The Fantastic Bonus
28 November 2012
Sex invigorates the human imagination beyond words. The activity not only exercises the body but simulates the mind. Mention “orgasm” around your closest friend or family member, and you may get embarrassed faces or immature laughter. The conversation may end if you pose a question about the female orgasm’s purpose. Of course, your community is not racing to the streets to promote the idea. Any knowledgeable person knows from biology class or common sense the purpose for a male orgasm: to make babies. At this time, obscure scientists around the word are trying to find the female orgasm’s biological benefit. The upsuck theory proposes that the female uterus directs sperm to the egg when they sexually climax. The Desmond Morris theory says females lie on their back in a tired state after orgasm and semen does not leak out, and other theories mention other “off the wall” suggestions (Lloyd 49). Although the results spark positivity and interest with the public, conclusive proof eludes us. Speculation over why females ejaculate naturally enters our mind. Maybe humans experience social benefits like that of other animals. Maybe females inherited a by-product of fetal development like men inherited nipples. Can we venture into the statement, “Females got lucky with a useless trait of evolution”? I think so. Female orgasms display no justifiable or proven purposes to benefit evolution and look like biology’s happy accident.
Equally important, females don’t need orgasms in order to reproduce. Women don’t worry about getting pregnant when they have an orgasm during sex. The fact still remains that “women can conceive without orgasm, making it less…connected with reproductive success” (Zuk 294). Women who experience persistent genital arousal disorder can reproduce the same as women who will never experience an orgasm in their life.
Even if evidence shows no biological benefit, let us give careful attention to opposing views such as reproductive assistance. Some biologists believe the female body can help move semen to the cervix when climaxing and therefore assist in reproduction. The upsuck theory suggests that the created suction directs sperm to the female egg faster and better than without orgasm. In one study, doctors inject women with radio-active material similar to semen and oxytocin simulating an orgasm. The doctors watch how fast it reaches the uterus. Doctors even study live performances of two consensual adults (“Why is Sex Fun?”). Robin Baker and Mark Bellis observed such procedures and wrote a paper concluding that the “female orgasm was a way of manipulating the retention of sperm by creating suction in the uterus” (Smith). However, scientists cannot repeatedly reproduce this upsuck effect. The only doctors that achieve this effect are the only doctors making money off of the studies. Hence, the studies move to books and public attention. These doctors keep a job but don’t help advance mankind’s knowledge of survival. Of course, the results astound laymen to the most educated, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Indeed, the elusive purpose for the female orgasm sparks curiosity among the scientific community. Professional doctors and reputable biologists observe coitus not just for entertainment but for science. All this talk about sex could lead to passive people thinking, how silly? Of course curiosity flames any idea or study, but curiosity connects to understanding. Though female orgasms show no proven biological benefit now, scientists continue the search for the elusive wonder. Dinitia Smith writes how Dr. John Alcock thinks the woman uses orgasms to find the quality of a male. Alcock theorizes females determine who they will choose as a mate for their offspring by orgasms. Female orgasms form an “unconscious way to evaluate the quality of the male” (Smith). This suggestion now leads into an advantage or disadvantage to evolution. If males do not give their sexual partner an orgasm, the genes of the male will not be passed on and that lineage will die. Still, this theory fails to consider evolution by natural selection. Jerry Coyne says natural selection “requires only that individuals of a species vary genetically in their ability to survive and reproduce in their environment” (11). This begs the question about female orgasms. “Why wouldn’t selection have produced women who more reliably achieved one?” (Zuk 297) Because the theory holds no evidence or studies and therefore, belongs in the imagination. Evolutionary remnants flood the human body, so let’s add one more to the list.
Hence, women who experience the climactic moment of sex may just feel the lucky bonus of evolution. Ever wonder why men and women can wiggle their ears, why we get goose bumps, why do we have wisdom teeth, or why humans have appendages only to be remove in operation? These human traits remain, called vestiges, from when our ancestors needed them. “Hidden here are special features that make sense only as remnants of traits that were once useful” (Coyne 56). The male nipple exemplifies a vestigial trait. The male nipple comes from the early embryonic stage of life. As a man, I can’t imagine looking in the mirror and not seeing my nipples, but they only bring me pain when someone twists them. “Male and female embryos have the same external and internal anatomy for the first few weeks of development” (Goodenough and McGuire 358). Both males and females gain additional traits from the humble beginnings of development. Although the female orgasm does not display an obvious trace of our ancestors, it does display a remnant of an early embryo. To call a female orgasm a useless trait may be too harsh, for when we look at similar traits, they were once very useful, just not anymore.
