Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Monday, 1 August 2016

evolutionary orgasm

Is This The Reason That Women Orgasm?

The Debrief: Has Science Finally Cracked The Female Orgasm?

In more ‘science is a bit behind when it comes to women’s bodies’ news, it seems that the mystery of the female orgasm has finally been cracked. Well, sort of.

Women’s orgasms have long baffled scientists. Men need to orgasm in order to release sperm and further the human race. However, modern women do not need to orgasm in order to be impregnated by them. The female orgasm has no obvious purpose, other than pleasure of course, and so science has struggled to understand why the exist at all.

However, no researchers in the United States think they have worked out where they come from and why we have them, which is quite a claim.

So…why do we have orgasms? Drum roll please…

Apparently it’s all rooted in evolution. The authors of a new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B Molecular and Developmental Evolution, think orgasms developed to cause hormonal surges which would make reproduction possible.

Mihaela Pavličev, who co-authored the study, said ‘it’s important to stress that it didn’t look like the female orgasm looks now.’ It’s all about the ‘hormonal surge’ that, the study concluded, may have been ‘modified further in humans’ since.

Along with her co-author, Günter Wagner from the University of Yale, Pavličev looked at the anatomy and behaviour of other mammals in an attempt to solve the mystery of the female orgasm.

They found that hormonal surges occur during sex amongst cats and rabbits, letting the female’s ovaries know that it's time to release some eggs. They call this ‘male-induced ovulation’.

However, humans don’t function in this way. As we know all too well, we ovulate at a specific and individual time once a month. This is otherwise known as ‘spontaneous ovulation’.

Pavličev and Wagner looked at this phenomenon throughout the evolution of various species and concluded that ‘male-induced ovulation’ came before ‘spontaneous ovulation’ which, they think, came about around 75 million years ago.

This lead them to conclude that human female orgasms could be rooted in this mechanism, by which eggs are released during sex but became redundant as we evolved beyond it and developed ‘spontaneous ovulation’, releasing an egg once a month.

The researchers also compared the genitalia across the ‘placental mammalian species’ by which they mean animals like us, primates, cats and rodents who have uteruses in which their young grow and feed off a placenta during pregnancy. They concluded that the position of the human female clitoris has also changed over time. It was once located in the ‘copulatory canal’ (the bit that the penis is inserted into), but over time, as we evolved to ovulate ‘spontaneously’ it moved further away. This, they think, confirms their theory that the orgasm was once needed cause a hormonal surge which would release an egg during sex.

As to whether or not this finally explains the purpose of the female orgasm Pavličev said ‘there is a lot of discussion about whether it could have any functions like in bonding behaviour and things like that – so we cannot exclude that it actually has co-opted some other function after it lost its function in reproduction’.

So, there you have it, this might be the evolutionary reason for the female orgasm but, it might not. Women’s bodies are, as ever, still a bit of a mystery to science. 

Like this? You might also be interested in:

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Tags: Sex, Sex O\'Clock, Sex And Tech