Art comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s an oil painting in a gilt frame. Other times it’s interpretive dance. From time to time, we sense that a film we ended up watching at the small local cinema because everything else was sold out has more artistic merit than most of what we see on gallery walls. From time to time, art can even come in the form of giant, inflatable genitalia – and that’s exactly what’s been going on in Paris this women’s month. The giant inflatable clitoris that’s been installed in Paris is more than just a reminder of the city’s reputation as being a romantic spot – it’s an important message about sex education.
If you had happened to walk across “human rights square” on International Women’s day, you may have come across a pretty weird sight. A five-metre high, bright red, inflatable clitoris was being erected by campaigners from the “Gang du Clito” on on the square facing the Eiffel Tower – which they refer to as the “most famous phallus in Paris”.
Members of the “The Clito gang” say that they erected the sculpture to raise awareness for what they believe to be serious sexual illiteracy in many girls. Group co-founder Julia Pietri says that the sculpture is also their way of denouncing “the delay in the research of sexual medicine concerning the clitoris”.
She says that there’s an obvious inequality in the way the clitoris and the penis, its masculine counterpart, are treated. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s not quite as obvious as the latter, but there’s also the lack of a major educational component. “A quarter of girls do not know that they have a clitoris”, she told AFP, “and 82 percent do not know that it is an erogenous erectile tissue”.
The group also believes that the discussion about sexual literacy is an important one, because it is closely related to discussions about consent.
“It’s serious today, not being able to know your body,” Pietri said. “when you know that sexual education is the basis for being able to talk about consent…If you don’t have anything between your legs you don’t have anything to protect, because nothing exists”.
The installation has received mixed reviews – a lot of people find it vulgar or – potentially worse for an art piece – pointless. Indeed though a giant inflatable clitoris in Paris may not be able to sold the problem of girls not being taught about their bodies, it may at the very least spark some much-needed discussion.
That – prompting thought and discussion – has long been the goal of artists, and in that regard at least, it seems this piece has succeeded. You don’t have to like it for it to be effective.
In a world of phallic skyscrapers which loom over city dwellers, and trending architectural phalluses like the mysterious monoliths that popped up throughout the pandemic, what’s really so wrong with adding some clitorises to the mix anyway?