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There are obviously good reasons that explain why you cannot tickle yourself (see e.g. here). This got me thinking why it is possible to masturbate…
Wouldn't it make more sense to not being able to do that so that you are more inclined to have real sex. Individuals who were not able to relieve themselves in this manner should have been more actively producing offspring. And the tickling example shows that self-produced sensations can be inhabited.
Does this make sense? I know that it is always hard to reconstruct evolutionary processes but are there reasons that explain this?
I think there is a bit of a logical leap here (or at least in the title).
The simple answer is that there are many biological phenomena for which there is no logically satisfactory explanation. For instance: why do people have wisdom teeth? We come up with some hand-wavy explanations about ancestral diets, but at the end of the day we just have wisdom teeth (or at least most of us do) and there isn't a great immediate causal pathway that tells us why this rather inconvenient thing exists in modern humans and hasn't been lost.
Getting back to the question at hand, there are a number of assumptions that seem to come along with this question:
- Most importantly, why is it assumed that there must be an evolutionary "reason" for a biological phenomenon? In many/most cases there is no such reason. Most (molecular) evolution is neutral and random.
- Why is it assumed that there is an equivalence between tickling and sexual stimulation? (then again, a cursory google search suggests there is a relationship… )
Both tickling and masturbation are phenomena that seem to occur in primates. However, this does not require that there be a link between them even if they appear to be similar superficially. Furthermore, it is not logically required that either of them satisfy any particular purpose, even if we can imagine a possible purpose (as some of the commenters have).
Of course, there are lots of reasons why these things exist if you're willing to drop the evolutionary mumbo-jumbo. For instance: both of these things can be fun and God loves us and wants us to be happy. This is the same as the platitude from Ben Franklin on why booze exists. Substitute your favorite demiurge.
These arguments are not much different from arguing that constant ejaculation leads to better sperm on evolutionary time scales. There is equally good (better?) evidence that having to produce more sperm leads to a higher prevalence of birth defects and other disorders. So maybe masturbation is bad from one reasonable point of view, and is in fact a deleterious vestigium like wisdom teeth. The "scientific" answer depends a bit on which literature you pay attention to.
Evolutionary answers of this type tend to be this kind of just-so stories. They give an air of precision and authority with uncertain logical backing, and they don't even have the folksy philosophy as a consolation.
This may not be an answer in the fashion the OP intended, but hopefully it does at least give a perspective on thinking about these kinds of questions.
Sexual orientation is understood to be driven primarily by biology: Many sex characteristics are determined in the womb. Hormones are believed to play a role as well: Exposure to certain hormones during development may influence sexual behavior. When an individual’s sexual orientation emerges it could be androphilic (finding male bodies erotic), gynephilic (finding female bodies erotic), bisexual, asexual, or something else. Most people’s orientation can be seen on a continuum, with substantial variation even among heterosexuals or homosexuals.
What’s the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?
Biological sex refers to your chromosomal makeup at birth. Gender identity is your self-concept of being male, female, or non-binary. Sexual orientation describes who you feel attracted to, whether heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, or pansexual.
Is bisexuality a sexual orientation?
Myths about bisexuality remain widely held in the culture—that it’s not a true orientation, that it’s a phase primarily experienced by young adults, or that people who believe they’re bisexual can’t be faithful to a partner. Research finds that none of these are true. About 16 percent of women and 5 percent of men claim to be neither straight or gay only a small minority report having simultaneous relationships with both men and women.
How common is same-sex attraction?
Between 2 and 11 percent of the population report feeling same-sex attraction but since a higher percentage report having had same-sex experiences, the prevalence of people who have at least experienced some level of same-sex attraction is likely much higher some of these individuals could be considered “mostly straight” or “mostly gay or lesbian.”
Do some people have no sexual orientation?
As much as 2 percent of the population experiences no sexual attraction. This sexual orientation is known as asexuality. But some asexuals do feel romantic attraction, and some are in committed long-term romantic relationships, which may include sexual acts.
Tip Sheet: Age-Appropriate Sexual Behavior
It can be hard to acknowledge that all of us, even children, are sexual beings, have sexual feelings and are curious about sex and sexuality. Children’s curiosity can lead to exploring their own and each other’s body parts by looking and touching.
They may peek when family members are in the bathroom or changing clothes or try to listen outside the bedroom. They may look at magazines, books, videos or images on the internet.
It can be hard to tell the difference between "normal" sexual behaviors and behaviors that are signs that a child may be developing a problem. Sexual play that is more typical or expected in children will more often have the following traits:
- The sexual play is between children who have an ongoing mutually enjoyable play and/or school friendship
- The sexual play is between children of similar size, age, and social and emotional development.
- It is lighthearted and spontaneous. The children may be giggling and having fun when you discover them. When adults set limits (for example, children keep their clothes on at daycare) children are able to follow the rules.
Preschool age (0 to 5 years)
- Will have questions and express knowledge relating to:
- differences in gender, private body parts,
- hygiene and toileting,
- pregnancy and birth.
- Having knowledge of specific sexual acts or explicit sexual language.
- Engaging in adult-like sexual contact with other children.
School-age (6-8 years)
- Will need knowledge and have questions about
- physical development, relationships, sexual behavior
- menstruation and pregnancy,
- personal values.
- Adult-like sexual interactions,
- Having knowledge of specific sexual acts,
- Behaving sexually in a public place or through the use of phone or internet technology.
School-age (9-12 years)
Hormonal changes and external influences, such as peers, media and Internet, will increase sexual awareness, feelings and interest at the onset of puberty.
- Will need knowledge and have questions about
- Sexual materials and information,
- Relationships and sexual behavior,
- Using sexual words and discussing sexual acts and personal values, particularly with peers.
Adolescence (13 to 16)
- Will need information and have questions about
- Decision making
- Social relationships and sexual customs
- Personal values and consequences of sexual behavior.
What You Can Do If You See Warning Signs
- Create a Safety Plan. Don’t wait for “proof” of child sexual abuse.
- Look for patterns of behavior that make children less safe. Keep track of behaviors that concern you. This Sample Journal Page can be a helpful tool.
- See our Let’s Talk Guidebook for tips on speaking up whenever you have a concern.
- If you have questions or would like resources or guidance for responding to a specific situation, visit our Online Help Center.
Remember, the most effective prevention takes place before there’s a child victim to heal or an offender to punish.
Share Prevention Tip Sheets in Your Community
We encourage you to print and share these tip sheets in your family and community. Our tip sheets are licensed under the Creative Commons, which allows you to reproduce them as long as you follow these Guidelines. Please contact us about permissions and to tell us how you plan to put our resources to work.
The very irksome reason the penis is shaped the way it is.
If you’ve ever come into contact with a human penis, you’ll have noticed that it’s unnecessarily aggressive and looks more like a mushroom than anyone ever warned you. Testicles are also confronting but that’s a topic for later.
Most of the time we’re fine with penises and their surrounding… environment. Genitals aren’t meant to be beautiful and frankly, the majority of us are far more concerned with what a penis can do than what it looks like.ut when you learn why a penis looks the way it does, suddenly nothing is okay. At all.
In his book Why Is The Penis Shaped Like That and Other Reflections on Being Human, psychologist and associate professor Jesse Bering cites the work of evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup, who theorised that the human penis really is a ‘tool’ that’s been manufactured over hundreds of thousands of years.
He argues that objectively, there are significant differences between the human penis and the penises of other species. Most notably, the human penis is especially large, and has 𠇊 distinctive mushroom-capped glans” that forms a coronal ridge underneath.
Here’s a diagram I made from scratch:
Image via Wikipedia.
After a great deal of research, including magnetic imaging studies of heterosexual men and women having sex (which seems kinda. private, but okay), Gallup and his colleague Rebecca Burch concluded the following:
"A longer penis would not only have been an advantage for leaving semen in a less accessible part of the vagina, but by filling and expanding the vagina it also would aid and abet the displacement of semen left by other males as a means of maximizing the likelihood of paternity." - Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.
How Matt Moran Really Feels About Fast Food
The key words here are &aposdisplacement of semen&apos.
