There may be few questions of human sexuality more rancorous than those about the female orgasm. Scientists agree that women probably started having orgasms as a by-product of men having them, similar to how men have nipples because women have them. As Elisabeth Lloyd, a philosopher of science and theoretical biologist at Indiana University put it in her 2005 book The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution: "Females get the erectile and nervous tissue necessary for orgasm in virtue of the strong, ongoing selective pressure on males for the sperm delivery system of male orgasm and ejaculation." But why we ladies still have orgasms is hotly debated.
Male orgasms exist, it's widely believed, to encourage men to spread their seed. On face value, it would be easy to say that women orgasm for the same reason: to encourage them to have sex and make babies. But in practice, compared to male orgasm, female orgasm is very difficult to achieve. There's a lot of variation even within individual women, and 10 percent of women never have them at all. And, unlike male orgasm, female orgasm isn't a prerequisite for pregnancy.
So why do women have orgasms at all? There are two firmly opposed camps on this question. The first group proposes that it has an adaptive function in one of three categories: pair bonding, mate selection and enhanced fertility. I'll break these down. The pair-bonding theory suggests that female orgasm bonds partners, ensuring two parents for the offspring, while mate selection offers that women use orgasm as a sort of litmus test for "quality" partners. The enhanced fertility theory, meanwhile, proposes that uterine contractions during female orgasm help to "suck up" sperm into the uterus.
The by-product camp, on the other hand, claims that female orgasms are to this day an incidental by-product of male orgasm, not an evolutionary adaption. "There's no documented connection between women who have orgasm at all, or faster, having more or better offspring," Lloyd says.
The schism between the two camps deepened this month with the publication of a new study of twins and siblings in Animal Behavior that seems to rule out the by-product theory of female orgasm. Researchers Brendan Zietsch at the University of Queensland in Australia and Pekka Santtila at Abo Akedemi University in Finland asked 10,000 Finnish female and male twins and siblings to report on their "orgasmability" (their word, not mine). They looked for similarities in orgasm function between female and male twins. If the by-product theory of female orgasm is true, they say, this similarity should exist. Due to the inherent differences in orgasm between women and men, females were asked to report how often they had orgasms during sex and how difficult they were to achieve, while males were asked how long it took them to reach orgasm during the act and how often they felt they ejaculated too quickly or too slowly.
Zietsch and Santtila found strong orgasmability correlations among same-sex identical twins, and weaker yet still significant similarities between same-sex non-identical twins and siblings. However, they found zero correlation in orgasm function between opposite-sex twins. "We show that while male and female orgasmic function are influenced by genes, there is no cross-sex correlation in orgasmic function -- women's orgasmability doesn't correlate with their brother's orgasmability," explains Zietsch. "As such, there is no path by which selection on male orgasm can be transferred to female orgasm, in which case the by-product theory cannot work."
Zietsch says he doesn't have a favorite theory on the evolutionary function of female orgasm, but if forced to guess he'd say that it provides women extra reward for engaging in sex, thus increasing frequency of intercourse and, in turn, fertility. (There's no proof of this yet, though, as Lloyd points out.) Zietsch continues: "I've shown in another paper, though, that there is only a very weak association between women's orgasm rate and their libido, so the selection pressure on female orgasm is probably weak -- this might explain why many women rarely or never have orgasms during sex."
Lloyd and other proponents of the by-product theory agree that weak selection pressure could be acting on female orgasm, but not enough to maintain it over the eons of human evolution. Rather, if female orgasm bestows any reproductive benefits onto the human race, it would be by happy accident. Unsurprisingly, Lloyd has a lot of bones to pick with the recent study. Comparing different orgasm traits in women and men is a textbook case of apples and oranges, she says.
Kim Wallen, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist at Emory University and frequent collaborator with Lloyd, explains it thus: "Imagine that I wanted to compare height in men and women. In women I used a measurement from the top of the head to the bottom of the foot. In men I used how rapidly they could stand up. Would I be surprised that each measure was correlated in identical twins within sexes, but uncorrelated in mixed-sex twins? Such a result would be what was predicted and completely unsurprising. Zietsch and Santtila have done the equivalent of this experiment using orgasm instead of height."
Wallen also points out that previous research has shown that traits under strong selective pressure show little variability, while those under weak pressure tend to show more variability. With human orgasm this bears out in that men report almost always achieving orgasm during sex, while the ability to orgasm during intercourse varies widely among women. (Penis and vagina size – both necessary for reproduction -- show little variability, suggesting they are under strong selective pressure, Lloyd says, while clitoral length is highly variable.) Wallen asserts that Zietsch and Santtila, "chose to compare apples to oranges because the evidence is so strong that men's and women's orgasms are under different degrees of selective pressure, the very point they were trying to disprove." Yikes.
