The clitoris really isn’t that confusing. Or it shouldn’t be, anyway. Nonetheless, acknowledging the shape, size, or even existence of this essential body part has not always been par for the course—even in the medical profession. As a 2005 report from the American Urological Association puts it, “the anatomy of the clitoris has not been stable with time as would be expected. To a major extent its study has been dominated by social factors.”
However, heralded by some as a sexual and physiological revolution, a new 3-D printed model of the clitoris is being used to change the public’s view of female sexuality. Free to download, the life-size model was designed by the French engineer, sociologist, and independent researcher Odile Fillod and released early last year.
At 10 centimeters in length, from the tip of the glans to the end of one “crus” (or leg), the model clitoris is bigger than expected. That’s tactical: It was created to dispel misinformation. Many dictionaries and even medical texts dub the clitoris as “pea-sized.”
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Historical accounts of the clitoris are plagued by disparagement or ignorance. Though Magnus, a renowned scholar in the Middle Ages, considered the clitoris as homologous to the penis, not all who succeeded him agreed. In the 16th century, Vesalius argued the clitoris did not appear in “healthy women.” The Malleus Maleficarum, a 1486 guide for finding witches, suggested the clitoris was the “devil’s teat”; if the tissue were to be found on a woman it would prove her status as a witch. And in the 1800s, women seen as suffering from “hysteria” were sometimes subject to clitoridectomies.