I was faking it…

one woman’s search for orgasm

Posts Tagged ‘evolution

Why orgasms matter and defining them doesn’t

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“Orgasm is one of society’s most compelling, shaping forces”–those are the first words that appear on the back cover of Jonathon Margolis’ book, O: The intimate history of the orgasm.

The crucial word that Margolis appears to have forgotten to include in this broad sweeping statement, is the word ‘male’. As in, ‘male orgasms’.

Whilst discussions and theories on the history of the penis and its built in ability to orgasm are generally framed in terms of how and to what extent this particular aspect of human anatomy has influenced the development of civilization since the dawn of man, the equivalent body of research exploring female orgasms centres instead on defining the nature of woman. Specifically, what is woman and how does her orgasm determine that definition?

the virgin whore dicotomy, yours for only $9.99

the virgin whore dicotomy, yours for only $9.99

Is she genetically programmed to be promiscuous–searching as many mates as possible to satisfy the demands of a sexual design that makes her capable of outlasting her male counterpart several times over? Or, is her inability to orgasm quickly and easily a reflection of her true sexual motivation: that being security and love?

As someone on her own quest for orgasm, I realize in doing so, not only am I poised to explore a new world of sexual sensations, but also am, in this way, exploring the kind of woman that I am. Whore/virgin? Mother/witch? Feminist/slut?

Not having had an orgasm is, I think, a testament to my capacity as a nurturing human being.

As a sexually active adult female whose sex life in the past five-ten years has been confined to monogamous relationships, I am generally acutely aware of my partners’ progress during the process of love making: is he satisfied? Is he aroused? Is he going to orgasm? And I’m not alone.

In his book, Margolis refers to a study which asked women how important the attainment of orgasm during sex was to them. Only 10% of respondents said that it was “extremely important” (source, 106).  The same study also asked how important women felt their partner’s attainment of orgasm during sex was to them–41% said extremely important (source, 106).

To this women, having or not having an orgasm is irrelevant because what makes me happy is my ability to make someone I love is happy.

That is where I’m coming from—and the part of me carrying me forward now is the part that has decided it wants to experience an orgasm, the part of me that is curious about what this internal power source, which desires self-mastery and control in a way that I have never before dared. Chasing after the infamously elusive orgasm is, for the firs time in my life, allowing me to get to know what in past eras, this would have been called my ‘inner witch’ –or today’s parlance, my ‘inner feminist’.

Thus, defining my relationship to orgasm, is also about my defining my relationship to myself and the kind of woman I am or want to be.

Sexologists, historians, and researchers probably won’t ever give up trying to define the whys of the female orgasm. Nonetheless, my point is that the complex and ambiguous nature of the female orgasm isn’t something we need or even could ever pin down, just as the nature of woman, isn’t something we need or even could pin down.

And that, my dears, is the beauty of it.

Obsession with the female orgasm

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According to a recently released study, covered in the Jan 18 Times article, Wealthy men give woman more orgasms, female orgasms are evolutionary adaptations that program women to seek out the most capable protector and provider as their mates—with rich men obviously representing the most powerful males in our society.

tol-logoOf course, the problem with this research, as is so carefully laid out in Elisabeth Lloyd’s The case of the female orgasm (see my previous post on this topic) is that none of the sex reported in this research specified whether the stated orgasms were the result of assisted or unassisted sex.

Considering that most women rarely orgasm through intercourse alone, its very likely that all those rich man orgasms being reported were not achieved through penal penetration alone.  And if that is the case, then the orgasm in fact has nothing to do with reproduction and the whole evolutionary argument goes out the window.

Which causes me to wonder why evolutionary scientists are so obsessed with proving that the female gender is nothing more than needy, survival-based, simpletons capable of doing little more than follow the orders dictated by their genes?
Or as they article’s author, Jonathan Leake, puts it ‘gold diggers’

Am I dysfunctional? The origins of the orgasm

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Who is the unorgasmic woman—and by extension me?

According to evolutionary theorists I’m not just dysfunctional, I’m the female equivalent of Brendan Fraser in Encino man.

In a word: un-evolved.

Theory one:

Back in the early, pre-alter and matching towel set days, man and woman needed biological ‘incentives’ to cement their love bond—especially since the Mr. would be off ‘hunting’ with his buddies for long stretched at a time. The female orgasm was supposedly one such ‘incentive’: in addition to a month of pterodactyl roasts, the stay-at-cave-mom could look forward to the pleasures of orgasmic intercourse. Thus, the female orgasm prevented her from wandering off with the milk man as well as her absent lover’s kin and in the great scheme of things helped ensure the reproduction of the human race.

Okay, so Desmond Morris, a field ethologist and major proponent of this adaptation theory doesn’t describe it in these words exactly, but that’s the basic gist of it.

Accordingly, I as a woman who doesn’t’ appear to posses this evolutionary adaptation, am more likely to ditch my man and compromise the health and well being of my yet unborn and un-conceived children, making me both a whore and a bad mother.

Ouch.

Theory two:

Remember how we learned in grade 7 that jumping up and down after sex would prevent pregnancy—and then relearned in grade 10 that it wasn’t true? Well apparently we were right the first time, according to another female orgasm theory. This one, which also happened to be supported by Mr. Morris, hypothesized that the post-orgasm sense of relaxation encourages women to remain in a horizontal position and thus improves their chance of getting pregnant (the sperm won’t leak out) which also in the great scheme of things thus, helped ensure the reproduction of the human race.

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 Thankfully, now that I’ve re-learned this basic principle of female reproduction I’ll be sure to remain lying in bed rather than perform my usual-post-sex-aerobic routine when the time comes that I actually want to get pregnant. However, it is a little discerning to think that my fertility might have otherwise been compromised due to my orgasm deficiency. Dysfunctional, indeed!

Fortunately, according to Elisabeth Lloyd in The Case of the Female Orgasm, women like me aren’t as genetically-un-evolved as these theories would make us out to be, which is good because I just spent over two hundred bucks on wedding invitations so I really hope I’m capable of a monogamous relationship with or without an orgasm to keep me there.

Lloyd cites two big holes in the theories, the biggest of which is the fact that, generally speaking, most women don’t regularly orgasm as a result of what she calls ‘unassisted intercourse’—i.e. no tongues or fingers.  Thus the basic premise of the female orgasm as bondage and fertility enhancing is as flawed as a ventilated condom.

Without going into a detailed description of the sperm retention, Lloyd also disbars the theory of orgasm as fertility enhancing by pointing out the fact that most post-orgasmic women are actually alert and energized rather than sleepy—thus women are just as likely to start jumping up and down on the bed as lie down on it.

So, what, according to Lloyd is a more likely explanation for origins of the female orgasm and what does that say about me? Developmental By-products.

I know, it sounds ugly—like the Velveeta cheese of the petroleum industry, but actually Lloyd’s description is intriguing.

cheeseThe basic premise here is that all fetuses have the same building blocks for the production of sexual organs. The ones that don’t get made into penises turn into clitorises. Thus, the two organs are fundamentally wired and made up the same way—orgasms and all.

In doing so, this  account reframes the discussion entirely, so that instead of looking for ways the vagina ‘compliments’ the design of the penis, it is named as it’s own creature, an organ with the same potential as the male version but with a different mode of operation.  

Which means just because I haven’t achieved orgasm through my sex life up to date, that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me, and that I am, by extension, genetically programmed to be a bad woman.  Rather, I just haven’t yet fully explored the unique and subtle ways of my sexual design.

And lucky for me, I have a few manuals arriving in the mail to help me out with that…