To their credit, Zietsch and Santilla acknowledged the limitations of their study, both in the paper and in Zietsch's email to me. More work obviously needs to be done. "Figuring out the function of female orgasm, if any, will probably require very large genetically informative samples, fertility data, and detailed information on sexual behaviour, orgasm rate, and the conditions and partners involved," Zietsch says. "I do have plans, but the debate probably won't be settled quite some time to come."
If, at this point, you're as frustrated as me, you might be wondering what we do know about female orgasm. Well, we're closer to knowing why they're so few and far between during sex. In a paper published online this January in Hormones and Behavior, Lloyd and Wallen found that the farther away the clitoris is from the urinary opening, the less likely it is that the woman will regularly achieve orgasm with intercourse. If this holds up in future experiments, Lloyd says, it would establish that a woman's ability to have an orgasm during sex rests on an anatomical trait that likely varies with exposure to male sex hormones in the womb. "Such a trait could possibly be under selection," she says, "but this would have to be investigated. So far, no selective force seems to appear."
Jennifer Abbasi is a science and health writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She has seen every episode of The X-Files. Have a question about the science of sex? Email Jen at email@example.com.
How long does it take for a woman to have an orgasm?......Who gives a Sh**.
Of course it serves a purpose!
If women really really enjoy sex, they want more of it.
This keeps their man happy!
Ok, people ... just settle down.
I can solve this dillema AND answer all your questions, with authority.
... Just loan me 100 attractive females and I'll get back to you, in a year or two (once my double-blind study is complete).
= glad to be able to help ! =
Many theories are seen, but without proof, no theory is any more than imagination, and most of these are not even theories, but just a postulation of a theory. This issue remains unsolved. I would like to know how theological biologist can be considered a scientist at all. Biology exists even if you don't "believe" in it.
For those who don't care about female orgasms, vinyl partners are available.
Why do men and woman hold hands? Holding hands is not a requirement to procreation. Perhaps the emotional part of us humans to have an organism is in the same context as why we hold hands. It’s just part of our emotional make up and less a biologically function. I love it when my baby ews and ahs… its just beautiful. Oh the word beautiful is not biological too. We humans are really complex and much more than biology and pure chemistry.
My theory is that the point of the female orgasm existance is so females could plausibly fake it if they want. If female orgasms didn't exist, they couldn't fake one ever, because the guy would know that they are lying. So they invented the female orgasm so the guy will think they are actually having one when they fake it.
MommaMidwife is NUTS!
This from a senior lady with four children, a hysterectomy more than 30 years ago and orgasms (still) whenever I wish with or without a uterus, or a cervix and with or without a guy.
Good Lord! Ogasmic births! BS! Pregnant ladies RUN. Run very fast in the other direction from this supposed midwife!
In response to those discussing anatomic compatibility, that's where it's at, for sure. A good fit matters. You will know it when you feel it. A bad fit is not worth looking for other good traits in a partner for the next 50 years. You will regret settling. Unless you also have other partners...
This so-called study looks to have been done by really young, naive people looking for grant money.
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A female orgasm would likely be an essential incentive for women to let men stick it in. Without interest, there is no lubrication for association.
According to Dr. Wilhelm Reich, a brilliant Physician who studied the natural function of the body, orgasms are a function that a human being requires for health. Energy is a life spring of our existence. Our bodies are producing energy all the time at the cellular level, and we need to discharge that energy. Orgasm is the accumulation of positive (healthy) energy which reaches a maximum point and then a contraction occurs which releases that energy. The body is at a state of satisfaction and relaxation. If the person is healthy, there are no blocks to that energy.
To summarize Dr. Reich at a very basic level, he believed that without the flow, accumulation and release of life energy, health cannot be attained or sustained. His research showed how certain disease states exist as the result of stasis. Further, his work revealed the process by which the inability to have orgasm results in various neurotic, psychotic, depressive, and sadistic disorders, to name a few. His is well known for this focus also on character disorders. Inversely, his work successfully treated some of these disorders by alleviating the physical blocks in various parts and organs of the body which were the basis for them and which concurrently inhibited orgasmic sexual satisfaction.
Orgasm is construed as a necessary function of the living organism, and not merely for the pleasure of it. According to Dr. Reich, it is pleasurable because it is healthy and vital.
Following Dr. Reich's death, Dr. Robert Dew continued his
research. The Journal of Orgonomy contains this line of research performed by respected, highly degreed, and practicing Physicians.
