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« Meat, Movies and Mortality | Main | DVD Journal: "Miami Vice" »

May 30, 2007

The Complicated Female Orgasm

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A sex researcher who helped discover the G-spot back in the '70s now reports that three more nerve pathways are involved in female orgasms than previously suspected.

Or at least can be involved, as it turns out. There are good reasons why not all female orgasms seem to be alike. According to Prof. Beverly Whipple, there can be clitoral and vaginal orgasms, but there can also be orgasms based in the uterus and cervix. ("One woman described these cervical-based orgasms as like a 'shower of stars'." Whee!) Plus there's the grand-slam-homer of orgasms, one that involves all of these nervous pathways. Let's hear it for the "blended orgasm."

My favorite passage in Deborah Smith's good article:

Men and women differ in their sexual responses. Men move in order from desire to arousal to orgasm. Women are more complicated, says Whipple. "They can experience sexual arousal, orgasm and satisfaction without desire, and they can experience desire, arousal and satisfaction without orgasm."

Women's sexuality must be as baffling to women as it is to men.

The article left me wondering about one particular question: Why was scientific sex research, and the pop-psych literature that it spins off, so fixated on clitoral orgasms for so many years? I mean, we've been told for decades now that all female orgasms are clitoris-based. All else was held to be self-deception, or (more likely) just a patriarchy-inspired attempt to flatter the pathetically insecure male ego.

Since Smith's article doesn't mention the words "politics" or "feminism," I'll go ahead and do so. During many of those years, certain powers-that-be found it useful to claim that the penis can serve no particular purpose where female sexual pleasure goes. Men aren't good for much besides dragging home a paycheck and taking out the garbage, it was thought, and men usually don't show much aptitude for those activities either. Intercourse was portrayed as an act of raw male dominance, or a favor a woman does for her man, affording her at most the pleasure of knowing that she's desired. A woman was held to be a self-actualizing creature, with no real reason to need or even want a man.

Well, so much for that picture! Whipple does mention one practical fact that played a role in the clitoris-fixation of the time. It's that the instruments that researchers use to poke and prod the female groin conceal the G-spot, while the clitoris is easy to have physical and visual access to. Smith writes: "And the G-spot has to be manipulated to be felt. 'Doctors can't sexually stimulate their patients. That's why they didn't find it,' Whipple says."

Sigh: All those years of potential sexual pleasure spoiled, and all for what?



posted by Michael at May 30, 2007


"...the penis can serve no particular purpose where female sexual pleasure goes."

This isn't the sort of thing I'd normally discuss in a public forum, but...this sure as hell ain't true for my wife!!!

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on May 30, 2007 5:07 PM

Don't squeeze the Charmin, Professor Whipple!

Posted by: Fenster Moop on May 30, 2007 5:17 PM

"...the penis can serve no particular purpose where female sexual pleasure goes."

Size don't matter? Whew, what a relief.

And by the way, where do female sexual pleasure go, perfesser?

Posted by: ricpic on May 30, 2007 6:05 PM

I'm probably a fool for posting this, but when I did my hospital chaplaincy for the ministry it was in a major regional hospital that had a very quiet program that taught people who had been badly hurt and had lost sensation as well as some function how to have satisfactory relations. (Marital, of course.) I've thought very differently about the whole situation since hearing about a man paralyzed and unable to feel except for the back of his arms -- of course, he could see, hear, taste. His wife learned to arouse him to climax and often joined him. She loved him, see. But you can't sell that with spam.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on May 30, 2007 10:52 PM

"......this sure as hell ain't true for my wife!!!"

Same here. That's two data points. The fact is, people like to copulate. That is the evidence both personal and historical.

Only a really insane ideology could go against all the evidence.

Moreover, whether you believe in evolution or in God's design, it only makes sense that the activity that is likely to lead to reproduction would be where Mother Nature puts her most delicious rewards.

If other things besides f****** really did feel lots better, then none of us would be here, since no one would be making any babies.

Also, isn't it more degrading to women to say that for all those centuries they were too stupid to know what did and did not feel good to them and find a way to get their men to do to them whatever felt good? Aren't women clever and wily enough for that?

None of the foregoing should be taken as any disparagement of the clitoris. No way.

The evidence that married women in happy, committed relationships have the most orgasms is consistent with Prairie Mary's anecdote. Sex sometimes does have something to do with love and affection. And especially, it seems, with women who are pretty often turned on by feeling loved and protected and cared for. Again, Darwinian factors are immediately apparent in that, too.

The recent publication about the drug-like effects of semen on women is consistent with all this, too.

A lot of misery is spread around when people defy common sense and obvious observed facts.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 31, 2007 7:58 AM

A footnote in a history of swindles would be the assertion that feminism speaks for women. In fact it's just the opposite. Feminism is a lesbian political movement, a branch of the Marxist tree, and lesbians as a whole tend to resent or hold in contempt feminine/maternal women (which is the majority of human females, going with Lexington Green's post above).

