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Bering in Mind


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Reopening the case of the female orgasm

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Now that I’ve written at some length about the curious evolution of the male reproductive system in our species, I thought it only right to devote a column to the natural origins of a biological mechanism that doesn’t involve the Y chromosome. Well, at least it doesn’t have to. Needless to say, the subject of female orgasms isn’t exactly my cup of tea. As a gay man, it’s always seemed rather exotic and foreign to me, sort of like decorative basket-weaving in a small African village. As far as I know, I’ve never even been in the same room as a woman having an orgasm, let alone given a woman one.

Fortunately, a handful of dedicated researchers have spent a lot more time on this issue than I have. Yet it’s fair to say that even these scientists are still scratching their heads over the evolution of the female orgasm. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what a female orgasm actually is. A good working definition can be found in a 2004 report in the Annual Review of Sex Research . According to University of Texas at Austin psychologist Cindy Meston and her colleagues:

 

Female orgasm is a variable, transient peak sensation of intense pleasure, creating an altered state of consciousness, usually with an initiation accompanied by involuntary, rhythmic contractions of the pelvic striated circumvaginal musculature, often with concomitant uterine and anal contractions and myotonia that resolves the sexually induced vasocongestion (sometimes only partially), generally with an induction of well-being and contentment.

 

Actually, in light of that description and sans the female bits, perhaps it’s not entirely foreign to me after all. In fact, in terms of evolutionary function, women having orgasms with men is almost as puzzling as men having orgasms with men. How many of us human beings were conceived in the wake of our mothers having orgasms may never be known, but the same mystery doesn’t surround our fathers’ orgasms that day. Unlike men, women don’t need to have an orgasm in order to propagate their genes.

Thus, from a biological perspective, the “adaptive function” of the female orgasm is still hotly contested. Some theorists, including the late and legendary Stephen J. Gould , have claimed that it serves no purpose at all, but is instead only a quirky, functionless by-product of the ejaculatory response in males. In one of his cleverer pieces, re-titled “Male Nipples and Clitoral Ripples,” Gould fleshed out an old argument first made by anthropologist Donald Symons. In 1979, Symons noted that early in embryological development, males and females share the same basic body plan. As a serendipitous consequence of selection for male ejaculation (which in straight men serves obvious reproductive purposes), some of the shared connective tissue and nervous system pathways in females were “accidentally” shaped for pleasure by evolution, too, leading happily to the occasional orgasm in sexually mature females. The clitoris is essentially the female version of the penis, since the two derive from the same embryological substrate. This also explains why female orgasms are achieved more by clitoral than vaginal stimulation.

Lest you think the by-product hypothesis was propagandistic, cooked up in some musky faculty lounge by ivory tower misogynists, note that, for years, the main advocate of this position has been a female philosopher of biology named Elisabeth Lloyd. In fact, it was Lloyd who had initially given Gould his lead on Symons’s thinking on the subject and who would later write a book strongly endorsing the by-product hypothesis called The Case of the Female Orgasm (Harvard University Press, 2005). Lloyd’s book was roasted by many evolutionary thinkers because of the not-so-subtle feminist undertones in her writing—basically she argues that female carnal bliss has been liberated from the ugly realities of reproductive biology. Her position? Ladies, go out—or stay home alone, your choice—and enjoy yourselves, your sexuality is about more than just baby-making. But over the years, other empirically minded detectives have been working on this case as well, and many have begun to question the by-product account, claiming instead that the evidence does indeed point to some possible adaptive function of female orgasm.

So to help you play along in the role of orgasmic sleuth, here are a few suggestive clues that researchers in this area have been trying to piece together into a plausible evolutionary story:

Clue # 1: Twin-based evidence shows that orgasm frequency has a modest hereditable component. That is to say, uncomfortable as it may be to think of your flushed-faced grandmother writhing and moaning in ecstasy, there is a definite genetic contribution to female orgasm. (To help “unsee” these unsettling images shivering on the branches of your family tree, think on the bright side: female orgasms tend to decrease with age, so we’re talking mostly about only young, still-hot grandmas.) Hereditary factors account for only a third of the population-level variance in female orgasm, however.

