2020 Digital Video Storytelling, Medium Form finalist

The Clitoris, Uncovered

An Intimate History

About the Project

The shape and size of the clitoris is no small matter. An accurate understanding of this organ has implications for pelvic surgeons who want to avoid cutting key nerves; doctors who practice gender affirmation surgery or clitoral restoration surgery on women who have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM); and women and men everywhere who are interested in better understanding their own bodies and sexuality.

Enter “The Clitoris, Uncovered,” an anatomy lesson and history lesson wrapped up in an engaging, easily digestible video package. This educational film seeks to help viewers understand a difficult-to-envision body part in three dimensions, while also taking them on a historical tour of how anatomists came to this understanding. In doing so, the film reveals how the clitoris has been maligned, misjudged, and misunderstood for millennia, with many of these scientific missteps stemming from deeply held cultural assumptions about what women and their bodies were for.

To give a full picture of this mostly internal organ, the film uses a floating 3-dimensional model of the internal clitoris. Key features are highlighted onscreen while the narrator explains what scientists have learned about this anatomy over the past two decades, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and microdissection — and how these advancements contradict earlier claims that were long treated as established fact. The film also utilizes animation overlays to spotlight key figures in the history of anatomy who either spurred or hindered progress in moving clitoral knowledge forward.

The film was shot in an anatomical theatre at Massachusetts General Hospital inspired by the Italian theatres in the round in which the clitoris was originally “discovered” by Renaissance anatomists. We seek to update and correct their flawed understanding. The idea is to help readers envision a part of the anatomy that is too often glossed over or omitted, but also to show how the process of science can be a long and tortuous road, full of potholes and dead ends, profoundly shaped by the cultural and historical context in which it is done.

Host/Writer: Rachel E. Gross
Editors: Jeffery DelViscio, Dominic Smith
Animation: Dominic Smith