It's all about coming!

The Orgasm Wars*

Evolutionary biologists think female orgasms may pick the best sperm. By Psychology Today Staff, first published on December 31, 1996 - last reviewed on August 14, 2009

For years, scientists have been debating the function of female orgasm. Now they’ve finally figured it out. For women, the psychology of sexual satisfaction turns out to be much more sophisticated than most (male) scientists have been willing to concede. (Of course!)

Ever since Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson made the subject of human sexual response safe for respectable scientists, laboratory studies of the physiologic "how’s" of sexual arousal have flourished. Volunteers have been prodded, filmed, tape-recorded, interviewed, measured, wired, and monitored, quantifying for the annals of science the shortened breath, arched backs and feet, grimacing faces, marginally intentional vocalizations, and jumping blood pressure of human orgasm.

While physiological details abound, fewer scientists have attempted to answer the "why" questions about human orgasm. To those who view human behaviour in an evolutionary framework, which we believe adds an invaluable perspective; male orgasm is no great mystery. It's little more than a physiologically simple ejaculation that is accompanied by a nearly addictive incentive to seek out further sexual encounters. The greater the number of inseminations a male achieves, the better his chances of being genetically represented in future generations.

Compared with the more frequent and easily achieved orgasm men experience, women's sexual climax has remained a mystery. After all, women do not need to experience orgasm in order to conceive. So what is the function of orgasm in females?Scientific Studies on the female orgasm

Darwinian theorists who made early attempts to address female orgasm proposed that orgasm keeps a woman lying down after sex, passively retaining sperm and increasing her probability of conception. Others suggested that it evolved to create a stronger pair bond between lovers, inspiring in women feelings of intimacy and trust toward mates. Some reasoned that orgasm communicates a woman's sexual satisfaction and devotion to a lover.

Most recently, evolutionary psychologists have been exploring the proposition that female orgasm is a sophisticated adaptation that allows women to manipulate -- even without their own awareness -- which of their lovers will be allowed to fertilize their eggs.

Male Nipples?

The diversity of evolutionary hypotheses reflects one general attitude: that the quickened breath, moaning, racing heart, muscular contraction and spasms, and nearly hallucinatory states of pleasure that orgasm inspires constitute a complex physiologic event with apparently functional design. But critics of adaptationist hypotheses have long argued that evolution is more slipshod than purposeful. A few, including Harvard evolutionist Stephen lay Gould, have insisted that female orgasm probably doesn't have a function.

Instead, Gould argues, female orgasm is incidental, caused by an anatomical peculiarity of embryonic development. In embryos, the undifferentiated organ that later becomes the penis in males becomes the clitoris in females. Antiadaptationists like Gould -- whose thinking uncannily parallels Freud's belief that women spend their life in penis envy -- hold that the clitoris is, biologically speaking, an underdeveloped penis; it can let women mimic male orgasm, but it has no functional relevance or evolutionary history of its own.

Well known for his emphasis on chance events and structural constraints as major players in the evolutionary process, Gould sees the supposed functionlessness of female orgasm as a classic illustration why scientists ought not to automatically assume that a trait has adaptive significance. He criticizes other evolutionists for overemphasising natural selection and functionality, and concludes that female orgasm is like the male nipple -- nothing more than developmental baggage.

Many evolutionists have rejected Gould's notion that women's orgasms are developmentally contingent on men's. Unlike a male nipple, adaptationists have pointed out, the female orgasm does something. It inspires strong emotions that can affect bonding and sexual preferences, making women more likely to prefer the company of one mate over another.

Only during the past few years have studies begun to yield evidence that may resolve the baggage-versus-adaptation debate over women's orgasms.

Sperm Competition, with Women Judging

Clues for a reasonable adaptation hypothesis were readily available by the late 1960s, when The British Medical Journal published an exchange of letters about the muscular contractions and uterine suction associated with women's orgasm. In one letter, a doctor reported that a patient's uterine and vaginal contractions during sex with a sailor had pulled off his condom. Upon inspection, the condom was found in her cervical canal! The doctor concluded that female orgasms pull sperm closer to the egg as well.

Yet, it was only three years ago that two British biologists, Robin Baker and Mark Bellis, tested the so-called ‘up-suck’ hypothesis. They were building upon ideas articulated by evolutionary biologist Robert Smith, who suggested that since women don't have orgasms every time out, female orgasm favours some sperm over others. Baker and Bellis sought to learn just how female orgasms might affect which of a lover's sperm is used to fertilize a woman's eggs.