The semen displacement theory states that since sperm can live for a number of days in a woman&aposs cervical mucus, if she has more than one sexual partner within a short period of time, the sperm of these men are competing to fertilise an egg. Therefore, the male penis has been sculpted with the purpose of &aposdisplacing&apos the semen of other men from a woman&aposs vagina. The coronal ridge serves as a removal device that &aposscoops out&apos other men&aposs sperm, so that it is the current sexual partner&aposs sperm, and not a competitor&aposs, that reaches the cervix.
Bering describes this as "a well-synchronized effect facilitated by the &aposupsuck&apos of thrusting during intercourse" and I am not even a little bit okay with his use of the term &aposupsuck&apos.
LISTEN: Porn star Madison Missina delves into the different shapes, sizes and curves of penises, and how each one affects sex. Post continues after audio.
This theory might also explain why men become flaccid quickly after sex, such that continuing to engage in sexual activity is actually uncomfortable. "Continued thrusting would be self-defeating," Bering writes, as "the man would essentially be removing his own sperm at that point".
A lot of things are making sense right now and it&aposs all very unsettling.
While evolutionary psychology is necessarily theoretical, several studies have been able to support Gallup&aposs hypothesis. Indeed, it seems the penis really does act as a &aposscooping mechanism&apos, whether we like it or not.
Bering ends his reflections on the human penis with a reminder that we should be glad we&aposre not cats. Male cats have penises equipped with over 100 sharp barbs that rake the walls of the female&aposs vagina.
THIS IS WHY CATS ARE ALWAYS MEOWING SO LOUD LATE AT NIGHT.
It&aposs thought that this super violentptation serves to trigger ovulation, displace the sperm of other male cats, and stop the female cat escaping during sex. Which it just. definitely wants to.
So if you find yourself having sex with a male person any time soon, be aware that he&aposs unconsciously trying to scoop the semen of other sex partners out of your vagina.
Masturbation Instruction for a Boy
Many experts believe masturbation is necessary to maintain your sexual health. More than 95% of men do it and think they know everything about their genitals and sexual response. The truth is that most of the time, you only know how your tool works, but you don't know how you can make your tool work even better to make things more pleasurable. If you've just started masturbating or you're currently wondering how to masturbate if you're a boy, just keep reading to learn everything about the art of pleasuring yourself.
Basic Steps to Masturbate for a Boy
You've heard it from friends. You've seen it in those special movies. Now, you want to try it yourself. That's great. Here's what you need to know about how to masturbate if you're a boy and doing it for the first time.
- Make yourself understand that masturbation is completely natural. This will help you feel relaxed and enjoy more.
- Select a quiet place when masturbating for the first time. Your bathroom is probably the best place for the act. Make sure no one disturbs you while you're in the middle of self-exploration.
- Choose something that makes you feel aroused. It could be some pornographic material or you could use your own imagination to feel aroused. Some people say masturbation is the art of having sex with someone you love, so think of that special someone and you're all set to go.
- Once your penis wakes up and becomes erect, you can begin to masturbate using your hand. Simply grab your penis firmly but not too tightly and start moving your hand up and down.
- You can experiment with your grip and speed of hand while masturbating. Focus more on what arouses you to feel excited and finish strongly.
- Just before ejaculation, you will notice something rising up inside your penis. Don't worry it's completely normal. If you don't release any liquid, don't worry. You are just not old enough to release semen, so keep enjoying.
Note: Don't do the act too much times after you have learnt it for the first time. Too much masturbation when young will affect you a lot.
Advanced Techniques to Make Masturbation More Enjoyable
Since you have known how to masturbate if you're a boy, you can always experiment with different techniques to make you feel great. Here, 10 advanced techniques are listed for anyone who wants to make the masturbation more pleasurable and get stronger feelings.
1. Use the Other Hand
A simple way to spice things up a bit is to use your other hand. You can use your both hands at the same time if, of course, you're long enough to place your one hand next to the other on your shaft. Use your one hand to play with the head of the penis while moving your other hand up and down. Try different combinations with your two hands for maximum pleasure.
2. Stimulate Your Balls
Don't forget to play with your balls when masturbating. Playing with your balls may heighten your orgasms. Of course, this may not work for everyone, but you should try it for once at least to see how it feels. Simply pull your balls down a lightly, caress them, tickle them, stroke them, or just hold them lightly with your one hand while masturbating with your other hand.
3. Find Your Erogenous Zones
You can double the pleasure by stimulating your erogenous zones, which include balls, nipples, perineum and inside of your thighs. Your sensitive areas may not be same as someone of your age, so keep experimenting to find what works best for you. Some men feel it great when they touch their nipples while masturbating. Caressing their inner thighs or stomach also helps them have a stronger orgasm. You can also consider stimulating your perineum, which is the area between your balls and anus. This may give you immense pleasure and make your masturbation session even exciting.
4. Find Your G-Spot
Some people say there is no such thing as the male G-spot. Don't believe them. You can always find parts in your body, like inside the anus, which can respond extremely well to stimulation. Some don't like playing with anus when masturbating, while others may not mind going down this lane. If you're ready to try it, wash your hand first and ensure that your fingernail is short. Lubricate your finger and rub the outside of your anus lightly. Insert your finger and push it as far as you can accept comfortably. You will find a small area that feels like a little ball. That's your G-spot. It's actually the opening of your prostate, but stimulating it will create the same effect that G-spot stimulation creates in women.
5. Try Different Positions
Experiment with your positions if you want to learn how to masturbate if you're a boy. Don't just sit in your chair or lie in your bed while masturbating. A simple change in your position like holding your penis under your body and thrusting it into your hand will make it a lot more exciting. Try kneeling and thrusting into your hand &ndash instead of moving your hand, move your body to feel as if you're having real sex with someone you love.
6. Use Sex Toys
You can find loads of sex toys out there in the market. Get a few for you to make your masturbation sessions even more satisfying and exciting. You can consider buying stuff like vibrating rings, blow-up dolls and toys that look like vagina, anus or mouth.
7. Hot and Cold
Learn to play with ice. Masturbate in whatever way you like and just when you feel you're about to ejaculate, grab some ice in your hand and place it on your penis The sensation of having cold in your one hand and your hot penis in your other hand will make you feel great and even help you last longer.
8. Stop and Go
Use your preferred way of masturbating and stop when you feel you're about to ejaculate. Then, once the urge to ejaculate passes, start again. Stop at least thrice before letting yourself climax. This will help you have a much stronger orgasm.
9. Keep Up
Just turn on your favorite pornographic movie and imagine you're the one having sex with the girl in the movie. This will enhance the fun and you may end up having a quick yet highly satisfying orgasm.
Lay on your back with your erect penis flat on your abdomen. Now, take a pillow and place it over your penis. Rub it up and down, or simply use your hips to thrust your penis into the pillow. Imagine a woman on top of you and it will become even more enjoyable.
These are some great ways to learn how to masturbate if you're a boy, but remember that not everything will work for everyone. So, keep experimenting until you find something that makes your masturbation sessions even more enjoyable.
Once you decide to start having sex, your sexual health is your responsibility. So, stop giving a crap about what pharmacist bhaiya will think, and get those condoms. Be brave and get that pregnancy test if you have doubts, and schedule those appointments with a gynaecologist (especially if you feel having sex is causing some issues down there).
Also, don't be afraid to ask a trustworthy adult for help and guidance. In fact, if you need an older person to accompany you to a gynaecologist, always reach out, but do not miss that doctor's appointment.
Top 10 things you didn't know about the penis
Although many of us are relatively familiar with our penis and its antics, there’s more to our appendage than meets the eye. In this feature, we discuss 10 interesting things that you probably didn’t know about your genitals.
Whatever you happen to call it — todger, wang, willy, or dangler — the penis is an odd-looking bit of kit. But beyond the japes and sniggers, it is, of course, vital to the survival of our species.
When you consider the penis as an evolutionary adaptation, it has done remarkably well.
We can all say without too much doubt that our father’s penis worked, as did our grandfather’s, and his father’s, and so on, right back through successive generations until we reach far beyond the birth of humanity.
The penis is ancient. Just in case you were wondering, the oldest known penis dates back 425 million years, and its fossilized remains belong to an arthropod dubbed Colymbosathon ecplecticos, which means “amazing swimmer with a large penis” in Greek.
