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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Science: “Ladies, We Still Don’t Understand Your Orgasms”

After all this time, and all this science, scientists are still unsure of the evolutionary purpose of the female orgasm. Men have orgasms so they can ejaculate and spread their seed to continue their lineage. But why do women have orgasms? What it comes down to is this: No one can really figure it out. The female orgasm might be just as vestigial as lactation in men, a byproduct of a bygone part of our biological makeup that shows how very similar we really are.

Not that we’re complaining about our useless orgasms, but still. Sometimes it’s cool to know what’s going on behind all that excitement.

Scientists have been trying to figure out the female orgasm since science became a thing. Many theories posit that the female orgasm creates a bond between partners, so it’s more of an emotional function than a biological one, as opposed to the male orgasm which could almost be considered utilitarian. But surely, the female orgasm has some kind of purpose — maybe the lubrication that occurs allows for easier penetration, creating more ideal conditions for a prolonged act of intercourse so the male can reach climax and ejaculate inside. Biologically speaking, that means babymaking. But this has never been confirmed.

Then there is the matter of clitoral and penetrative stimulation: women are much more likely to achieve orgasm after clitoral stimulation, which, honestly, we can do without a mate. That makes the biological function of the female orgasm even less about reproduction and makes it an even greater mystery. (Again — not that we’re complaining about our mysterious, useless orgasms.)

One study looked at the occurrence of orgasm between sets of twins (and no, that’s not what it sounds like). Researchers found that sets of same-sex sets of twins had very similar occurrences of orgasms, but opposite-sex sets did not. It’s not clear whether the same-sex sets were fraternal or identical twins, but since there was no correlation, the researchers believed this flew in the face of orgasm as an evolutionary byproduct. However, they did say their results were not definitive. Yet another study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine “found near-zero correlations between women’s orgasm rates and 19 other evolutionarily relevant traits.”

So, basically, we know just as much as we did before: pretty much nothing. Except that our orgasms are hardly hurting anyone, and those of us who have them should just go ahead and keep on having them. Maybe girls just wanna have fun.

(Wired via Skepchick)

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  • Ashley

    I once read in one of those psuedo-sciency choose-the-sex-of-your-baby books that the vagina is less acidic after an orgasm, and therefore less hell-bent on sperm murder. I don’t know if that’s true AT ALL, but it seems almost logical. (No, I didn’t read it for actual research; a friend got it in a pile of books from someone *after* she got pregnant.)

  • Anonymous

  • ainok

    One in…ten? Sheesh. That’s…kinda shocking.

  • Anonymous

    Feeling good and relieving stress aren’t enough of a biological purpose?

  • Lindsay Shirkey

    I believe the wording may be wrong on “one in ten.” In the original article it said one in ten women don’t experience orgasms, and in this article, the phrasing implies only one in ten do experience orgasms.

  • Anonymous

    I certainly hope so.

  • Anonymous

    If I didn’t get off when having sex with a man, why would I do it? Seems to me orgasms are to keep the woman coming back for more, pardon the pun.

  • Pepijn

    But surely, the female orgasm has some kind of purpose — maybe the lubrication that occurs allows for easier penetration, creating more ideal conditions for a prolonged act of intercourse so the male can reach climax and ejaculate inside.

    Actually, in my experience, the extra lubrication when a woman orgasms makes it too slippery. There is suddenly so little friction that a lot of the sensation is gone and I actually find it harder to orgasm. A little friction is a good thing!

    I may just be weird though…

  • Anonymous

    I find the 1 in 10 number a little hard to… um… swallow.

  • Anonymous

    I found that statistic quite disturbing.  Seriously? 9 out of 10 of my friends can/do not orgasm??  If that’s true, my mind is blown.

  • Anonymous

    I have always figured it had something to do with the release of the hormone oxytocin at orgasm.  Just as females release a ton (technical term…) of oxytocin while breastfeeding, which helps bond mother and child, we also release a bunch during orgasm, which may encourage bonding feelings for our partner, thus discouraging us from subsequently proceeding to mate with another male, presumably increasing our current partner’s chances of passing along his genetic material…nature’s little reward for a job well done, so to speak.  (Yeesh, I make the whole thing sound so romantic…)

  • Lucy Woodhull

    Yet another reason to wish to live in a romance novel – ten out of ten heroines orgasm.  It’s orgasm-palooza!  Plus you always have great hair.

    Orgasms may still be a scientific mystery, but the location of the clit is not.  I think science should distribute more lady-parts diagrams to the general public.  Better than a study that throws up its hands and says “lady bits — how do they work?!”  If I wanted that, I’d date in a frat house.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Between this research and space exploration, I honestly do not comprehend the expense of the military budget. Rocket ships are cool. Female orgasms make the world a better place. We could seriously do without the tomahawk missiles and just look deeper into this mystery and the world would be a better place.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    How do dudes keep missing them? It’s not like the island from lost: it’s in the same place, always.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I think you just won a no-prize…your explanation makes perfect sense. I’m going to start telling it as truth.