They asked volunteers to keep track of the timing of their orgasms during sex, and, after copulation, to collect male ejaculates from vaginal  flow back -- a  technical term denoting a distinct form of material that emerges from the vagina several hours after sex (scientists have devised a way to collect it!). The team counted sperm from over 300 instances of human copulation.

They discovered that when a woman climaxes any time between a minute before to 45 minutes after her lover ejaculates, she retains significantly more sperm than she does after nonorgasmic sex. When her orgasm precedes her male's by more than a minute, or when she does not have an orgasm, little sperm is retained. Just as the doctors' letters suggested decades earlier, the team's results indicated that muscular contractions associated with orgasm pull sperm from the vagina to the cervix, where it's in better position to reach an egg.

Baker and Bellis proposed that by manipulating the occurrence and timing of orgasm -- via subconscious processes -- women influence the probability of conception. So while a man worries about a woman's satisfaction with him as a lover out of fear she will stray, orgasmic females may be up to something far more clever -- deciding which partner will sire her children.

Good Men Are Hard To Find

Meanwhile, other researchers were making discoveries about the nature of male attractiveness. Behavioural ecologists had noted that female animals, from scorpion flies to barn swallows, prefer males with high degrees of bilateral body symmetry, called developmental stability in the parlance of science.

Development, or the translation of genes into parts of the body, can be perturbed by stresses such as disease, malnutrition, or genetic defects. One measure of developmental instability is deviation from bilateral symmetry in traits like hands, eyes, and even birds' tail feathers. Males whose immune systems are strong, and who forage well, develop with high symmetry, so females who choose symmetrical suitors are securing good genes for their offspring.

Evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill and psychologist Steve Gangestad at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque have tested whether humans also share this preference. And indeed they do. In their studies, women consistently identify as most attractive males whose faces (and other body parts) are most symmetrical.

But this, it turns out, is more than a matter of mere aesthetics. A large and growing body of medical literature documents that symmetrical people are physically and psychologically healthier than their less symmetrical counterparts.

Thornhill and Gangestad reasoned that if women's orgasms are an adaptation for securing good genes for their offspring, women should report more orgasms with relatively symmetrical mates. Collaborating for a second time, the two, along with graduate student Randall Comer, devised some very interesting studies to test this idea.

First they enrolled 86 sexually active heterosexual couples from among the undergraduates. The average age of the partners was 22 and the couples had been together an average of two years. Then the researchers had each person privately -- and anonymously -- answer questions about his or her sexual experiences.

The researchers took facial photographs of each person and analysed the features by computer; they also had them graded for attractiveness by independent evaluators, blind to the study. They measured various body parts to assess bilateral symmetry -- the width of elbow, wrist, hand, ankle, and foot bones, and the length of the second and fifth fingers. Earlier studies had suggested all of these were associated with health.

Indeed, the hypothesized relationship between male symmetry and female orgasm proved to be true, the researchers recently reported in the journal Animal Behaviour (Vol. 50, December). From data on sexual behaviour provided by the women, those whose partners were most symmetrical enjoyed a significantly higher frequency of orgasms during sexual intercourse than did those with less symmetrical mates. Even the data on sexual experience provided by the men showed the women had more orgasms with the most symmetrical men.

Of course, symmetry is a relative thing, and a relative rarity at that. No one is perfectly symmetrical, and very high symmetry scores were few and far between in this sample, as in others. In consolation, Thornhill and Gangestad point out that the differences they are measuring are subtle, and most require the use of callipers to detect.

What's Love Got To Do With It?

It's important to note what did not correlate with female orgasm during sex. The degree of women’s rForeplay is sooo good!omantic attachment did not increase the frequency of orgasm; nor did the sexual experience of either partner! Conventional wisdom holds that birth control and protection from disease increase orgasm rates, since they allow women to feel more relaxed during intercourse. But no relationship emerged between female orgasm and the use of contraception.

Nor can the study results be explained by the possibility that the symmetrical males were dating especially uninhibited and orgasmic women. Their partners did not have more orgasms during foreplay or in other sexual activities. Male symmetry correlated with a high frequency of female orgasm only during copulation

The findings support evolutionary psychologists' "good genes" hypothesis: Women have orgasm more often with their most symmetrical lovers, increasing the likelihood of conceiving these men's children. Well, that's how it would have worked for millennia, before condoms and the Pill.