Clue # 2: Most women report that they are more likely to experience an orgasm while masturbating than during sexual intercourse with a male partner, and importantly such masturbatory orgasms do not always hinge on simulating penile-vaginal sex. However, as University of Washington psychologist David Barash notes, “just because something (e.g., female orgasm) can be achieved in diverse ways (e.g., masturbation) does not argue against it having evolved because it is particularly adaptive in a specific, different context (e.g., heterosexual intercourse).”

Clue # 3: Furthermore, educated women are more likely to report having masturbatory orgasms—but are no more likely to experience coital orgasms than are less educated women. Religiosity is another social mediator: religious women tend to have less frequent orgasms than nonreligious ones (or at least they report having fewer).

Clue # 4: Using self-report data collected from college-aged American females, researchers such as Florida Atlantic University psychologist Todd Shackelford and University of New Mexico biologist Randy Thornhill have uncovered a positive correlation between frequency of orgasm and the physical attractiveness of male partners, with attractiveness being measured by subjective ratings as well as by indices of facial symmetry. Recall that, in “genetic fitness” terms, attractiveness tends to correlate positively with health and overall genetic value.

Clue # 5: There is some physiological evidence that female orgasm leads to the retention of more and/or better-quality sperm among a single ejaculate. I don’t think I can put it any better than Birkbeck University of London psychologists Danielle Cohen and Jay Belsky: “During the female copulatory orgasm the cervix rhythmically dips into the semen pool, thereby increasing sperm retention (by about 5 percent) relative to intercourse without orgasm, along with the probability of conception.” But as Lloyd points out, most references to these classic “data” on the “uterine upsuck” properties of female orgasm derive from a single participant and were part of an old study done back in 1970. Nevertheless, tellingly, a woman’s “desire to conceive” leads to more frequent self-reported orgasms during sex, and female orgasms are also most likely to occur during the most fertile period of the menstrual cycle.

Clue # 6: In a recent study by University of Groningen psychologist Thomas Pollet and co-author Daniel Nettle, Chinese women who were dating or married to wealthy male partners reported having orgasms more frequently than women whose partners made less. (“When having sex with your current partner, how often do you have an orgasm?” On an ordinal scale: 1=never ; 2=rarely; 3=sometimes; 4=often; 5=always .) That is to say, male partner income correlated strongly and positively with female orgasm frequency, and this income effect panned out even after the authors controlled for (ruled out) a host of extraneous variables, including health, happiness, education, the woman’s personal income and “westernization.” In any event, women may not be the only females in the animal kingdom whose orgasms are linked to the status and wealth of their male sexual partners. Japanese macaque females display the “orgasm-like” clutching reaction more often when they’re mating with high-status males. There’s no data yet on whether or not they also bite their lower lips in the process.

Together, these findings seemingly vindicate evolutionary psychologist David Barash, a vocal critic of Elisabeth Lloyd who has been arguing that female orgasm “is a signal whereby a female’s body tells her brain that she is sexually engaged with a dominant individual.” Pollet and Nettle point out, for example, that female orgasm may be linked to male income because money (resources) is a reliable indicator of the male’s long-term investing in offspring and it may also reflect desirable underlying genetic characteristics. In this light, female orgasm may serve an emotional bonding role, motivating sexual behavior—and hence conception—with high status males.

I wish there were a climax to the story, but as you see, the tale of the natural origins of female orgasm is a messy one. Some of the findings and logic favor the by-product hypothesis, whereas recent data on male quality and orgasm frequency cast reasonable doubt on the “functionless” accounts. Female orgasm is unfortunately one of those questions that do not easily lend themselves to controlled experimentation in the laboratory. One can’t, of course, randomly assign women to have sex with males differing in status and attractiveness to see if they orgasm or not (those pesky university ethics review boards). So I leave it to you, dear readers, to cobble together a once-upon-a-time story of female orgasm featuring the clues I’ve left you.