It’s worth reflecting on its role in our species’ survival next time you are surprised by how easily your penis is “activated.” As far as reproduction is concerned, a false arousal is better than a missed opportunity.
As the author Mokokoma Mokhonoana once wrote, “Even the world’s greatest actor cannot fake an erection.” This leads us on to the first penis fact of the day.
Penises are born ready. It is common for babies to exit the womb with an erection. Even before the moment of birth, ultrasound scans sometimes show a fetus with a fully formed erection .
According to a study from 1991, fetal erections occur most commonly during random eye movement (REM) sleep. And, they can happen a number of times each hour. No one is quite sure why, but it might just be our body’s way of testing things out and keeping them running correctly.
A lot of men might take solace in this fact: our penises are longer than they look. In fact, around half of its entire length is housed inside of our bodies.
Share on Pinterest An internal view of the male genitalia.
You might be thinking, “Well, it’s no good to me up there,” but it needs to remain connected to the rest of your anatomy, so it’s probably best that it stays put.
As you can see from the diagram here, the mass of pink erectile tissue — which comprises the so grandly named corpus cavernosum and corpus spongiosum — extends well into the pelvic region, forming a sort of boomerang shape.
I wouldn’t use any of the above as a pick-up line, though.
Let’s lay this one to rest, shall we? According to a study published in the journal BJU International , there is no correlation between shoe size and penis length.
Although an older study — which was published in 1993 — did find that penile length was related to both height and foot length, it was a weak relationship, and the authors concluded, “Height and foot size would not serve as practical estimators of penis length.”
Also, the International Journal of Impotence Research published an Iranian study looking at other correlations. They concluded that “penile dimensions are significantly correlated with age, height, and index finger length,” but not foot size.
Most men have 3–5 erections every single night — mostly during REM sleep, as with the in utero boys.
Also called nocturnal penile tumescence, it’s still not clear why it happens. However, one theory is that it might help to prevent bed-wetting an erection inhibits urination.
A full bladder is known to stimulate nerves in a similar region to those involved in erections. But because females experience something similar — nocturnal clitoral tumescence — bed-wetting prevention is probably not the entire answer.
Another potential explanation is that REM sleep is linked with switching off cells that produce noradrenaline in the locus coeruleus, which is in the brainstem. These cells inhibit the tone of the penis. So, by reducing the inhibition, the penis becomes erect.
Whatever the reason behind nocturnal erections, they can be useful as a diagnostic tool. If a man has difficulty achieving an erection when awake but becomes erect when he sleeps, it is an indication that there is a psychological issue, rather than a physical one.
However, if he does not get erections during sleep, the issue may be physical.
So, we’ve established that we can get erections in the womb and during sleep, but this is perhaps even more surprising: the death erection. Also called angel lust or terminal erection, it happens in the moments after death.
Most commonly, it occurs in men who have died from hanging scientists believe that it may be due to pressure from the noose on the cerebellum. However, it has also been reported following death by a gunshot wound to the head, damage to major blood vessels, and poisoning.
As I’m sure you are aware, there is no bone in your penis, which is fairly unusual for mammals. However, it is still possible to break your penis. It most commonly occurs during vigorous sex, although it has been documented to happen to men who fell out of bed with an erection.
Penile fracture, as it is known, is actually the rupture of the fibrous covering of the corpora cavernosa, which is the tissue that becomes erect when engorged with blood.
The moment of fracture is accompanied by a popping or cracking sound, intense pain, swelling, and — unsurprisingly — flaccidity.
Thankfully, it doesn’t happen very often and, if it is treated swiftly, full function can be restored. As a note of caution, if this happens to you, don’t let embarrassment get the better of you. Go and get it sorted as soon as possible.
In a study that investigated 42 cases of penile fracture, the most “dangerous” position was defined as “woman on top.”
Most men have very little control over exactly when they ejaculate. This is partly because it does not involve the brain. The signal to ejaculate comes from the spinal ejaculation generator. This region in the spinal cord coordinates the necessary functions.
Of course, the higher brain does have some input into these matters — thinking about something else is a well-known way to delay the event, for instance — but the nuts and bolts of the whole operation are dealt with in your spine.
A man’s erection can point in virtually any direction. Straight ahead, left or right, up or down, there’s no right or wrong.
The following data come from a study that measured the erections of 1,565 men.
In the figures below, if the penis pointed directly up, it was measured as 0 degrees, and if it was forward-pointing (horizontal), it would be 90 degrees:
- 0–30 degrees — 4.9 percent of men
- 30–60 degrees — 29.6 percent of men
- 60–85 degrees — 30.9 percent of men
- 85–95 degrees — 9.9 percent of men
- 95–120 degrees — 19.8 percent of men
- 120–180 degrees — 4.9 percent of men
So, if you’ve ever been concerned that your chap is a bit skew-whiff, don’t worry — you’re normal. While we’re on the topic of “normality,” very few penises are straight they can curve in any direction. A curve of up to 30 degrees is still considered normal.
A study on 274 men demonstrated that there is no correlation between the length of a flaccid penis and its erect size. Some start small and end up large (a grower), while some are large when flaccid and only grow a little when erect (a show-er).
Some are even small whatever state they are in, and some are large when flaccid and get much larger. It’s a mixed bag.
This doesn’t hold much relevance outside of the locker room, but I guess it’s good to know anyway.
They don’t, really. However, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg — the breakfast cereal mastermind — hoped that they would. He invented these and other products because he thought that plain foods would lead Americans away from the “sin” of masturbation.
Thankfully, nowadays, food manufacturers spend less time trying to convince the youth to give up masturbation. And, just in case there was any doubt, it doesn’t make you go blind, either.
If this little list has tickled your fancy, your next move might be to plan a trip to Iceland and visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum. It is dedicated to all things penile it was started up by Sigurður Hjartarson after being given a bull’s penis as a boy.
According to Hjartarson, “Collecting penises is like collecting anything. You can never stop, you can never catch up, you can always get a new one, a better one.”
Or, if you want to go one step further, you can visit the Guolizhuang Restaurant in Beijing, China, which specializes in penis and testicle dishes. It’s up to you.
The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word clitoris likely has its origin in the Ancient Greek κλειτορίς , kleitoris, perhaps derived from the verb κλείειν , kleiein, "to shut".  Clitoris is also Greek for the word key, "indicating that the ancient anatomists considered it the key" to female sexuality.   In addition to key, the Online Etymology Dictionary suggests other Greek candidates for the word's etymology include a noun meaning "latch" or "hook" a verb meaning "to touch or titillate lasciviously", "to tickle" (one German synonym for the clitoris is der Kitzler, "the tickler"), although this verb is more likely derived from "clitoris" and a word meaning "side of a hill", from the same root as "climax".  The Oxford English Dictionary also states that the shortened form "clit", the first occurrence of which was noted in the United States, has been used in print since 1958: until then, the common abbreviation was "clitty". 
The plural forms are clitorises in English and clitorides in Latin. The Latin genitive is clitoridis, as in "glans clitoridis". In medical and sexological literature, the clitoris is sometimes referred to as "the female penis" or pseudo-penis,  and the term clitoris is commonly used to refer to the glans alone  partially because of this, there have been various terms for the organ that have historically confused its anatomy.
In mammals, sexual differentiation is determined by the sperm that carries either an X or a Y (male) chromosome.  The Y chromosome contains a sex-determining gene (SRY) that encodes a transcription factor for the protein TDF (testis determining factor) and triggers the creation of testosterone and anti-Müllerian hormone for the embryo's development into a male.   This differentiation begins about eight or nine weeks after conception.  Some sources state that it continues until the twelfth week,  while others state that it is clearly evident by the thirteenth week and that the sex organs are fully developed by the sixteenth week. 
The clitoris develops from a phallic outgrowth in the embryo called the genital tubercle. Initially undifferentiated, the tubercle develops into either a clitoris or penis during the development of the reproductive system depending on exposure to androgens (which are primarily male hormones). The clitoris forms from the same tissues that become the glans and shaft of the penis, and this shared embryonic origin makes these two organs homologous (different versions of the same structure). 
