Today is the 3rd day of the Directed By Women Worldwide Viewing Party, and I thought today's post (the rest of my Directed By Women posts are HERE) should be a simple one about one of my very favorite movies of all time, American Psycho. I actually didn't even know this was #DirectedbyWomen (like how I used the hashtag?) for years. I watch the shit out of movies, and make movie, and talk about and write about movies a lot, so I guess you might call me a movie buff. However, I am in no way one of those movie buffs that remembers directors and actors and quotes and passes movie trivia back and forth with my friends (except for a select few, their brains don't really hold that kind of trivia either). I have slowly, over time learned some names I can remember off the top of my head, but honestly that's not the info that I first seek about movies or the parts about movies that stick in my head.
So after years of loving that movie, I was happy to learn the director was Mary Herron and get that strange irrational pride that one gets when his/her people do well - my people being women, I guess...which is really too large of a group to be my people, but it makes me full of pride none the less.
I could write a lot about why I love American Psycho, but I don't really want to think too hard right now. What I will say is that it's truly a solid work with a lot to bite into, and on top of all that, it's incredibly entertaining to me. It also came to me at a time in my life when I was being entranced by movies in that sorta unique way that people moving into adulthood can be entranced by movies. It came out in 2000 when I was a sophomore in college and also when me and the AnC Movies crew were really starting to dig into making movies together. So the movies that struck me at that time just had more sparkle somehow, and they will always hold a special place in my heart; movies like Fight Club, Eyes Wide Shut, The Royal Tenenbaums, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, Snatch, and in the top part of that list, American Psycho.
So to Mary Herron, who directed a movie that jerked around parts of my brain that hadn't been shifted before and made me think more deeply about the craft of movie-making, thank you. You made a kick-ass movie for sure.
Check out The Notorious Bettie Page and I Shot Andy Warhol (which I also really love) from Ms. Herron too!
Also, for fun, the American Psycho trailer
For my #DirectedbyWomen blog number 2 (see the rest HERE), I'm going to do something really simple; talk about another director with my first name. Trisha isn't really wierd, but it's not super common either, and when I saw that the Directed By Women site had their giant list of women directors listed alphabetically by first name, I obviously became interested in the others who share this name.
Who is this cat? Well, do you remember this video that went viral and helped launch OK Go's career?
Well, it also launched her career. Her brother is in this band, and at the time Trish was a professional dancer, choreographer, and music theorist (at least she had received a degree in it). She jumped into the video scene, choreographing and directing this - and then went ahead and won a Grammy for it.
She then went on to direct a bunch of commercials and to create shorts like the two below.
Being Dennis from Trish Sie on Vimeo.
Also, my friends, she directed the dance feature Step Up: All In, the fifth in the Step Up series. I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm always gonna watch a Step Up movie, I mean among other things, it's a good place to find some of my faves from So You Think You Can Dance , so I was excited to know a fellow Trish directed that.
But really, go to her Vimeo page and check out her videos there. I think you'll enjoy it. Seriously, GO NOW, cause well, Trishes is awesome bitches.
Guess what? Today is a very special day. It is the beginning of Directed by Women, a two week global party to enjoy and celebrate film made by the ladies! Get your friends, get your co-workers, curl up with a favorite pet, attend a party - whatever you got to do, but by golly, by George, watch a movie directed by a woman! You got 2 weeks.
I really like this concept. It's like a million times more accessible than just a film festival, and it's got this fun, light-hearted, community feel that makes it easy to be part of. All you need to do is watch and/or talk. It's as easy as picking a lady-directed movie and sitting on a couch with your nasty pajamas and some microwave popcorn to watch it. It's even as easy as mentioning it to a co-worker. If you want to get real wild, tweet, facebook, instagram, or what-have-you about it (#DirectedByWomen), or invite a few friends over to your house to watch. You don't even have to cook. Make it a pitch-in. Get even crazier and write a blog, set up a small community event for a showing, attend a showing, or tweet out pics of your Directed By Women celebration. There could be nothing easier, really, and you get so see great film! If you are unsure what movies are directed by women check it HERE, or Google that shit, I mean, come on, it ain't that hard. I was also glad to see the catalyst for this was another Hoosier - that's right, there is more than corn in Indiana. Barbara Ann O'Leary from Bloomington (you can read more about her and the concept HERE), got this rolling, and I tip my hat to her.
So, why do I care, you ask. Well, I am a woman director (that's just a cheap plug for Science, Sex and the Ladies), but also this event is about female voices in our media, about a perspective from the ladies being an equal and valued part of the cultural conversation. That's what this blog and our movie is all about. We focus particularly on only one aspect of that female perspective, the one surrounding orgasm, but none the less it, like all the other parts of the female perspective, needs to be heard, and it's not going to happen unless we get more women creating and shaping the things that entertain and inform us.
So, in honor of Directed By Women, I will be posting every day till it's over. They may be short little posts, but I will make sure I get off my ass and do at least that because I think this is important.
We got a pretty sweet write up at Beatroute. Jess Parker wrote a small but actually quite on-point post about Science, Sex and the Ladies. It said things like,
"(the movie) makes a great case for the need for a societal shift in the importance of understanding female sexuality so that, quite frankly we, as ladies, can get off! And regularly!"I say quite on-point because sometimes I see things like this Beatroute review about SSL that seemed like the writer watched the movie and really thought about the argument the movie makes, and sometimes I see things that seem like the writer watched the movie but really only focused or cared about one or two particular aspects, and didn't seem to quite take in the full argument. And I'm not talking about the difference between positive and negative reviews or anything like that. It's just that sometimes I feel like the larger argument about an all-encompassing cultural misunderstanding of female orgasm and sexuality that needs to be remedies by a big ol' shift in perspective, is either not gotten through to a particular reviewer or they found it not worthwhile to talk about, so I like it when I see that point getting through.
She also wrote some pretty good quotes too that made me feel like our point of view was getting through the way we wanted it to.
"...while it’s not one to shy away from nudity, it’s done so as a means to reveal what’s really going on in the world of women and sex. That is, it’s done so tastefully and is not something you’re going to want to necessarily wank to."So, to be fair the only nudity in the movie is some shots staring directly and close-up into spread-eagle vulvas (3 to be exact). Oh - there is pink, plenty of pink, so technically this kind of nudity does not make it into Playboy or R-rated movies, only hard-core porn and dirtier magazines like Hustler and Cheri. So, that's really it, but it's a big wallop of nudity. Anyway, It was actually incredibly important to us, when making the movie, that we didn't make it unnecessarily sexy like all the sex-umentaries we were seeing on HBO and the like where it's basically just people being interviewed about a particular aspect of sex and a lot of b-roll of women doing and moaning sexy things - like really soft-core porn. So, I was glad to see that she didn't feel like anyone would want to wank to it. It was kind of a goal of ours.
Then she's going over the route the movie takes in it's argument and during that says,
"It moves on to pornography, but manages to do so in a way that doesn’t make it sound too for or against it."I liked this too, because we really tried to be careful about how we spoke about and depicted porn and porn stars in this movie. Porn is such a contentious subject that the wrong vibe about it can turn of a large group of people from anything that is said from that time forward. Plus, the point we are making is not for or against porn, it's just about porn, and we really wanted to make it feel that way - that porn is a valid, fine thing, but there is an aspect of it that needs to get better. We also wanted to make sure we didn't seem like we were calling porn star ladies out for like ruining the sexual culture or being dumb or being too complacent/non-feminist - because we weren't, but that's a feeling, either intentional or not, that is given off from a lot of porn criticism. For porn, as with many of the other cultural institutions we critiqued, we see the problem as much larger and deeper than the current players in those institutions. We felt it important to lay the blame on no-one but make everyone feel responsible for change. So, my point is, it really felt good to me that she felt that sort of nonchalantness we were hoping to convey when speaking about porn...because it is actually something I worried a lot about during pre-production.
Okay, so I want to thank Ms. Jess Parker over there at Beatroute. It looks like she is often writing good shit over there, so check it out, and read the full SSL review HERE.
Twitter is telling me that it is Women's Equality Day, and I believe Twitter. So I'll throw my 2 cents into the mix. I'll do it quick too because I just got back from vacation, and I haven't been thinking about this blog for a good week and a half. I'm not quite in the swing of things yet, ya know.
