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The Witches’ Hammer, written by a German Catholic clergyman in 1486, was the first text to identify the clitoris. The book went so far as to describe the organ as “the devil’s treat,” claiming it was affiliated with demons, the devil, and witchcraft. The book inspired more frequent and brutal persecution of women accused of witchcraft. 73 years later, in 1559, anatomist Renaldus Columbus was credited with the “discovery” of the clitoris and described it as the “love of venus,” or a pleasure center. Another 112 years later, in 1671, midwife Jane Sharp described the clitoris as a “female penis.” Describing women’s anatomy using terminology that centered men (and even as analogous to men’s) became commonplace, contributing to lack of research on women’s bodies. It wasn’t until 1998—nearly 500 years after the first published mention of the clitoris!—that typical understandings of the clitoris were challenged. Helen O’Connell, an Australian urologist, found that the clitoris has about 8,000 nerve endings, or 2 to 3 times the number of nerves in the penis, is larger than previously known, and extends behind the vaginal wall. Still, the images of the clitoris that are often included in textbooks and popular culture alike do not represent the organ’s complexity. 

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