 

In this column presented by Scientific American Mind magazine, research psychologist Jesse Bering of Queen’s University Belfast ponders some of the more obscure aspects of everyday human behavior. Ever wonder why yawning is contagious, why we point with our index fingers instead of our thumbs or whether being breastfed as an infant influences your sexual preferences as an adult? Get a closer look at the latest data as “Bering in Mind” tackles these and other quirky questions about human nature. Sign up for the RSS feed or friend Dr. Bering on Facebook and never miss an installment again. For articles published prior to September 29, 2009, click here: older Bering in Mind columns.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/ChristopherBernard

 





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  1. 1. deebunkr 7:45 pm 12/1/2009

    The arm in the photo suggests "doggy-style" sex, which, in my experience, is more conducive to female orgasm.

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  2. 2. grayforest 7:47 pm 12/1/2009

    While this is overall a fairly decent article – could we skip the comments implying that it is somehow horrifying to think of someone older having an orgasm? Look, if we’re lucky, we all get older, and people do not stop enjoying sex just because they no longer look young. You don’t have to be attracted to someone older, but have some respect. One day you too may be both wrinkled and orgasmic. It’s better than wrinkled and non-orgasmic.

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  3. 3. Mims 7:58 pm 12/1/2009

    Excellent work, as always. It had never occurred to me that female orgasm as evolutionary leftover could be a feminist point of view.

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  4. 4. PBStarfish 8:21 pm 12/1/2009

    It will take me 20 more years of my own research to have an opinion. I just know I enjoy being altered, moreso with a partner than alone.

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  5. 5. vmfenimore 8:40 pm 12/1/2009

    Sometimes it seems like these "scientific" studies miss the very obvious. While it is not necessary for women to orgasm to reproduce, it is necessary for women to have the ability to become sexually excited or men would have a very hard time seducing them. How many eunuchs run around having sex ? If women just had to lay there and "endure" some man on top of them inseminating them and it never felt even a little bit good, they would find ways to "endure" it less and less and they would have less offspring than another women who enjoyed it at least a little.

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  6. 6. way2ec 8:56 pm 12/1/2009

    If, as stated in the article, female orgasms occur more frequently when she is most fertile, isn’t that alone enough to make the case for an evolutionary connection? I don’t think enough has been mentioned about pair-bonding which wouldn’t have much to do with conception, but certainly would play out as to survival of offspring.

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  7. 7. hotblack 9:31 pm 12/1/2009

    1. Take two women. One does not have orgasms. One does.
    Which will have more sex, and yield more offspring?

    2. Redundancy leaves nothing to chance.

    3. Most women take longer to achieve orgasm than men. This is handy, as it encourages them to keep going, beyond the initial quickie ejaculation. More opportunities means a greater probability for insemination.

    4. How is an orgasm as the carrot at the end of the stick any less functional or important for reproduction a woman than for a man?

    I am genuinely surprised people find it a mystery.

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  8. 8. TheMetalChick 9:44 pm 12/1/2009

    deebunkr at 07:45 PM on 12/01/09
    "The arm in the photo suggests "doggy-style" sex, which, in my experience, is more conducive to female orgasm."

    That is an example of seeing what you want to see based on your own experiences and preferences. By my own experiences, I can say with certainty that your generalization is rubbish. ;)

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  9. 9. comfortableshoes 9:59 pm 12/1/2009

    Maybe the function of the female orgasm is simply to make her more likely to remain lying down after sex. The erect posture of humans means that a woman who simply walks away after sex would be likely to lose any deposited sperm, and hence less likely to successfully fertilize her egg(s).

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  10. 10. mississippimud 10:02 pm 12/1/2009

    This is such a no brainer. Women who have orgasms like to have sex more than other and are therefore more likely to do so. The more one has sex, the more one is likely to reproduce.

    I agree with hotblack, this is no mystery at all.

    One other comment. Ejaculation serves the obvious evolutionary benefit regardless of the sexual orientation of the person ejaculating.

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  11. 11. terry5me 10:44 pm 12/1/2009

    i reach orgasm only during oral sex…

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  12. 12. Synergy 10:53 pm 12/1/2009

    Is orgasm a bit over-rated? It might actually last 30 seconds (certainly less for a man)and although is a profoundly exciting experience, it still lasts only 30 seconds. I bet a healthy and sexually active all her life 90 year old woman spends less than 24 hours in her lifetime experiencing an orgasm.