Dr. Reich's work has been widely misrepresented in the general population, and has been widely ignored by much of the medical establishment. If you research Dr. Reich's work, only those associated with the Journal of Orgonomy and the related association of medical practitioners are authorized to practice and represent this specific body of work.
Only a scientist would worry about "what's the point". Any woman who's ever had an orgasm never worries about "what's the point". If women have trouble achieving orgasm, it's because they're having sex with men who have never learned anything about female anatomy (including "jaime" above). Lesbians achieve orgasm with little trouble at all, and are well aware that the clitoris is DEFINITELY touched.
Love it when people state categorically that vaginal orgasims don't exist. They most certainly do exist, just not in your world apparantly. Sorry about that.
Paxalot writes "This likely explains the popularity of religion. It was devised to keep women as sexual shut-ins that would guarantee a male his offspring. There is no religion that does not seek to control a woman's sex life (that I'm aware of)."
I belong to one of those religions that holds that sexual intercourse is for monogamous married couples only. I emphatically do not feel like a sexual shut-in. Far from being oppressed, my husband and I are liberated from sexually transmitted diseases, having our children grow up without a father or mother, jealousy, adultery, and a myriad of other problems that developed with the so-called sexual revolution i.e. free love. We also used natural family planning to space our children five years apart. Our sex life is great because of the deep intimacy we developed over 28 years of a faithful loving committed relationship. And yes we have orgasms when we want, but our sex life is not directed to orgasm being the goal. Being in harmony with God's plan brings a lot more satisfaction sexually and otherwise.
Furthermore, I resent this statement by JediMindSet "The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain." There are many people with advanced degrees who are also very religious. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. You should Pope John Paul II's work Fides Et Ratio. If you had, you would not make that statement. The Catholic Church established the university system, the scientific method, observatories, and more in the pursuit of knowledge. You read works written by the doctors of the Church and you will be awe of their intelligence.
"So, the purpose of female orgasms is to increase the probablility of male offspring. Perhaps they should study that hypothesis."
Kundo: Whoever wrote the Bible seems to have known this. "When a woman conceives (literally "seeds") and gives birth to a male..." (Lev. 12:2). At least some modern commentators claim that that's talking about when a woman orgasms first. Later in verse 5, where it talks about giving birth to a female, it doesn't mention the man orgasming, but it's implied by mentioning the woman in verse 2.
i propose that the female orgasm serves a procreative function through the mechanism of a variable reinforcement schedule. according to learning theory, we learn things through reinforcement. a variable reinforcement schedule is best explained through the analogy of playing slot machines. people are motivated to play slots because of the big pay day that they will achieve if they get lucky. the chances are small that they will achieve the big pay off, but they continue to play slots because once in a while they do get lucky and receive the reward. the joy of winning drives individuals to engage in multiple attempts in the future to once again experience this great winning feeling.
during sexual intercourse, the female orgasm is one of the rewards. it isn't achieved all the time during sexual intercourse, but once in a while it does indeed happen. consistent with learning theory, the reinforcement that female orgasms provide to the sexual partners drives future attempts to achieve the reward again. the multiple attempts then increase the odds of successful fertilization.
Interesting - mojoanne's comment wasn't there when I posted mine just now. I'm not promoting the Bible, just sharing what it says, however whoever said it knew it.
Mojoanne, I'm very happy that you believe that your beliefs provide you with such a meaningful sex life. I'm not sure, however, that the historical church was so progressive.
Also, a person can have advanced degrees and wisdom in one area, and be totally wrong and deluded in another. You yourself believe that, since many if not most people with advanced degrees DON'T have your kind of faith! Faith and reason may not be mutually exclusive, but they do tend to be mutually repelling, like matching poles of two magnets.
The church may have established the scientific method, but only uses it to promote it's own agenda. That's not objective science. Perhaps, for example, the Big Bang happened in a previously existing universe, and doesn't therefore support creation ex nihilo like monotheists want it to.
Let's start off with this...
It is my hope that the non-same sex twins and same-sex twins are not achieving orgasm together. I would like to draw your attention to the following gem from the above article:
"Zietsch and Santtila found strong orgasmability correlations among same-sex identical twins, and weaker yet still significant similarities between same-sex non-identical twins and siblings. However, they found zero correlation in orgasm function between opposite-sex twins. “We show that while male and female orgasmic function are influenced by genes, there is no cross-sex correlation in orgasmic function -- women’s orgasmability doesn’t correlate with their brother’s orgasmability,” explains Zietsch. “As such, there is no path by which selection on male orgasm can be transferred to female orgasm, in which case the by-product theory cannot work.”