So, to quote Sophia Wallace from her Cliteracy: Natural Law #57, "Democracy without Cliteracy? Phallasy"
Point being that Orgasm Equality, Cliteracy, and any other activism out there that is working towards creating a more balanced, realistic understanding of sexuality and orgasm through the acknowledgement that our sexual culture is skewed heavily male-hetero-centric...well, that's some activism that needs to happen if women are to become fully equal members of our society. It is incredibly important and way too invisible, and it affects us all male, female, intersex, gay straight, and trans, but I can feel in the air that this is an issue moving slowly but surely into the light.
Work forward and work hard, my activist brothers and sisters!
Science, Sex and the Ladies made it onto a podacst called The Suave Lover. Check it HERE. That's right - suave mothafuckin' lovers think that SSL has something useful to say, so take note. Now, with the name suave lover, you may be thinking about things like Rico Suave or Leisure Suit Larry or Pepe Le Pew cause it has a certain, I don't know, ring to the name that makes you wonder about what they might have to say, but I have to say, I was impressed.
Their podcast discussing SSL was on point. Not only did they clearly understand our main arguments, but they also were quite thoughtful regarding the way men should approach the knowledge that the clit (and not the vagina) is the seat of female orgasm.
I confess, I haven't listened to any of their other podcasts yet, but I read around on their site, and I think it's kind of an interesting concept. It is marketed as a sort of specialty service for men who want to be refined romantic and sexual partners. It says it has roots in the 'pick-up artist' seduction community, but that it has been "years in the making" and that they actually are undoing many of the habits created by the mainstream success of 'pick-up artists.' They say that their "primary concern is and always will be the success and well-being of our clients and the women with whom they share romance."
Going only from the types of things they were talking about in the SSL podcast, I think they might very well be a top-notch resource for men looking for realistic orgasm advise when it comes to women. I'll even go so far as to call them Orgasm Equality Heroes because they are bringing the interest of female orgasm into male sexual advise in a realistic and thoughtful way.
So thanks to you, men of Suave Lover!
Here's a few quick quotes that 1. I thought were good, and 2. I spent the time to rewind a few times for transcribing purposes
"The point that they make in the video, and the point that we'd like to make here is to always remember - pleasure the clit." Some straight shooting from Suave Lover
"This is the thing. Not only do guys need to sorta get the anatomy worked out, girls do too. There's so much repression and bad information....There's two components of it, right? The guy, 1, you can't just like throw your hands up in the air and be like, well, you can't get off, not my problem. You can't also at the same time be like she has to get off! She's got to get off!...You're not going to disabuse a girl of a societal hang-up. Cause this is a societal, wide-spread societal, hang-up..." The Suave Lover getting into the complexity of dealing with this strange world of deep cultural lady-gasm misunderstandings as a man in vivo.
"...Because sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience for two people - not just your penis." I mean, you're right Suave Lover. That's just true.
Hello! Today you get more RANDOM HITE REPORT! As you may or may not know, this is where I take one random page, and one page only, out of the Hite Report on Female Sexuality, a super important book from the 70's, and transcribe it for you here on the blog. This book is women answering detailed questions about their sex lives, masturbation practices, orgasms, and all that good stuff. It's incredibly interesting and insightful - and every woman should read it because it's just as relevant and revolutionary as it was when it came out in the mid 70's. Here ya go..
The following is from the chapter "Orgasm" in a section in which women are answering questions about whether they feel okay about not having an orgasm during intercourse.
Pg. 131 The Hite Report. Dell. 1976.
"I'm very wary about telling new partners I don't have orgasms because then they make it a contest to see if they can be the one to make me come. I really resent being expected to come, and almost feel forced if I don't."
"Sometimes I have felt that reaching orgasm was more a matter of satisfying my partner's desire to satisfy me more than my own desire to orgasm."
"You're supposed to be uninhibited and have orgasms, and when I do it makes him feel confident and secure. Orgasm is important, but not as important as he thinks: my orgasm is actually more important to my husband than to me!"
"Yes, I must have an orgasm. Otherwise, I'm not a real person and making him feel bad and maybe he'll abandon me. Men enjoy making love more to women who have orgasms."
"I would enjoy sex with no orgasm at times, if I felt other people weren't uptight about it, and if the reasons were my own. Maybe sex would be better if we'd never heard of orgasm."
"I'm afraid that new partners will think I'm wierd and not as sexy as other women if i don't have orgasms--or that I'm selfish and aggressive if I do!"
"I wish orgasms didn't exist. Then maybe sex would be for fun."
There is also a social pressure that says a woman who has an orgasm is more of a woman, a "real" woman. "I don't think orgasms are that important; the literature has given women another burden. But, I'm ashamed to admit, because of the myth, I feel 'good' having an orgasm--like I'm a real woman! Arrgh...."
"I can enjoy sex without orgasm, but psychologically I feel like I'm a failure, like a not totally functioning woman."
"Orgasms are continually talked about. Therefore if I don't have one, I feel inadequate."
"The ide of having orgasms is important to me, but I can certainly enjoy sex without having them. Worse than not having the orgasm is the feeling that I've failed or that I'm frigid or unsexy. I feel a lot of pressure,.."
My critiques of a BBC article called, "The Mystery of the Female Orgasm," was posted on Alternet and Salon this week, and that means I got all kinds of comments. And, you know me, I like to engage in those comments as much as I can. It's actually incredibly time-consuming, but I also see it as really important because:
1. I'm just a nobody saying things lots of people don't want to hear and don't see why they should care about, so it's not like I have tons of chances to put my point of view out there for large amounts of people to hear, so I need to take the chance when I get it.
2. It helps me understand what other people hear when they read my writing on this stuff. If people are not getting what I'm saying, then I could be saying it better, and I should adjust.
3. It helps ground me a little bit in reality. I need to always be checking to understand what people are telling me and really consider how that fits into the things I'm saying. Do I need to adjust? Do I need to pull back? Am I overstepping my competence? Are there things that I haven't fully thought through but need to in order to get my point across better?
I don't get that kind of schooling talking to my friends. Honestly, I used to be a nervous wreck when something I wrote got posted somewhere that got lots of comments. My stomach would churn. I would spend excessive amounts of time obsessing over every little reply. I certainly have received lots of fantastic comments in my life, but as you can imagine, the internet comment world can be a nasty place. Contrary commentors are louder and more ready to pounce. Plus the negative stuff just sticks with you more.
Anyway, I am happy to say that I don't get bothered at all anymore. Besides just simply the time it takes to do it all, I don't feel overly obsessive, or annoyed, or insane, or bothered. I really don't - seriously, say any shitty thing you want to say about me or my points - I won't bat an eye. And honestly, I find if I try replying as nicely as possible to people, almost everyone will soften up a bit and engage in more useful conversation. The internet makes people act harsher than they actually are, and I find most people are really quite nice. I actually kind of like it now.
I do hear pretty much the same basic contrary comments every time I write on the topic, so I have had a lot of experience with talking about them. I honestly don't get comments that surprise me - which might be part of the reason it doesn't bother me as much anymore, but all that being true, I still feel like fielding comments is a challenging and useful endeavor. And actually this last round made me feel like I should think about more succinct, relate-able, and thoughtful ways of speaking about the discrepancy between what scientific inquiry has indicated about vaginal orgasm and the fact that some women claim to experience vaginal orgasm. What do I want to say and what can I reasonably say about how this reality should be interpreted for individual women and their partners? What do I want to say about the language we use in this situation? Should I / can I be more speculative about reasons this discrepancy exists? How do I succinctly say what I want to say about why, even with any harm that may come of it, this real discrepancy should be widely understood and thoughtfully discussed.
Anyway, my point it that those are things I'm thinking about now, but a post on that is not a quick post like this one is. I have real, paying work that is taking precedence right now, so I just wanted to give a quick nod to the people over the past week on different forums who inspired my deeper thinking. I have definitely talked in different ways about this topic before, and I went back through some blogs and linked some below that touched on it, but like I said, I need to write something more succinct and clear and all those kinds of things. For now, this will have to do.
Thanks all you commentors out there. I really do appreciate the engagement.
Some past posts on the general topic....
HERE is a post that includes Science, Sex and the Ladies' (the movie not the blog) press kit answers about if we are really saying the vaginal orgasm doesn't exist and if we are calling women liars. This one says things I say all the time. However, I think it focuses a bit more on the simple fact that there is a discrepancy with what science has shown and what women who claim vaginal/g-spot/inner orgasm are claiming, and that it's actually not such a crazy thing to wonder whether some of that discrepancy can be explained because some women say they orgasm this way when they actually do not.
