We Don't Really Need to Know 'Why' Women Orgasm

The eagerness to explain the female orgasm from a scientific perspective feels like much ado about nutting.
Katie Way
Brooklyn, US
A transfeminine non-binary person caressing the hand of a transmasculine gender-nonconforming person
Photo by Zackary Drucker via the Gender Spectrum Collection

From the way the scientific community discusses the female orgasm, you’d gather that it’s some kind of rare phenomenon with ineffable significance, a medical curiosity that deserves meticulous attention. Is it real? What does it do? One study, published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used rabbit-based research to solidify the theorized link between female orgasm and ovulation, with the former as a trigger for the latter. Researchers fed one group of bunnies Prozac, a drug known for its orgasm-inhibiting properties, and left another group unmedicated. Then, they measured the rate of post-copulation ovulation in both groups, and found the rabbits who were allowed to screw like… you know… without the fog of medication had a 30 percent higher ovulation rate than the group on antidepressants.


The idea that the female orgasm evolved as a mechanism for triggering ovulation has been floating around for a while now, thanks to two of the scientists who completed the rabbit study, Mihaela Pavlićev and Günter Wagner. They published a literature review in the Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution in 2016, which departed from previous hypotheses that the female orgasm has some nebulous but essential connection to the reproductive process (rather than a helpful but noncritical role, like the ovulation rate increase), or that it just developed as a kind of biological blooper.

But all of this bending over backwards to justify the existence of the female orgasm reveals more about the societal attitude towards female pleasure than it does about the pleasure itself. Who are these scientists who just need a little more information about why women have orgasms?

Imagine this much attention being devoted to the male nipples, which are sexual organs that ostensibly serve no reproductive purpose but, somehow, continue to exist! The search for some possible utility for female pleasure feels intertwined with the idea that it’s an optional or disposable part of a sexual encounter, that it has to self-justify biologically, as if otherwise it wouldn’t actually do anything. (This is all not to mention the fact that not all women ovulate.) And coverage that plays into this “mystery” or cheers on the fact that it’s finally been “solved” really doesn’t do it for me. Honestly, let me know when the research on achieving orgasm parity is out. Until then, my well of intellectual curiosity is pretty dry.

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