If exposed to testosterone, the genital tubercle elongates to form the penis. By fusion of the urogenital folds – elongated spindle-shaped structures that contribute to the formation of the urethral groove on the belly aspect of the genital tubercle – the urogenital sinus closes completely and forms the spongy urethra, and the labioscrotal swellings unite to form the scrotum.  In the absence of testosterone, the genital tubercle allows for formation of the clitoris the initially rapid growth of the phallus gradually slows and the clitoris is formed. The urogenital sinus persists as the vestibule of the vagina, the two urogenital folds form the labia minora, and the labioscrotal swellings enlarge to form the labia majora, completing the female genitalia.  A rare condition that can develop from higher than average androgen exposure is clitoromegaly. 
Gross anatomy and histology
The clitoris contains external and internal components. It consists of the glans, the body (which is composed of two erectile structures known as the corpora cavernosa), and two crura ("legs"). It has a hood formed by the labia minora (inner lips). It also has vestibular or clitoral bulbs. The frenulum of clitoris is a frenulum on the undersurface of the glans and is created by the two medial parts of the labia minora.  The clitoral body may be referred to as the shaft (or internal shaft), while the length of the clitoris between the glans and the body may also be referred to as the shaft. The shaft supports the glans, and its shape can be seen and felt through the clitoral hood. 
Research indicates that clitoral tissue extends into the vagina's anterior wall.  Şenaylı et al. said that the histological evaluation of the clitoris, "especially of the corpora cavernosa, is incomplete because for many years the clitoris was considered a rudimentary and nonfunctional organ." They added that Baskin and colleagues examined the clitoris's masculinization after dissection and using imaging software after Masson chrome staining, put the serial dissected specimens together this revealed that the nerves of the clitoris surround the whole clitoral body (corpus). 
The clitoris, vestibular bulbs, labia minora, and urethra involve two histologically distinct types of vascular tissue (tissue related to blood vessels), the first of which is trabeculated, erectile tissue innervated by the cavernous nerves. The trabeculated tissue has a spongy appearance along with blood, it fills the large, dilated vascular spaces of the clitoris and the bulbs. Beneath the epithelium of the vascular areas is smooth muscle.  As indicated by Yang et al.'s research, it may also be that the urethral lumen (the inner open space or cavity of the urethra), which is surrounded by spongy tissue, has tissue that "is grossly distinct from the vascular tissue of the clitoris and bulbs, and on macroscopic observation, is paler than the dark tissue" of the clitoris and bulbs.  The second type of vascular tissue is non-erectile, which may consist of blood vessels that are dispersed within a fibrous matrix and have only a minimal amount of smooth muscle. 
Glans and body
Highly innervated, the glans exists at the tip of the clitoral body as a fibro-vascular cap  and is usually the size and shape of a pea, although it is sometimes much larger or smaller. The clitoral glans, or the entire clitoris, is estimated to have about 8,000 sensory nerve endings.  Research conflicts on whether or not the glans is composed of erectile or non-erectile tissue. Although the clitoral body becomes engorged with blood upon sexual arousal, erecting the clitoral glans, some sources describe the clitoral glans and labia minora as composed of non-erectile tissue this is especially the case for the glans.   They state that the clitoral glans and labia minora have blood vessels that are dispersed within a fibrous matrix and have only a minimal amount of smooth muscle,  or that the clitoral glans is "a midline, densely neural, non-erectile structure". 
Other descriptions of the glans assert that it is composed of erectile tissue and that erectile tissue is present within the labia minora.  The glans may be noted as having glandular vascular spaces that are not as prominent as those in the clitoral body, with the spaces being separated more by smooth muscle than in the body and crura.  Adipose tissue is absent in the labia minora, but the organ may be described as being made up of dense connective tissue, erectile tissue and elastic fibers. 
The clitoral body forms a wishbone-shaped structure containing the corpora cavernosa – a pair of sponge-like regions of erectile tissue that contain most of the blood in the clitoris during clitoral erection. The two corpora forming the clitoral body are surrounded by thick fibro-elastic tunica albuginea, literally meaning "white covering", connective tissue. These corpora are separated incompletely from each other in the midline by a fibrous pectiniform septum – a comblike band of connective tissue extending between the corpora cavernosa.  
The clitoral body extends up to several centimeters before reversing direction and branching, resulting in an inverted "V" shape that extends as a pair of crura ("legs").  The crura are the proximal portions of the arms of the wishbone. Ending at the glans of the clitoris, the tip of the body bends anteriorly away from the pubis.  Each crus (singular form of crura) is attached to the corresponding ischial ramus – extensions of the copora beneath the descending pubic rami.   Concealed behind the labia minora, the crura end with attachment at or just below the middle of the pubic arch. [N 1]  Associated are the urethral sponge, perineal sponge, a network of nerves and blood vessels, the suspensory ligament of the clitoris, muscles and the pelvic floor.  
There is no identified correlation between the size of the clitoral glans, or clitoris as a whole, and a woman's age, height, weight, use of hormonal contraception, or being post-menopausal, although women who have given birth may have significantly larger clitoral measurements.  Centimeter (cm) and millimeter (mm) measurements of the clitoris show variations in its size. The clitoral glans has been cited as typically varying from 2 mm to 1 cm and usually being estimated at 4 to 5 mm in both the transverse and longitudinal planes. 
A 1992 study concluded that the total clitoral length, including glans and body, is 16.0 ± 4.3 mm (0.63 ± 0.17 in), where 16 mm (0.63 in) is the mean and 4.3 mm (0.17 in) is the standard deviation.  Concerning other studies, researchers from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospital in London measured the labia and other genital structures of 50 women from the age of 18 to 50, with a mean age of 35.6., from 2003 to 2004, and the results given for the clitoral glans were 3–10 mm for the range and 5.5 [1.7] mm for the mean.  Other research indicates that the clitoral body can measure 5–7 centimetres (2.0–2.8 in) in length, while the clitoral body and crura together can be 10 centimetres (3.9 in) or more in length. 
The clitoral hood projects at the front of the labia commissure, where the edges of the labia majora (outer lips) meet at the base of the pubic mound it is partially formed by fusion of the upper part of the external folds of the labia minora (inner lips) and covers the glans and external shaft.  There is considerable variation in how much of the glans protrudes from the hood and how much is covered by it, ranging from completely covered to fully exposed,  and tissue of the labia minora also encircles the base of the glans. 
The vestibular bulbs are more closely related to the clitoris than the vestibule because of the similarity of the trabecular and erectile tissue within the clitoris and bulbs, and the absence of trabecular tissue in other genital organs, with the erectile tissue's trabecular nature allowing engorgement and expansion during sexual arousal.   The vestibular bulbs are typically described as lying close to the crura on either side of the vaginal opening internally, they are beneath the labia majora. When engorged with blood, they cuff the vaginal opening and cause the vulva to expand outward.  Although a number of texts state that they surround the vaginal opening, Ginger et al. state that this does not appear to be the case and tunica albuginea does not envelop the erectile tissue of the bulbs.  In Yang et al.'s assessment of the bulbs' anatomy, they conclude that the bulbs "arch over the distal urethra, outlining what might be appropriately called the 'bulbar urethra' in women." 
The clitoris and penis are generally the same anatomical structure, although the distal portion (or opening) of the urethra is absent in the clitoris of humans and most other animals. The idea that males have clitorises was suggested in 1987 by researcher Josephine Lowndes Sevely, who theorized that the male corpora cavernosa (a pair of sponge-like regions of erectile tissue which contain most of the blood in the penis during penile erection) are the true counterpart of the clitoris. She argued that "the male clitoris" is directly beneath the rim of the glans penis, where the frenulum of prepuce of the penis (a fold of the prepuce) is located, and proposed that this area be called the "Lownde's crown". Her theory and proposal, though acknowledged in anatomical literature, did not materialize in anatomy books.  Modern anatomical texts show that the clitoris displays a hood that is the equivalent of the penis's foreskin, which covers the glans. It also has a shaft that is attached to the glans. The male corpora cavernosa are homologous to the corpus cavernosum clitoridis (the female cavernosa), the bulb of penis is homologous to the vestibular bulbs beneath the labia minora, the scrotum is homologous to the labia majora, and the penile urethra and part of the skin of the penis is homologous to the labia minora. 
