Irreverent Mama

Monday, March 06, 2006

Along with all the schlock I read - books and books every week - I try to have something that will stir a few brain cells on the go as well. This month's selection has been this book. (Go! Check out the link. Read the description of the book. Isn't that interesting??!?)

What a lot of good things I have learned from this book! What a lot of bad science there is out there! And how many dozens and dozens of oblivious men, who are also scientists, and even, this shocks me, a few women.

I've learned what "adaptive"* means. I've learned that not every trait in a species is adaptive. I didn't know that before, which shows you how much I didn't know.

But what I really learned is just how blind supposedly intelligent and uber-rational scientist folk can be to their own biases. Quite, quite mind-boggling.

So here's the crux of the weirdness, for me. Scientists have, for the entire 20th century, tried to demonstrate/explain how the female orgasm is adaptive. How it helps with procreation.

Okay, so initially you'd think it obvious that orgasm has something to do with procreation. But think again. The male orgasm does, very clearly, because the male orgasm is essentially a sperm-delivery system. (I think Ms. Lloyd uses that term in the book.) But the female orgasm? How could it possibly be adaptive when only 25 - 40% of women routinely get one with procreational sex? If there is nothing done to ensure it for her, no manual or oral play, only a minority of women will achieve orgasm through straight penetrative sex. How adaptive can a trait be if it exists in only a minority?

Given that unalterable and well-documented fact, how could decades of scientists continue in the assumption that the female orgasm occurred regularly with straight, unembellished sex? Were their wives and girlfriends all faking it every time? Were the women who didn't "get there" with nothing but their glorious penis dismissed as abberations? And what about the female scientists: surely they'd know better?

I know that, with the exception of one partner, it's never happened routinely that way. For me, and other women I've discussed this with, an orgasm is one thing, and sex another. Not mutually exclusive, by any means, but not synonymous, either. This is a leap for the male mind, for whom, by virtue of their biology, sex and orgasm are almost 100% congruent, but for women, well, they're not one and the same. This is not a problem. It's just what it is, and that's fine.

But no, through study after study, the female orgasm is almost never considered as a discrete event, but only as a byproduct of penetrative, heterosexual sex.


* Adaptive: a trait that positively influences evolutionary success. That is, if it helps you survive and make babies, it's adaptive.

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  • I learned in my Human Sexual Relations class as an undergraduate that when a woman orgasms, the cervix dips down into where the ejaculate pools, thereby "helping" the ejaculate make its way toward the ovum.

    Was that addressed at all in the book?

    By Blogger Candace, at 7:33 p.m.  

  • Yup. Even if it's true - the data isn't entirely sound - given that orgasms occur so infrequently during sex, it's not reliable enough to be an "adaptive" trait. For something to be adaptive, it has to be the norm.

    Orgasms during sex just aren't for the majority of women.

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 8:26 p.m.  

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