The religion of orgasm: utilitarianism projected into sex life; efficiency versus indolence; coition reduced to an obstacle to be got past as quickly as possible in order to reach an ecstatic explosion, the only true goal of love-making and of the universe. Milan Kundera, Slowness
I dunno, maybe some articles should be marked gender specific or something. I mention this because I struggled a bit with a column in the December 12 edition of the Huffington Post. An essay by Kristen Mark dealt with a topic we guys are famous (infamous) for not contemplating so much, namely, the female orgasm. Thus, my initial reaction in coming upon Ms. Mark’s piece about the significance, if any, of the female orgasm in evolution was both immediate and confident: Good gracious, heaven’s to Betsy, OMFG! What brought that up? Of course this phenomenon serves an evolutionary purpose. How could it be otherwise? Why have it if not?
At which point I began reading Dr. Mark’s essay.
Kristen Mark, Ph.D., is a behavioral health scientist with an academic background in psychology and public health. Her specialty is sexuality and romantic relationships, according to her blog. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky in Health Promotion and also serves as Managing Editor for Good in Bed. And an occasional columnist for the Huffington Post.
The essay in Huff Post begins with an admission that, like me and most guys, even Dr. Mark, an expert on sexuality and romantic relationships, hasn’t given this question a lot of thought! What’s more, sexual scientists don’t agree on what role, if any, the female orgasm played and/or still plays in evolution. But, the good news is that studies shed a bit of light. Research points to two different hypotheses on the role of the female orgasm (henceforth the FO): the byproduct hypothesis and the mate-choice hypothesis.
The byproduct hypothesis denies an evolutionary role for the FO. It holds that women experience orgasm because of men’s adaptation to it. I don’t even understand this hypothesis, as explained by Dr. Mark in the Huff Post. Maybe you can figure it out. Here’s the deal: Men have sensitive orgasmic penises. These appendages reward seed spreading. Both male and female genitals develop from the same anatomical structure. The genitals of fetuses are undifferentiated during the first two months of gestation. This fact somehow gives women the benefit of this pleasure reward. Go figure. As noted, this is over my head. If you know what it means, good on you. But please – no need to write me with an explanation. It’s not necessary for a person my age to know everything about the FO. I know more about the sneeze than I do the FO. For example, I know a sneeze is 1/10th of an orgasm. When Jarod Kintz discovered this, he said, Perhaps that’s why it takes me 18 seconds to sneeze.
Dr. Marks suggests the mate-choice hypothesis might be a little easier to follow. That was good news. This hypothesis is that the FO evolved to attract mates. The FO favors males who might want a long-term relationship and/or males with higher quality sperm. How that works is not explained, unfortunately.
Other studies suggest that the FO boosts a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Yet another found that women who faked orgasm performed a greater number of mate retention behaviors than women who didn’t fake orgasm. This is said to support the mate-choice hypothesis.
A better hypothesis, IMHO, is the How was it for you? hypothesis (my term) – that the FO, in concert with the MO (male orgasm), produces post-coital pair-bonding. Anxieties and hormones (oxytocin in females) are released and cigarettes are smoked (well, not anymore but we’re talking about evolution here so an historical perspective must be maintained for scientific purposes) and genuine tenderness and affections follow. Usually.
MAYBE NO EVOLUTIONARY PURPOSE
On the other side, there are reasons to conclude that the FO did not and does not have an evolutionary role. Among these contra factors are the following:
- The FO occurs infrequently during intercourse. If the FO were adaptive, you’d think a FO would be at least as common as a MO (male orgasm) during intercourse.
- Relative to masturbation, penile-vaginal intercourse takes forever to reach paydirt, so to speak. If the FO were all about evolution, things would work the other way around.
- You’ve heard the ad expression, Where’s the beef? Well, with regard to the FO and evolution, Where’s the pleasure in intercourse – for the female?
Well, where does this leave us regarding the basic issue of the role of the FO in human evolution? I think it leaves us a little unsatisfied, yearning for more, disappointed in our partner (i.e., the scientists who should know about this matter with greater evidentiary depth of understanding) and looking somewhere else to get our needs met.
Maybe there are other ways the FO connects with evolution, unrelated to spreading seeds, cultivating the fields and keeping the game going. Maybe the FO and the MO as well prepare us for the end, an idea captured by Peter Redgrove but not cited in the scientific literature: We rehearse for the big death through the little death of orgasm, through erotic living. Death as transfiguration. On the other hand, this might not be one of the other ways, though there almost surely are other explanations.
I’m thinking right now of another source for help on the matter, someone like the writer Benson Bruno, whose contribution to the topic was to observe: When I’m thinking about the plot arc of a romance and I want to shape my climax, I make origasmi.
Whatever the case might be on this important question, I think that all sensitive New Age guys should pay more attention to the FO and less to the MO.