And it is for the pre contraceptive Stone Age that our brains seem to be built; the agricultural and industrial revolutions are flashes in the geological pan, far too recent in evolutionary terms to have fundamentally changed the way we experience emotions or sex. To argue, as may champions of chance like Gould, that sexual attraction has remained completely arbitrary throughout evolution seems increasingly unwarranted.

Cheating Hearts

Here's the cruellest part of Thornhill and Gangestad's findings: The males who most inspire high-sperm-retention orgasmic responses from their sexual partners don't invest more in their relationships than do other men. Studies show that symmetrical men have the shortest courtships before having sexual intercourse with the women they date. They invest the least money and time in them. And they cheat on their mates more often than guys with less well-balanced bodies. So much for the beleaguered bonding hypothesis, that wants us to believe that women with investing, caring mates will have the most orgasms.

The women who took part in the study were no saints, either. They sometimes faked orgasm. Their fakery was not related to male symmetry. Faking, however, was more common among women who reported flirting with other men. Clearly earlier theories were not too far off the mark when they proposed that a man looks for cues of sexual satisfaction from his mate for reassurance about her fidelity. Faking orgasms might be the easiest way for the woman with many lovers to avoid the suspicions of her main partner.

Baker and Bellis found that when women do engage in infidelity, they retain less sperm from their main partners (their husbands, in many cases), and more often experience copulatory orgasms during their trysts, retaining semen from their secret lovers. Taken together, these findings suggest that female orgasm is less about bonding with nice guys than about careful, subconscious evaluation of their lovers' genetic endowment.

Exhibit B

Patterns of female orgasm point to one important conclusion about our evolutionary past -- that sexual restraint did not prevail among women. But that's only part of the evidence. Exhibit B is male ejaculation.

Baker and Bellis found that the number of sperm in men's ejaculate changes, and it varies according to the amount of time that romantic partners have spent apart. The longer a woman's absence, the more sperm there is in her partner's ejaculate upon the couple's reunion. Males increase ejaculate size, it seems, to match the increased risk that a mate was inseminated by a competitor.

In an ancestral environment of truly monogamous mating, there would have been no need for females to have orgasm or for men to adjust ejaculate size. Both are adaptations to a spicy sex life.

Male Bias

Darwin proposed that female animals' preferences have shaped male ornaments such as peacocks' tails. But his audience -- largely male scientists -- laughed off his theory of sexual selection on the grounds that females (human or otherwise) are too fickle to exert the necessary selection pressure.

Today, evolutionary biology is no longer so completely a male discipline. But many male evolutionists nevertheless carry old biases. The notion that female orgasm is anything other than a developmental legacy leaving females able to imitate "the real thing" will be difficult for some to accept. But as uncomfortable as it may make many of us men -- including male scientists -- a woman's orgasm appears to be a more complex and discriminating comment about her lovers' merits than are our own.

Explosive Findings!

If we use his study's findings to understand how we humans are designed to behave in the sexual domain, says Randy Thomhill, Ph.D., then we are better equipped to deal with problems that arise in relationships. He points to the following results as among those we should take to heart:

A woman's capacity for orgasm depends not on her partner's sexual skill but on her subconscious evaluation of his genetic merits.

Women's orgasm has little to do with love. Or experience.

Good men are indeed hard to find. (And hard men are sooo good to find! [Smotp])

The men with the best genes make the worst mates.

Women are no more built for monogamy than men are. They are designed to keep their options open.

Women fake orgasm to divert a partner's attention from their infidelities!

*The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily representative of the views of the owners of this site

More On Orgasms

orgasmIt's the only thing that feels better than diving into a cool lake on a sweltering day, biting into a juicy cheeseburger when you're starving, or even getting your wallet back after losing it on vacation abroad. An orgasm is that good. Which is why it bites that it doesn't happen more often. According to several major surveys, only 25 percent of women always climax during sex with a partner. The rest of us either hit — or miss — depending on the night, or never experience a female orgasm during intercourse at all. Compared to the male version (more than 90 percent of men get their cookies off 100 percent of the time), the female "O"; is a fleeting phenomenon. The question is: Why? What the hell was Mother Nature thinking?