HERE is a post of me ranting (a little, not toooo much) about cries that the vaginal orgasm is picked on too much. Spoiler alert: It's kinda like calling reverse racism...it just doesn't quite fly.
HERE is a post that talks about 1. People telling me the subject's not a useful thing to talk about since all orgasms (even vaginally stimulated one) are clitoral anyway and 2. that I'm an asshole for telling women their vaginal orgasms aren't real. I talk in this post, as I often do, about how important the accurate information is that I'm putting out there, and that it's worth putting out there even though it might be hard to face. However, I also go a little bit into how complicated our culture is around female orgasm and how we should at least be considering the possibility that women might be dealing with that complication in ways that aren't normally considered.
HERE is a post of me talking personally about how hard it has been over the years to say things about vaginal orgasm that I know piss people off. I also talk a little about my own experiences and the possibility that smart, sexual women might be able to convince themselves that they orgasm vaginally when they actually don't.
HERE is a post about the comment I often get telling me that talking about orgasm in a physical way is, like, not cool, man - because love and other pleasures shouldn't be taken out of it. It's a little off topic, but I think it relates.
First the BBC. Now John Oliver. We Midwesterners don't mind schoolin' the Brits about lady junk if we have to. Here's the deal. Barnaby Aaron, one of the co-directors of Science, Sex and the Ladies, happened to see some problematic choices in an otherwise top-notch piece of work about Sex Ed on Last Week Tonight. It happened in the segment where they decided to create their own funny but more accurate sex ed video. Unfortunately there was some not-so-accurate parts that both reflected and reinforced a rampant, deeply ingrained, largely ignored culture ignorance about female orgasm and female anatomy. I'm not just shitting you here. There really is a large, deeply ingrained problem with how female orgasm exists in our discussions, our science, our media, and yes, our structured education. In fact, it's so fully a part of our culture that it's kinda invisible, and that's why even progressive, smart, thoughtful people like John Oliver and his staff didn't seem to notice these problems.
However, we here at AnC can't help but see problems like that. We made a crazy-ass documentary about it (and that bitch took us 10 years to finish), and I've been writing about the subject on this blog for over 6 years. So, when these particular errors were caught, Barnaby got worked up enough to write me the basis for this post, and Charles, another co-director (don't worry, there's only 3 of us) of Science, Sex and the Ladies, starting taking screen shots and making gifs. This is what came of it. Please enjoy.
Something Barnaby Noticed...
On Sunday "Last Week Tonight” did a story on the poor and inconsistent sex education that is taught in this country. Like most things I’ve seen on this show it was very funny, insightful and well researched. However, at the end of the piece they presented their own mock/serious attempt at some basic sex education and this is where they presented some misleading information. Tell me - what's wrong with this picture?
Vulva or Vagina?
There is one of two possible problematic situations happening in that diagram.
1. It is a picture of a vulva with an arrow pointing to the the vaginal opening and labeling that as "vagina." Problem is, the arrow doesn't really point at the vaginal opening - it's closer to the pee hole, maybe. Plus, later it's mixed in with a group of other images that are labeled as whole things rather than labeling parts within the things, as you can see below. So I actually don't think it was meant to be taken as just pointing out the vag-hole. I tend to think it's the 2nd situation.
2. That is a picture of a vulva, but it's being called a "vagina." You might say, “well, same thing, what is the big deal?” Barnaby would like you to know he used to think that way too - "I used to have this attitude. I remember when we first started discussing these issues I would say the word vagina when I meant vulva and Trisha would point out that they were two different things, that the vagina was just the tube that cylindrical things went in and babies came out of. I would roll my eyes and say, 'Yeah, same thing, you know what I mean,' and move on. But over time I realized it is a big mistake to equate the vagina with the vulva even if there is no malicious intent behind it." He has evolved, and others can too.
There are a few inherent problems with describing the vulva as a 'vagina.' If the vulva is called the vagina, but the vagina and vaginal opening are also called the vagina, it's confusing, and leaves little room for understanding the other parts of the vulva - which are pretty good parts. The clitoral glans, the clitoral hood, the labia, and the pee hole: if it’s all just “the vagina” these features get left out. Yes people refer to it as the 'vagina' all the time, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.
Furthermore, we tend to refer to boys' junk as their penis and girls' junk as their vagina. This creates a false equivalence between the two. If we're talking about sexual pleasure, then we should be saying penis and clitoris because guess what? Contrary to popular belief, clit and penis rubbing creates orgasm, but vaginal rubbing does not...seriously it really doesn't. If we're comparing the male and female genitals as a whole, though, we should be saying 'penis' and 'vulva' because the vagina is only 1/3 of the package.
There's a good way of thinking about this that we discuss in the movie. It's from a 1970's article called "Organs and Orgasms" by Alix Kates Shulman. She's describing how to talk to kids about their genitals. She says says girls have 3 parts to a boy's 1. Boys have a penis for sexual reproduction, urination and sexual pleasure. Girls have a vagina for sexual reproduction, a urethral opening for urination and a clitoris (clitoral glans) for sexual pleasure...and that's all located on the vulva. So, yes to penis and vulva. No to penis and vagina - I mean, why leave out the pleasure and peeing part for the ladies, right?
Pin The Clit On The Vulva
I'm glad they talked about the clit. I'll give them credit for that, because it really is largely left out of standard sex ed. But, is that arrow really pointing to the clitoris??? It looks like they labeled the very top of the outer lips as the clit, like where all the pubes start. It also seems to have 3 levels of lips. It's kind of just a bad drawing.
Maybe I'm looking at this all wrong, but it seems like the clit is drawn in there but the arrow they drew is not pointing to it. Given that the clitoris is the organ of female sexual pleasure, I feel like it should at least be placed correctly in a sex ed drawing. It's pretty important. Here's a little better yet still quite simple drawing.
Doesn't The Clit Get To Have Any Fun?
Relating the penis to males in the same way the vagina is related to females reinforces the assumption that the penis and the vagina are for sex and therefore create orgasms. However, the clit is the one that creates orgasm. The clit, however, gets left out - not just in most sexual acts all over the world, but also in the fun little example of sex combinations showing that people can get their sex on in any way that feels good. The possibilities include a penis, testicles, a hand, a mouth, a butt, and...a vagina.
The clit gets left out in the cold, which is a shame because the clitoris might really like to rub up against a good taunt butt cheek. *edit: taut - not taunt, actually....*
Even if I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they meant 'vulva' when they wrote 'vagina' (so technically they meant to include the clit), why do dudes get to have their sensitive parts discerned - the penis for orgasms and the balls for a variety of good feels. Couldn't the women get their genitals discerned too? The clitoris for orgasm and the vagina for a variety of good feels?
A Second Try, Maybe?
I know that this is a comedy show, but the actually quite bold oversights I just described, hidden in plain sight within a piece created to humorously correct common problems within standard sex ed, is actually quite indicative of a culture that thinks very little about the clitoris and how women actually orgasm. Using correct language has to be the first step. By implying penis=vagina and vagina=vulva we perpetuate the idea that the vagina is the main organ for female sexual pleasure. This lazy and unintentional mistake might not be malicious, but its effects are fundamental in our misunderstanding of female orgasm and anatomy.
We know you didn't mean any harm, Last Week Tonight, so if you're up for the challenge, we'd love to see a little adjustment to your proposed sex ed that includes all the love and warmness we know you all have for the clit and the lady-gasm!
So, my last post was a long-ass critique of a BBC article about the female orgasm. My biggest reason for doing it was to point out that the inaccuracies in the conclusions being made in much of the lady-gasm research and in science reporting are so boldly off-base that they cannot and should not be ignored any longer. Secondarily, I wanted to point out that the inaccuracies promoted in that article don't just represent a few bad apples, if you will, in an otherwise lovely barrel of apples that is our cultural understanding of female orgasm. Instead, I would say that BBC article fully represents the common, status-quo, largely unquestioned way most people (men and women alike) regard female orgasm, and it is a big ol' barrel of nasty, rotten apples that needs to be thrown out, cleaned, and refilled.
