Spring arrived and as our thoughts turned to the birds and the bees, a new book came out and rained on my parade. The book claims female orgasms do not play a role in evolution because a woman can get pregnant without having one. (Male orgasms, of course, are directly tied to reproduction.) Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a professor at Indiana University, argues in her book The Case of the Female Orgasm that the wiring for orgasms in women is merely vestigial, left over from the embryonic phase of development, like nipples in men.
Lloyd arrived at this conclusion after examining and rejecting more than two dozen studies supporting the female-orgasms-are-evolutionary theory. One study she refutes stated orgasms help women pick fit, healthy males to mate with. Another argues women get off more with men who have symmetrical features. Which features, exactly?
I don't know where to start. First of all, I wasn't aware someone was studying female orgasms. Where was this happening and why wasn't I told? Rochester is Medical Study Land; newspaper ads constantly seek subjects for a variety of medical studies. Dry eye. Sleep disorders. Strep throat. Even herpes. But where are the ads for female orgasm subjects?
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm happy in my marriage. But my husband is a man of science and I think even he would see the benefit to society in my participation. I could make a small sacrifice in the name of science, say, by enrolling in that one study measuring orgasms in women sleeping with new male partners. And yeah, sure, if there's ever a study of male orgasms --- as if --- my husband is free to participate.
Of course, there's not likely to be a male orgasm study --- what's to study? There's not a lot of mystery there. The sad fact is, as Kinsey told us, women don't achieve orgasms at anywhere near the same rate as men. Some 5-to-10 percent of women don't ever have them, and the majority of women have orgasms only some or most of the time. It's this infrequency that Lloyd feels supports her hypothesis that they're not crucial to evolution. Quoted in a New York Times article, she said the female orgasm "is for fun."
You got that right, sister. But the reason women aren't getting off enough has nothing to do with embryonic this and vestigial that. Just look at the news.
Women are under siege. Despite all the gains we've supposedly made since the early '70s, women continue to earn less than men doing the same work and still shoulder the majority of household tasks. Folding laundry and correcting homework don't exactly make for great foreplay.
A recent study of at-home mothers reveals that if they were paid for the zillion things they do in their 100-hour work week, they'd earn $131,000 a year. Hard not to be turned off when you realize he's getting the cow and the milk --- and the childcare and the laundry and the household management --- for free.
If being underappreciated is a turn-off, imagine how women who've dedicated their lives to the military felt when they got a double diss last month. Congress considered legislation that would further reduce women's roles in the military, curtailing opportunities for advancement. Way to buck up the troops.
The second slap in the face came when, despite rising sexual-assault rates in the military, House Republicans barred a vote that would have improved medical services for military women who are victims of rape or incest. We'll let you die for us, the ideologues say, but you're on your own if you're victimized.
Lloyd's hypothesis raises some darker issues. If the female orgasm is just a biological leftover, like the appendix or pinky toe, does that mean it's phasing out? Will our daughters' daughters have even fewer orgasms and then, some bleak day in the distant future, none at all?
Well, I'm not going to stand for that, girls. Are you? I'm no sex biologist (but if you happen to know one in need of subjects, give a holler), however I'll bet through diligence and hard work we can keep orgasms from fading out of the species. Let's take matters into our own hands, if you'll pardon the expression, and exercise our right to experience the Big O. If practice makes perfect, maybe practice can make permanent.
I know most of you don't need any encouragement. Women are driving the boom in sales of sex toys --- through home parties and the Internet --- and explicit sex manuals (now available in bookstores everywhere). As awareness increases that some women need a little help having orgasms, women are less shy about asking for what they need. Shows like Sex and the City, Real Sex, and even Dr. Phil make achieving the sublime seem almost mundane; it's OK to admit that sometimes it takes more than just a symmetrical man to get you off.
So, ladies, start your engines. With or without your partner, grab your bunny-shaped vibrator, remote-control dolphin, and Eroscillator (with its five Flabbergasmic attachments!) and get busy. Ignore that occasional Mr. Potato Head feeling --- all those oddly shaped items sticking into you --- and go for the orgasm you deserve. Through your selfless efforts, Rochester will continue to shine as a place where women make a difference.