Everyone read this very slowly. I know that is not the intent behind the author's thoughts regarding this topic, but that not now I perceive the information as it is written. If that is the intent...there are a all of crazy Finnish folks out there.
The next gem actually appears before my first comment...
"...They looked for similarities in orgasm function between female and male twins. If the by-product theory of female orgasm is true, they say, this similarity should exist. Due to the inherent differences in orgasm between women and men, females were asked to report how often they had orgasms during sex and how difficult they were to achieve, while males were asked how long it took them to reach orgasm during the act and how often they felt they ejaculated too quickly or too slowly."
First off...what man is going to say he orgasmed too soon or too late or didn't O at all? That would be concidered an attack on his manhood. As for the other side, the female side, I'm not allowed to stop "Stimulating" my wife until she has achieved her goal at least twice. 'Nuff on that.
And finally...I can't resist heckling another commentee. We live in a world were more and more information is being given to our children from outside sources, whether that be in school, in books, or yes, even the Internet.
KingPatrickVII would you rather you two little (even though you use the term men) scientists-to-be learn about the female orgasm in a strip club, a back alley, or dare I say it, in college (which is where most things are learned and or discovered anyway)? Or would you rather have them see the scientific method applied to this subject, in a scientific format, and presented as a scientific study?
In short...why don't you join us in the 21st century and leave the Puritan and Quaker mentality at the door. PopSCI always has had fun little tidbits of information, even "interesting" ones like this...and always presented as a type of scientific research. Trust me...your kids will thank you later for it.
Does "orgasm during sex" mean "during vaginal coitus"? If so, it's true that few woman have such orgasms. But in my experience many women have orgasms, even female ejaculations, during cunnilingus.
A good theory (and I consider evolution a good theory) should be like a microscope, not a pair of blinders, but there's a climate today that I would call "Old Testament Revisited." Instead of God commanding "Be fruitful and multiply!" genes are allegedly manipulating us to "Maximize reproductive success!" Freud, as brilliant as he was, was so mesmerized by assuming sex could only be meant for procreation, that he could not understand why women have orgasms or why a woman has a clitoris. Reich, mentioned by an earlier commenter, understood much better. Could it ever occur to anyone that the chief value of sex is not instrumental but intrinsic? I can imagine all too easily some psychodynamic theorist asking "How did coitus become sexualized?" I wonder how the "sex is for procreation" people deal with the fact that God so loved us that She designed men to get powerful orgasms from being anally penetrated. Both oral and anal sex are profoundly pleasurable to both giver and receiver, regardless of gender, and neither causes conception.
Just for clarification and your information, the rectum is not a sexual organ. It's an organ for the release of feces which is full of pathogenic (disease causing)organisms.
"Furthermore, I resent this statement by JediMindSet "The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain." There are many people with advanced degrees who are also very religious. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. You should [read]Pope John Paul II's work Fides Et Ratio. If you had, you would not make that statement. The Catholic Church established the university system, the scientific method, observatories, and more in the pursuit of knowledge. You read works written by the doctors of the Church and you will be awe of their intelligence."
Resent away...but lets remember that the Church tends to publicly shun and/or excommunicate ideas it does not support, regardless of the proof presented. Creationism and Evolution come to mind. I don't believe I need to state the Church's position on that.
Furthermore what happened to men (scientists) who challenged the Church's views on things like the Earth being Flat, a Sun-centered solar system, and Biology? In a few cases, they were forced to reverse their findings or be labeled a heretic. In others...they were taken out and executed.
And this comment...
"...The Catholic Church established the university system, the scientific method, observatories, and more in the pursuit of knowledge..."
...is somewhat wrong in its own right. The University system and the scientific method were created by the Greeks.
Observatories were, at first, created to dispel that there other planets in our solar system, then later looked upon as objects against the Church when they couldn't be twisted in that fashion. In short, if the Church believes that something scientific goes against the Church's established views on the World, Nature, Man, and God, they will denounce it. They have even been known to dispel fictional scientific theories presented in mainstream science fiction. Several "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episodes, especially those dealing with the evolution of life forms and the concept that all bipedal humanoid-type life forms presented in the series came from one Source were denounced and excommunicated by the Church. If they can do this to a show that is set 300 to 400 yrs in the future and is fictional, then they will do it for real theory and real research. Another recent field to come under attack is the research being done by the LHC and its search for the Higgs particle.
Now...that being said, I do believe that one must have Faith. Faith is what gives us Hope and Hope is what drives us forward to expand, explore, and improve ourselves. Does one have to have religion to have Faith? That is not an answer that I can give because it will be different for all.
