More on Orgasm Science

The NYTimes has a review of Lloyd’s book that I wrote about yesterday, including a quote that greater clarifies her position:

Western culture is suffused with images of women’s sexuality, of women in the throes of orgasm during intercourse and seeming to reach heights of pleasure that are rare, if not impossible, for most women in everyday life.

“Accounts of our evolutionary past tell us how the various parts of our body should function,” Dr. Lloyd said.

If women, she said, are told that it is “natural” to have orgasms every time they have intercourse and that orgasms will help make them pregnant, then they feel inadequate or inferior or abnormal when they do not achieve it.

“Getting the evolutionary story straight has potentially very large social and personal consequences for all women,” Dr. Lloyd said. “And indirectly for men, as well.”


And perhaps I can give Jam a forum to write a review when he’s done with the book… yes? Yes?

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12 comments for “More on Orgasm Science

  1. Moopaw
    May 17, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    How can a man talk about Woman’s Orgasms without sounding sexist?

    Well I enjoy having orgasms, and I really enjoy giving them.

    I beleive the old idea that “good girls don’t enjoy sex” is crap. Everyone should learn how to enjoy themselves.

  2. jam
    May 17, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    Ms. Lauren says: And perhaps I can give Jam a forum to write a review when he’s done with the book… yes? Yes?

    you want me to write a review? lil’ ol’ me???

    well, that’s all very kind (flattering, actually) but, seriously, have you seen the kind of drivel i post here? you really want to see more of that? there’s a reason why my website is on the quiet side, y’know

    Lloyd actually gave a great talk on this subject several years back at the University of Denver – what was classic was the Q&A session – several august old science professors had been listening patiently throughout the talk as Lloyd articulated quite clearly & eloquently the fact that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that the orgasm serves any “function” at all – a number of them raised their hands to ask questions & the first of them stood to speak, asking “Yes, well this is all very interesting but you still haven’t addressed what the female orgasm is FOR” followed by a round a affirmative harrumphing by the other fellows – you should have seen the expression on her face…

  3. B
    May 17, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    Maybe the frequency of women’s orgasms can be explained by basic behavioral psychology. It’s well known that if you reward mice every time they press a lever, they won’t press it as often as if you reward them at random intervals — sometimes they get a treat, sometimes they don’t. If you reward the mice only part of the time, they go crazy and press the lever constantly! This is the theory behind slot machines. So, by this reasoning, if women (or at least female mice) only get orgasms some times and not others, then it should make them (mousy women) totally sex crazy. I have applied this in my own life by being lousy in bed most of the time, but every once in a while totally delivering the goods. For some reason this has not yet resulted in my becoming an unbelievably desirable super stud beast, but perhaps further research is needed.

  4. May 17, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Jam, have you read Angier’s “Woman”?

  5. May 17, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    The problem is every single “explanation” is intepreted in our sexist society for men’s benefit. If women’s orgasms are in fact a direct adaptation, then women who don’t come from intercourse are treated like freaks. However, if they are a (very) happy accident, then sexist men can justify it to himself that pleasing women isn’t as important somehow as pleasing men. Regardless, I think her theory has merit and politics can’t be guiding the research if it can be at all helped.

  6. May 17, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    I think Huffington should read Feministe. :)

  7. jam
    May 17, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    Jam, have you read Angier’s “Woman”?

    Ms Lauren, i have not – been meaning to for some time (y’know, that “time” which there’s too little of in face of the too many books that keep appearing)

    should i kick it up a few notches in the to-be-read pile?

    btw, another interesting book that recently came out on the subject of MorrisMinors is Jelto Drenth’s book: The Origin of the World: Science and Fiction of the Vagina

    it’s not so much a focussed study/critique like Lloyd’s – more of an enjoyable wander through the strange & stranger-still histories of girly naughties

  8. C.I. Dreyfus
    May 17, 2005 at 7:02 pm

    oh my god! oh my god! I’m gonna … I’m gonna … Blearggh!!! Phew.

  9. JC
    May 17, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    There are two key things going on here. One is Dr. Lloyd’s attention towards social construction. The other is the limits imposed on social construction by reality, or at least, the parts of reality that we are exposed to.

    With respect to the first point, I think the question we should ask ourselves is, “Why are we listening?” Is there really some deeper truth hidden in an understanding of evolution that will help us find (or disregard) pleasure in our own bodies?

    To a large degree, the past is what we make of it. Certainly evolutionary theory can inform our stance about certain things, but it should not be the final arbiter. It should be one voice among many. Evolution may have given us our bodies, but what we do with them is something different.

  10. May 18, 2005 at 3:36 am

    I wanted to comment on this, but it grew so long that I posted it on my blog instead (here).

    What I believe to be most central (quoting from my post)

    To conclude: much of the arguments from both sides of the discussion (seen in this article and elsewhere) strike me as bad science. Many underfounded hypotheses based on small datasets and analyses thoroughly angled to suit the preconceptions and goals of the one doing the analysis. Given how culturally loaded the issue of female orgasms and enjoyment of sex is, this is maybe not surprising. But it is depressing to note that scientists, presumably trained to be objective and analytical, seem to carry around as much judgmental luggage as everyone else.

    If one still assumes that scienctifical analysis is free from preconceptions, reading T. Laqueur’s “Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud” should cure that quite fast. It gives a good view of how cultural views have distorted scientific analysis in this area.

    And also, I see an undercurrent of “women only have sex in order to produce children” in this article, and some of the other theories, and that bothers me. Some women may, some surely don’t. And another issue that is ignored: women are genetically different, and more diverse than men. What is true for some may not hold for all.

  11. May 18, 2005 at 11:09 am

    Anyone heard of/read this book? I’ve read snippets and it’s got a lot of stuff in there.

    I got this book because the reviews from other readers said things like, “This is just a feminist bashing sex!” “She’s a feminist who doesn’t like sex!” and so on. I read some of the book myself and started laughing. Imagine what those reviewers would think of Woman, this new book we’re discussing (too lazy to scroll up) and various others….*sigh*

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