September 7, 2011
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? And more curiously, why do so few women — 1 out of 10 — actually have them? 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.


Only 10% of women have orgasms?!

Because…. that seems incorrect. 

I’m pretty fucking sure more than 10% of women masturbate, and that’s a means to orgasm. Right? RIGHT??

Okay, I’m about to go have an elusive female orgasm (or several) because I’m suddenly feeling extremely insecure about my ability to come. What if they take it away? WHAT IF??!?

There’s no fucking way. Maybe only 1 in 10 women report having orgasms during intercourse. But I HIGHLY doubt only 1 in 10 women have ever had an orgasm in her lifetime.

Plus, why are scientists still arguing about this? Female orgasms obviously have an advantage when you (male scientists!) stop implicitly assuming rape is an evolutionarily advantageous mating strategy AND if you stop projecting contemporary sexism back into prehistory.

I think it’s safe to assume that our ancient forebears had no fucking clue how reproduction actually worked. They likely understood that sex had something to do with it, but I doubt they even suspected the link between ejaculation and fertilization, especially given that human female ovulation is not obvious to the naked eye. Cavemen would have sex with cavewomen and sometimes a baby would be the result, sometimes not.

It’s likely that ancient humans thought women were the main (re)producers of life, i.e. had the most control over when they conceived. Raping women randomly might get you offspring, but it might also get you kicked the fuck out of your tribe/village/whatever.

We also know for a fact that human children are helpless for a long time after birth. A woman recovering from childbirth couldn’t go out and bring home a fucking wooly mammoth on her own. She needed a partner (or several) to help support her and her children while they were helpless. Given this (and some evidence from studying the few preindustrialized peoples left living in remote corners of the earth), it’s likely that early humans raised children communally. That would ensure evolutionary success, not just a bunch of cave dudes putting their cave dicks into unwilling cave vaginas. Ensuring your genetic material survives is not necessarily just about reproducing as many kiddies as possible—it’s also about making sure they actually survive into adulthood!

You can’t ensure your bundles of genetic material (children) survive all the rigors of a harsh primitive existence without a little help from not only your baby mamas, but your baby mamas’ mamas, papas, cousins, sisters, etc. And I doubt those necessarily tightly knit, extended family/kinship networks in early human societies would tolerate the men basically raping the women. We’re inherently social creatures and coerced sex is inherently anti-social.

OK, so winding down: female orgasms make evolutionary sense because orgasms feel fucking great! Women who feel good are more likely to stick with a particular partner (or two, or three, if you believe that ancient peoples were poly, which I do). Figuring out how female sexual pleasure works is something that comes with time and necessitates a sensitive partner…not a rapist. Given everything I’ve discussed above, it makes more sense to think that female orgasms are not merely a vestigial scrap tossed to women, but something that ensured bonding among partners, which was necessary for evolutionary success.

That’s the problem with speculation about evolution: If you start off with a bad, sexist, patriarchal, culturally-specific premise like, “female orgasms are useless”, then your theories are going to be bad. Oftentimes, shifting to a feminist perspective can answer questions that many scientists have deemed mysterious.

reblogging for downlo’s AWESOME commentary.

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