I wanted to write this post here because I noticed that a lot of the publicity that this article got had a tone to it that I thought, quite frankly, didn't get the points I was making. Even from very critically minded, thoughtful people that I have a lot of respect for, there seemed to be a blanket refusal to acknowledge that there was a problem that went beyond a simple breakdown in how a couple talked with each other about their sexual wants and needs. I hit this wall often. I say, "Hey, ya'll! Here's direct, clear evidence that our culture speaks about, depicts, discusses, jokes about, teaches, reports on, and researches female orgasm in ways that, as a whole, reveals a deep misunderstanding of how female orgasms are realistically attained," and the reply is often, "Oh, interesting - but you know, if men and women just talked to each other honestly about what they wanted, there would be no problem at all, probably."
It always seems incredibly dismissive - of the argument I've made, of the influence science, media and education norms have on our lives, and of the uniquely female sexual experience of living in a world that force feeds you unrealistic 'knowledge' about your ability to orgasm. It seems wholly thoughtless to me to assert that these wide and deep misunderstandings and misrepresentations of female orgasm that I have layed out are somehow not going to affect women's sexual lives in a deeper way. I mean, if almost every aspect of our culture misunderstands female orgasm, why would it make sense that somehow when a man and a woman get together, all of those influences just completely go away, and that they can simply figure things out on fully even ground, with no pre-conceived notions or internal damage?
It also always surprises me that there is rarely comment about the specific arguments I make when it comes to the science and culture. Commentators tend to go straight to how this can be corrected in an individual relationship. It is so indicative of the very problems I am speaking out against. Although there is a clear, systematic, large-scale problem here, the tendency is still to ignore that and go straight to blaming women. It becomes, as it has always been, an individual, personal problem. Replying to the idea that there is a large scale culture female orgasm by saying that things would be just fine if the couple just spoke honestly about what they want and need is basically saying the woman is not correctly understanding her sexual needs and not correctly communicating them (cause men aren't having large scale problems having orgasms in sexual interactions). It is really, if you think about it, her problem, an individual deficiency to solve on her own/with her partner, and it's no different and no less harmful than when we used to blame women for being frigid.
Those of you that have been reading this blog or have seen our movie, Science, Sex and the Ladies, could probably guess where my gripes with the BBC article, "The Mystery of the Female Orgasm." begin - THE FEMALE ORGASM IS NOT A MYSTERY.
Reading that article would lead one to believe that the lady-gasm is incredibly complicated to figure out in the ol' bedroom, that it revolves around the vagina, that science doesn't have a clue what it even is, and that only quite recently have scientists really begun to find any answers. All of that is utterly incorrect. The female orgasm is no more complicated than the male orgasm. It revolves around the external clitoral glans. Science has had this shit pretty solidly figured out since about 1966 - about as long as it's had the male orgasm figured out, and all of the exciting new studies in this article that are supposedly cracking this female-orgasm thing wide open: Well, actually they're better categorized as studies that focus on fringe ideas about female orgasm - speculating about ways of coming that have never been verified in scientific literature.
The 'orgasms' this article focuses on are G-spot orgasms, vaginal orgasm, and orgasm from inner clitoral leg or cervical stimulation. These are just things people talk about. There is no scientific proof that they exist. Seriously, an orgasm caused this way has never been observed or recorded in science, not even in the scientific research this BBC article references. In the same way, for men, spiritual orgasms, orgasms from anal sex, prostate stimulated orgasms, and mental orgasms are just things that people talk about. They are not actual orgasms that men can experience. The big difference here is that an article about male orgasm would treat these things as the fringe hearsay that they are, and an article about the female orgasm treats these as what female orgasm is.
I honestly don't want to blame the author of this article or the BBC for this. It's bigger than them. This article flies because it is the status quo. It is what people understand about female orgasm. I will put a touch of blame on the scientists interviewed for this article. I know they have to at least be aware that vaginally induced orgasms have never been physically verified in science, and I know they know that their research does not prove this orgasm exists, but only speculates about how this orgasm might happen if it exists. And if they are not aware of this, may I be so bold as to say that they should probably become a bit more thoughtful about what exactly they are researching?
So, let me re-write this article for you:
Hi Everyone! BBC Future presents: The Female Orgasm - It Ain't Such a Mystery (my re-write)
Lady-gasms?!? What Are Them Things?
Orgasm is the rhythmic release of the pelvic muscle tension created during arousal, and it is caused by sufficient stimulation of the penis or the clitoral glans/vulva area. It's the same for all sexes, all genders, trans people, gay people, straight people, intersex people - you name em' if they got something that is like a penis or a clitoral glans, then it can be stimulated to orgasm. Males generally trigger ejaculation at orgasm, but orgasms and ejaculation are 2 different things and can be experienced separately. It is possible for men to have multiple orgasms if they are able to hold off ejaculation until they orgasm a couple times, although it doesn't seem to be common. They are also able to ejaculate w/o orgasm, sometimes due to prostate (G-spot) stimulation through the anus. It seems some women can ejaculate through direct stimulation of their G-spot, which is the sorta female version of the male prostate that surrounds the urethra that can be felt through the vaginal wall. Although this doesn't seem to be super common either - and it has never been shown to cause an orgasm. Add in some clitoral stimulation, though, with the G-spot stimulation and a woman might be able to orgasm and ejaculate at the same time. Although it is possible for both men and women to ejaculate, it is the orgasm that is that release of muscle tension pent up through arousal.
Now, let's go back a bit. A person first needs to be aroused before he or she can orgasm. Any ol' stimulus can arouse; smell, touch, sound, sight. It's incredibly individual and has everything to do with a person's culture, past experiences, and state of mind (I'd argue our culture creates a lot more barriers to female arousal than to male), but once the arousal happens, our bodies all react quite similarly. An increase of blood flow begins to makes the penis hard and lubrication seep through the walls of the vagina and for the inner clitoral legs swell. Ladies and gentlemen both have a similar amount of blood pooling in the groin. We just see men's more easily. Then if arousal is continued and if there is appropriate stimulation to either the penis or the clitoral glans, an orgasm will occur. The pelvic muscle of men and women alike will rhythmically release that tension. It is recordable, predictable, and no knowledgeable researcher out there would deny that this can be described as an orgasm.
What About Vaginal Orgasms?!?
There is a minority of women who claim to orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone. Although women's claims should never be disregarded, it is important to realize that this type of orgasm has never actually been observed and recorded in scientific literature, and it's possible that at least some of these claims involve the use of the word 'orgasm' to mean something other than the physical orgasm that can be identified through rhythmic pelvic muscular activity. It's actually possible that an orgasm caused only by stimulation inside the vagina is merely a myth made up by Freud. As some Italian researchers pointed out just this year as part of their criticism of the re-naming of female genitals and female sexual response happening in a lot of recent research on female sexual response, "(Komisaruk) ignores the fact that 'vaginal orgasm' has no scientific basis; the term was invented by Freud in 1905, and medical authorities writing in French, German, and English during Freud's time were unanimous in holding that female pleasure originated in the structures of the vulva generally and in the clitoris specifically. No alternative sites were proposed." (Puppo 291)
In fact, in 1966 researchers Masters and Johnson released Human Sexual Response, a large, groundbreaking study that described arousal and orgasm in both men and women. Their findings are still important and relevant, and they unequivocally said that all female orgasms resulted from stimulation of the clitoral glans, laying to rest Freud's vaginal orgasm. Since the time Masters and Johnson released their work, there have been over 40 year of studies investigating what might cause a vaginal orgasm, but not a one of those studies has actually documented a vaginal orgasm. That's a lot of years that have gone by with absolutely no proof, and it's not particularly hard to get the proof. Recording the rhythmic pelvic muscle activity during orgasm is completely possible to do. It's probably even easier to do now than it was in M&J's time. Studies have done it plenty of times, further corroborating Master and Johnson's findings. Strange that this has not happened for vaginally stimulated orgasm. If these orgasms do exist, they are yet undocumented, and likely even less common than we now believe them to be - certainly a fringe situation.
My Critique From The Beginning of the BBC Article to End
The article begins with anecdotes and metaphors creating a sentiment that can basically be summed up by the picture below.
Then, the article tells us "It's a stark contrast to a man's experience; so long as they can get an erection, a few minutes of vigorous stimulation generally results in ejaculation."
1. An erection means a man is aroused, and similarly, as long a woman can get aroused, she too needs only a few minutes of vigorous stimulation in order to come. (Seriously, women can masturbate to orgasm about as fast as men do.)
2. Ejaculation and orgasm are different things, remember. Since this is an article about orgasm, I think the author probably should have used the word orgasm instead of ejaculation.