Upon anatomical study, the penis can be described as a clitoris that has been mostly pulled out of the body and grafted on top of a significantly smaller piece of spongiosum containing the urethra.  With regard to nerve endings, the human clitoris's estimated 8,000 or more (for its glans or clitoral body as a whole) is commonly cited as being twice as many as the nerve endings found in the human penis (for its glans or body as a whole) and as more than any other part of the human body.  These reports sometimes conflict with other sources on clitoral anatomy or those concerning the nerve endings in the human penis. For example, while some sources estimate that the human penis has 4,000 nerve endings,  other sources state that the glans or the entire penile structure have the same amount of nerve endings as the clitoral glans  or discuss whether the uncircumcised penis has thousands more than the circumcised penis or is generally more sensitive.  
Some sources state that in contrast to the glans penis, the clitoral glans lacks smooth muscle within its fibrovascular cap and is thus differentiated from the erectile tissues of the clitoris and bulbs additionally, bulb size varies and may be dependent on age and estrogenization.  While the bulbs are considered the equivalent of the male spongiosum, they do not completely encircle the urethra. 
The thin corpus spongiosum of the penis runs along the underside of the penile shaft, enveloping the urethra, and expands at the end to form the glans. It partially contributes to erection, which are primarily caused by the two corpora cavernosa that comprise the bulk of the shaft like the female cavernosa, the male cavernosa soak up blood and become erect when sexually excited.  The male corpora cavernosa taper off internally on reaching the spongiosum head.  With regard to the Y-shape of the cavernosa – crown, body, and legs – the body accounts for much more of the structure in men, and the legs are stubbier typically, the cavernosa are longer and thicker in males than in females.  
The clitoris has an abundance of nerve endings, and is the human female's most sensitive erogenous zone and generally the primary anatomical source of human female sexual pleasure.  When sexually stimulated, it may incite female sexual arousal. Sexual stimulation, including arousal, may result from mental stimulation, foreplay with a sexual partner, or masturbation, and can lead to orgasm.  The most effective sexual stimulation of the organ is usually manually or orally (cunnilingus), which is often referred to as direct clitoral stimulation in cases involving sexual penetration, these activities may also be referred to as additional or assisted clitoral stimulation. 
Direct clitoral stimulation involves physical stimulation to the external anatomy of the clitoris – glans, hood, and the external shaft.  Stimulation of the labia minora (inner lips), due to its external connection with the glans and hood, may have the same effect as direct clitoral stimulation.  Though these areas may also receive indirect physical stimulation during sexual activity, such as when in friction with the labia majora (outer lips),  indirect clitoral stimulation is more commonly attributed to penile-vaginal penetration.   Penile-anal penetration may also indirectly stimulate the clitoris by the shared sensory nerves (especially the pudendal nerve, which gives off the inferior anal nerves and divides into two terminal branches: the perineal nerve and the dorsal nerve of the clitoris). 
Due to the glans's high sensitivity, direct stimulation to it is not always pleasurable instead, direct stimulation to the hood or the areas near the glans is often more pleasurable, with the majority of women preferring to use the hood to stimulate the glans, or to have the glans rolled between the lips of the labia, for indirect touch.  It is also common for women to enjoy the shaft of the clitoris being softly caressed in concert with occasional circling of the clitoral glans. This might be with or without manual penetration of the vagina, while other women enjoy having the entire area of the vulva caressed.  As opposed to use of dry fingers, stimulation from fingers that have been well-lubricated, either by vaginal lubrication or a personal lubricant, is usually more pleasurable for the external anatomy of the clitoris.  
As the clitoris's external location does not allow for direct stimulation by sexual penetration, any external clitoral stimulation while in the missionary position usually results from the pubic bone area, the movement of the groins when in contact. As such, some couples may engage in the woman-on-top position or the coital alignment technique, a sex position combining the "riding high" variation of the missionary position with pressure-counterpressure movements performed by each partner in rhythm with sexual penetration, to maximize clitoral stimulation.   Lesbian couples may engage in tribadism for ample clitoral stimulation or for mutual clitoral stimulation during whole-body contact. [N 2]   Pressing the penis in a gliding or circular motion against the clitoris (intercrural sex), or stimulating it by movement against another body part, may also be practiced.   A vibrator (such as a clitoral vibrator), dildo or other sex toy may be used.   Other women stimulate the clitoris by use of a pillow or other inanimate object, by a jet of water from the faucet of a bathtub or shower, or by closing their legs and rocking.   
During sexual arousal, the clitoris and the whole of the genitalia engorge and change color as the erectile tissues fill with blood (vasocongestion), and the individual experiences vaginal contractions.  The ischiocavernosus and bulbocavernosus muscles, which insert into the corpora cavernosa, contract and compress the dorsal vein of the clitoris (the only vein that drains the blood from the spaces in the corpora cavernosa), and the arterial blood continues a steady flow and having no way to drain out, fills the venous spaces until they become turgid and engorged with blood. This is what leads to clitoral erection.  
The clitoral glans doubles in diameter upon arousal and upon further stimulation, becomes less visible as it is covered by the swelling of tissues of the clitoral hood.   The swelling protects the glans from direct contact, as direct contact at this stage can be more irritating than pleasurable.   Vasocongestion eventually triggers a muscular reflex, which expels the blood that was trapped in surrounding tissues, and leads to an orgasm.  A short time after stimulation has stopped, especially if orgasm has been achieved, the glans becomes visible again and returns to its normal state,  with a few seconds (usually 5–10) to return to its normal position and 5–10 minutes to return to its original size. [N 3]   If orgasm is not achieved, the clitoris may remain engorged for a few hours, which women often find uncomfortable.  Additionally, the clitoris is very sensitive after orgasm, making further stimulation initially painful for some women. 
Clitoral and vaginal orgasmic factors
General statistics indicate that 70–80 percent of women require direct clitoral stimulation (consistent manual, oral or other concentrated friction against the external parts of the clitoris) to reach orgasm. [N 4] [N 5] [N 6]  Indirect clitoral stimulation (for example, via vaginal penetration) may also be sufficient for female orgasm. [N 7]   The area near the entrance of the vagina (the lower third) contains nearly 90 percent of the vaginal nerve endings, and there are areas in the anterior vaginal wall and between the top junction of the labia minora and the urethra that are especially sensitive, but intense sexual pleasure, including orgasm, solely from vaginal stimulation is occasional or otherwise absent because the vagina has significantly fewer nerve endings than the clitoris. 
Prominent debate over the quantity of vaginal nerve endings began with Alfred Kinsey. Although Sigmund Freud's theory that clitoral orgasms are a prepubertal or adolescent phenomenon and that vaginal (or G-spot) orgasms are something that only physically mature females experience had been criticized before, Kinsey was the first researcher to harshly criticize the theory.   Through his observations of female masturbation and interviews with thousands of women,  Kinsey found that most of the women he observed and surveyed could not have vaginal orgasms,  a finding that was also supported by his knowledge of sex organ anatomy.  Scholar Janice M. Irvine stated that he "criticized Freud and other theorists for projecting male constructs of sexuality onto women" and "viewed the clitoris as the main center of sexual response". He considered the vagina to be "relatively unimportant" for sexual satisfaction, relaying that "few women inserted fingers or objects into their vaginas when they masturbated". Believing that vaginal orgasms are "a physiological impossibility" because the vagina has insufficient nerve endings for sexual pleasure or climax, he "concluded that satisfaction from penile penetration [is] mainly psychological or perhaps the result of referred sensation". 
Masters and Johnson's research, as well as Shere Hite's, generally supported Kinsey's findings about the female orgasm.  Masters and Johnson were the first researchers to determine that the clitoral structures surround and extend along and within the labia. They observed that both clitoral and vaginal orgasms have the same stages of physical response, and found that the majority of their subjects could only achieve clitoral orgasms, while a minority achieved vaginal orgasms. On that basis, they argued that clitoral stimulation is the source of both kinds of orgasms,  reasoning that the clitoris is stimulated during penetration by friction against its hood.  The research came at the time of the second-wave feminist movement, which inspired feminists to reject the distinction made between clitoral and vaginal orgasms.   Feminist Anne Koedt argued that because men "have orgasms essentially by friction with the vagina" and not the clitoral area, this is why women's biology had not been properly analyzed. "Today, with extensive knowledge of anatomy, with [C. Lombard Kelly], Kinsey, and Masters and Johnson, to mention just a few sources, there is no ignorance on the subject [of the female orgasm]," she stated in her 1970 article The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm. She added, "There are, however, social reasons why this knowledge has not been popularized. We are living in a male society which has not sought change in women's role." 
