How the female orgasm may have evolved to help with mate selection
“Whether the female orgasm is an adaptation is arguably the most controversial issue in the study of the evolution of human sexuality,” states a 2012 study. Indeed, the goal behind the The existence of female orgasms has eluded scientists for ages – they know that male orgasms facilitate reproduction by releasing sperm but cannot figure out why female orgasms exist. Thus, different hypotheses to explain their presence have evolved over the years, giving rise to lively, even polarizing debates.
Now, a new study attempts to add complexity to this discourse. Posted in Evolutionary Psychology, the research examines the evolutionary cords behind orgasm and sexual desire in women – and how this may impact satisfaction in relationships. “The incredible variability in orgasm we observe in women poses a very interesting evolutionary question,” said co-author Patrick Nebl, assistant professor of psychology at Elmhurst University in the US, adding that ‘”There is still some disagreement about whether it has an adaptive function and what that function might be.
One camp argues that the female orgasm serves two adaptive functions. First, mate selection – as a sort of litmus test for women to gauge the value of a long-term sexual partner. Second, “couple bonds,” through oxytocin released during an orgasm, which promotes emotional bonding between partners, ensuring committed and well-bonded parents are there to effectively raise their offspring.
Another theory suggests that female orgasms – through the typical uterine contractions involved in them – help with sperm retention by allowing ejaculate to be better “sucked out” for fertilization. Then there is another hypothesis, which suggests that female orgasms serve no purpose; they are just an accident of evolution – though a happy one, of course.
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In the current study, researchers recruited 175 heterosexual cisgender women with an average age of 19 for the study. By interviewing the participants, the study authors found a link between female orgasms and greater satisfaction and duration of the relationship.
This echoes the findings of a 2014 study which also supports “the hypothesis that female orgasm evolved as a mate selection tool for women and promotes long-term bonding.” The authors there found that the intensity and frequency of female orgasms were linked to their male partner’s household income, self-confidence, and attractiveness… [in addition to] how many times they had sex per week and sexual satisfaction ratings.
Interestingly, an explanation for the “orgasm gap”—the disparity in orgasms between cisgender men and women in heterosexual relationships—can be embedded in the mate choice hypothesis. “[T]The failure of some women to orgasm regularly is not a dysfunction, but a sophisticated mate-selection strategy that evolved over prehistoric times,” states a 2005 article in The Guardian. “Women who fail to orgasm during sex may be genetically programmed to weed out unreliable men.”
However, is the current study conclusive evidence that mate selection drives female orgasms? And, does it automatically reject other hypotheses? Nebl doesn’t think so. “I certainly don’t think this study ‘proves’ anything, but rather helps add evidence that orgasm might work as a mate selection tool that promotes pair bonding,” he said. he noted.
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Nebl thinks the study serves yet another purpose — beyond figuring out the purpose behind female orgasms. “Orgasm is highly variable between women, and many women struggle or are unable to achieve orgasm. Struggling with sexual satisfaction affects relationship satisfaction – and overall satisfaction – and can be distressing, even driving to self-blame… The knowledge that variability in female orgasm may be due to evolutionary design, rather than evidence of dysfunction, may provide some comfort to women struggling with satisfaction. sexual,” he explained.
Indeed, while female orgasms can still be shrouded in layers of mystery, it’s reassuring to learn that not having an orgasm can serve a greater purpose. In the meantime, future research may be able to include more than heterosexual women to draw conclusions from a more diverse set of responses.
Deep dives into evolutionary theories aside, it is hoped that the present study will not discourage women in heterosexual relationships from seeking greater sexual satisfaction – especially given the existing orgasm gap. , and to add to that, previous research suggesting that infrequent orgasms reduce people’s expectations of, and even desire to have, an orgasm. The “pursuit of pleasure”, as Samatha of sex and the city might call him, must go on.