So, clearly the article is coming from the premise that lady-gasms are confusing, but it tells us, "recent years have seen a flurry of studies by these real-life Masters of Sex, and they are finally getting some answers."
This is particularly funny to me because these 'real-life Masters of Sex' the article refers to are the scientists interviewed for this article, and they are all working on fringe ideas of female orgasm. The article completely ignores the work of the actual real-life Masters of Sex, Masters and Johnson. These are the people who did the work to actually understand female (and male) orgasm. These are the researchers who lifted the mystery from lady-gasms, but clearly, even with a Showtime series about them, their contribution has gotten overshadowed, skewed, and ignored over the years. It absolutely boggles my mind that an article about the female orgasm from a revered news site like the BBC doesn't even mention Masters and Johnson or their discoveries. It is an appalling oversight, but it is also completely unsurprising and indicative of how far from reality the cultural discussion of female orgasm is, and how few people seem to notice.
After informing us that scientists are just now doing studies that begin to answer these long held secrets of the female orgasm and that fMRI studies basically show that male and female brains are similar during orgasm. (Here's a good 2011 overview of the fMRI research on arousal and orgasm to date btw. It's the full text article - not just the abstract!)
Then things get a little dicey again. We are told that pinning down the anatomy of an orgasm is hard because, "the penis has just one route for carrying sensations to the brain, the female genital tract has three or four."
A point about female orgasmic pathways being more complicated than male orgasmic pathways is being made here, but it's comparing apples to oranges. The penis is the male organ of sexual pleasure and the 'female genital tract' is the clitoris (the female organ of sexual pleasure), plus the vagina, the cervix and uterus, hell they're probably throwing the urethra in too. So, yeah, obviously the female genital tract will have more routes for carrying sensation to the brain than just the penis. However, if we compare the two organs that are able to be stimulated to orgasm, the clitoris/vuvla area and the penis, they both have one route, the pudendal nerve. The pelvic nerve, for instance, does involve itself with inside the vagina and cervix, but for men if is involved with erection and the rectum, so the male genital tracts has more than one route too, but that doesn't mean there are more ways for males to orgasm.
Here's the 1 external clitoral glans portion of the article. Although it is introduced as the "seat of female pleasure," it is only really discussed as one of many instead of the organ of sexual pleasure (the way an article might discuss the penis and male orgasm). There is no discussion about the scientific research that cemented its place, alongside the penis, as where orgasms arise. There is just a brief discussion of when the clit was acknowledged through history, ending with Freud's assessment that orgasm from clitoral stimulation is inferior to vaginal orgasm. The article then tells us, "Between thirty and forty percent of women claim never to have experienced an orgasm through vaginal penetration alone - though many more can have orgasms through clitoral stimulation. The suggestion that the vaginal orgasm is somehow superior has irked feminists. It sounds as if women who don't experience vaginal orgasm just aren't trying hard enough. So should vaginal orgasms be a rite of passage for all women, or just a privileged few? Is it even possible to have an orgasm in the absence of the clitoris?"After that, the article moves directly into discussing orgasm in relation to vaginal penetration.
There's a few things about this section that bother me. I understand that there was an attempt here to give a nod to the clit and to question the idea that vaginal orgasms are more mature, but I think as a whole, it fails to do that, and possibly gives even more credibility to Freud's backward ideas about vaginal orgasm.
1. The stat here put the amount of women who have vaginally orgasmed at around 60-70%. I don't know where in particular that stat's from, but it's high. I understand how stats can range on this topic because depending on how specific the survey question is about whether additional clitoral stimulation is used during intercourse, the numbers vary (The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution has a fantastic overview of lots of surveys on this), but the numbers I normally see are only about 30% of women claim to orgasm with only vaginal stimulation.
2. This might be just me being obsessive, but contrasting the stats for vaginal orgasm versus the "many more" that can have orgasms through clitoral stimulation makes it seem like an either/or situation, as if there are some women who are 'wired differently' and have the ability to orgasm through vaginal stimulation but not clitoral and vice versa (and some who can do both). The truth is that there is every indication that all healthy women can orgasm from clitoral glans stimulation, and there is no indication that there are other women who are 'wired' to orgasm vaginally.
3. Why are we still even approaching Freud and his ideas on lady-gasms as worthwhile? He literally just made up that shit. Asking if vaginal orgasms should be a rite of passage or for only a privileged few validates not only that vaginal orgasms are a thing, but that they are something special that should be envied.
4. Saying feminists were 'irked' by the idea of vaginal orgasms being superior sounds trivial, minimizing the egregious nature of Freud's assertions and how ridiculous and harmful they were. The inability to have vaginal orgasms classified women as psychologically damaged by the established medical community up into the 1970's. Feminists in the 70's and 80's were outspoken about this, not just because it 'irked' their feminist sensibilities, but because they were on the side of science. The first actual large scale studies about female orgasm had come out and shown quite clearly that vaginal orgasm was not even a thing, much less some kind of superior thing. They were looking at female orgasm from the perspective of scientific knowledge and what they saw was women being punished for the inability to do something that their bodies actually couldn't do.
The article goes right into research by Barry Komisaruk. He and Beverly Whipple did a study in which women with spinal cord injuries that severed the ability for clit stimulation to get to the brain, were still able to orgasm through vaginal stimulation - likely due to the Vagus nerves that carry sensation from the cervix to the brain without using the spinal cord. Komisaruk thinks maybe this is why women describe clitoral orgasms as more localized and external and vaginal orgasms as more whole-body and internal. He also says of this study, "Women with spinal cord injury who could not feel their clitoris, nevertheless had orgasms from vaginal stimulation. That's probably the best evidence that vaginal orgasms exist."
If this is the best evidence for vaginal orgasm, then things don't look good for the vaginal orgasm. First off, as with all vag-gasm studies, the women merely said they had an orgasm. It was not physically verified. It's just that 3 of the 5 women in this study claimed to orgasm and were taken at their word. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, but since this is a scientific investigations, and as of yet no orgasm like the one they are claiming to have has ever been observed, it really does need to be verified.
Secondly, nonchalantly calling the stimulation these 5 women were receiving 'vaginal stimulation' is rather misleading. That makes it sound like it was just some in-out of the vagina with a dildo or something, but in fact it was a very specific type of cervical stimulation that involves a pessary, which is kinda like a hard cervical ring that had to be professionally fitted to each woman individually. The pessary has Velcro on it, and a device that ends with a modified tampon with Velcro on the end is inserted in and attached to the Velcro on the pessary. It is controlled by the patient and sort of puts suction-y pressure on the cervix (without really touching the cervix - cause that can hurt like a bitch, right?). It’s not your average vaginal stimulation, so even if this contraption did cause a verifiable physical orgasm in these 3 women with spinal cord injuries, it's not exactly the kind of stimulation that's easily replicated at home.
I go into more detail about this study HERE.
Never the less, that study, which certainly does not prove women can orgasm from vaginal stimulation is deemed sufficient enough for the article to state the following. "So if different nerves can carry sensation from different regions of the female genitalia - and both can trigger orgasm - are some regions of the vagina more sensitive than others? Where should couples go hunting for the elusive vaginal orgasm?"
And the article is still stuck on the false premise that vaginal orgasms are a proven reality.
I described above that stimulation of the G-spot, or more clearly stated - the female prostate, has been shown to cause ejaculation, but not orgasm, in women. However, that distinction is often lost, and the 'G-spot' becomes a way to describe something that doesn't exist - a button in the vagina that causes orgasm. That is where this article ends up in the section on the G-spot. It first describes that studies have shown the G-spot is a bundles of nerves, blood vessels, and remnants of the prostate gland, and then it goes on to say that a minority of women could stimulate it to trigger, "powerful orgasms and the release of a small amount of fluid from the urethra that was not urine," but admits that actual evidence to support or refute the G-spot is patchy.
Of course the evidence for the G-spot is spotty because the word 'G-spot' is sometimes used to mean the female prostate area and sometimes used to mean a mystical orgasm button in your vag. Although there is plenty more research that should go into ejaculation and the female prostate, it's largely evident that there is a prostate-like area around the urethra in women that can be felt through the vaginal wall and that some women can ejaculate when it's stimulated. There is no evidence, however, that stimulation to anything in the vagina, much less the prostate-like area, can cause orgasm. One way of speaking about the G-spot is backed by evidence and the other is not, but in both research and common language it's confused, and so yeah, it makes the research look spotty.
