From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The "two-orgasm theory" (the belief that in human females there is a vaginal orgasm and a clitoral orgasm) was first put forward by Sigmund Freud in 1905. While current research points to multiple forms of female orgasm, some sources even consider four variations, Freud's denigration of the clitoral orgasm as being childish led to Marie Bonaparte's failed surgical removal and reattachment of her clitoris by Josef von Halban.
The concept of purely vaginal orgasm was first postulated by Sigmund Freud. In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Freud argued that clitoral orgasm was an adolescent phenomenon, and upon reaching puberty the proper response of mature women changes to vaginal orgasms. While Freud provided no evidence for this basic assumption, the consequences of the theory were greatly elaborated, partly because many women felt inadequate when they could not achieve orgasm via vaginal intercourse that involved little or no clitoral stimulation. Freud's claims about this and many other biological subjects, were later largely proven false or based on supposition.
Excerpts from Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
- The chief erogenous zone in the female child is the clitoris, which is homologous to the male penis. ... masturbation in little girls [concerns] the clitoris and not those other external genitals which are so important for the later sexual functions.
- If the sexual act is finally submitted to and the clitoris becomes excited its rôle is then to conduct the excitement to the adjacent female parts, and in this it acts like a chip of pine wood which is utilized to set fire to the harder wood. It often takes some time for this transference to be accomplished; during which the young wife remains anesthetic. This anesthesia may become permanent if the clitoris zone refuses to give up its excitability; a condition brought on by abundant activities in infantile life. It is known that anesthesia in women is often only apparent and local. They are anesthetic at the vaginal entrance but not at all unexcitable through the clitoris ...
- If the transference of the erogenous excitability from the clitoris to the vagina has succeeded, the woman has thus changed her leading zone for the future sexual activity ...
tr. Abraham Brill
Masters and Johnson
In 1966, Masters and Johnson published pivotal research about the phases of sexual stimulation. Their work included women and men, and unlike Alfred Kinsey earlier (in 1948 and 1953), tried to determine the physiological stages before and after orgasm. One of the results was the promotion of the idea that vaginal and clitoral orgasms follow the same stages of physical response. Masters and Johnson also argued that clitoral stimulation is the primary source of orgasms.
Recent discoveries about the size of the clitoris - it extends inside the body, around the vagina - complicate or may invalidate attempts to distinguish clitoral vs. vaginal orgasms. Recent anatomical research shows that there are nerves connecting intravaginal tissues and the clitoris. This, with the anatomical evidence that the internal part of the clitoris is a much larger organ than previously thought, could explain credible reports of orgasms in women who have undergone clitorectomy as part of female circumcision. The link between the clitoris and the vagina is evidence that the clitoris is the 'seat' of the female orgasm and is far more wide-spread than the visible part most people associate with it. But it is possible that some women have more extensive clitoral tissues and nerves than others, and so that some women can achieve orgasm only by direct stimulation of the external part of the clitoris.