The New York Times
May 17, 2005
A Critic Takes On the Logic of Female Orgasm
By DINITIA SMITH
Evolutionary scientists have never had difficulty explaining the male orgasm, closely tied as it is to reproduction.
But the Darwinian logic behind the female orgasm has remained elusive. Women can have sexual intercourse and even become pregnant - doing their part for the perpetuation of the species - without experiencing orgasm. So what is its evolutionary purpose?
More below the (labial) fold.
1. As a friend of mine says, "The female capacity for multiple orgasm is nature's attempt to make it up to us for labor and delivery."
Let's face it. Labor and delivery, short of torture, is the most painful thing a human being can endure. (I know you guys think kidney stones are bad, but try passing an 8 pound stone.)
I don't want to spoil the rest of the NYT article for you, which is a doozy, with a bunch of scientists arguing over whether the female orgasm is an evolutionary trait, or whether it's vestigial--like men's nipples--and serves no other purpose than "fun."
Male orgasms are necessary for pregnancy. But female orgasms, which are not necessary for pregnancy (ask James Dobson's wife) seem to serve no evolutionary purpose.
As neurologist Alice Flaherty notes in The Midnight Disease:
The right temporal lobe does seem to be critical for orgasm, at least in women...Despite the literary prominence of the male orgasm....its brain source has been harder to pin down than that of the female orgasm. One case study points to an evolutionarily more, well, primitive location that the temporal cortex, in the hypothalmus.
Male orgasm seems to originate in the reptilian part of the brain; women's in the creative part. Hmmmm.
So, here are my reasons why women get to have orgasms, other than making it up to us for childbirth:
- Nothing like a good round of multi-orgasmic sex for stimulating creativity. I get some of my best writing done in that after-sex haze. Men, of course, pass out and go to sleep, thus losing those hours of productivity.
- Female multiple orgasms remind us that our bodies are amazing, can be intense sources of pleasure, and it doesn't matter whether we can fit into that size 2 dress.
- Female orgasm is a political act; given how much space is devoted in western philosophy debating the sexuality of women, it's apparent that our capacity for pleasure scares the shit out of a lot of people.
- Female orgasm is metaphorical for the cyclic nature of life. Whereas male orgasm is a trajectory with an end, female orgasm is both an apex of pleasure and the building up toward another peak. Perhaps female experiences of sexuality offer an alternative view of the universe--although I'm loathe to engage in essentialist debate.
- 10-20 percent of women never experience orgasm, which I consider a tragedy. My hope for these women is that life has supplied them with equally more satisfying routes to pleasure.
Let the discussion begin.
UPDATE: I'm not making this up. Stegosaurs' Spikes Just for Looks Scientists Say Spikes of this discussion?