I say to her, I don’t like pink, I don’t want to paint anything pink. She explains color indicates health (pink it is). Once again she lends me her medical pelvis model with ↓bladder, uterus and colon (I plan to include). And she too, provides me with reading material.
I start to organize a composition and I can’t help but recall The Dinner Party and the work of Judy Chicago ↓. I am further reminded of the politics of the female body as I continue to research other artist’s work.
Judy Chicago, test plate, 1978 National Museum of Women in the Arts (photo by C. Lavender)
Right now the study sits on my drawing table. I might add one more element. And then I’ll consider the title of the small painting on mylar.
I leave you with a few interesting facts…
- The clitoris has at least 8000 nerve endings (a man’s penis has about 4000).
- The clitoris and the crura are referred to as the wish bone because their structure resembles one.
- One single gene on a Y chromosome and a clitoris (female) becomes…you guessed it…a penis (male).
- Clitoris is Greek for key. It has only one job.
I plan to ask Christine if she wants to say anything about the anatomy of arousal. If she agrees, look for a future post.
There is so much to our body – take care to know it.