The Logic of the Female Experience

Evolutionary Purpose?

Scientists have never had any problem explaining male orgasm, since its role in reproduction is undeniable. Still, the Darwinian logic behind the female orgasm remains elusive. Women can get pregnant without an orgasm, so what does this tell us about the evolutionary purpose of the female orgasm?

One school of thought holds that the experience of orgasm leads to women being more desirous of sex, which in turn brings them to reproduce. However, some scientists believe that the female orgasm has no evolutionary function whatsoever.

Just for Fun

In 1979, anthropologist Donald Symons put forth the theory that female orgasms are only a byproduct of the matched development of male and female embryos during their first eight weeks in utero. It is during this time that nerve and tissue pathways are readied for various human reflexes, including orgasm. Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a philosopher of science postulates that nipples in men mirror this process. Women's nipples serve a purpose, while male nipples seem to be left over from an early stage of embryonic development. So, while many scientists continue to postulate an evolutionary function for female orgasm, Lloyd states that the purpose of this reflex "is for fun."

Lloyd found that 5-10% of women never had orgasms though many of them became pregnant. These figures are much lower than those offered by Dr. Alfred A. Kinsey who claimed in his 1953 book, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female," that 39-47% of women reported almost always having orgasms during intercourse. Lloyd explains the significant gap in the numbers by Kinsey was the inclusion of clitoral stimulation as a variable in his study.

One theory that supports the female orgasm as an evolutionary function was proposed in 1993 by Dr. Robin Baker and Dr. Mark A. Bellis, at Manchester University in England. The two scientists argued that female orgasm was a mechanism for retaining sperm through suction in the uterus. The British researchers believe that if a woman has an orgasm one minute prior to or up to 45 minutes after her male partner's ejaculation, she retains more sperm.

Baker and Bellis also assert that when a woman has intercourse with a man other than her usual mate, she is more liable to orgasm during this prime time span, thus retaining more sperm, which leads to a greater chance of conception. This theory includes the idea that women seek other partners in an effort to create a better gene pool for their offspring.

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