In her classic feminist manifesto “The Female Eunuch,” author Germaine Greer argued that sexual liberation is the key to women’s liberation (1). The title of Greer’s best-seller seems to suggest that the gifted writer knew about the neurological consequence of lack of stimulation of the clitoris during development, long before I described it. But her provocative image of the castrated eunuch was merely a rhetorical device. Unfortunately, Greer’s book largely ignored female sexual dysfunction, as if women’s sexual difficulties are merely a minor and temporary ailment that her enthusiastic followers could cure through pep talks.
Greer suggests that “the role of the eunuch,” and “a passive sexual role” result in “the force of inertia,” and are the culprits in mentally castrating girls. Although she rejects the “capitalist” viewpoint in which sexual energy must be conserved and invested wisely (the myth that holding back sexual energy makes an individual somehow stronger), she nonetheless didn’t realize the physiological connection between early sexual “inhibition” and clitoral erectile dysfunction later (2).
Greer clearly recognizes that “The little girl is not encouraged to explore her own genitals or to identify the tissues of which they are composed, or to understand the mechanism of lubrication and erection.” (p. 44) Such anti-sex indoctrination leads to guilt feelings and “role expectations” that must be overcome through consciousness-raising; the liberated woman must “rediscover” sexual pleasure, says Greer, as if being sexually functional is merely something women were forced to forget.
At puberty or in adolescence “Little girls only learn about the pleasure of sex as an implication of their discoveries about their reproductive function, as something merely incidental.” (p. 53) But instead of offering insights and specific recommendations on sex education and practice in early and later childhood, Greer complains that the sexual revolution has led to an increase in “child violation,” and she criticizes Masters and Johnson’s research because it has led to excessive focus on the clitoris!
In reference to adult women’s sexuality Greer laments that female orgasm has come to be considered a “duty.” She did not mean that orgasm is unpleasant; her complaint concedes that reaching orgasm is no easy task for many modern women. Of course, it should be obvious that modern women cannot be expected to have orgasms if they have been mentally castrated. What Greer failed to realize is that for many women, reaching orgasm during normal intercourse isn’t merely difficult, it’s physiologically impossible, and all the consciousness-raising in the world won’t change that.
Greer makes fun of traditional love stories but is just as silly herself in citing the ridiculous myth that without romantic rituals “sexual intercourse is another household duty” (p. 205), and women are “frigid because the requirements of romance are not satisfied” (p. 221). She also seemed to believe that once women achieve political, economic and social equality, female sexual dysfunction will disappear naturally, like the withering away of the state in a communist utopia. But I’m afraid the bitter pill is that sexual function is a matter of physiology not sociology, and mental castration cannot be cured; it must be prevented.
The brain area that has atrophied as a result of lack of stimulation during development cannot suddenly develop the capacity to make a dysfunctional clitoris become robust. In some cases a girl who was allowed to develop sexually may become temporarily dysfunctional later due to physical trauma or severe psychological stress, and she may benefit from some form of convalescent therapy (neuroplasticity). But I suspect the more frequent diagnosis is that healthy clitoral function was permanently damaged by early neglect or active “inhibition” by misguided parents.
The tragedy of millions of women permanently mentally castrated may be partially offset by the hope for future generations. Adults must learn that when a little girl raises her hand under her skirt in private or in public, she has not done something uncivilized or unhealthy. Parents must not stare, scold the child, “distract” her, or otherwise interfere with her self-stimulation. The child is not merely indulging in gratuitous pleasure; she is developing the area of her brain that makes normal (i.e. healthy) sexual response possible. The child’s self-stimulation is precisely what is appropriate for children to do. When, where and how she does so should be her instinctive choice, not a dictate of distorted social etiquette.
Self-stimulation is only one side of the story. The sacred cow of “virginity” in youth should be attacked as an ancient joke. In the distant past before science understood the nature of micro-organisms and infectious disease, people were the helpless victims of superstition. The high-sounding word “chastity” literally means cleanliness. Guess what: It has been discovered that cleanliness is a matter of soap and water, or other hygienic practices, not abstinence from sexual contact. Cross-cultural evidence indicates that pre-industrial traditions, rituals and taboos that supposedly make an individual “clean” cannot be explained or justified in terms of hygiene (3).
In some parts of the Third World today many mothers still physically castrate their daughters. Here in the West Greer and some other confused feminists have contributed to mentally castrating millions of their young “sisters” by sowing enmity between boys and girls, and raising suspicion about what is actually natural and healthy sex play in childhood. Girls love playing matchmaker for single teachers, an obvious source of vicarious excitement for inhibited little ladies.
Life is filled with real magic, and one of the most magical parts of life is the too-infrequent interaction of boys and girls through visual, auditory and – yes – tactile communication. Parents should cultivate and foster that contact through education, e.g. instructional videos to learn buddy massage, not avoid and prohibit contact through enforced isolation or gender segregation, such as girls-only pajama parties!
Even Greer criticized Israeli kibbutzim where children were subject to “an unnatural restriction” against sexual experimentation (p. 264). Mutual play and exploration are normal ways for children to experience the wonder of life, and develop healthy sexual response in the process. Boys and girls belong together, and children’s spontaneous sex play should be welcomed as conducive to healthy neurological function.
1. Greer, Germaine. The Female Eunuch. 2008 (originally published 1970).
2. Clitoral Erectile Dysfunction. https://sexhysteria.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/clitoral-erectile-dysfunction/
3. Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Routledge, 2002.