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  13. 13. Synergy 11:05 pm 12/1/2009

    A gynecologist once told me that women who orgasm have an easier time getting pregnant. (But not because she wants to have sex more or that it’s easier because it’s more fun.) He said the orgasm opens her uterus more fully making conception more likely. Bunk or truth?

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  14. 14. lady80 11:26 pm 12/1/2009

    "A woman unconsciously uses orgasms as a way of deciding whether or not a man is good for her. If he’s impatient and rough, and she doesn’t have the orgasm, she may instinctively feel he’s less likely to be a good husband and father. Scientists think the fickle female orgasm may have evolved to help women distinguish Mr. Right from Mr. Wrong."

    -http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/true-love.html

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  15. 15. Silkenvoice 11:57 pm 12/1/2009

    I’ve done my own research, both in the literature and in person, and I’ll quote from an essay I wrote in October on the subject of Female Orgasm:
    "For men, orgasm is required for procreation, and so you’ve evolved to go from limp to ejaculation in 3 minutes. For women all that is necessary is to have an egg in the chute. So if orgasm isn’t necessary, why is it possible? Well, part of it is that women have the same or simlar muscles that are involved in male orgasm. But the other part, I think, has to do with keeping men around–so listen up guys. In terms of procreation, if a male has no way of knowing when a female is fertile, then his object is to have intercourse with her as often as possible until she is impregnated–and what better way to make sure you will be welcomed again and again than to make a woman come?"

    The rest of the essay can be found here: http://silkenvoice.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-cant-i-come.html

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  16. 16. Silkenvoice 11:58 pm 12/1/2009

    I’ve done my own research, both in the literature and in person, and I’ll quote from an essay I wrote in October on the subject of Female Orgasm:
    "For men, orgasm is required for procreation, and so you’ve evolved to go from limp to ejaculation in 3 minutes. For women all that is necessary is to have an egg in the chute. So if orgasm isn’t necessary, why is it possible? Well, part of it is that women have the same or simlar muscles that are involved in male orgasm. But the other part, I think, has to do with keeping men around–so listen up guys. In terms of procreation, if a male has no way of knowing when a female is fertile, then his object is to have intercourse with her as often as possible until she is impregnated–and what better way to make sure you will be welcomed again and again than to make a woman come?"

    The rest of the essay can be found here: http://silkenvoice.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-cant-i-come.html

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  17. 17. Dolmance 12:08 am 12/2/2009

    I have never been intimate with a woman who couldn’t reach orgasm during intercourse by vigorously masturbating during same. And the only women I’ve ever met who were uncomfortable masturbating in such a fashion during intercourse have been in the US.

    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, getting to the point of orgasm is 99 percent of the greatness that is making love. And this is from a guy.

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  18. 18. NHBaggesen 2:14 am 12/2/2009

    I’m a bit puzzled why you say that our fathers must obviously have had an orgasm on the day we were conceived. They must obviously have ejaculated (leaving aside various mean of artificial insemination etc.), but personally I have ejaculated without a "peak sensation of intense pleasure" or "an induction of well-being and contentment."

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  19. 19. sirgarvey 5:22 am 12/2/2009

    Let’s face it, Gould’s "byproduct" or exaptation explanations are, well, not explanations at all. If it weren’t for his seductively persuasive writing, no one would take his paltry lack of rigor seriously. Oh and he was a professor at Harvard, so I’m sure that helps too.

    Gould, famous for accusing so-called "adaptationists" of concocting "just-so stories" to explain every little detail of an organism’s design, might be guilty of crafting what biologist David Haig called, "it-just-is" stories. Needless to say, these explain nothing, really, and even smack of intellectual hubris — Gould and his cadre would do well to remember Orgel’s 2nd Rule, "Evolution is smarter than you are" (it made you, after all).

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  20. 20. doug 1 6:53 am 12/2/2009

    Certainly female orgasm has a more obvious connection to reproductive success than male homosexuality about which the author brings up his own, most saliently, in his opening for this essay. Perhpas the author would like to share his insights and perspective as to why, or even if, male homosexuality is something other than just a state of mind, merely a social identity or something over which there is no choice.

