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Norbert Sparrow

August 26, 2016

2 Min Read
How a 3D-printed clitoris is bringing gender equality to French classrooms

Starting next month, French schoolchildren are going to become much more knowledgable about the structure and function of the clitoris, thanks to 3D printing.

A full-scale clitoris printed out of polylactic acid (PLA) is currently on display at the Fab Lab in the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris, the largest science museum in Europe. It was initially created for a video, produced with the support of the national Ministry of Education, designed to assist educators in achieving gender equality in the classroom. The goal is to show the anatomical and physiological foundations of sexual pleasure as it pertains to women, and not just men, according to the Fab Lab website. The plastic clitoris also will be used in sex education classes in French primary and secondary schools starting in September.

Sociomedical researcher Odile Fillod embarked on this project, she says, because the clitoris is often ignored in sex education manuals and, in the rare instances when it is discussed, is poorly represented.

"From Fillod’s sculpture, pupils will learn that the clitoris is made up of the same tissue as the penis,” writes the Guardian. “That it is divided into crura or legs, bulbs, foreskin and a head. That the only difference between a clitoris and a penis is that most of the female erectile tissue is internal, and that it’s often longer, at around 8 inches. 'Women get erections when they’re excited, only you can’t see them because most of the clitoris is internal. I wanted to show that men and women are not fundamentally different,' " Fillod told the Guardian.

After doing extensive research on the structure of the clitoris—which was rife with inconsistencies even in scientific literature, she notes—Fillod created a 3D model using Blender open-source software. Fillod currently prints with PLA, but ultimately would like to use a more flexible material to provide a more accurate anatomical representation of the organ.

The timing of this is serendipitous: In June, a French government body that monitors gender equality in public life issued a scathing report on the state of sex education in France. Notably, it revealed that the official guidelines of sex education state that young boys are more “focused on genital sexuality” while girls “attach more importance to love,” reports the Guardian.

Fillod is playing her part to help set the record straight.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree. Reach him at [email protected].

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