That's what evolutionary biologists have been trying to figure out — with little success. The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution by Elisabeth Lloyd, Ph.D., a biology professor at Indiana University, shoots holes in virtually every theory that has ever attempted to pinpoint an evolutionary purpose to the female climax. "The clitoris has the indispensable function of promoting sexual excitement, which induces the female to have intercourse and become pregnant," Dr. Lloyd says. "But the actual incidence of the reflex of orgasm has never been tied to successful reproduction." Translation: Because women can and do get pregnant without climaxing, scientists can't figure out why we orgasm at all.

The good news is that most scientists do agree on the how. Here's what they know, so far — and how that knowledge can help the average girl hit her peak more often. Because even if the female orgasm does turn out to be pointless in terms of sustaining the species, it still feels pretty damn good.

While You Were Blissing Out...

When in the throes of an orgasm, you wouldn't notice if your dog, your cat, and your cockatiel started rearranging the furniture. Which makes it unlikely that you could track all the subtle changes that are happening in your body. Luckily, famous sex researchers William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson have done it for you in their seminal work, Human Sexuality. Here's what they found:

That warm, sexy rush you feel during foreplay is the result of blood heading straight to your vagina and clitoris. Around this time, the walls of the vagina start to secrete beads of lubrication that eventually get bigger and flow together.

As you become more turned on, blood continues to flood the pelvic area, breathing speeds up, heart rate increases, nipples become erect, and the lower part of the vagina narrows in order to grip the penis while the upper part expands to give it some place to go. If all goes well (i.e., the phone doesn't ring and your partner knows what he's doing), an incredible amount of nerve and muscle tension builds up in the genitals, pelvis, buttocks, and thighs — until your body involuntarily releases it all at once in a series of intensely pleasurable waves, aka your orgasm.

The big bang is the moment when the uterus, vagina, and anus contract simultaneously at 0.8-second intervals. A small orgasm may consist of three to five contractions; a biggie, 10 to 15. Many women report feeling different kinds of orgasms — clitoral, vaginal, and many combinations of the two. According to Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., co-author of The G-Spot and Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality, the reason may simply be that different parts of the vagina were stimulated more than others, and so have more tension to release. Also, muscles in other parts of the body may contract involuntarily — hence the clenched toes and goofy faces. As for the brain, a small-scale study at the Netherlands' University of Groningen, found that areas involving fear and emotion are actually deactivated during orgasm (not so if you fake it).

After the peak of pleasure, the body usually slides into a state of satisfied relaxation — but not always. "Like their male counterparts, women can experience pelvic heaviness and aching if they do not reach orgasm," says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist and author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. In fact, Dr. Kerner says, "many women complain that a single orgasm isn't enough to relieve the build-up of sexual tension," which can leave us with our own "blue balls." Don't worry: Like the male version, it's harmless.

Big "O" Blockers

So what goes wrong on those nights when the fuse gets lit but the bomb never explodes? "Nine times out of 10 it's because [the woman isn't] getting enough continuous clitoral stimulation," Dr. Kerner says. Often, "A woman will get close to orgasm, her partner picks up on it, and [then he either] orgasms immediately or changes what he was doing."

On TopThat's why Dr. Kerner frequently recommends the woman-on-top position. Because you control the angle and speed of the thrusts (try a back-and-forth motion so that your clitoris rubs against your partner's abdomen), it allows for the most constant clitoral stimulation. Another solution is to find a position that mimics how you masturbate. If you have solo sex by lying on your belly and rubbing your clitoris with your hands tucked beneath you, then your man can enter you from behind in that position. By watching you he'll also get a better sense of the stimulation you need.

"Spectatoring" is another problem that can trip women up. "It's when a woman is too concerned with her appearance and/or performance to actually enjoy herself," Dr. Kerner says. There's no way you're going to have an orgasm if you're fretting about your cellulite or stressing over whether your newest as-seen-on-late-night-cable moves feel good for him. Instead, you have to let the erotic sensations register in your mind. Focus. Breathe. Let go.  "It may seem counter intuitive," he says, "but you need to relax to build sexual tension."

(In my [smotp] experience many women are overly concerned about the noises they make when the come, ‘I sound like a dying animal…’ is perhaps the most common phrase. Girls, don’t worry, seriously, it is a turn on for us men when you scream in pleasure.)