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  21. 21. lowndesw 8:01 am 12/2/2009

    Being a straight male of the old and "wrinkled" type (experienced), I can attest that having sex with a woman that has orgasms is much more fun and satisfying to the male, (almost a challenge!) than one that doesn’t. That would be an evolutionary benefit. Could that also be the source of the female "faked orgasm"??

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  22. 22. Macrocompassion 9:03 am 12/2/2009

    This article fails to give details of the different kinds of organism that different women experience. It surely is significant that one "male type" organism by a female is brief and climatic whereas another "female type" female organism is protracted with a number of climaxes of presumably a relatively small magnitude. I have known different women who have had one of these two kinds of experience.

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  23. 23. honestman 10:20 am 12/2/2009

    I once dated a lady who knew how to use her vaginal muscles so good that it was like getting a hand job. She would reach orgasm midway through intercourse and would really get loud, not to mention that it felt like she was about to rip it off at the roots. And need I mention her orgasm during oral sex? No they were not fake either, she was a squirter with her orgasms, I mean it was like she was pissing sometimes.

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  24. 24. Dolmance 10:31 am 12/2/2009

    Female orgasm definitely increases the chances for pregnancy. The contractions carry the sperm further and faster to where the ovum waits to drain both parent’s souls and bank accounts for at least 18 years and nine months after the fact.

    Sex creates babies, which proves the old axiom that there is NO FREE LUNCH.

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  25. 25. tw 10:49 am 12/2/2009

    why must the guy who wrote this article have to add comments about being gay or men having orgasms with men.
    the article was about women not the writer or his sexual orientation,its rather offensive to me as a reader .i really dont care about his orientation or any of the other things he felt the need to include in the article that was about women and the orgasms that they experience.its a shame that the editors of sci-am would allow this writer to feel free enough to do so,the article wasnt about homosexuality,their orgasms nor wether the writer had ever experienced sexual contact with a women.

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  26. 26. davidreves 10:51 am 12/2/2009

    A gay man writing about a "female orgasm"? Isn’t that an "oximoran". We straight men have a hard time as it is to
    undestand the female, we now have to get advice from a "homosexual".

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  27. 27. slevitt 10:52 am 12/2/2009

    Women often desire to have children, so they will "endure" male copulation to achieve that goal. Male sexual desire encourages men to keep searching for new females. Women tend to be motivated at least as much by "nesting" desires as by sexual desires.

    I think the female pleasure response is an incomplete adaptation to help females retain the interest of mates over the long term to help with child rearing, etc. It is reasonable that satisfying male sexual desire is a strong component of mate retention, and the woman would overall benefit more from the experience if she enjoyed it. I say the adaptation is incomplete because women do not have a consistently sex high drive, but perhaps there is little pressure on women to develop a stronger sex drive because it would take emotional and physical energy away from the "nesting" functions.

    I suppose the oft-reported "lesbian bed death" is a corollary: sex is often not the primary basis for a lesbian relationship (perhaps since they share nesting-type desires instead) and so the sexual desire withers.

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  28. 28. deneicy 1:04 pm 12/2/2009

    And, adding to Mississppimud’s premise, I imagine that women who orgasm REINFORCE their male lover’s sense of prowess and confidence, increasing the likelihood of having mo betta sex.

    Dudes, would you rather have sex with a woman who orgasms or doesnt orgasm with you?

    If there were no reason for a woman to orgasm….why are so many faking it!

    See, no question mark. Rhetorical!

    ;0

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  29. 29. cardamom63 2:17 pm 12/2/2009

    The discussion of female orgasm is a red herring. After reading about bonobos and other species that use sex acts as a means of conflict resolution and resource sharing, it seems obvious that we humans use sex for a variety of social needs, procreation being the most obvious but by no means the only reason we engage in sexual relationships. Orgasm is one of the ways we make each other feel good when having sex, though it is by no means required to enjoy sexual activity regardless of gender or gender differences. Like other species, sex bonds us to one another for resource-sharing, mutual care and protection, dispute resolution ("make-up sex"), and, generally, survival. The ubiquity and variety of sexual activity across cultures suggests broad species benefits beyond procreation. If not, we certainly spend a vast amount of time and effort thinking about, arranging for and competing for sexual encounters. Same-gender sex, geriatric sex — in fact all sex acts between humans that does not or cannot result in procreation — are easily explained when considering the need for humans to bond socially in groups and to negotiate how power and resources are shared. When human sexual behavior is viewed through an anthropological versus biological lens, the many positive results of consensual sex mirror bonobos and other species in any number of ways.

