Female Orgasm as Mate Screening

Where­as Robin­son sug­gests the evol­u­tion­ary under­pin­nings of orgasm lie in the ‘Yes!’ factor of gene con­tinu­ation, in How Women Got Their Curves and Oth­er Just-So Stor­ies: Evol­u­tion­ary Enig­mas Dav­id Barash and Judith Lipt­on believe it could be, at least for the poten­tially multi-orgas­mic female, an “anti-infant­i­cide insur­ance policy” that spurred women to mate suc­cess­ively with mul­tiple males, or, more likely in the authors’ opin­ions, an evol­u­tion­ary mech­an­ism for mono­gamy (link to chapter five from the afore­men­tioned book, titled The Enig­mat­ic Orgasm).

As Robin Han­son explains quite suc­cinctly, female orgasm could be evolution’s way of allow­ing females to screen pro­spect­ive mates—a meth­od of enabling females to dis­cov­er the most com­pat­ible and suit­able males.

First sug­ges­ted by Dav­id P. Barash nearly three dec­ades ago, the idea is that orgasm might be a way a woman’s body speaks to her brain, “telling her­self” that she has been hav­ing sex with a suit­able partner—that is, one who is not wor­ried about being dis­placed by a com­pet­it­or, who is self-con­fid­ent and unhur­ried enough to be sat­is­fy­ing to her. […]

Research on a large cap­tive group of Japan­ese macaque mon­keys is also sug­gest­ive. […] Dur­ing 238 hours of obser­va­tions in which 240 cop­u­la­tions were observed, female orgas­mic responses occurred in 80 (33 per­cent). Of these orgasms, the highest fre­quency took place when high-rank­ing males were cop­u­lat­ing with low-rank­ing females, and the low­est between low-rank­ing males and high-rank­ing females. […] Maybe, [female orgasm] is designed to be more than a little hard to get, adapt­ive pre­cisely because it can’t be too read­ily summoned, so that when it arrives, it means some­thing. […]

What about fak­ing orgasm? […] Orgas­mic pre­tense might increase the man’s con­fid­ence regard­ing patern­ity of any off­spring, build­ing on his likely assump­tion that a sexu­ally sat­is­fied woman wouldn’t have sought to mate with someone else. […] [This] would dimin­ish the like­li­hood that the man will engage in “mate guard­ing,” thereby facil­it­at­ing a woman’s abil­ity to engage in extrapair cop­u­la­tions. […]

Rates of extrapair patern­ity are about 2 per­cent in many human pop­u­la­tions and about 10 per­cent in tra­di­tion­al soci­et­ies. … One study has found that women are sig­ni­fic­antly more orgas­mic when paired with men who are more sym­met­ric. […] [and] are more likely to exper­i­ence ostens­ibly “high sperm reten­tion orgasms” – that is, cli­maxes that occurred in close tem­por­al prox­im­ity to the man’s.