Supporting an anatomical relationship between the clitoris and vagina is a study published in 2005, which investigated the size of the clitoris Australian urologist Helen O'Connell, described as having initiated discourse among mainstream medical professionals to refocus on and redefine the clitoris, noted a direct relationship between the legs or roots of the clitoris and the erectile tissue of the clitoral bulbs and corpora, and the distal urethra and vagina while using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.   While some studies, using ultrasound, have found physiological evidence of the G-spot in women who report having orgasms during vaginal intercourse,  O'Connell argues that this interconnected relationship is the physiological explanation for the conjectured G-Spot and experience of vaginal orgasms, taking into account the stimulation of the internal parts of the clitoris during vaginal penetration. "The vaginal wall is, in fact, the clitoris," she said. "If you lift the skin off the vagina on the side walls, you get the bulbs of the clitoris – triangular, crescental masses of erectile tissue."  O'Connell et al., having performed dissections on the female genitals of cadavers and used photography to map the structure of nerves in the clitoris, made the assertion in 1998 that there is more erectile tissue associated with the clitoris than is generally described in anatomical textbooks and were thus already aware that the clitoris is more than just its glans.  They concluded that some females have more extensive clitoral tissues and nerves than others, especially having observed this in young cadavers compared to elderly ones,  and therefore whereas the majority of females can only achieve orgasm by direct stimulation of the external parts of the clitoris, the stimulation of the more generalized tissues of the clitoris via vaginal intercourse may be sufficient for others. 
French researchers Odile Buisson and Pierre Foldès reported similar findings to that of O'Connell's. In 2008, they published the first complete 3D sonography of the stimulated clitoris and republished it in 2009 with new research, demonstrating the ways in which erectile tissue of the clitoris engorges and surrounds the vagina. On the basis of their findings, they argued that women may be able to achieve vaginal orgasm via stimulation of the G-spot, because the highly innervated clitoris is pulled closely to the anterior wall of the vagina when the woman is sexually aroused and during vaginal penetration. They assert that since the front wall of the vagina is inextricably linked with the internal parts of the clitoris, stimulating the vagina without activating the clitoris may be next to impossible. In their 2009 published study, the "coronal planes during perineal contraction and finger penetration demonstrated a close relationship between the root of the clitoris and the anterior vaginal wall". Buisson and Foldès suggested "that the special sensitivity of the lower anterior vaginal wall could be explained by pressure and movement of clitoris's root during a vaginal penetration and subsequent perineal contraction".  
Researcher Vincenzo Puppo, who, while agreeing that the clitoris is the center of female sexual pleasure and believing that there is no anatomical evidence of the vaginal orgasm, disagrees with O'Connell and other researchers' terminological and anatomical descriptions of the clitoris (such as referring to the vestibular bulbs as the "clitoral bulbs") and states that "the inner clitoris" does not exist because the penis cannot come in contact with the congregation of multiple nerves/veins situated until the angle of the clitoris, detailed by Kobelt, or with the roots of the clitoris, which do not have sensory receptors or erogenous sensitivity, during vaginal intercourse.  Puppo's belief contrasts the general belief among researchers that vaginal orgasms are the result of clitoral stimulation they reaffirm that clitoral tissue extends, or is at least stimulated by its bulbs, even in the area most commonly reported to be the G-spot. 
The G-spot being analogous to the base of the male penis has additionally been theorized, with sentiment from researcher Amichai Kilchevsky that because female fetal development is the "default" state in the absence of substantial exposure to male hormones and therefore the penis is essentially a clitoris enlarged by such hormones, there is no evolutionary reason why females would have an entity in addition to the clitoris that can produce orgasms.  The general difficulty of achieving orgasms vaginally, which is a predicament that is likely due to nature easing the process of child bearing by drastically reducing the number of vaginal nerve endings,  challenge arguments that vaginal orgasms help encourage sexual intercourse in order to facilitate reproduction.   Supporting a distinct G-spot, however, is a study by Rutgers University, published in 2011, which was the first to map the female genitals onto the sensory portion of the brain the scans indicated that the brain registered distinct feelings between stimulating the clitoris, the cervix and the vaginal wall – where the G-spot is reported to be – when several women stimulated themselves in a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) machine.   Barry Komisaruk, head of the research findings, stated that he feels that "the bulk of the evidence shows that the G-spot is not a particular thing" and that it is "a region, it's a convergence of many different structures". 
Vestigiality, adaptionist and reproductive views
Whether the clitoris is vestigial, an adaptation, or serves a reproductive function has also been debated.   Geoffrey Miller stated that Helen Fisher, Meredith Small and Sarah Blaffer Hrdy "have viewed the clitoral orgasm as a legitimate adaptation in its own right, with major implications for female sexual behavior and sexual evolution".  Like Lynn Margulis and Natalie Angier, Miller believes, "The human clitoris shows no apparent signs of having evolved directly through male mate choice. It is not especially large, brightly colored, specifically shaped or selectively displayed during courtship." He contrasts this with other female species such as spider monkeys and spotted hyenas that have clitorises as long as their male counterparts. He said the human clitoris "could have evolved to be much more conspicuous if males had preferred sexual partners with larger brighter clitorises" and that "its inconspicuous design combined with its exquisite sensitivity suggests that the clitoris is important not as an object of male mate choice, but as a mechanism of female choice." 
While Miller stated that male scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould and Donald Symons "have viewed the female clitoral orgasm as an evolutionary side-effect of the male capacity for penile orgasm" and that they "suggested that clitoral orgasm cannot be an adaptation because it is too hard to achieve",  Gould acknowledged that "most female orgasms emanate from a clitoral, rather than vaginal (or some other), site" and that his nonadaptive belief "has been widely misunderstood as a denial of either the adaptive value of female orgasm in general, or even as a claim that female orgasms lack significance in some broader sense". He said that although he accepts that "clitoral orgasm plays a pleasurable and central role in female sexuality and its joys," "[a]ll these favorable attributes, however, emerge just as clearly and just as easily, whether the clitoral site of orgasm arose as a spandrel or an adaptation". He added that the "male biologists who fretted over [the adaptionist questions] simply assumed that a deeply vaginal site, nearer the region of fertilization, would offer greater selective benefit" due to their Darwinian, summum bonum beliefs about enhanced reproductive success. 
Similar to Gould's beliefs about adaptionist views and that "females grow nipples as adaptations for suckling, and males grow smaller unused nipples as a spandrel based upon the value of single development channels",  Elisabeth Lloyd suggested that there is little evidence to support an adaptionist account of female orgasm.   Meredith L. Chivers stated that "Lloyd views female orgasm as an ontogenetic leftover women have orgasms because the urogenital neurophysiology for orgasm is so strongly selected for in males that this developmental blueprint gets expressed in females without affecting fitness" and this is similar to "males hav[ing] nipples that serve no fitness-related function." 
At the 2002 conference for Canadian Society of Women in Philosophy, Nancy Tuana argued that the clitoris is unnecessary in reproduction she stated that it has been ignored because of "a fear of pleasure. It is pleasure separated from reproduction. That's the fear." She reasoned that this fear causes ignorance, which veils female sexuality.  O'Connell stated, "It boils down to rivalry between the sexes: the idea that one sex is sexual and the other reproductive. The truth is that both are sexual and both are reproductive." She reiterated that the vestibular bulbs appear to be part of the clitoris and that the distal urethra and vagina are intimately related structures, although they are not erectile in character, forming a tissue cluster with the clitoris that appears to be the location of female sexual function and orgasm.  
What sex-ed did not teach you
Formal education teaches us a vast amount of relevant topics in school, yet sexual education has been and is still a matter of (moral) debate. For many of us, sexual education covered reproductive biology and how not to get pregnant or contract sexually transmitted infections.
