Thursday, May 19, 2005

Book Discussion: The Case of the Female Orgasm, by Dr. Elisabeth Lloyd

Bias in the Science of Evolution Posted by Hello

A new book by Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd (Indiana University philosopher), titled "The Case of the Female Orgasm", debates that the female orgasm has any role in evolution. What she does is to take the 21 existing explanations or theories supporting the female orgasm as having an evolutionary function and knocks them dead one by one.

From the NYT:

According to Dr. Lloyd the most convincing theory is one put forward in 1979 by Dr. Donald Symons, an anthropologist.

That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts - a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.

In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Dr. Lloyd said. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined.

In boys, the penis develops, along with the potential to have orgasms and ejaculate, while "females get the nerve pathways for orgasm by initially having the same body plan."

Nipples in men are similarly vestigial, Dr. Lloyd pointed out. While nipples in woman serve a purpose, male nipples appear to be simply left over from the initial stage of embryonic development.

The female orgasm, she said, "is for fun."

Wow, any wonder why people are attacking Darwin and his theory of evolution --- women have sex for fun!! Who would have thought so? ;)

However, the trouble I have with such a theory is this: If women's orgasms have no role to play in evolution, isn't it possible that by the process of natural selection women might learn to do away with it all together?

If this interests you, read the rest of the article here

The article has all sorts of stats about how often women experience orgasm via sexual intercourse (25% "unassisted"),it also includes some conflicting opinions, one from a doctor by the name of (and I'm not kidding) Dr. John Alcock who said, that a woman might use orgasm "as an unconscious way to evaluate the quality of the male," his genetic fitness and, thus, how suitable he would be as a father for her offspring. "Under those circumstances, you wouldn't expect her to have it every time," Dr. Alcock said.

And, oh, look, here's another interesting point from the article:

Among the theories that Dr. Lloyd addresses in her book is one proposed in 1993, by Dr. R. Robin Baker and Dr. Mark A. Bellis, at Manchester University in England. In two papers published in the journal Animal Behaviour, they argued that female orgasm was a way of manipulating the retention of sperm by creating suction in the uterus. When a woman has an orgasm from one minute before the man ejaculates to 45 minutes after, she retains more sperm, they said.

Furthermore, they asserted, when a woman has intercourse with a man other than her regular sexual partner, she is more likely to have an orgasm in that prime time span and thus retain more sperm, presumably making conception more likely. They postulated that women seek other partners in an effort to obtain better genes for their offspring.

Does this mean that a woman is more likely to become pregnant if she makes out with someone other than her regular sexual partner? Hmmm.

See what Slate had to say about the book.