The article next moves to a study with 20 women by a researcher named Jannini that showed there does,"seem to be physical differences between women who claim to experience vaginal orgasm and those who don't." A thicker area of tissue between the vagina and the urethra correlates with women who orgasm vaginally.
It's true. That is what the study finds, but it must be noted that per usual there is no proof that the women who say they can orgasm vaginally can actually do that. I know I harp on this, but the word orgasm, when it comes to women, is used so loosely, and the cultural assumptions about it are so confusing that it is not unreasonable to think that there may be a woman or two out there who says, and maybe even believes, that she orgasms from vaginal stimulation only, but she actually does not. Maybe she just has a psychological or spiritual 'climax.' Maybe she ejaculated. These things might feel pleasurable or satisfying but if she does not exhibit the release of pelvic muscle tension known to indicate orgasm, then scientifically, it should not be categorized as an orgasm. If even 1 of the women in this study were using the word orgasm incorrectly, then that would make a huge difference to the results of a 20 person study like this. Also, even if it were verified that the claims of vaginal orgasm were true, there is no proof that the thickness differences have anything to do with the ability to orgasm this way. It's merely a correlation. In the end this study says nothing about if or how women orgasm vaginally. It is at best merely a starting point for further investigation. I go into more detail about this study HERE.
Jannini conducted another study on 3 women where ultrasound was used to find that moving a lubricated tampon in and out of the vagina shifted both the internal parts of the clit and the tissue around the urethra. When the women just rubbed their external clit, just the external parts of the clit shifted. The article uses this to back up the idea that the inner clitoral legs, stimulated through the vaginal wall, might be the way vaginally stimulated orgasms happen.
Maybe. Or maybe not. No orgasms were observed in this study. This, like the last study, can only really be viewed as a starting point. If vaginal orgasms happen, then this article might be a starting point for investigating the mechanism for how they happen. That's about as much as can be taken from it. I go into more detail about this study HERE.
Pauls, another researcher, did a case study about a woman with incredibly unique genital structure that included a clit positioned closer to the vaginal opening than normal. She claimed to vaginally orgasm every time she had sex (although it was never physically verified that she was able to do this). (I go into detail about that study HERE). The article wondered if this indicated that vaginal penetration may be "stimulating both the external and internal parts of the clitoris." Pauls and her colleagues wondered about this too, and created a study to see if the size and location of the clit made a difference in ability to orgasm. With MRI measurements, the researchers found that for the 30 subjects, "the smaller the pea-shaped glans, and the further from the vagina, the harder they found it to achieve orgasm."
That was the conclusion that came from the study, but I don't think that conclusion is reasonably supported by this study. Out of the ~ 23 measurements of the clit size and distance, only 5 actually show significant differences between the groups. In fact, the clitoral glans area that the authors put forth as a significant difference between the two groups of women is only significant when they measured it from the coronal, but not the sagittal view. Unfortunately, this study also failed at asking the participants the proper questions so that they could be grouped in a way that would create meaning when compared to the clitoral measurements. Statistics are only as good as the understanding that exists of the population it is describing, and I don't think the understanding was good at all. I go into more detail on this study HERE.
"Taken together, these studies imply that there are multiple routes by which women can experience an orgasm, be it through vaginal stimulation, clitoral stimulation, or both at once. "
Or not. These studies taken together show that the vaginally stimulated orgasm has still not been observed, and although there are lots of theories, just as there has been for the past 40 years, as to how this type of orgasm might occur, none are conclusive...particularly because it's awful hard to prove the mechanism that causes vaginally stimulated orgasms, when a vaginally stimulated orgasm has never been observed. Maybe, just maybe, these types of 'orgasms' are so mysterious because they don't really exist, and so investigating them would naturally be tricky.
Komisaruk chimes in a final time in reference to a study he did revealing that, "projections from different regions of the female genitals - and indeed the nipples - all converge on the same general region of the brain, albeit in slightly different areas." (I go into more detail about that study HERE). He says, "There's a good neuroanatomical basis for different types of orgasms and different types of sensations." He goes on to say, "This could account for why combining clitoral, vaginal, and cervical stimulation seems to produce these more intense, complex and pleasurable orgasms that women describe."
I'll just leave it at this. No, there is actually not good evidence for different types of orgasms. Different types of sensations? Sure. Moving a penis in and out of the vagina feels different than lightly touching the vulva, feels different that sucking on the nipple, and feels different than kissing the back of the neck. I personally like them all, but that doesn't mean they all can cause orgasm. Also, I'd like to know more about these more intense, complex and pleasurable orgasms that women describe. When do they describe them? How are they more complex, intense and pleasurable? And how exactly did he find that these amazing orgasms were specifically related to a combination of cervical, vaginal, and clitoral stimulation?
The article ends with some advice from Pauls and Jannini. I particularly appreciate that Pauls tells us if we don't have orgasms through straight out vaginal penetration, then that's normal. She's absolutely right, but her one statement within an article that focuses almost entirely on vaginally stimulated orgasms is a beautifully perfect microcosm of our sexual culture. Sure we hear now and then that lots of women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, but as a whole our culture obsesses on the completely un-verified vaginally stimulated orgasm to a point, I would argue, of absurdity.
I honestly don't want to hate on the author of this article. It was certainly not that she was ignorant or terrible at her job. The sources she used and the people she spoke to are top studies and top researchers in female orgasm. What she said in her article is not off-base from things other reporters and sexperts say. I critique this article, but it is more a critique of the sexual culture that stimulates this type of discussion around female orgasm and that allows this type of article to be published by the BBC and that makes audiences accept the misinformation so easily.
What I do want is to open eyes and start tough conversations, and I hope this critique helps to do that.
If you are unsure about my assertions that orgasm can be defined with the rhythmic pelvic muscle activity, or that the clitoris needs to be stimulated to cause orgasm, or that Masters and Johnson really did create important, fundamental and still relevant work in regards to human sexual response, then please check out a debate I had with Edward Clint at Skeptic Ink HERE. I address all those things in detail.
If you want to understand more clearly what I mean when I say vaginal stimulation has never been shown to cause orgasms. I detail that out HERE.
If you want to see more about the affects and reasons for this cultural misunderstanding of female orgasm - Watch Science, Sex and the Ladies HERE.
If you want to see an artist doing bold, important work on the ignorance about and cultural erasing of the clitoris (which goes hand in hand with the ignorance about and cultural erasing of a realistic female orgasm), check out 101 Laws of Cliteracy by Sophia Wallace.
"Relationships Among Cardiovascular, Muscular, and Oxytocin Responses During Human Sexual Activity" Carmichael, et al. Archives of Sexual Behavior Vol. 23, No. 1 1994
Response to the letter to the editor by Barry K. Komisaruk "re: Puppo V, Puppo G. 2014. Anatomy of sex: Revision of the new anatomical terms used for the clitoris and the female orgasm by sexologists". Puppo V1, Puppo G. Clin Anat. 2015 Apr;28(3):291-2. doi: 10.1002/ca.22500. Epub 2014 Dec 22.
"Relationships Among Cardiovascular, Muscular, and Oxytocin Responses During Human Sexual Activity" Carmichael, et al. Archives of Sexual Behavior Vol. 23, No. 1 1994
The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution. LLoyd, Elisabeth A. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2005.
Women's clitoris, vagina, and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence. Komisaruk BR1, Wise N, Frangos E, Liu WC, Allen K, Brody S. J Sex Med. 2011 Oct;8(10):2822-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02388.x. Epub 2011 Jul 28.
Clitoral size and location in relation to sexual function using pelvic MRI. Oakley SH1, Vaccaro CM, Crisp CC, Estanol MV, Fellner AN, Kleeman SD, Pauls RN. J Sex Med. 2014 Apr;11(4):1013-22. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12450. Epub 2014 Feb 13.
Sexual function in a woman with congenital bladder exstrophy and multiple pelvic reconstructive surgeries: a case report. Vaccaro CM1, Herfel C, Karram MM, Pauls RN. J Sex Med. 2011 Feb;8(2):617-21.
Pilot echographic study of the differences in clitoral involvement following clitoral or vaginal sexual stimulation. Buisson O1, Jannini EA. J Sex Med. 2013 Nov;10(11):2734-40.