It is also off topic and will only serve to inflame this Board with mindless sermons filled with damnation, brimstone, and fire. Very uncivilized and very unscientific so I won't go there.
-kicks the soapbox off to the side-
From article: “As such, there is no path by which selection on male orgasm can be transferred to female orgasm, in which case the by-product theory cannot work.”
It may not work now, but that certainly doesn't rule out that it worked in the past.
Why cant it just be about women getting to have the same euphoric release that men get.. And I make that statement because I believe only "Women" have orgasms, not all female species.. So what is good for him should be good for me also..
Women are different from all other animals in terms of fertility.. With all other animals, when they are in season, they bleed.. But when women are most fertile, is not when they bleed.. We are different from the rest..
Woe to us all when a "science" publication puts a lame-o theory in print like it has any validity.
The woman is a philosopher and a theoretical biologist whatever that degree stands for.
Let's try to be a little more intelligent. Don't you think there may be an evolutionary PHYSICAL reason? Well an excellent documentary was filmed by real scientists way back in the 70s or 80s and the videos showed clearly that the spasms of the muscles during orgasm push the end of the uterus against the wall of the vagina right about where the sperm collects. After you have seen this you will not wonder anymore. Jesus, has this idiot ever heard of research?
I don't doubt that the pleasant feelings also increase the desire to do it but that is supplemental at best. And to the last poster, chefslb, estrus in female species is not bleeding, they "get wet" like humans and smell. If they are bleeding they are actively purging the unused egg. This is a science magazine?
C'mon folks, instead of reading this stuff and nodding or drooling or anything do some more research, so you think this is the first person to ask the question? My god, a theoretical biologist, that's is just the most stupid title I have ever heard of, do you think that a true biologist is not automatically a theorist when pondering the world or do you all think that when you graduate with a degree you are a bona fide expert that knows everything?
Oh I thought so, that's why we're here now, very sad…
Obviously, the female orgasm was designed by God as an incentive for her to desire to have sex and procreate, which ensures the survival of the species. Ridiculous to think that the clitoris just developed by accident. God did the same thing for the male. He gave us an appetite for eating and sex and made both pleasurable so we would survive. Not that hard to figure out, people.
This study isn't very good as it suffers heavily from self report bias, hindsight bias, and it is retrospective study.
Also, MALE orgasm isn't a prerequisite for pregnancy, either. Try not to propagate any more myths.
The only explanation why women and men have orgasm is so we can enjoy the procreation experience (not from a religious point of view). Copulating would be a tasking if we didnt have orgasm. We humans are creatures that respond well to rewards, therefore nature managed to developed this action to a level we can respond well and look forward to it.
Imagine sex without orgasm, I doubt there would be as many humans (or none) on this planet without it!!
In Russia men and women both have orgasms all the time, since they have socialism. In the United States the females started getting orgasms after Susan B Anthony fought for the equal rights of women. Now to be politically correct, if men have orgasms, females also need to have orgasms. We live in a society where women are considered equal to men. So without orgasms women may feel inferior. Though there are a lot of fighters fighting for equality among men and women, women still haven't gotten on a level playing field with men. Once women start getting orgasms in 1 minute after the start of sex, then men and women will be on a level playing field.
Greetings Dear Sister Jennifer and Friends, How are We Feeling today? Though this is My Favorite Subject and I'm indeed Most Encouraged by Your Decision to publish an Article about it, I Always Proceed with Caution if I don't Notice any Mention by the Author of Psycho-somatic Medicine, Orgone Energy, Bions, Character Analysis, Orgasm Formula, P H Balance or any reference to Dr. Freud or His Protege Dr. Reich in reports about The Orgasm, subjects which would seem to be germane to any Genuine Search for Answers regarding The Most Natural of what is Natural...Le Petit Mort...Hysterical Paroxysm! My Dear Sister and I have Devoted Our Lives to Comprehending this unmentionable subject as it relates to Matters of The Heart, Soul, Mind, Body and Spirit. Frankly, We are concerned about the tenor in which this title broaches the subject and We would like to offer Our Counsel to You and Your Remarkable Publication which should be able to Answer this Question in All Candor as Scientists and Scholars with Our Guidance! The Global Commercial and Cultural environment evinces the effects of the psychic plague of irrationality which infests all contact-less Social Structures in Our World and Our Species' Destiny Demands that People of Conscience treat the Subject of Mental Hygiene which results from Orgastic Potency with the utmost gravity and concomitant levity it deserves, do You agree Dear Sister Jennifer? RSVP and Enjoy Your Day Dear Heart! Bless Up! 1!
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Since evolution is still considered a theory, basing a theory on a theory would seem to be theoretical at best.