Additionally, the female orgasm falls into the description of a useless trait. How many people still use wisdom teeth? We don’t need a tail anymore and we don’t need goose bumps. Males don’t need nipples and females don’t need orgasms. Goodenough and McGuire note another trait that stands on the line, “both male and female embryos of about 6 weeks of age have a small bud of tissue between their legs…the bud becomes the clitoris in females” (384) and the penis in males. Yes, even the clitoris comes from the embryonic development. “The male needs the orgasm and the female basically get it for free because of this shared body plan” (“Why Is Sex Fun?”). All of these explanations are flawed, but some make sense. Roller coasters make us laugh and entertained. Bungee jumping brings tears of joy or fear. Sexual climax makes us happy too.
Finally, when examining the bonobos and how they behave after sex, indications may show a social benefit to the female orgasm. Bonobos look similar to chimpanzees except for the bulgy buttocks and genitals. Male Chimpanzees rape the females, and encourage the younglings to imitate them. Primatologists believe the male majority was caused by practicing infanticide. Infants were intentionally killed. On the other hand, bonobos make love not war. They “have frontal intercourse, exhibit vocal intensities that suggest female orgasm, and make eye contact during intercourse” (Brody). The bonobos display consensual sex. Female bonobos solidify their bonds with each other and work together to dominate males. Females have sex with females, many other male partners, and males have sex with males. By “reducing any tension that does exist, they’re able to form alliances with each other and cooperatively dominate males and this changes the whole balance of power and the whole social dynamic in the group” (“Why Sex?”). The vocal intensities alert other females and sound like a victory yell. Comparable to bonobos, we express joy to ourselves and others when we feel good. Smiles are contagious, and they cause conversations to go well.
What if there were purposes for the female climax? It feels good, but what about an evolutionary purpose? The feminist movement would clamor to the streets with new ammo towards a sexist society. Partners seeking children would both want an orgasmic ending if the upsuck theory were true. You may creep yourself out wondering if mom had an orgasm during conception. Unfortunately, volunteers do not come quickly enough. Large study groups may never organize. The incentive to volunteer doesn’t outweigh the stage fright and embarrassment that comes with the sensitive issue. The lovemaking and peaceful bonobos display a social atmosphere that looks completely different than the warmongering and hateful chimpanzees. Did you ever notice a couple getting along one day and fighting the next? Maybe something magical happened one day and nothing happened the next day. Men and women! I challenge you to test my social benefit theory. Set a goal for one week straight. Two weeks! See how your life changes.
Bering, Jesse. “Reopening the case of the female orgasm.” Scientific American. Scientific American Mind, 1 Dec. 2009. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.
Brody, Dr. James. “Bonobo or Not Bonobo: Why Models of Human Evolution Cannot Continue to Ignore our Sexy Relative.” Behavior. Behavior, 30 Mar. 1999. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.
Coyne, Jerry A. Why Evolution is True. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2009. Print.
Lloyd, Professor Elisabeth A. The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005. Print.
McGuire, Betty, Judith Goodenough. “Reproductive Systems.” Biology of Humans: Concepts, Applications and Issues. 3rd ed. SanFranciso, Pearson Education. 2010. 350-358,384. Print.
Smith, Dinitia. “A Critic Takes On the Logic of Female Orgasm.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 May. 2005. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.
“Why is Sex Fun?” Curiosity Season 1. Narr. Maggie Gyllenhaal. Discovery Channel. Discovery Communications, Silver Spring, Aug. 2012. Television.
“Why Sex?” Evolution. Narr. Liam Neeson. PBS. WWPB, Hagerstown, 22 May 2008. YouTube. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.
Zuk, Marlene. “The Case of the Female Orgasm.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine Spring 2006: 294-298. Science & Technology(ProQuest). Web. 13 Nov. 2012