Penises and Vulvas Don’t Bite
Every second you’re awake; your eyes are exposed to at least one trillion bits of unique information.
Your brain can only pay attention to a small fraction of this information, so it decides what’s important and remembers it; the rest, fades away.
What you report seeing, says almost everything about who you are.
What do you see here?
Do you see an old woman or a young lady? Or maybe you see both?
Which one did you see first?
Let’s try another, but this one is a bit different.
All I want you to do with this image is stare at it. Keep staring at it, and you’ll eventually see something happening with the image.
The first thing you’re likely seeing is a cube; even though it is physically two-dimensional on the computer screen.
And you’re likely also seeing this “cube” as shifting — in which the front of the cube becomes the back and the back of the cube becomes the front — and then it keeps on doing this.
This phenomenon is called the Necker cube.
The Necker cube being a “cube” and its shifting is completely based upon you making it this way.
Let’s try one more. What do you see here?
This is one of the original 10 ink blots used by the 20th century, Swiss psychologist, Herman Rorschach.
There’s no meaning within the ink blot itself; you put the meaning upon it.
You do this by projecting your personality into whatever you report seeing.
Personality is defined as your core characteristics. Are you extroverted, agreeable, open, conscientious, neurotic…?
Psychologists measure personality using a variety of techniques, and I think the neatest way they measure personality is through projective tests: Present a meaningless image, like an ink blot, and then have a person describe what’s in the image, what-ever the person sees, is equal to that person’s personality.
Shall we try one more, “meaningless” image? What do you see here?
Personally, I see a clock showing the time of 5 o’clock; a time that can represent when a workday is done or an appropriate time to begin consuming alcohol. This clock also happens be the icon for my YouTube channel, 5MIweekly.
What do you see? And, what does this say about you?
Since launching 5MIweekly, I’ve had a bunch of people ask me if there are penises and vulvas within this clock?
(And I had one person call me a “pervert” because “there ARE penises and vulvas within this clock!”)
To tell the truth, I’ve never really paid much attention (wink-wink), but if there are penises and vulvas within this clock — should it matter?
Might I argue it’s fine time that someone other than a pervert brings penises and vulvas into our culture’s common vernacular?
Google processes over 3.5 billion search queries per day — many of which, performed under cloak of anonymity, are about sex.
Seth Stephens book about Google searches (Everybody Lies), reveals the most frequently asked questions about sex are not extravagant ones about affairs, fetishes, or fantasies; instead, they’re simple and basic, and about sexual anatomy.
“How big should my penis be?”
“Is it healthy for my vagina to smell like vinegar?”
The heck with brains, hearts, and lungs; penises are the top priority when it comes to men — they search about this organ more than all their other organs combined.
In fact, Google searches reveal people are much more concerned about their own sexual anatomies than others; women are more likely to do searches on vulvas than men; and men, when compared to women, are 170 times more likely to pose questions about penises.
Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, describes it as “the sum of all human knowledge.” Its pages get about 250 million viewers per day.
And when it comes to its human anatomical pages, by far the most popular ones are associated with the penis, vagina, and vulva.
For example, Wikipedia’s pages associated with the brain — a pretty important part of the human anatomy, average about 215,000 views a month — far less than half the views of the pages associated with the penis or vagina.
How about I simply asked you to define penis? Can you do it?
Now define vulva…
Are your definitions accurate?
As part of a larger study, some colleagues and I asked Freshman- and Sophomore-level college students to do exactly this: Define vulva and penis. And what did we find? Only 5% of college students accurately defined vulva and only 75% (not 100%) were able to define penis.
The conclusions drawn from this study are simple: Sexual knowledge and understanding are based upon vocabulary and language; without vocabulary, sexual knowledge is non-existent.
There are clear consequences of this lack of personal sexual knowledge: For example, heterosexual women, when compared to men are 1/3 as likely to orgasm when engaged in sexual intercourse. This dramatic difference is not due to a woman’s physiology, William Masters and Virginia Johnson more than 50 years ago demonstrated in the laboratory that women, when compared to men, are just as, if not more physiologically capable to orgasm.
Another consequence of lacking personal sexual knowledge are sexual dysfunctions. Sexual dysfunctions affect at least 43% of women and 31% of men: That’s practically 1 out of every 2 women and 1 out of every 3 men. By any other name, these are epidemic proportions of the population. The most frequent sexual dysfunctions for women are desire and arousal dysfunctions. And for men, its premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.
How are these dysfunctions most likely to be treated?
This is a trick question.
Because people with sexual dysfunctions are most likely NOT to seek treatment. Instead, they’re most likely to suffer in silence and out of the light — because of fears in saying something aloud — and being labeled: weird, abnormal, or maybe even — a pervert.
This is especially sad since all these dysfunctions have treatments and many have cures! Most of the treatments with the best outcomes, include addressing sexual literacy and psychoeducation.
In other words: Know thy body.
Let me end this writing by giving you a challenge to help our culture overcome its fear of penises and vulvas. The challenge is for you, within this next week, to include in a conversation with someone you know or don’t know, the words penis and vulva.
I don’t care what the conversation is about or who it is with, whether it be your grandmother, the grocery store clerk, or your lover — just do it in such a way that it breaks the fear of sexuality emanating from us keeping sexual words silent.
Break the sexual silence.
Lucas, D. R., Fox, J., Nylander, G., Wheeler, M., & Roberts, C. (2017). A Sexual Vocabulary Test: How Much Do We Really Know about Sex? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association in San Antonio, Texas.
Masters, W.H. & Johnson, V.E. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books
Muehlenhard, C. L., & Shippee, S. K. (2010). Men’s and women’s reports of pretending orgasm. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 552–567.
Necker, L.A. (1832). Observations on some remarkable optical phaenomena seen in Switzerland; and on an optical phaenomenon which occurs on viewing a figure of a crystal or geometrical solid. London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, 1, 329–337.
Rorschach, H. (1927). Rorschach Test — Psychodiagnostic Plates. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe Publishing Corp.
Stephens-Davidowitz, S. (2018). Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. William Morrow & Co.
Don Lucas is a Professor of Psychology and head of the Psychology Department at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio Texas. He loves psychology, teaching, and research.
If you like this story, then check out Don’s videos on his YouTube channel, 5MIweekly: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQFQ0vPPNPS-LYhlbKOzpFw/featured, follow him on Instagram @5MIweekly, and like him on Facebook: http://fb.me/5MIWeekly