Rachel E Gross: ‘You can go back to any era and find the ways the clitoris was dismissed, misunderstood or ignored’

Everything you need to know about this often overlooked body part

Listen | 55:47

“You can go back to any era and find the ways the clitoris was dismissed, misunderstood or ignored,” says Rachel E Gross, journalist and author of the book ‘Vagina Obscura’.

“But I like to go back to Hippocrates, known as the father of Western Medicine… he named them a word in ancient Greek, that means the ‘shame parts’,” she adds.

Gross was speaking about the clitoris, a much ignored and often overlooked part of the female body, alongside urologist and sexual health specialist Dr Rachel Rubin on the latest episode of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

“I always say, because women don’t pee through or penetrate with their clitoris, science has completely ignored it,” explains Dr Rubin, who works in sexual medicine in Washington DC.


Described in the New York Times as ‘Washington’s premier clitorologist’, Dr Rubin says there was a definite gap in her original medical training when it came to examining and understanding the anatomy of the clitoris.

“There was nothing on the clitoris, nor do I remember a single lecture or a single thing on female sexual health.”

“Not a lick of it,” she adds.

This gap in medical knowledge, she says can be detrimental to women undergoing procedures by doctors lacking a critical understanding of the shape, size and location of the clitoris. “If doctors don’t get taught about it, they can of course damage it,” Dr Rubin explains.

In this episode, the pair also reflect on popular culture’s obsession with the ‘G Spot’, which according to Gross, has become this “mythical, magical button that results in some sort of stronger, more extraordinary orgasm”.

This focus on the G Spot, Gross says, could actually be harmful to women’s sexual confidence: “Women’s magazines all over were encouraging you to find your G Spot and if you’re not finding it, then you’re not having the full sexual experience you could be,” she says.

“If you orgasm from clitoral stimulation but not penetration, you’re not broken, you’re totally normal”, adds Dr Rubin.

This conversation also explores the rise in cosmetic procedures like labiaplasty, caring for your sexual health around menopause and why we need to come up with a better word for masturbation.

You can listen back in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for The Women’s Podcast in your favourite app.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times