The Female Orgasm

It’s not quite the Christmas season, despite marketing hubris to convince us of the contrary. In southern Europe, I don’t think even the shops are convinced people are actually going to buy things. Poor folks certainly won’t, and the rich are wondering what lies further down the road. Economic tightening has profound psychological effects, aside from the obvious financial ones.

Humans are different from other animals in various ways, some of which are such a paradigm shift that they justify the existence of a higher being. From the evolutionary perspective, our capacity for profound communication, tool building, and the development of knowledge systems (like this one) is remarkable. All this is a radical departure from the behaviour of other animals.

And it is baffling, even in evolutionary terms. One of the characteristics that regularly appears on the list is the female orgasm. No one thinks a man’s orgasm is wierd because it’s required for the delivery of sperm, and therefore has a reproductive function. Humans have an obsession with justifying stuff. And actually that whole delivery thing is down to circuitry. One of the potential complications of lower back surgery in guys is that the doc can mess up your wiring, which leads to a condition called retrograde ejaculation. Yup, it shoots backward―best birth control in the world.

So there are multiple theories that a woman’s orgasm developed in order to make the ladies more attractive to guys, or that it is an biological requirement. One of my favorites, from the feminist angle, argues that the lack of a “refractory” period (their quotes, and what an amusing way to put it) indicates that this is

…evidence of an almost insatiable sexual desire in women. For these theorists, monogamy is an unnatural instrument of political repression.

I agree that monogamy in humans is unnatural, which is why there are so many rules about not having sex, but no particular regulations about having it. But the repression isn’t political, it is moral and religious. It’s not as if the U.K. Prime Minister’s dissent this weekend was related to sexual issues, e.g. on the grounds that other European nations have sex, the English have hot water bottles. Although a connection might be made, since the clause was about the financial markets screwing everyone else. Blair turned England into London, and an agricultural and manufacturing economy into the square mile tertiary sector, so it’s unsurprising that the rest of Britain was subjugated by the financial services.  

But getting screwed by investment banks is very different from the real thing. The first case is a zero sum game, and is causing terrible hardship in many countries. When people have become desperately poor, they will reverse the procedure, and seize the money from where it has gone. The bank robber Willie Sutton famously explained why he robbed financial institutions: that’s where the money was.  But sex, if done properly (or perhaps improperly), is a positive sum game.

There are theories about face to face copulation in humans, about the clitoris being an evolutionary relic as the female penis, and a host of other things. Much of this stuff comes out of psychology journals. I read a number of papers from such journals when I was an undergraduate, and some were priceless. In one, some scientists wanted to test whether bird migration was controlled by the earth’s magnetic field.

The mysteries of bird migration have been investigated in various ways, such as tying the poor buggers to a platform in a planetarium and watching them turn to adjust to the changing night skies above. In this case, the researchers hung magnets on their feet to test the magnetic field theory. I wonder whether the birds were more concerned about true north or excess ballast.

Back in the day, I had to go to the library to have this much fun, but nowadays you have the net at your fingertips. If a clitoris is a female penile relic, then I would expect to find it in other animals. Searching for stuff like this is much more fun than finding it, and a snip from a book entitled Male and Female Circumcision asserts that

For over a hundred years, anatomical research has confirmed that both the penile and clitoral prepuce are richly innervated, specific erogenous tissue…

Well, thank goodness for sound science, that’s all I can say. The article reveals that all female primates are the proud owners of a clitoris, which kind of wrecks the theory that the human clitoris is close at hand, so to speak, for face to face intercourse.

Or for that matter, that the female orgasm evolved to attract the human male. Furthermore, the clitoris is a universal feature of mammals, although I was never taught that in school biology. In the case of dogs (well, bitches) it is located internally, which seems like a sensible place to put it. The rather overinformative Pet Care Gt tells us that in the canine example 

a red bunch as large as an average-sized tomato protrudes from the vulva… and can be as large as a small grapefruit.

What follows that may well be too much information. The site also deals with birds, reptiles, and fish, but I thought further investigation might spoil my appetite for lunch.

 In western society, the role of the female orgasm has increased, and can be seen as an indicator of a better balance in society, relationships, and increased human welfare. Which is definitely a good thing. Sex is a source of fun, and contrary to what I expected appears to become more prominent in people’s lives during tough economic times.

In fiction, sex is a good circuit-breaker, a way to shift the action or change the mood, prior to hitting the reader with a different situation. That’s all fiction is, smoke and mirrors.

Since it’s a dull day, with the Altantic storms rolling in from the west, and since most other topics promise nothing but angst right now, it’ll do us all good to lighten up a little.

I suppose a picture would be worth a thousand words, but for today I’ll have to stop here.

The India Road QR links for smartphones: point your camera and click.

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