Sex-ed has been focused on preventing kids from having sex. “Always use condoms” was sometimes the most progressive sex-ed message. Education is now progressing into teaching what sex is about and how to engage in ethical and respectful sex, but that is still not the whole picture. How about pleasure or how to have fun and to explore what we like, how to communicate to our partners and many other crucial aspects of intimate life?
The key to the ultimate goal of enjoying ourselves is to know what you and your partner want and how to satisfy each other. Consequently, incomplete and biased sex education fails both men and women, omitting the fact sex is not only for reproduction but also for enjoyment.
Maybe the first thing we should learn about sex is that it is one of the favourite pastimes of adults. Preventing it from happening will only increase the likelihood of future generations engaging in it more, only with less knowledge about to how get the most out of it.
Women reach climax less often than men. Part of the problem likely lies in what happens in the bedroom. Becca Tapert/Unsplash
What Is the 'Intellectual Dark Web'?
Anthony L. Fisher
What is the "Intellectual Dark Web"? The technical answer might be, "A phrase coined by mathematician and Thiel Capital Managing Director Eric Weinstein to describe a loose confederation of left-right intellectuals who share in common an open, occasionally career-altering defiance of the 'gated institutional narrative' enforced by media/academia/Hollywood, particularly as concerns identity politics."
Vanity Fair writer Tina Nguyen is getting criticized this week by IDW types for a piece connecting ideological traveler Kanye West to the movement, which she characterizes as being "comprised of right-wing pundits, agnostic comedian podcasters, self-help gurus, and disgruntled ex-liberals united by their desire to 'red pill' new adherents." More charitably, L.A. Times columnist Meghan Daum contends that dark-webbers "wish to foster a new discourse that can allow innovative thinkers to wrestle with the world's problems without having to tiptoe around subjects or questions deemed culturally or politically off-limits."
Whatever the adjectives, it's a group of people, many of them familiar to Reason readers, who are interested in free speech and free thought, sensitive to intellectual conformity, and adept at using new media to route around hostile gatekeepers. Their ranks are generally said to include Jonathan Haidt, Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Claire Lehmann, and James Damore.
One of the foundational members of the Intellectual Dark Web is Eric Weinstein's brother Bret, most famous for being at the center of the gobsmacking Evergreen State College controversy last fall. Weinstein, now untethered from Evergreen after a reported $500,000 settlement, is an evolutionary biologist of some repute, as is his wife, the also-untethered-from-Evergreen Heather Heying. Weinstein and Heying recently sat down with Kmele Foster and I for a wide-ranging Fifth Column conversation about the IDW, campus free speech, identity politics, the race/IQ minefield, and Weinstein's (questionable!) ideas about regulation in academia and media. You can listen to the conversation, which I for one found very illuminating, below:
Below, a transcript from a sliver of our conversation, having mostly to do with free speech, the Intellectual Dark Web, and Jordan Peterson:
Kmele Foster: Is there a free speech crisis on American campuses? This seems like a question the two of you, I'm certain, have been asked before, but have a unique perspective on, having endured some unique circumstances—I'd say probably the archetypal instance of, say, a speech-related panic on campus. So, please.
Bret Weinstein [after long detour through definition of terms]: Then the last issue is whether or not this has anything inherent to do with college campuses or whether college campuses are simply where we are seeing this unfold first. And I would argue that what we're really watching is a breakdown in society's capacity to reason with itself. Yes, of course that has manifestations on college campuses, but it won't be limited to college campuses.
If you look at the one story that doesn't fit with all of the others so far, it's the Google memo story, where Google fired an engineer for doing exactly what they asked them to do: responding to a prompt about questions of equity between men and women among the engineering staff at Google. So, James Damore wrote a memo that analyzed that question. He did a very good job in doing so. They fired him. And so that was Google, a private corporation, that decided to fire an engineer. And then the NLRB, which is a governmental organization, said that his firing was valid, not on the basis that what he had said was wrong, but on the basis that the harm done by what he said was so great that it justified his firing.
This is civilization losing its coherence, right? Google has a huge effect on what we think, because it has a huge effect on what we see when we search for things. It understands or at least is capable of evaluating our email for patterns and figuring out what it is that we're beginning to suspect. Google is a very dangerous entity if it decides to take an active role in controlling what conversations can happen, and Google has told us that at the very top, it is actually interested in seeing some conversations silenced. That should worry us at least as much as what's going on on college campuses, which is itself not a small matter.
Matt Welch: [&hellip] I'm curious about the notion that it's sort of society-wide. We've talked a lot here, because we work in the media and work in New York&hellip [that] there's a generation gap: The twentysomethings, the woke millennial kids who are working in media have a much different perspective on a whole lot of things having to do with speech, having to do with the Me Too movement and what exactly are the boundaries of acceptable male/female kind of mating rituals and anything else. So the theory that we've bandied about here is that, okay, you think it's sort of just a college campus thing, but they're graduating and they're moving out into the world. But that kind of suggests that it's sort of like the campus is the furnace and they're spitting out these lumps of coal out there.
This is all terrible metaphors here, I recognize, but the way that you posited this is maybe it's just a society-wide thing and the campus is a place where obviously people are ready to go and kind of clash and do battle, as it always is.
Heather Heying: I think campuses are concentrating the problem, that we do have a generational problem. And it's in part—these issues have been discussed widely—but it's about the rise of iPhones and tech and the decrease in children spending time outside and getting physical experience with their world, and becoming more social creatures. You take a generation that has been raised in that way and you put them into a campus culture where there are some disciplines that have become so enamored of postmodernism that they actually do not necessarily believe that there's an objective reality out there to be reckoned with….
If those kids who actually haven't spent much time racing down hills on bikes or climbing trees and falling and experiencing gravity in real time, are told, "Actually, objective reality is a sign of the patriarchy and it's about power and it's not actually about reality," that feels really confirming to certain people. I would say that Bret and I spent 14, 15 years in classrooms with mostly millennials, and it's really easy to disabuse people of these ideas in real time when you have time, when you can build trust, when you can build community, and then yank the rug out from under people when they say things that are actually batshit crazy.
When you actually take them also into the field and you say, "Okay, now we're gonna get dirty, we're gonna get wet, we're gonna get uncomfortable, and we're gonna come back and eat good food and share stories around the campfire, and you're gonna see that we're all reasonable people who make mistakes and have beliefs that are congruous and incongruous with one another, and that's okay, and that is what being together in community is about." But if you have a classroom—and we know for sure that there are lots of classrooms out there in which dissent is considered harm—so there is a conflation of….
Welch: Dissent to who?
Heying: Any kind of dissent. Any kind of disagreement is considered harm, and so emotional harm is conflated with physical harm. I think it's easier to have that happen if you've not actually been exposed to physical harm, if you don't actually know what it is to experience your own body as a real instantiation and, like, meat space.
Welch: So you're totally bought in to the Lenore Skenazy/Jon Haidt theorem.
Heying: Yes. [&hellip]
Foster: The left eating its own is a phrase that I've encountered [from you] in the past, and one of the things that I was talking&hellipabout when we were getting ready for this conversation is the fact that the Intellectual Dark Web, I think is the phrase—and you can provide some context and explain what that is, Bret—but that the Intellectual Dark Web seems to be dominated by conservative voices, seemingly.
It at least, perhaps, seems to be particularly concerned with these kinds of phenomena that are occurring on the left. And one wonders&hellipI mean, there are certainly examples of speech prohibitions on campuses on the right. Like, certain groups, a pro-Palestinian group or something that might be facing some sort of obstacles on campus. There are certainly conservative people on campuses who have ostracized folks on the left in different instances at least I know the folks at FIRE have taken up cases where they are advocating on behalf of a liberal student in a circumstance like that.
So I wonder about the ideological complexion of the Intellectual Dark Web, and I wonder what your thoughts are on what the consequences of having this conversation—this, in my estimation, much needed conversation about the need to be able to have complicated, potentially "dangerous"&hellipconversations in public—how it all works together. I'll stop there.
Weinstein: So, first, let me just say, "Intellectual Dark Web" is a term coined by my older brother, Eric Weinstein, and it's a term that makes some people uncomfortable, including me a little bit, because the Dark Web itself is obviously a place where lots of stuff happens, some of which is perfectly horrifying&hellip.
