Tag Archives: sexuality

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.

The Ambiguity of Sex

I’m not a big fol­low­er of ath­let­ics, but two news items have some­how made their way to my men­tal inbox from the IAAF World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­on­ships in Ber­lin: how ridicu­lously fast Usain Bolt is, and the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Caster Semenya.

On the lat­ter, Caster is cur­rently under­go­ing gender veri­fic­a­tion tests and in the pro­cess has garnered a lot of press attention—attention that appears to come from people who are vastly uneducated on the issues being debated. The Nation looks at these issues and describe­s how sexu­al­ity is more ambigu­ous than you might think.

Let’s leave aside that being male is not the be-all, end-all of ath­let­ic suc­cess. A country’s wealth, coach­ing facil­it­ies, nutri­tion and oppor­tun­ity determ­ine the cre­ation of a world-class ath­lete far more than a Y chro­mo­some or a penis ever could.

[…] Gender–that is, how we com­port and con­ceive of ourselves–is a remark­ably flu­id social con­struc­tion. Even our phys­ic­al sex is far more ambigu­ous and flu­id than is often ima­gined or taught. Med­ic­al sci­ence has long acknow­ledged the exist­ence of mil­lions of people whose bod­ies com­bine ana­tom­ic­al fea­tures that are con­ven­tion­ally asso­ci­ated with either men or women and/or have chro­mo­somal vari­ations from the XX or XY of women or men. Many of these “inter­sex” indi­vidu­als, estim­ated at one birth in every 1,666 in the United States alone, are leg­ally oper­ated on by sur­geons who force tra­di­tion­al norms of gen­italia on new­born infants.

There are a num­ber of good art­icles writ­ten on this, one of which is this excerpt from Robert Peel’s Eve’s Rib (that dis­cusses the case of María José Martínez Patiño), and the Wiki­pe­dia art­icles I’ve linked to above.

Female Sexuality Research: What Women Want

The ques­tion ‘What does a woman want?’ was, accord­ing to Freud, “The great ques­tion that has nev­er been answered”. One per­son try­ing to answer this ques­tion, how­ever, is Meredith Chivers—a psy­cho­lo­gist spe­cial­ising in sexu­al beha­viour whose work was extens­ively dis­cussed in The New York Times earli­er this year.

The art­icle, focus­ing on female sexu­al­ity, is eye-open­ing in many ways, espe­cially in show­ing the gulf between male and female sexu­al­ity.

The men, on aver­age, respon­ded gen­it­ally in what Chivers terms “cat­egory spe­cif­ic” ways. […] The men’s minds and gen­it­als were in agree­ment.

All was dif­fer­ent with the women. No mat­ter what their self-pro­claimed sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, they showed, on the whole, strong and swift gen­it­al arous­al when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men. […] With the women, espe­cially the straight women, mind and gen­it­als seemed scarcely to belong to the same per­son.

via Green Oas­is

What Maketh A Man?

The Observ­er asks what five ‘bril­liant’ writers believe ‘makes a man’. Jack­ie Collins goes for tal­ent, Tony Par­sons votes for pride, and Jonath­an Coe says chiv­alry… and con­fu­sion?

If I’m con­fused about mas­culin­ity, in any case, I think that puts me in pretty safe com­pany – the com­pany of every oth­er think­ing male in the coun­try. Because after the New Man débâcle came the 1990s waste­lands of Lad Cul­ture, and where does that leave us now? Our sexu­al polit­ics are in the same state as our nation­al polit­ics: con­fused, moribund, rud­der­less. Is it time to try to recov­er some essen­tials, to see if there might pos­sibly have been some vir­tue in that baby we so ruth­lessly threw out with all the chau­vin­ist bathwa­ter?

It’s actu­ally a good ques­tion to ask of your­self; What makes me a (wo)man?

As I said last month, accord­ing to Esquire I may not be all man.