Considering that 51% of the population has one, it’s surprising that we don’t have more books about the clitoris. Those you can find on Amazon tend to be written by and for cisgender hetero men who apparently hesitate to go directly to the source: even when it is written about, the clitoris is rarely centered. Does size alone account for the neglect of the deceptively small organ?
Intrigued by the clit’s rare appearance in literature and lore, as well as the pronouncements of self-appointed male experts like American cultural critic Gershon Legman—who wrote a 1940 guidebook to cunnilingus and was once heard to declare, “I have devoted my life to the clitoris”—Elizabeth Hall set out to explore just about everything that’s been written about the clit. I Have Devoted My Life to the Clitoris (hat tip to Legman’s boast) is at once far-ranging history and passionate meditation. Presenting fragments of information from her research, Hall sets out the claims and obfuscations surrounding the clit. She interrogates history, sexology, and plastic surgery alike, and casts a skeptic’s eye on the stubborn myths of science. Into her gorgeous mosaic, she also brings insights from artists, anatomists, hyenas, and feminist icons like Kathy Acker and Holly Hughes as well as her own personal observations about the clitoris and being a female body in the world.
“Suppose I were to say I wanted to chart this pleasure,” she writes in the opening chapter, “grab hold of its hemline, and follow it slack-jawed, not to better understand it, but to linger, a little longer, within it.”
Hall will read and chat clit stories at Brooklyn’s Molasses Books on October 27 at 8 pm. I reached her at her home in Los Angeles to talk about how the book took shape, how it changed her, and the need to recognize value in all bodies.