Female orgasm  

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"The majority of women are not very much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind"


"And what about us? Free, we say, yet the truth is that they get erections when they're with a woman they don't give a damn about, but we don't have an orgasm unless we love him." --Doris Lessing in The Golden Notebook (1962)

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Discussions of the female orgasm are complicated by orgasms in women typically being divided into two categories: clitoral orgasm and vaginal (or G-Spot) orgasm. Ladas, Whipple and Perry proposed three categories: the tenting type (derived from clitoral stimulation), the A-frame type (derived G-Spot stimulation), and the blended type (derived from clitoral and G-Spot stimulation); Whipple and Komisaruk later proposed cervix stimulation as inducing a fourth type, though orgasms by means other than clitoral or vaginal/G-Spot stimulation are less prevalent in scientific literature and most scientists contend that no distinction should be made between "types" of female orgasm.

This distinction began with Sigmund Freud, who postulated the concept of "vaginal orgasm" as separate from clitoral orgasm. In 1905, Freud stated that clitoral orgasms are purely an adolescent phenomenon and that upon reaching puberty, the proper response of mature women is a change-over to vaginal orgasms, meaning orgasms without any clitoral stimulation. While Freud provided no evidence for this basic assumption, the consequences of this theory were considerable. Many women felt inadequate when they could not achieve orgasm via vaginal intercourse alone, involving little or no clitoral stimulation, as Freud's theory made penile-vaginal intercourse the central component to women's sexual satisfaction.

Contents

Background

A typical woman's orgasm lasts much longer than that of a man. It is preceded by erection of the clitoris and moistening of the opening of the vagina. Some women exhibit a sex flush, a reddening of the skin over much of the body due to increased blood flow to the skin. As a woman nears orgasm, the clitoral glans moves inward under the clitoral hood, and the labia minora (inner lips) become darker. As orgasm becomes imminent, the outer third of the vagina tightens and narrows, while overall the vagina lengthens and dilates and also becomes congested from engorged soft tissue. Elsewhere in the body, myofibroblasts of the nipple-areolar complex contract, causing erection of the nipples and contraction of the areolar diameter, reaching their maximum at the start of orgasm. The uterus then experiences a series of between 3 and 15 muscular contractions. A woman experiences full orgasm when her uterus, vagina, anus, and pelvic muscles undergo a series of rhythmic contractions. Most women find these contractions very pleasurable.

Recently, researchers from the University Medical Center of Groningen, the Netherlands, correlated the sensation of orgasm with muscular contractions occurring at a frequency of 8–13 Hz centered in the pelvis and measured in the anus. They argue that the presence of this particular frequency of contractions can distinguish between voluntary contraction of these muscles and spontaneous involuntary contractions, and appears to more accurately correlate with orgasm as opposed to other metrics like heart rate that only measure excitation. They claim to have identified "[t]he first objective and quantitative measure that has a strong correspondence with the subjective experience that orgasm ultimately is". They note that the measure of contractions that occur at a frequency of 8–13 Hz is specific to orgasm. They found that using this metric they could distinguish from rest, voluntary muscular contractions, and even unsuccessful orgasm attempts.

Female ejaculation

Discussions of female orgasm are complicated by the fact that, perhaps artificially, orgasm in women has sometimes been labelled as two different things: the clitoral orgasm and the vaginal orgasm.

A recent theory receiving some publicity is that the female body can achieve orgasm both from stimulation of the clitoris and from stimulation of the G-spot. The Gräfenberg spot, or G-spot, is a small area behind the female pubic bone surrounding the urethra and accessible through the anterior wall of the vagina. The G-spot orgasm is sometimes referred to as "vaginal," because it results from stimulation inside the vagina, including during sexual intercourse. The size of this spot appears to vary very considerably from person to person.

Multiple orgasms

For some women, the most sensitive area in the body is the G-spot, while for others, it is the clitoris. If properly stimulated, the G-spot may cause very strong orgasms, some stronger than the ones reached after clitoral stimulation.

Women are able to experience multiple orgasms which can be serial multiple meaning they are experiencing several orgasms immediately one after another or sequential multiple orgasms, which are the orgasms that occur one after another but separated by few minutes. Even though multiple orgasms are very rarely experienced, they are not impossible. They are, in fact, the ultimate climax women can achieve.

Women are able to achieve multiple orgasms due to the fact that they do not require any kind of refractory period as men do after the first orgasm. Theoretically, if stimulation is not interrupted, most women should be able to achieve multiple orgasms. Achieving multiple orgasms is not as easy as it looks given that generally women reach orgasms with greater difficulty than men. The variety of erogenous zones that a woman has on her body and that can be stimulated are an advantage that women have and men do not.