"Measurement of the thickness of the urethrovaginal space in women with or without vaginal orgasm." Gravina GL, Brandetti F, Martini P, Carosa E, Di Stasi SM, Morano S, Lenzi A, Jannini EA. J Sex Med. 2008 Mar;5(3):610-8.
Female ejaculation orgasm vs. coital incontinence: a systematic review. Pastor Z. J Sex Med.2013 Jul;10(7):1682-91. 2013 May 1.
Brain activation during vaginocervical self-stimulation and orgasm in women with complete spinal cord injury: fMRI evidence of mediation by the vagus nerves. Komisaruk BR1, Whipple B, Crawford A, Liu WC, Kalnin A, Mosier K. Brain Res. 2004 Oct 22;1024(1-2):77-88.
Human Sexual Response. Masters, W. and V. Johnson. Little, Brown & Co. 1966.
Hello, friends. It's time for more Random Hite Report! In 1976, Shere Hite dropped The Hite Report where she compiled detailed survey answers from over 3,000 women about sex, masturbation, orgasms, and relationships. It's insane to me how revolutionary this book still is. Read it, seriously. We really haven't changed that much in 40 years, and it's an incredibly insightful read.
Then in 1981, she dropped The Hite Report on Male Sexuality where over 7,000 men give detailed answers about sex, relationships, and women. It too is revolutionary, and the honesty, vulnerability, and detail in this book is so important and moving. I think everyone should read this too. So, I give you a taste every now and then to entice you to get these books. Seriously, they are both like 1 cent online. Anyway, what I do is flip to one random page and copy the contents of that page, no more-no less, directly onto this blog.
The Hite Report on Male Sexuality Knopf, 1981 pg 826.
This is from the chapter Love, Relationships, and Monogamy Between Men. Under the question "Describe the time you fell most deeply in love. How did it feel? What happened?"
"....for either of us we each supported the other strongly. When we began after 2 years to do fewer things together, i knew that my commitment was dying. So, I decided not to move with him when he got a job offer in another city. He was surprised and hurt but made a fast recovery. I was upset, too. I still deeply love they guy. We visit each other at holidays, and have sex. But it is more out of a tribute to the past, I guess."
And many gay men expressed their desire for long-term relationships in very sincere and warm terms when asked, "what are your deepest longings for a relationship with another person?"
"My deepest longings are to find someone to form a lifelong loving, give-take relationship based on love, trust, companionship, and understanding. It would be a physically and emotionally fulfilling relationship."
"My deepest longings are to find the person who fulfills me. Who I fulfill. With whom I find and can share the beauty I have seen. Someone I can cherish. Someone who builds me up when I am down."
"I want a permanent relationship with someone who is 'always there.' The hardest thing in my life is ultimately being alone at night. I can have great days and good times at work and in a variety of traditional ways, but it always ends in going home alone. I wish there was someone there to go to bed with me for the night; someone who cares for me and who was not there necessarily for the sex."
"To find a male sexual partner - a man I can share my life with and to whom I can express all my emotions, sexual passions, and drives - and most of all a man I can love."
"My hope is that I find someone who is attractive, a good person, happy, that likes or loves only me, faults and all. That I can be relaxed and giving with. Sex together would be very satisfying. That we both have satisfying careers and are comfortable financially. That I think of him a lot when he is away. Our relationship gets better and deeper as time passes. That we are monogamous. And share hobbies and common interests together. That we stay together until we are very old. That we both share a family of friends and contribute to the community. That we truly and deeply love each other. That he is also my best friend and lover. That my real family loves and accepts him as a son also."
"Is gay 'promiscuity' a myth or a reality? Do you prefer emotional closeness or casual sex or both?" "Are you in love? In a steady relationship? How many men have you had a sexual relationship with? Do you like monogamy?"
Many men said that "promiscuity" is a word with many negative connotations, which they preferred not to use. One man replied, " 'Promiscuity' is a ridiculous word!" Another pointed out that just as it is inappropriate to identify someone by sexual preference, it is also inappropriate to link the terms "gay" and promiscuous": ...
Yes, another Journal Article I Read. This one is pretty simple, really.
Women's clitoris, vagina, and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence. Komisaruk BR1, Wise N, Frangos E, Liu WC, Allen K, Brody S. J Sex Med. 2011 Oct;8(10):2822-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02388.x. Epub 2011 Jul 28.
"The aim of this study was to map the sensory cortical fields of the clitoris, vagina, cervix, and nipple toward an elucidation of the neural systems underlying sexual response." Basically, they used fMRI to investigate what parts of the brain received increased blood flow (which assumes neurons in that part of the brain are getting activated) when the cervix, vagina, clitoris, and nipples were being stimulated. All this in an effort to better understand sexual response.
The verdict? "As seen in the present findings, using fMRI, in which the women applied clitoral, vagina, or uterine cervical self-stimulation, there is clear evidence of activation in the medial region of the paracentral lobule, in the sensory genital region of the homuncular map of Penfield and Rasmussen. In addition, there is an occasional secondary activation in the dorsolateral paracentral loule, indicative of groin stimulation."
- "The original map of the representation of the genitals in the sensory cortex in humans was generated by applying roving electrical stimulation to the brain in awake men, and asking the men from which part of the body the stimulation seemed to emanate" It was mapped to the medial cortex.
- The medial cortex was associated to the penis in a couple more studies, and it was assumed, given some indirect evidence, that this is the same area that would be associated to the clitoris
- However, more recent PET and fMRI studies associated the penis to "a more dorsolateral portion of the paracentral lobule rather than its medial region." The studies include one in which the researcher stimulated the penis with a toothbrush while recording fMRI, one in which the subjects partner manually stimulated the penis while recording PET, and one in response to electrical stimulation of the penis.
- This discrepancy about where penis stimulation is associated in the brain (more dorsolateral or more medial) is not fully understood or rectified.
- Recently PET and MRI studies associated the clitoris to the dorsolateral rather than the medial region of the paracentral lobule - matching the more modern penis studies. The studies include one in which the subjects partner manually stimulated the clitoris while recording PET, and one using fMRI recordings are taken in response to electrical stimulation of the clitoris.
- To the researcher's knowledge, an investigation of where stimulation of the vagina and cervix projects onto the human brain has not been done until now.
- 11 women were recruited by word-of mouth. They were healthy, right-handed, 23-56 years old, and not pregnant. They were also pre-screened with the Symptoms Checklist-90-R questionnaire to "rule out any psychological contraindications."
- Their heads were stabilize with individually fitted frames to limit head motion while fMRI was being recorded.
- The trials for each body part were 5 minutes long with 5 repeated sequences of 30 seconds of rest followed by 30 seconds of stimulation. The subjects wore headphones through which the researchers would give them instructions.
- "Control trials consisted of an experimenter rhythmically tapping a participant's thumb or toe in separate trials to establish reference points on the sensory cortex."
- "Experimental mapping trials consisted of participants self-stimulating, by hand or personal device, using 'comfortable' intensity, the clitoris, anterior wall of the vagina, the cervix, or the nipple in separate, randomized-sequence trials."
- "Clitoral self-stimulation was applied using rhythmic tapping with the right hand."
- "Vaginal self-stimulation (of the anterior wall) was applied using the participants own stimulator (typically a 15 mm-diameter S-shaped acrylic rounded-top cylinder)."
- "Cervical self-stimulation was applied using a similar diameter, glass or acrylic straight, rounded-tip cylinder brought to the study by each participant."
- "Nipple self-stimulation was applied using the right hand to tap the left nipple rhythmically."
- During each 5-minute sensory session, 150 image sets of 32 slices per Repetition Time were obtained. (If you want more details about the fMRI situation, put it in the comments, and I'll update).
- "Group maps" were created for each anatomical trial. It doesn't say specifically what that means, but I am assuming from context that this is a combination of all 11 women's MRI recordings per each trial...so, all the clitoral stimulation tests for all 11 women were combined, and so on. (If you know this to be incorrect, let me know).
- A software program called MRIcro was used "for visualization of group maps on a standardized anatomical template."
- In Figure 2 below, the arrows "indicate sensory cortical brain regions activated by the specific stimuli."
- Not all the "lighting up" going on in the pictures below is related to the part of the body being specifically investigated. Since the vagina, clit, and cervix are all self-stimulated, you are also seeing areas of the brain involved in hand-movement.
- "Note the absence of hand movement in the case of experimenter-applied thumb stimulation."
