Free Dartmouth
5/17/2005 09:21:00 PM | Valerie

Critic takes on logic of female orgasm
by Dinitia Smith New York Times News Service May. 16, 2005 01:22 PM
"...Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a philosopher of science and professor of biology at Indiana University...argues in the book, "The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution," has no evolutionary function at all.
Rather, Lloyd says the most convincing theory is one put forward in 1979 by Dr. Donald Symons, an anthropologist. That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts - a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.
In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Lloyd said. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined.
In boys, the penis develops, along with the potential to have orgasms and ejaculate, while "females get the nerve pathways for orgasm by initially having the same body plan."
Nipples in men are similarly vestigial, Lloyd pointed out. While nipples in woman serve a purpose, male nipples appear to be simply left over from the initial stage of embryonic development.
The female orgasm, she said, "is for fun.""

How much of our understanding/perspective (or lack there of) of the female orgasm is based on reality and how much of it is based on cultural constructions? It is clearly a normal physiological bodily function like anything else, but it's never guaranteed; and let's face it, it's kind of odd (oddly wonderful that is). The social desire for it is not universal. Or is it? women are women, clitori are clitori.
With the movement of gender equality between men and women, feminists do not desire to be men, but instead to enjoy the same privileges. (perhaps oversimplified) Does this include guaranteed orgasm? (not that all men are guaranteed to orgasm....) Is this an inherently flawed ideal- that is- to expect to deserve the same physical privileges as men? Should we (women) embrace our lack of orgasm? Accept the fact that we will never be as orgasmic as men? Or work extra hard to get it?

"Inis Beag is a small island off the coast of Ireland. The inhabitants of the island have never heard of french-kissing, kissing the breasts, hand to penis contact (hand-jobs), cunnilingus (going down on a woman) or fellatio (going down on a man). Sex education is virtually non-existent, and it is assumed that newly-weds will just figure it out. The husband always initiates sex, which only takes place with the man on top. Female orgasm is a foreign concept, doubted to exist. And if it does exist, it is considered deviant (2).
In Mangaia, an island in the South Pacific, sex is actively encouraged. Mother's are proud of their daughters multiple sex partners. The average "good" girl has had 3-4 boyfriends between the ages of 13 and 20 and ALL women learn to have orgasms. A boy of 13 years gets serious sexual instruction. He is taught, at this tender age, how to perform cunnilingus and how to bring his partner to orgasm (perhaps several times) before he has his own orgasm. After this theoretical training, he has sex with an older, experienced woman. She gives him the practical training required for his sexual future. She shows him various positions and teaches him how to hold back until his partner is on the cusp of orgasm (3)."

(2) Hyde, Janet Shibley. Understanding Human Sexuality. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990 (p. 8).
(3) Hyde, Janet Shibley. Understanding Human Sexuality. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990 (p. 8).

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