    Broadly speaking, non-consensual sex in its many forms can also be understood through this lens: sex/rape is a weapon of subjugation in these instances and decidedly not procreation-driven in most cases. The intimidation, fear and horror that victims of non-consensual sex feel is matched by the power and satisfaction that its perpetrators achieve by wielding sex as a sword. The shield of deep social bonding that consensual sex creates is completely undone when sex acts become a means of achieving dominance over others. While it often benefits its perpetrators as individuals in terms of controlling others, seizing resources and determining power relationships, its negative social consequences are far-reaching and well-studied. For example, in cultures where women are viewed as possessions of their husbands or fathers, "despoiling" women through rape can result in ouster from the group or even death.

    Where do orgasms fit into this scheme? Masturbation has as its goal the feelings of pleasure, release, and well-being that orgasms and sexual pleasure in general creates. It also teaches us as individuals what feels good to us when engaged in partnered sex. Sex between consensual partners has a variety of social uses: the bartering of sex for money/resources, the demonstration of favorability in comparison to others, the creation of long-lasting bonds for mutual care and protection… the list of the ways in which consensual sex benefits us as individuals and as a species nearly endless. Orgasms keep us coming back for more, be it babies or social bonding.

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  30. 30. nthmost 2:25 pm 12/2/2009

    "In a recent study by University of Groningen psychologist Thomas Pollet and co-author Daniel Nettle, Chinese women who were dating or married to wealthy male partners reported having orgasms more frequently than women whose partners made less."

    I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from this until an identical study is done in a place like Sweden, where socioeconomic status among males and females is roughly equivalent, and most women’s selection criteria for possible partners shows that physical attractiveness and personality characteristics rank higher than wealth and power.

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  31. 31. Clop 2:48 pm 12/2/2009

    TW, fantastic point! As a man, I also feel stupid to receive such sensitive info from a person who was not able/did not try to get close enough with a woman to offer her the pleasure of a real orgasm. Greetings from Romania, C.

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  32. 32. guillim 4:07 pm 12/2/2009

    Check out Cytherea on any porn site; she has incredible orgasms with epileptic fit like involuntay spasms and spurting ejaculations.

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  33. 33. sparcboy 4:12 pm 12/2/2009

    Interesting how humans intellectualize about their behavior.

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  34. 34. way2ec 8:45 pm 12/2/2009

    In response to a couple of commentators, revealing the authors gender and sexual orientation serves to reveal bias, conscious or unconscious. He certainly isn’t "offering advice". An article about the function(s) of female orgasm can be (and should be) written by both genders of whatever sexual orientation. I would not give much credence to a woman trying to describe what an orgasm does for a man, nor to a man describing female orgasm. This article is exploring the question WHY is there female orgasm.

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  35. 35. Nathaniel 10:15 pm 12/2/2009

    This does cover a few interesting prospects for the origins of the female orgasm and I agree with many of the comments suggesting that a woman who enjoys sex more is more likely to have more sex. Seems simple enough.

    I would also like to point out that according to many men (and women), getting a woman to orgasm isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. They not only take longer to climax, but they can sometimes be rather elusive. I would suggest that in search of an orgasm, women are more likely to choose and stick with partners that can make them orgasm. In other words, they aim for experienced and attentive lovers. Basically, they want someone who will take the time to take care of their partner’s sexual needs, not just their own.

    Now, the one thing left to explain is female ejaculation, which isn’t always present during female orgasm. What evolutionary advantage would there be to actually spray fluids everywhere in response to an orgasm? Perhaps it’s just more of the same.

    Personally, I see the female orgasm as a rule during sex and since I know I’m getting mine, I try to aim for her to have at least three to every two of mine. The ejaculation I see as the ultimate goal and I don’t get any complaints.

    Perhaps that is another function. Men may be more attracted to women they are capable of pleasing. At the same time, such a system encourages men to please their mates. I’ve got to admit, I enjoy their orgasms almost as much as my own. There’s a definite sense of accomplishment involved. I can understand why it would be selected for.