  • Trin Miller

    The original article says 1 in 10 women DON’T experience orgasm, not that only 1 in 10 DO experience it.

  • Ashley

    Better than a study that throws up its hands and says “lady bits — how do they work?!”

    The mental imagery of scientists pouring over charts and lady bits, and then doing just that, has made my day a brighter and happier place. :D

  • Beepy

    I think you’re just weird, my partner finds it hard to get off if I don’t, this is at least partially psychological in that it’s something that massively turns him on, but I imagine it could also be physical, when I orgasm certain muscles get very tight, so while there might be more lubrication this is offset by the area becoming tighter.  I believed this was the norm for women who orgasm virginally.

  • Anonymous

    At the moment of orgasm, if the man has already ejaculated into the vagina, the cervix (in its orgasmic contractions) actually dips the entry point into the pool of sperm in the vagina (in missionary position) so it does actually increase chances of conception if the woman comes right after the man does.  This isn’t news at all – I saw it in a sex ed film like 20 years ago.  Apes actually do it kind of missionary quite a bit so it’s probably just that.  Also it pair bonds us.  And encourages women to do it more.  I would argue that the exploding cervix sensation of birthing might discourage women from having sex again – unless it felt really good to do it!  Can we go back to solving the energy/climate crisis now?

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just implying, that’s literally what it says, whether they meant it to or not. I was really confused about that… thanks for looking at the original article – 1 out of 10 NOT having one makes much more sense.

  • Pepijn

    Oh yeah, I agree about the psychological effect. It’s a great feeling to know you brought somebody else to orgasm. :-) And also of course every woman is different, so it’s probably just a coincidence that I’ve had this experience a few times.

  • Anonymous

    As one of those ones, you get used to it, eventually. The upside (at least for me) is that I have a sex drive with zero sexual frustration. I haven’t even been compelled to go to my bunk for years. 

    Then again, I also have zero urge to procreate. Coincidence?  

  • Life Lessons

    Saying that there is no purpose in the female orgasm is sexist BS at its highest. Men don’t need to orgasm to impregnate – sperm does come out of the penis before a man ejaculates and yes you can get pregnant from that.

    Perhaps if a bunch of sexist people who were afraid of women having sexual pleasure and power did this research they might realize that women like sex and have orgasm BECAUSE! Just like men. And if they like it they are more likely to keep doing it so that they will keep having sex and thus procreate AND form bonds with others in the community.

    Is it really that hard to figure out?

  • Joanna

    I’d imagine it would have been awesome to be a test subject in this research.

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t you been paying attention to (pop)evo-psych? Social sciences are a myth!! It would be just ridiculous to suggest that culture or behavior shapes human development! Everything we do is exactly how evolution wants it to be, forever! Until it makes nice men feel bad.

    I think I have to conclude that there are not nearly enough women in hard sciences if this is seriously a difficult question.

  • Anonymous

    :( sorry to hear about the lack of orgasm.  I guess it would give one more time and focus to solve the world’s problems without the fog of sexual energy and frustration…

  • Jill Harness

    I once heard that it can operate as a vacuum to help suck sperm up into the cervix, but I think that was just a theory. Even so, it makes sense.

  • heartbot

    Although the upsuck theory still needs far more research to prove it as fact (the existing research is flawed and/or inconclusive.) I’m even more meh about the whole pair bonding thing.

  • Amanda Jean Carroll

    As ad_astra already pointed out, the article states that 1 in 10 have never had an orgasm, not that only 1 in 10 have. Additionally, never having had an orgasm doesn’t necessarily mean that one is entirely incapable of experiencing one. It was written in a confusing way in the original article, but for the sake of clarity, a correction to the above article is suggested! 

    At any rate, it seems fairly logical that women would have orgasms so that they would also want to have sex, doesn’t it? And also, perhaps, to aid in the choosing of a mate? It seems like whether a mate cares enough about your pleasure to bring you to orgasm would be a fairly good indicator of that mates behavior in the rest of your relationship. 
    There are also theories that it has to do with the idea that a woman can orgasm multiple times, thus inviting copulation with multiple partners and improving the chance of conception. In which case, evolution, you are one KINKY biological mechanism! 

  • Alexander Lorenzen

    Well, I know this isn’t a popular belief nowadays, but I believe God created human beings (we do evolve as a species over time, don’t worry I’m not anti-science) to feel pleasure during sex in an intimate and committed relationship (marriage) [I'm not judging unmarried sexual partners, just saying what I believe]. I don’t think everything can be explained by determining its biological function in furthering the evolution of the human species. I think we were made to love one another, and not just exist for the sole purpose of reproducing. 

    So my point is, women have orgasms so they can be just as intimate during sex as men, and there’s no strictly biological purpose to it.