- Although the participants only used their right hands to apply self-stimulation, the areas in the brain for both hands were activated - which surprised the researchers. Although they later point out that there is substantial evidence in the literature for "bilateral sensory cortical response to unilateral hand stimulation."
- In the case of the investigator-applied toe stimulation, hand areas in the participants brains were also activated - which also surprised the researchers. They later guess that this maybe has something to do with a "stumble" response in which the hands subtly twitch in response to foot stimulation so that the hands are ready to catch a person when the feet falter, but it's only a speculation.
- Cervical, Vaginal, and Clitoral activation sites, "are all in the medial paracentral lobule, but are regionally differentiated." The researchers hypothesize that the different brain areas affected by clitoris, vagina, cervix could be due to the different nerves that serve each of those anatomical structures.
- There is some overlap between the parts of the brain activated during vaginal and cervical stimulation. The researchers think this must be due at least in part to the stretching of the vagina that happens when the dildo is inserted for both cervical and vaginal stimulation.
- "Nipple self-stimulation not only, as expected, activated the thoracic (rib) region...but also, unexpectedly, the genital sensory cortex, i.e., the genital (medial) region of the paracentral lobule."
- Nipple self-stimulation and vaginal self-stimulation each activated both the genital area and activated the rib area. The authors wonder if this has to do with fact that both types of stimulation release oxytocin and the connection between nipple stimulation and uterine contractions that nursing mothers would certainly recognize.
- So in relation to the discrepancy between earlier studies (and this study) indicating penis/clit projecting to the medial and later studies showing the projection in the dorsolateral paracentral lobule, the authors posit the following. "...based on the present findings, the discrepancy in the literature may be due to the responses to indirect stimulation of the perinial (groin) region rather than to adequate stimulation of the genital per se."
- "Under the conditions of the present study, it is not possible to discern whether the overlap among regions of the sensory cortex activated in response to self-stimulation of each of these three genital regions is due to true overlap of the brain regions that would be activated by 'pure' stimulation of each of these three genital regions separately, or whether the overlap is due to incidental stimulation of one genital region (e.g., vagina) during self-stimulation of a different genital region (e.g., cervix). What is clear, however, is that the sensory cortical regions activated by each of these three genital regions are to some extent separable and distinct."
- "The cerebellum activation observed in the present study during vaginal and cervical self-stimulation is a common observation during genital stimulation, especially during orgasm. It is likely this is involved in controlling muscle tension during genital stimulation."
- * "The present findings provide evidence that, rather than vaginal stimulation being just an indirect means of stimulating the clitoris [18,25], vaginal and cervical stimulation per se activate specific sensory cortical regions that are distinct from the clitoral sensory projection." *
- "While the present study mapped the primary sensory field of genital input to the sensory cortex, it would be of interest in future studies to extend this analysis to brain fields beyond the sensory cortex that are activated when genital stimulation is perceived as "erotic" vs. when it is perceived as "just pressure."
There's not too much to say about this one. It is certainly a worthwhile study that added to the scientific discussion on where genital sensation is projected in the sensory cortex, and could be useful to reference in further investigation.
I do wonder why self-stimulation was chosen in this particular study. It adds the extra variable of intentional body movement into the brain activity. Also, the self-stimulation for the vagina and cervix (moving a dildo inside the vagina) seems to me to be much more complicated than the self-stimulation involved with the clitoral and nipple self-stimulation (simply tapping). So, I wonder if the more complicated holding and moving actions involved with the dildos affected the ability to compare cervix and vagina results with the nipple and clit stimulation results. I also wonder if there was any discrepancy among the 11 women about where the different stimulations were projected. I honestly don't know anything about how the fMRIs are combined, but I know the authors didn't discuss any discrepancies that might affect the study's outcome, so I assume all 11 women were quite similar. Just a thought, but overall I don't have complaints about the experimental design.
Extra things that I just want to talk about....
I think that the authors of this study (with the statement starred * above) are specifically weighing in on an argument that relates to female orgasm. Although female orgasm was not specifically mentioned in the statement, I believe, based on the works they cite in that statement, they are pointing out that their work here is contrary to 2 different hypotheses about how orgasm can happen during intercourse with no extra manual clitoral stimulation.
The 1st way was proposed (and observed) by Masters and Johnson. The say that the clitoral glans can be indirectly stimulated through vulva movement during intercourse that pulls the clitoral hood and gently stimulates the clitoral glans so that a weak orgasm may occur.
The second is what I would say is one of the most pop hypotheses for understanding how a vaginally activated orgasm might work. This hypothesis goes something like this: 'All orgasms are clitoral, actually. What we call vaginal orgasms are really just clitoral orgasms caused by stimulation of the inner clitoral legs through the vagina.'
Another opposing (and I'd say a bit less currently popular among sexperts) view on how a vaginal orgasm might occur is that there is some aspect of the vagina or cervix themselves that cause an orgasm to happen when stimulated. This less pop one is the one these authors seem to throw their weight towards. Their reasoning is that if cervical or vaginal stimulation is projected to a different part of the brain than the clit stimulation, then vaginal orgasms are likely caused by something specific about stimulation of the vagina, not just indirect stimulation of the clitoris. I must point out, though, that no orgasm from stimulation inside the vagina has ever been observed anyway - be it through the inner clitoral legs or through something specific about the vagina itself, so speculating about what might cause this thing that might not exist is maybe not so useful.
Okay - one final thing about a possible Freud obsession
At the end of the discussion - directly after the starred statement we just discussed, the authors write this:
"The differential routes of entry into the brain are undoubtedly of significance in activating the diverse and differential consequences of clitoral, vaginal or cervical stimulation; they include differential physiological effects (e.g., on prolactin secretion , analgesia , and blood pressure reactivity to stress ) and differential behavioral effects (e.g., on orgasm , sexual satisfaction , and intimate relationship quality [31.32]).
I bring this passage up because, if I may be blunt, it seems like it has an agenda.The authors concluded that stimulation of the clitoris, vagina and cervix activate different areas of the sensory cortex and are trying to point out that this finding is in line with the idea that stimulation of the vagina, the cervix, and the clitoris each have different effects on women. It's not the craziest speculation to make, I guess. However what bothers me is that most of these citations are from the study's 6th author, Stuart Brody, who if I may be blunt again, seems to definitely have an agenda. He's a little obsessed with proving that Freud was not just making shit up about lady-gasms, and that penis-in-vagina sex and vaginally stimulated orgasms (which, let's review, haven't actually been observed in scientific literature) are basically the bestest, most healthy things a woman could ever have.
I've linked all the citations and you can see the titles, authors and sometimes a smart ass description from me below. Feel free to judge for yourself, but I thought this passage seemed at best to be a tagged on way to get more of their own previous work into the citations (which I heard recently is pretty important for researchers - and that sometimes citations get added into papers a little shadily) or at worst an indication that the rest of these authors also have a bit of an obsession or at least a professional stake in preserving a Freudian idea of vaginal orgasm.
You might also be interested in some of Brody's other studies not listed below: A Woman's History of Vaginal Orgasm is Discernible from Her Walk (2008) because, obviously, right? and Vaginal Orgasm Is Associated with Less Use of Immature Psychological Defense Mechanisms (2008) - He wanted to test Freud's theory that women who couldn't orgasm vaginally were immature....and guess what? He found that they were. That ol' dog Freud was right!
 The post-orgasmic prolactin increase following intercourse is greater than following masturbation and suggests greater satiety. Brody S1, Krüger TH.
 Analgesia produced in women by genital self-stimulation. Whipple B1, Komisaruk BR.
 Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity. Brody S1.
 Sexual response in women Winnifred B. Cutler, PhDa, Millicent Zackera (DO), Norma McCoy, PhDa, Elizabeth Genovese-Stone, MDa, Erika Friedman, PhDa - the only article here not written by one of these authors.
 Sexual behavior predictors of satisfaction in a Chinese sample. Tao P1, Brody S. - Guess what? Satisfaction was associated with P-in-V sex and vaginal orgasm for the ladies!
 Women's relationship quality is associated with specifically penile-vaginal intercourse orgasm and frequency. Costa RM1, Brody S. - I think you get the gist.
 The Relative Health Benefits of Different Sexual Activities Stuart Brody PhD - A little surprise ending.... P-in-V sex? Associated with better mental AND physical health! All them other ways to do it? Don't have nothin' to do with health...OR associated with worse mental and physical health (I'd stay away from anal sex and masturbation, ya'll).