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  36. 36. jack.123 10:25 pm 12/2/2009

    Just a guess,in the last 20 or 30 thousand years,males doing large scale farming lead to large tribal groups,and that changed everything,before then women for some 200,000 + years were the farmers/gathers,and humans lived in small groups where the females engaged in sex with a group of brothers,thus the need for the women to enjoy the act,and the need for female orgasm.One can’t just look at the recent history to find the answer.

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  37. 37. voyager 12:49 am 12/3/2009

    You have all missed a picquant point here: how do we know the ongoing experiments cited as incomplete by a male experimenter, early in the article, ARE NOT IN FACT COMPLETE but are being prolnged because, well…"Ms Appassionara, we seem to have discovered an unexpected anomaly in this series requiring redoubled and extended effort on all our parts. Same time tomorrow?" I’m just saying.

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  38. 38. wilfriedherman 10:50 am 12/3/2009

    Somme studies suggest that women during the period of ovulation tend to look more for adventures men, in stead of man who cares for their children. Because in most cultures, woman having sex outside a relation is severely sanctioned. So there must be an important stimulus to engage in such a, potential fatal, activity. That woman expiring an orgasm may well be willing to take the risk. They will than have offspring of adventures ore dominated man, without having to give up the security of a partner who looks after their children.

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  39. 39. wilfriedherman 10:51 am 12/3/2009

    Somme studies suggest that women during the period of ovulation tend to look more for adventures men, in stead of man who cares for their children. Because in most cultures, woman having sex outside a relation is severely sanctioned. So there must be an important stimulus to engage in such a, potential fatal, activity. That woman expiring an orgasm may well be willing to take the risk. They will than have offspring of adventures ore dominated man, without having to give up the security of a partner who looks after their children.

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  40. 40. Welcomed Consensus 12:52 pm 12/3/2009

    Men have an easier time with orgasm simply because their social conditioning allows for it. On the other hand, women’s conditioning has been to suppress her sexual feelings and desire, therefore it has become less accessible. Our 25 years of research on the subject has allowed us to find that ultimately, a woman’s desire and the amount of sensation she experiences is directly correlated with her willingness to approve. What this says about the purpose of female orgasm is open for conclusions.

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  41. 41. PBStarfish 8:03 pm 12/3/2009

    First of all kudos to Scientific American for allowing us this blog forum. I very much enjoyed the original posting by Jesse Bering, who I think almost had to explain his orientation as to explain his not going into detail about his own experiences. I, frankly enjoy his ability to be factual, but to also allow bits of himself seep out when he writes. It is one of the reasons I come back here to read him. So keep it up, please!

    I think being open to the ideas and interests of all sexual orientations, actually makes me a better lover, and a more sensitive woman. Being sensitive, I feel I could even tell from some of the comments who in fact might be above average in pleasuring a partner- As with most things, you get out of in what you put into it, and if faked climaxes are acceptable to you, you may just keep getting them.

    I wonder if any studies have been done on the sharp rise of libido in post menopausal women. I expect in that category a very steep rise in both the frequency and intensity of orgasms. Perhaps credited to having had the same partner for many years and really being well understood, or perhaps by that time they have moved onto someone more compatible (thus more exciting) who is interested in mutual pleasure!

    Just observations from a post menopausal single woman-

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  42. 42. spongeworthy 5:44 pm 12/6/2009

    Here’s my 2 cents as a dedicated amateur sexologist: there are two things a female could want which are contrapositive of each other and these are pleasure and control. The experience of a true orgasm represents a momentary loss of control down to the level of basic physical functionality, which may lead (in the case of a fertile female engaging in intercourse with a fertile male without conception protection) to a long-term loss of control. Each female values their control and their pleasure in some amount totaling to the proverbial statistical 1.0 . I’d like to see the results of a scientific study comparing the level of any number of females self-described "control-freakness" to their willingness to engage in a spectrum of orgasm-seeking activities with the single control variable being likelihood of conception. I’d even be willing to help out if you catch my drift.