Posted by: PA on May 31, 2007 9:11 AM

The influence of lesbianism on the sex-obsessed side of feminism is still not put front and centre, where it belongs. The transparent obviousness of claiming the female orgasm as exclusively clitoral as a useful rationalization for lesbian sexual incapacity disqualified it as a serious position in my eyes way back in the '70s, when it was first espoused.

I wonder if lesbianism has really produced much of anything valuable, culturally, politically, whatever. Nothing close to the accomplishments of gay men, I should think. Camille Paglia, herself bisexual, had something to say about the 'sterility' of lesbian culture. Wish I could remember where I saw it.

Posted by: PatrickH on May 31, 2007 10:14 AM

Even as a beginning student, I know that at its core, feminism ain't about upending society so the wimminfolk are on top (ahem), but about dismantling the patriarchy altogether.

At its core, feminism = humanism, i.e. no more elite cadre running the show (with a few tokens to make things look progressive).

As for the rest of these silly assertions, anyone who thinks lesbians are less maternal than straight chicks isn't hanging out with a large enough representative sample of either. And the hottest ladies I know aren't any more "feminine" in the sense you're using than the hot men are "masculine." Criminy, aren't we all secure enough at this point to realize that sexuality and gender both exist on a spectrum?

Chacon a son gout, I suppose. But I've never had any more use for feminine/maternal women than I have masculine/paternal men.


Posted by: communicatrix on June 1, 2007 8:35 PM

Communicatrix, your point of view is very context-specific. You are a city girl and you hang with hipsters (I think). Which is perfectly fine, and it spounds like fun.

But imagine youself in a different setting. You live with two kids in a nicer suburb of New Orleans, summer 2005. A lot of folks are on a lawless rampage; even cops are looting the Wal-Mart. Who would you rather have with you: the witty coffeeshop artiste who bitches occasionally about the child suypport payments he sends to some waitress he got pregnant three years ago, or your masculine/paternal husband and his redneck friends with shotguns?

Posted by: PA on June 2, 2007 11:16 AM

Hipsters *are* fun!

But the significant others I choose have all been schooled in the ways of the physical world. They can build, repair, mend, fish, fight, and yes, shoot straight as well as make a nice espresso. In my admittedly anecdotal but somewhat extensive (ahem) experience, having your brain firing on all pistons and knowing your way around firearms are not mutually exclusive.

My impossibly handsome-in-that-androgynous-way-I-love BF grew up on a farm in Southern Indiana and has a full complement of delightful survival skills as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of art, literature and science. In the coming apocalypse, we will have the greatest cave in the hill! And music, provided by his string-band hillbilly relatives!

Not that I've no sympathy for my hypothetical sister in cul-de-sac land; quite the opposite. The patriarchal thinking that put her and that suburb there are a huge part of the problem.

But let's not forget that if you're well off enough to live somewhere cushy, where you don't (usually) have to worry about whether you'll live or die that day, you probably have the means to educate yourself. To think bigger, further (farther?) out, and more inclusively. To maybe, possibly see past the ultimate worthlessness of your possessions. (Talk about context!)

At any rate, you won't catch me dead in the suburbs. Or maybe you will. Based on five years of personal experience in my teens, and the modern hell that surrounds me here in L.A., they are something I don't think I could survive...

Posted by: communicatrix on June 2, 2007 12:44 PM

We seem to wander off the topic quite a lot, not that I'm objecting. But this entry was originally entitled "the complicated female orgasm." And speaking of context, I'm no longer teaching high school or serving a congregation, so maybe I ought to be bolder.

If the goal is a female orgasm (which is not necessary for fertility -- maybe alas and maybe thank goodness), then masturbation would be the simple answer. A vibrator or water stream is far more efficient than a dildo in messy or isolated times and one doesn't have to prompt "more, lower, not so rough..." But if that was all there was to sex, we wouldn't need a partner and there would be few or no children.

It's not a matter of props anyway, despite all those banks of candles and blowing curtains blowing we see in movies. Ultimately the best sex is an intensification of something that runs like a thread through a whole relationship. Even in a new meeting with a stranger, something latent is kindled that is only partly a matter of flesh or ideology. It might or might not have anything to do with gender.

Women as well as men are susceptible to conditioning, so that "known triggers" are developed by association over time, which takes a longer relationship. Hopefully a "trigger" doesn't bulge into being perversion or obsession, but our culture likes to push that in hopes of finding something to sell: shoes for the foot fetishist. Pills for the pharm-happy.

Maybe high school students and parishioners SHOULD hear this, but few institutions will tolerate the idea that good advice is free and for all. You have to sign up for the secrets, except maybe on a blog.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on June 2, 2007 2:12 PM

I would have thought the answer was obvious:

the absolute dominance of Freud and his insistence that the clitoral orgasm was immature and only the vaginal orgasm was healthy.

This male-invented nonsense was crammed down everyone's throats for most of a century. When feminists finally overthrew it, there was an entirely predictable reaction in the opposite direction.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on June 3, 2007 2:10 AM

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