Spring arrived and as our thoughts turned
to the birds and the bees, a new book came out and rained on
my parade. The book claims
female orgasms do not play a role in evolution because a woman
can get pregnant without having one. (Male orgasms, of course,
are directly tied to reproduction.) Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a
professor at Indiana University, argues in her book The Case
of the Female Orgasm that the wiring for orgasms in women is
merely vestigial, left over from the embryonic phase of development,
like nipples in men.
Lloyd arrived at this conclusion after examining and rejecting
more than two dozen studies supporting the female-orgasms-are-evolutionary
theory. One study she refutes stated orgasms help women pick
fit, healthy males to mate with. Another argues women get off
more with men who have symmetrical features. Which features,
I don't know where to start. First of all, I wasn't aware someone
was studying female orgasms. Where was this happening and why
wasn't I told? Rochester is Medical Study Land; newspaper ads
constantly seek subjects for a variety of medical studies. Dry
eye. Sleep disorders. Strep throat. Even herpes. But where are
the ads for female orgasm subjects?
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm happy in my marriage. But my husband
is a man of science and I think even he would see the benefit
to society in my participation. I could make a small sacrifice
in the name of science, say, by enrolling in that one study measuring
orgasms in women sleeping with new male partners. And yeah, sure,
if there's ever a study of male orgasms --- as if --- my husband
is free to participate.
Of course, there's not likely to be
a male orgasm study --- what's to study? There's not a lot of mystery there. The sad
fact is, as Kinsey told us, women don't achieve orgasms at anywhere
near the same rate as men. Some 5-to-10 percent of women don't
ever have them, and the majority of women have orgasms only some
or most of the time. It's this infrequency that Lloyd feels supports
her hypothesis that they're not crucial to evolution. Quoted
in a New York Times article, she said the female orgasm "is
You got that right, sister. But the reason women aren't getting
off enough has nothing to do with embryonic this and vestigial
that. Just look at the news.
Women are under siege. Despite all the gains we've supposedly
made since the early '70s, women continue to earn less than men
doing the same work and still shoulder the majority of household
tasks. Folding laundry and correcting homework don't exactly
make for great foreplay.
A recent study of at-home mothers reveals that if they were
paid for the zillion things they do in their 100-hour work week,
they'd earn $131,000 a year. Hard not to be turned off when you
realize he's getting the cow and the milk --- and the childcare
and the laundry and the household management --- for free.
If being underappreciated is a turn-off, imagine how women who've
dedicated their lives to the military felt when they got a double
diss last month. Congress considered legislation that would further
reduce women's roles in the military, curtailing opportunities
for advancement. Way to buck up the troops.
The second slap in the face came when, despite rising sexual-assault
rates in the military, House Republicans barred a vote that would
have improved medical services for military women who are victims
of rape or incest. We'll let you die for us, the ideologues say,
but you're on your own if you're victimized.
Lloyd's hypothesis raises some darker
issues. If the female
orgasm is just a biological leftover, like the appendix or pinky
toe, does that mean it's phasing out? Will our daughters' daughters
have even fewer orgasms and then, some bleak day in the distant
future, none at all?
Well, I'm not going to stand for that, girls. Are you? I'm no
sex biologist (but if you happen to know one in need of subjects,
give a holler), however I'll bet through diligence and hard work
we can keep orgasms from fading out of the species. Let's take
matters into our own hands, if you'll pardon the expression,
and exercise our right to experience the Big O. If practice makes
perfect, maybe practice can make permanent.
I know most of you don't need any encouragement. Women are driving
the boom in sales of sex toys --- through home parties and the
Internet --- and explicit sex manuals (now available in bookstores
everywhere). As awareness increases that some women need a little
help having orgasms, women are less shy about asking for what
they need. Shows like Sex and the City, Real Sex, and even Dr.
Phil make achieving the sublime seem almost mundane; it's OK
to admit that sometimes it takes more than just a symmetrical
man to get you off.
So, ladies, start your engines. With or without your partner,
grab your bunny-shaped vibrator, remote-control dolphin, and
Eroscillator (with its five Flabbergasmic attachments!) and get
busy. Ignore that occasional Mr. Potato Head feeling --- all
those oddly shaped items sticking into you --- and go for the
orgasm you deserve. Through your selfless efforts, Rochester
will continue to shine as a place where women make a difference.