Back to All Events

WGS Intellectual Forum: Rachel Gross

Re-membering the Clitoris: A Story of Cultural Amnesia

Women have long had to fight the pernicious idea that our bodies, rather than forming an organic whole, are composed of warring parts. Specifically, the clitoris and vagina have been separated out—when in fact, modern anatomical research suggests that the most accurate way to think about the clitoris is as a complex sensory network that interacts with and helps creates “vaginal” sensation. At the same time, in the U.S. the clitoris has recently risen to become a feminist icon of empowered female pleasure. Yet by identifying with the historically maligned part—the clitoris—do we perpetuate this splintering, making it harder to think about our genitals as a fluid whole? This talk will follow the arc of the clitoris from ancient times until Freud and beyond, highlighting its very real implications for survivors of genital mutilation, women undergoing pelvic surgery, and millions of others seeking sexual fulfillment. 

Rachel E. Gross is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, researching a book on how scientists mapped the female reproductive system. Most recently she was the online science editor at Smithsonian magazine, where she launched a column profiling unsung women in the history of science. Before that she was a science reporter for Slate, where she won the 2016 Religion News Association’s Best Online News Story Award for her profile of an evangelical creationist who embraced evolution. She has covered religion and science for Moment, America’s leading independent Jewish magazine, and traveled to Auschwitz on a FASPE fellowship to study journalism ethics.

This event will take place in 14E-304. Lunch provided.
Please RSVP to wgs@mit.edu.

Earlier Event: February 14
re:Vision reading by SL Huang
Later Event: February 22
Amanda Seales: Smart, Funny & Black