Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 4pm (GMT)
In 1831, at age forty, Anne Lister wrote that she “found distinctly for the first time” the clitoris. While one might expect a Victorian woman to be sexually ignorant, Anne Lister’s late-blooming anatomical knowledge is surprising, for she was quite unusual in two ways. First, as her coded diaries reveal, she had clearly been experiencing pleasure through the clitoris and giving pleasure to other women; second, she educated herself in anatomy, and even dissected bodies. By looking at Anne Lister’s quest to find the clitoris, we can understand in more detail how difficult it was for women to conceptualize this important part of their bodies. This paper will also illuminate the debates about changing understanding of anatomy and the one-sex/two-sex models of gender difference.
Professor Anna Clark is Professor at the University of Minnesota, USA. She is the author of numerous influential books and articles, including Women’s Silence, Men’s Violence: Sexual Assault in England, 1770–1845 (1987), The Struggle for the Breeches: Gender and the Making of the British Working Class (1995), Scandal: The Sexual Politics of the British Constitution (2003), Desire: A History of European Sexuality (2008) and Alternative Histories of the Self: A Cultural History of Sexuality and Secrets (2017).