What Eric was saying in coining the term Intellectual Dark Web is really that this is an intellectually unpoliced space, that it is a space outside of what he calls the "gated institutional narrative," which are the stories that we are supposed to believe. It is a very interesting conversation precisely because nobody involved in it believes in those rules. In fact, I think everybody associated with the Intellectual Dark Web is sort of constitutionally resistant to being told what questions they're allowed to think about or what answers they might be allowed to advance. So, in any case, the idea of the Intellectual Dark Web is a space that is intellectually free, at a moment in which the mainstream intellectual space is increasingly constrained by things like what we were talking about before.
In terms of the association, there is a very clear focus amongst all of the folks who are associated with the Intellectual Dark Web about the free speech crisis or whatever the proper term for that would be if we were to re-figure it, right? There's a reason for that, which is that we're all people who would tend to be shut down by the mainstream that wish to maintain control over the narratives that are central to the way we govern ourselves and the way we interact. So it's not surprising that, A) people in the Intellectual Dark Web would be prone to being de-platformed, and B) that we would be particularly sensitive to the danger of ruling certain opinions beyond the pale.
As for the political complexion of it, it isn't at all what people think, and this has been something that Heather and I have discovered in a very odd way. What happened to us at Evergreen felt and was almost literally like being kicked out of the political left. We had spent our entire lives [there], right? The left told us "You're not welcome anymore." In fact, you're not even left—you're right, or, you know, if it's really pissed at you, you're alt-right, or you're a darling of the alt-right. These are the things that were said.
None of this was true, right? I'm still as far left as I was before. I'm skeptical that the left knows what to do, I'm very skeptical of what the left advances in terms of policy proposals, but in terms of my values, they haven't changed at all. The interesting thing, though, is having been effectively evicted from the left, we ran into all sorts of other people who we thought might be a bit right of center, who it turned out were actually also left of center and had also been similarly evicted and then misportrayed. So there is a way in which everybody should think twice about why you expect the people are on the political spectrum where you think they are, because maybe they aren't. In each case, you ought to just check whether or not you think that for a good reason or you just think that because you've heard that somebody's over there.
The Intellectual Dark Web involves me, it involves Heather, it involves Eric. We're all left of center. It involves Jordan Peterson—he's a little bit right of center, but if you actually listen to him, there are certain topics on which he sounds downright conservative, and then there are other topics where he really doesn't. He's a little bit hard to peg.
Welch: I just reviewed his book for Reason and got kind of deep into his business. He's a classical liberal who's a little bit obsessed with the postmodern Marxist left, and I think he has developed a—and this is an interesting kind of question for, I think, a lot of people in the Intellectual Dark Web maybe it is for you, too. There's a reward system over there. His fan base comes [for] that minority of his interactions when he sort of swells up and says, "Men must be dangerous!" or when he criticizes feminists for being potentially submissive and that's why they don't criticize Islam that much. When he rises up and trolls a little bit, that's exactly when he's rewarded. And that's not his best work, as far as I'm concerned. His best work is his kind of clinical practice, is sort of pragmatic, buck up, straighten yourself. I still straighten up my back, my posture, after reading his book.
But if the reward structure is for precisely when you are out there transgressing, you're dancing on that kind of borderline where you're supposed to [engage in] the sort of taboo subjects, right?
Welch: So, it's hard not to become corrupted, I think, in that process.
Foster: Is it the reward structure? Because part of that is there's a bright red warning light. Those are the flashpoints, where people start to scream at you. It's not only&hellip.
Welch: Bro is pulling 90 Gs on Patreon a month.
Foster: I'm with you, but that's not …
Welch: That's a reward structure.
Foster: That's not the point that I'm making. The question I'm asking here is, is it a situation where what he is saying predominantly to the audience that's paying for the subscription on Patreon is he's pressing hot buttons over and over again to keep them paying, or are they perhaps tuning in for the substance, in which case the outrage is what seems to respond most loudest to the things that he says that are, in many cases, I find—or at least often, because I can't say "many" I only monitor him so closely—but they're often misconstrued.
Foster: It's the conversation that you have about gender roles, for example, where the person who's sitting across from you keeps insisting that you're saying something you're not saying at all, because they don't care about nuance.
Welch: No, but if you go on YouTube and you have a fan say "Jordan Peterson's greatest hits," it's gonna be seven times him smashing [leftists]&hellip.
Foster: That may be the case.
Welch: I mean, that's what's going on.
Weinstein: I think we need to be fair to Peterson here&hellip.There is a distinction between the broadcasting of some kind of reward that would typically persuade somebody, and whether or not he is altered in what he believes or what he says based on it. And I don't think anybody can be certain probably he himself can't be certain. On the other hand, I think Jordan Peterson is three things that we can see, right? He is a guy who is telling people, primarily young men, to straighten up and get their lives in order and self-author and all of this stuff, right? So, there's something…I hesitate to use the term "self help"…
Welch: It is.
Weinstein: But I can't think of a …
Welch: Absolutely is.
Weinstein: … better one.
Foster: Nothing wrong with that.
Weinstein: Nothing wrong with that. And in fact, if he's taking people, especially people who might fall into the alt-right or something, and he's getting them to wake up&hellip.
Heying: More power to him.
Weinstein: More power to him. He is a messianic figure, which is something that I think he has a very uncomfortable relationship with. He's aware that people see him this way and&hellip
Welch: Sees himself a little bit in that way, too.
Weinstein: He may, but I know he's worried that people see him that way, and that that suggests things and has implications.
And then there's the thing that he has, I believe, so far been least well-recognized for, which is that he's actually a top-flight intellectual, right? He is somebody who has done very high quality work building what appears to be a model of human psychology that certainly borrows from the best of what takes place over in that field, but is also independent of that field where that field goes insane. So he's not vulnerable to the replication crisis that is engulfing the rest of psychology, because he's very careful about which conclusions in psychology he pays attention to. So his psychometric bent basically frees him in large measure from the fads that circulate in psychology.
But in any case, what I would say is there's enough overlap between what Heather and I think about as evolutionary biologists who think about humans, and what Peterson, as a psychologist who thinks about evolution, think about in tandem, that we can actually evaluate how good he is at this. I don't think there is any chance that you could say something to Jordan Peterson on the topics in psychology that he holds most dear and broadcast enough love at him to get him to say stuff he doesn't believe.
Weinstein: I think he is completely deaf and intentionally deaf to what people want him to say in that space that he&hellip
Heying: That is what has helped make him ascendant, and that is the good part. Very much the good part.
Weinstein: Right. So, the intellectual is an honest broker. Which doesn't mean he's right about everything, but it does mean that he's not going to be persuaded by Patreon followers or people applauding to think things about psychology that he doesn't actually believe. He's arrived at all that stuff on his own, and for better and worse, I believe he'd be very hard to move emotionally on that front.
The messianic stuff is a little dangerous. I don't know where that leads. The self-help stuff probably is to the benefit of the world that people who otherwise don't have a direction are seeing somebody that they can admire and they're following it.
Welch: It's authoritarian by definition on some level—I mean, it's instructive. I'm broadcasting. These are rules for life. But I don't mean to cast him in a negative light, I was actually trying to say that he's&hellipI think the messianic stuff is ultimately the most troubling, and it's actually when he rises up and does his cobra strikes that sometimes it's funny and witty and good and on point, but for me, it's ultimately the least interesting.
But I was shocked, because his reputation precedes him. It takes until page 302, literally, before you get to him bitching about postmodernism on college campuses. I really thought he would all just be "feminazis," and it really is not that. That's not the majority of his work, which I find pretty interesting. He's a classical liberal who got caught up in a thing, and it's a ministry. That's kind of what it is, and he's aware of it, and it's fascinating. To just reduce him as an alt-right caricature or a fascist character, which I think they were trying to do in The New York Review of Books recently, is just a gross misread of the situation.
Heying: That's right.
Foster: Generally speaking, most of those caricatures aren't particularly helpful in allowing us to figure out what people are talking about in most contexts.
Welch: And it's fascinating to figure out why that is resonating, and what that can teach a person about the art of political persuasion or just discussion right now in contemporary life. I don't have any conclusions about it, but it's more interesting just than, "Hey look, a bunch of Charlottesville Nazis like this guy."