Tag Archives: orgasm

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.

Sex Without Orgasm Could Lead to Healthier Relationships

One solution to the “widespread disharmony in intimate relationships” is to “change the way you make love”, promotes Marnia Robinson, suggesting that through ‘conventional sex’ we keep our dopamine and prolactin levels “uncomfortably high or uncomfortably low”. Instead, to ensure a stable relationship (through a more stable neurochemistry), we should practice ‘conventional orgasm’-free sex with our partners.

The point is that conventional sex can play havoc with your neurochemistry. Your dopamine levels will be uncomfortably high or uncomfortably low.

This is why the ancient Taoists and other sages throughout history have recommended making love without conventional orgasm. By avoiding the extreme highs that over-stimulate the nerve cells in the primitive brain, you also avoid the temporary lows that accompany recovery. You keep your dopamine levels within ideal ranges. This produces a sense of wellbeing, which promotes harmony in your relationship.

Concluding with:

Both low dopamine and high prolactin make your world look bleak—and increase your craving for better sex or new partners who would raise your dopamine levels (and set you on another addictive cycle of highs and lows). Together these neurochemicals probably account for the “end of the honeymoon,” which nearly all couples experience within a year of marriage. To heal the underlying problem, you may just have to change the way you make love.

Robinson has written a more accessible version of this essay for The Huffington Post, saying

As I learn more about the effects of sex on the brain, I realize it makes sense to take into account how recently, or intensely, we have climaxed. It appears that frequent, or especially intense, orgasm can create tolerance (a need for increasing stimulation to achieve future orgasms). It can also lead to satiety and habituation, which may show up as subconscious irritation, out of sync libidos, performance demands and insecurities. And it may promote the use of risky sexual enhancement measures as lovers try to overcome their built-in biological brakes with force. […] Perhaps we are pressuring ourselves to reach unrealistic benchmarks.

Addendum: Being one who is particularly fond of charts and lists, I rather liked the author’s Feelings & Behaviours Associated with Various Dopamine/Prolactin Levels chart.
Robinson’s essay, within the opening few paragraphs, mentions one of my all-time favourite and most discussed experiments conducted on rats.
I wouldn’t mind getting Dr. Petra Boynton‘s opinion on all of this.