We’re well into the 21st Century, we have the capability to engineer a Swiss army knife with all the functionalities of a hardware store and Richard Branson is about to launch space travel for the masses, but what exactly do we - we men, that is - really know about women? The average Joe on the street knows next to nothing about women as biological entities, far less about the way their minds work and has only a vague inkling about their sexuality.
When it comes to what we know about the female orgasm, most of us would be able to write our insights onto the back of a small postage stamp with a marker pen and have room to spare. Frankly, gents, it’s not a very satisfactory state of affairs.
Design or accident of evolution
From a purely biological perspective, in order to stand a chance of propagating their genetic line, men have to have an orgasm during intercourse. Women don’t. This has lead a number of researchers, among them feminist philosopher of biology Elisabeth Lloyd and the legendary late Steven Jay Gould, to argue that the ability of women to have orgasms developed “accidentally”, without any good evolutionary reason. For them asking why women have orgasms is a bit like asking why men have nipples.
Other scientists suggest that there are, in fact, several functions to the female orgasm. Evolutionary psychologist David Barash, for instance, insists that a woman’s orgasm “is a signal whereby [her] body tells her brain that she is sexually engaged with a dominant individual.”
There is also some observational evidence for something charmingly referred to as “uterine upsuck”: the rhythmic motion in which a woman’s cervix dips into the pool of semen during orgasmic intercourse, thereby increasing the retention of high-quality sperm and the chances of pregnancy compared to sex without female orgasm.
Other interesting hergasm titbits
- While some women can’t have an orgasm at all, most women report that they are more likely to have one while masturbating than during sex with a man. No pressure, guys!
- Sigmund Freud divided female orgasms into the vaginal and the clitoral kinds, but insisted that the clitoral variety was an adolescent phenomenon, while only the vaginal orgasm without clitoral stimulation was appropriate for mature women. Surprisingly small-minded for the father of psychology.
- In the 60s, researchers William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson repudiated Freud, arguing that clitoral stimulation is in fact the primary source of the female orgasm, both clitoral and vaginal.
- According to sex researcher Shere Hite, only about 30 percent of women achieve orgasms during vaginal sex.
- Health24's Great South African Sex Survey of 2009 revealed that a whopping 41 percent of South African women sometimes fake orgasms and a less than trivial 6 percent do so often or always.
- Studies have shown that religious women tend to have less frequent orgasms than non-religious ones.
- A woman is more likely to experience an orgasm during the most fertile period of her menstrual cycle.
- A study among Chinese women revealed that they had more frequent orgasms when they were with wealthy male partners than with men who earn less. Gulp!
- Some women claim that they can reach an orgasm from stimulation of the breasts, nipples and G spot, from foreplay, a sensual message, sitting on a bicycle seat, exercising, sneezing, yawning or even just from talking.
- Unlike the vast majority of men, many women are capable of achieving multiple orgasms.
- According to research published in 2005, “up to 45 percent of the differences between women in their ability to reach orgasm can be explained by their genes.”
- Dr. Stuart Meloy, an anaesthesiologist from North Carolina is busy developing a remote-controlled implant that stimulates the spinal chord just in the right places to help women reach an orgasm. The contraption is called the Orgasmatron after a fictional device in the 1973 Woody Allen film “Sleeper”.
- A brain scanning study showed that many areas of a woman’s brain shut down during orgasm. Less brain deactivation was observed in men, but that may have to do with the fact that men’s orgasms are way too short to allow the instrument to measure any changes in brain activity.
- For most men, sex ends when they’ve had their orgasm. For most women sex isn’t over even if and when they’ve had theirs…
• Finding the elusive G-spot
• Expanded orgasm
• Guys, bring the house down
• Cunnilingus is no tongue-twister
Books to read:
• The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution by Elisabeth A. Lloyd
• Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm by Kim Cattrall and Mark Levinson
• O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm by J. Margolis
• Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier
• I Love Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller
• How to Please a Woman in & Out of Bed by Daylle Deanna Schwartz
(Andreas Späth, Health24, December 2009)