During sexual intercourse, it is usual that men stop the stimulation process in a woman, and this may be one of the reasons why many women do not actually achieve more than one orgasm. However, some women do not want to be pressured into another orgasm while others are eager for more. Sometimes, female multiple orgasms are accompanied by female ejaculation which does not happen in men. There is one important difference between male and female multiple orgasms which is also the reason why men cannot ejaculate when they experience a multiple orgasm. Although the biological function of a woman's orgasm is not completely understood as it does not serve an essential purpose to human survival some theories suggest that muscular contractions associated with orgasms pull sperm from the vagina to the cervix, where it's in a better position to reach the egg.

Two-orgasm theory

two-orgasm theory

The "two-orgasm theory" (the belief that in human females there is a vaginal orgasm and a clitoral orgasm), has been criticized by feminists such as Anne Koedt (The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm).

Theoretical biological and evolutionary functions of female orgasm

Shifts in research

The function or functions of the human female orgasm have been debated among researchers. Because male orgasms that expel sperm from the body into the vagina during sexual intercourse may result in conception, researchers have several hypotheses about the role, if any, of the female orgasm in the reproductive and therefore evolutionary process. The literature started with the argument that female orgasm is a byproduct of shared early male ontogeny, where male orgasm is an adaptation. Research has shifted to investigate and also support the sire-choice hypothesis, which proposes that female orgasm has been shaped by natural selection to function in the selection of high quality sires (male parents) for offspring. Therefore, orgasm increases the chances of conceiving with males of a high genetic quality. Research by Randy Thornhill et al. indicates that female orgasm is more frequent during intercourse with a male partner with low fluctuating asymmetry.

Selective pressure and mating

Wallen K and Lloyd EA stated, "In men, orgasms are under strong selective pressure as orgasms are coupled with ejaculation and thus contribute to male reproductive success. By contrast, women's orgasms in intercourse are highly variable and are under little selective pressure as they are not a reproductive necessity."

Desmond Morris suggested in his 1967 popular-science book The Naked Ape that the female orgasm evolved to encourage physical intimacy with a male partner and help reinforce the pair bond. Morris suggested that the relative difficulty in achieving female orgasm, in comparison to the male's, might be favorable in Darwinian evolution by leading the female to select mates who bear qualities like patience, care, imagination, intelligence, as opposed to qualities like size and aggression, which pertain to mate selection in other primates. Such advantageous qualities thereby become accentuated within the species, driven by the differences between male and female orgasm. If males were motivated by, and taken to the point of, orgasm in the same way as females, those advantageous qualities would not be needed, since self-interest would be enough.

Fertility

There are theories that the female orgasm might increase fertility. For example, the 30% reduction in size of the vagina could help clench onto the penis (much like, or perhaps caused by, the pubococcygeus muscles), which would make it more stimulating for the male (thus ensuring faster or more voluminous ejaculation). The British biologists Baker and Bellis have suggested that the female orgasm may have a peristalsis or "upsuck" action (similar to the esophagus' ability to swallow when upside down), resulting in the retaining of favorable sperm and making conception more likely. They posited a role of female orgasm in sperm competition.

The observation that women tend to reach orgasm more easily when they are ovulating also suggests that it is tied to increasing fertility. Evolutionary biologist Robin Baker argues in Sperm Wars that occurrence and timing of orgasms are all a part of the female body's unconscious strategy to collect and retain sperm from more evolutionarily fit men. An orgasm during intercourse functions as a bypass button to a woman's natural cervical filter against sperm and pathogens. An orgasm before functions to strengthen the filter.

Desmond Morris proposed that orgasm might facilitate conception by exhausting the female and keeping her horizontal, thus preventing the sperm from leaking out. This possibility, sometimes called the "Poleaxe Hypothesis" or the "Knockout Hypothesis", is now considered highly doubtful. A 1994 Learning Channel documentary on sex had fiber optic cameras inside the vagina of a woman while she had sexual intercourse. During her orgasm, her pelvic muscles contracted and her cervix repeatedly dipped into a pool of semen in the vaginal fornix, as if to ensure that sperm would proceed by the external orifice of the uterus, making conception more likely.

Evolutionary psychologists Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, in their discussion of the female orgasm, address how long it takes for females to achieve orgasm compared to males, and females' ability to have multiple orgasms, hypothesizing how especially well suited to multiple partners and insemination this is. They quote primate sexuality specialist Alan Dixson in saying that the monogamy-maintenance explanation for female orgasm "seems far-fetched" because "females of other primate species, and particularly those with multimale-multifemale [promiscuous] mating systems such as macaques and chimpanzees, exhibit orgasmic responses in the absence of such bonding or the formation of stable family units." On the other hand, Dixson states that "Gibbons, which are primarily monogamous, do not exhibit obvious signs of female orgasm."

