“A lot of women think that ’selfish’ is a dirty word, but I think it’s healthy to want to shift the balance back to thinking about your own experience at least as much as you think about your partner’s.”
–Vanessa Marin, Sex Therapist
Though the female orgasm has been around since before humans were human, it is still something of a mystery. “Getting there” tends to be trickier for women than for men, and because it is not necessary for reproduction, some people think going the distance just isn’t worth the effort. I think the stubborn persistence of the female orgasm “mystery” is rooted in patriarchy. In their book “Sex at Dawn”, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá theorize that as tribes abandoned nomadic life and settled into agricultural communities, men solidified their dominance over women and land simultaneously. As women lost their autonomy and power, they became pawns in the property game to unite and enrich families. I wonder how this breathtaking drop in status affected women’s sexual satisfaction. Indeed, many cultures find the very existence of women’s orgasms to be so threatening to the power structure that they eliminate the possibility of their existence altogether. According to the World Health Organization, some 200 million women alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation, some even in Michigan.
Though most women get to keep their clitorises, how well we know how to use them is, I believe, some measure of the success of the women’s liberation movement.
Below is a rundown of a few popular explanations as to why women orgasm, and my personal take on these.
The existence of the female orgasm has not yet been scientifically proven and therefore does not currently exist. Ok, raise your hand if you think a bunch of guys came up with that theory.
To make up for having to tolerate menstrual cramps, pregnancy, and birth. Totally agree— Giving birth is insanely painful. I would feel so cheated if I couldn’t orgasm.
To make reproduction more attractive. No way. Trying for a baby sex is not anywhere as good as recreational sex.
A holdover from ancient times when females would ovulate only when there was the possibility of copulation. According to Pavličev and Günter Wagner, “male-induced ovulation” predates spontaneous ovulation, with spontaneous ovulation arising in the common ancestor of primates and rodents 75 million years ago. So we lost the twitchy nose and tail but kept the orgasm after more than 75 million years of evolution? I have my doubts.
To promote female bonding with her partner. It certainly does that. I have done some crazy things to get to bond with a good lover. But why wouldn’t it result in a woman seeking out the affection of many lovers in search of the best orgasm? When pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead studied the Samoan people in the mid-1920s, she found that families and sexual bonding were decidedly not in the context of monogamy. Besides, women bond for many more practical reasons than sexual ones. No on the bonding theory.
A biological fluke. Elisabeth Lloyd, professor of biology at Indiana University and author of “The Case of the Female Orgasm,” favors the theory that female orgasms are simply a happy quirk of embryo development. “It is only at eight weeks that there is a surge of male hormones that turns the genitals into male genitals,” she said. While men need to orgasm in order to transfer sperm, women, said Lloyd, end up with the nerve and muscle tissues for orgasm as “a fantastic bonus.”
Maybe God gave women the orgasm as a consolation prize. Maybe it was conceived as a tool to promote emotional bonding. But these ideas feel a bit manipulative to me. Personally, I prefer the fantastic bonus theory. Because it is!!! And ladies, listen up: it’s your Civil Right to cum as hard and often as you please! So find out what you like, and in a nice and sexy way, show your partner how to give it to you.