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  43. 43. spongeworthy 5:53 pm 12/6/2009

    >Interesting how humans intellectualize about their behavior.

    I intellectualize, therefore I am. It’s what separates us from the beasts.

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  44. 44. c12402 8:29 pm 12/10/2009

    Some considerations coming from detailed observations:
    Women has 3-4 type of orgasms depending on the excitation zone (clit, g-zone, end of vagine, anal). Normally, only clit type is managed by women alone.
    Every type is different than the others and can be combined to get a stronger experience.
    As in men, brain has a strong influence (I mean culture, desire, appreciation for the other,…)
    At the end, orgasm is a bit more complex than just have it or not. Men’s ability to produce it is another factor.
    Do not forget in the discussion that this happen also in animals so the logic is the same… ask my dog whan it’s in fertile period… actively looks for other dogs.

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  45. 45. PBStarfish 9:02 pm 12/10/2009

    C12402 Actually all the types or sources you mention for orgasm can (and are often) managed by the woman. I do appreciate that with a partner, the chances of having more than one area go off :) at the same time is greatly increased.

    Another area that would be interesting to discuss would be are orgasms any better for people in monogamous relationships.
    -PBStarfish@gmail.com

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  46. 46. sunnystrobe 10:44 am 12/15/2009

    Female orgasms tend to decrease with age? Not so! If you ask me, a happily contented sexagenarian, or more aptly, sexigenarian, who’s had a fresh awakening in that area, thanks to a new loving partner, and thanks also to our new colour diet based on raw food! See www youthevity.com

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  47. 47. zenclick 10:24 am 04/10/2010

    The chinese study has just been discredited. Something to do with the software used in the statistical analysis. See following: (so what else on this list is wrong?)
    Women are not more likely to achieve an orgasm when their partners are well off. This is one of the take-home lessons from an analysis conducted by LMU researchers Professor Torsten Hothorn and Esther Herberich. The result clearly refutes the conclusion reached by a study that made headlines last year. Statistical analysis of the responses of more than 1500 Chinese women to a questionnaire on health and family life had led British and Dutch investigators to conclude that women were more likely to have orgasms when their male partners happened to be high earners. When Hothorn and Herberich re-evaluated the original data for teaching purposes, they discovered that the reported effect was actually an artefact caused by an error in the statistical software used to analyse the data.

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  48. 48. TMK 10:51 am 05/13/2010

    There are a surprising number of theories about why females have orgasms that is not just as simple as "if she is satisfied, she will come again".

    And, there is more than just theories posted on discussion boards – people get to study this stuff!

    Watch this video, it’s a pretty funny discussion of the different theories….http://www.scienceinseconds.com/video.php?vId=75&tId=

    Link to this
  49. 49. TMK 10:51 am 05/13/2010

    There are a surprising number of theories about why females have orgasms that is not just as simple as "if she is satisfied, she will come again".

    And, there is more than just theories posted on discussion boards – people get to study this stuff!

    Watch this video, it’s a pretty funny discussion of the different theories….http://www.scienceinseconds.com/video.php?vId=75&tId=

    Link to this
  50. 50. maxotexas 6:42 pm 01/21/2011

    Where to start.
    Just having sex is fun as a mail if you take it to the edge and then adjust your pace to stay there. You can easily maintain 30 minutes. This gives your partner time to ramp up and greatly enhances your pleasure. Nerves on your body don’t even get started until you’ve been screwing for 15 to 20 minutes.

    I’ve never met a female I couldn’t train up. It always took about six months and involved a lot of praise and expressions of desire. All of them ended up multi-orgasmic and able to have the many different kinds of orgasm mentioned above. It is possible for females to have an orgrasm every 2 to 3 minute for over an hour. They are pretty wiped out the next day at first. And the comment above about control is true too. All go through a phase where they are worried about experiencing so much pleasure because of the loss of control if they need it.

    It’s a tricky balance of, "I’m happy to please you and love your body and there is no pressure for you to come either".

    I found the cervix dipping comment intriguing.

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  51. 51. drrunels 2:14 am 12/13/2012

    Other women have difficulty reaching orgasm. A procedure called o-shot can cure this problem and get their sex life alive again. The procedure is at oshot.info

    Link to this

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