The female promiscuity explanation of female sexuality was echoed at least 12 years earlier by other evolutionary biologists, and there is increasing scientific awareness of the female proceptive phase. Though Dixson classifies humans as mildly polygynous in his survey of primate sexuality, he appears to have doubts, when he writes, "One might argue that ... the female's orgasm is rewarding, increases her willingness to copulate with a variety of males rather than one partner, and thus promotes sperm competition." Ryan and Jethá use this as evidence for their theory that partible paternity and promiscuity were common for early modern humans.

Adaptive or vestigial

The clitoris is homologous to the penis; that is, they both develop from the same embryonic structure. While researchers such as Geoffrey Miller, 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," others, such as Donald Symons and Stephen Jay Gould, have asserted that the clitoris is vestigial or nonadaptive, and that the female orgasm serves no particular evolutionary function. However, Gould acknowledged that "most female orgasms emanate from a clitoral, rather than vaginal (or some other), site" and stated 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 explained 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 said 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.

Proponents of the nonadaptive hypothesis, such as Elisabeth Lloyd, refer to the relative difficulty of achieving female orgasm through vaginal sex, the limited evidence for increased fertility after orgasm and the lack of statistical correlation between the capacity of a woman to orgasm and the likelihood that she will engage in intercourse. "Lloyd is by no means against evolutionary psychology. Quite the opposite; in her methods and in her writing, she advocates and demonstrates a commitment to the careful application of evolutionary theory to the study of human behavior," stated Meredith L. Chivers. She added that Lloyd "meticulously considers the theoretical and empirical bases for each account and ultimately concludes that there is little evidence to support an adaptionist account of female orgasm" and that Lloyd instead "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, just as males have nipples that serve no fitness-related function".

A 2005 twin study found that one in three women reported never or seldom achieving orgasm during sexual intercourse, and only one in ten always orgasmed. This variation in ability to orgasm, generally thought to be psychosocial, was found to be 34% to 45% genetic. The study, examining 4000 women, was published in Biology Letters, a Royal Society journal. Elisabeth Lloyd has cited this as evidence for the notion that female orgasm is not adaptive.

Miller, Hrdy, Helen O'Connell and Natalie Angier have criticized the "female orgasm is vestigial" hypothesis as understating and devaluing the psychosocial value of the female orgasm. Hrdy stated that the hypothesis smacks of sexism. O'Connell said, "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." O'Connell used MRI technology to define the true size and shape of the clitoris, suggesting that it extends into the anterior wall of the vagina (see above).

O'Connell describes typical textbook descriptions of the clitoris as lacking detail and including inaccuracies, saying that the work of Georg Ludwig Kobelt in the early 19th century provides a most comprehensive and accurate description of clitoral anatomy. She argues that the 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 center of female sexual function and orgasm. By contrast, Nancy Tuana, at the 2002 conference for Canadian Society of Women in Philosophy, argues that the clitoris is unnecessary in reproduction, but that this is why it has been "historically ignored", mainly because of "a fear of pleasure. It is pleasure separated from reproduction. That's the fear". She reasoned that this fear is the cause of the ignorance that veils female sexuality.

Other theories

Brody Costa et al. suggest that women's vaginal orgasm consistency is associated with being told in childhood or adolescence that the vagina is the important zone for inducing female orgasm. Other proposed factors include how well women focus mentally on vaginal sensations during penile-vaginal intercourse, the greater duration of intercourse, and preference for above-average penis length. Costa theorizes that vaginal orgasm is more prevalent among women with a prominent tubercle of the upper lip. His research indicates that "[a] prominent and sharply raised lip tubercle has been associated with greater odds (odds ratio = 12.3) of ever having a vaginal orgasm, and also with greater past month vaginal orgasm consistency (an effect driven by the women who never had a vaginal orgasm), than less prominent lip tubercle categories." However, lip tubercle was not associated with social desirability responding, or with orgasm triggered by masturbation during penile-vaginal sex, solitary or partner clitoral or vaginal masturbation, vibrator, or cunnilingus.

An empirical study carried out in 2008 provides evidence for Freud's implied link between inability to have a vaginal orgasm and psychosexual immaturity. In the study, women reported their past month frequency of different sexual behaviors and corresponding orgasm rates and completed the Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ-40), which is associated with various psychopathologies. The study concluded that a "vaginal orgasm was associated with less somatization, dissociation, displacement, autistic fantasy, devaluation, and isolation of affect." Moreover, "vaginally anorgasmic women had immature defenses scores comparable to those of established (depression, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive–compulsive disorder) outpatient psychiatric groups." In the study, a vaginal orgasm (as opposed to a clitoral orgasm) was defined as being triggered solely by penile–vaginal intercourse. According to Wilhelm Reich, the lack of women's capacity to have a vaginal orgasm is due to a lack of orgastic potency, which he believed to be the result of culture's suppression of genital sexuality.


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Female orgasm" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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