The best preparation for a big orgasm is probably a long, steamy shower, full-body massages by and for your man — or 10 minutes of steady oral sex, if you can get it. It's not so much your body that needs the R&R as your mind. "Many women need a transition period between dealing with the stress of everyday life and feeling sexual," Dr. Kerner says. "A few minutes of foreplay usually isn't enough." Doing something ritualistic and soothing that will clear your head of to-do lists, work issues, family problems, and whatever else might be distracting you from connecting with your body is essential to feeling ecstatic.

A Hormone Worth Getting Excited About

The most fascinating orgasmic side effect of all happens in the brain. During the big moment, the hypothalamus releases extra oxytocin into your system. Called the "cuddle hormone," oxytocin has been correlated with the urge to bond, be affectionate, and protect (new moms are drunk on the stuff). Since an increase in oxytocin has been shown to strengthen the uterine contractions that transport sperm to the egg, those findings are giving evolutionary biologists new hope. According to Dr. Lloyd, it's conceivable that the additional oxytocin gives enough of a boost to contractions that orgasm could play a part in conception after all. "Of all the avenues of orgasm research, I think the oxytocin avenue is the most promising," she says. It's even been hypothesized that having an orgasm and releasing that tide of oxytocin is a woman's subconscious way of approving of her partner as a potential dad.Click here to read more on Oxytocin

The latest news is that this cuddle hormone might also be linked to our ability to trust. In a recent study at the University of Zurich, scientists asked 178 male college students to play an investment game with a partner they'd never met. Half of the students used an oxytocin nasal spray (not yet available in the United States) beforehand; half used a placebo. Those with the spray containing oxytocin were more than twice as likely to feel comfortable giving all of their money to their anonymous (but legitimate) partner. If oxytocin can help women feel more at ease about letting go and intensify orgasmic contractions, we might all want a bottle of the stuff stashed in our bedside drawers someday soon

Reprinted from Women's Health: http://bit.ly/SXF7hR

8 Top Masturbation Tips from the readers of Women’s Health

Glass Toy8. I think the glass toys are the best. They are hard and transfer heat very well. You can even pop them in the fridge for a really good time! I bought a few from and they are not only fantastic to look at....but they make me orgasm like I never have before....um...I'll be back in a few!

--sillysue252

7. My boyfriend is overseas in Iraq and while he's away, I have no choice but to take care of my needs myself...along with the help of a few choice toys. There is value in a few good toys and rechargeable batteries!

6. I like using an adjustable showerhead...I've used it myself on many occasions! Works like a charm every time! Combine the showerhead on your clitoris with a good waterproof vibrating dildo on the G-spot and OMG...you're in heaven! Luckily for me, my man comes home in December and our appetites for love-making are over the top. He'll be in for a wonderful homecoming! I can't wait!

--denidoll

5. For an intense O, I'll use my small vibe inside me while flicking my bean (best phrase ever) with one hand and teasing my butt with my other hand. Good lord, I'm going to have to go and relieve myself in my office bathroom now! Enjoy yourselves, ladies!

--Boobles1975

4. The best tool by far has been my Rabbit vibrator/clitoris tickler. It always gets the job done and quickly if I just want a "quickie." LOL!

--srhagelin

3. My best advice for women would be to find your G-spot! Seriously, you HAVE to if you haven't already! I masturbated for years trying to find it by myself, and one day I searched and found a very graphic explanation on a web site, tried it and OMG! BEST thing EVER!

--maryone

2. My preferred method is to use the pulsating showerhead in the morning. You can change the spray settings, slow or fast, and you can move it around to simulate a tongue. I've had some really good, earth-shaking orgasms this way. Try it—you'll love it!

--Splat63

And for number one… two recommended the very same product….Three words: Hitachi Magic Wand. Get it at drugstore.com. Use a towel between it and your privates because it's pretty strong. The thing works quickly, too. Best $40 I ever spent.

-- midori

IFind the toy that suits you was never able to make myself orgasm until about a month ago. I am 28 years old, and have bought everything. I finally bought this massager kit called Wanda. It’s like the one Samantha has in Sex & The City. It comes with the Hitachi Magic Wand and these purple rubber attachments, and OMG the first time I used it, I just knew something felt different. I can now orgasm--and I mean a lot.

-- newgurl2008


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