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The Female Ogasm

The Female Orgasm: Scientists examine its Evolutionary Mystery

Almost every part of the human body has a purpose. We use are eyes to see, our nose to smell, our limbs to perform daily functions and our mouths to consume food for survival.
However, some parts of our bodies just defy explanation. Why do we have two kidneys? Why can some parts of our body reproduce like skin and other organs cannot reproduce themselves? Why do we even have an appendix, which may become infected and could burst and kill us? Although these are in depth questions, none is more intriguing to biologists as the female orgasm.
While orgasms have an important role in a woman’s intimate relationships, the evolutionary roots of the experience–a combination of muscle contractions, hormone release and intense pleasure—have been difficult to uncover.
For decades, researchers have put forward theories, but none are widely accepted. Now two evolutionary biologists have joined the fray, offering a new way of thinking about the female orgasm based on a reconstruction of its ancient history.
Last August in the Journal of Experimental Zoology, the authors conclude that the response originated in mammals more than 150 million years ago as a way to release eggs to be fertilized after sex.
Until now, few scientists have investigated the biology of distantly related animals for clues to the mystery.
“For orgasms, we kept it reserved for humans and primates,” said Mihaela Pavlicev, an evolutionary biologist at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and an author of the paper. “We didn’t look to other species to dig deeper and look for the origin.”
The male orgasm has never been a source for research among evolutionary biologist. After all, the pleasure is precisely linked to ejaculation, the most important step in passing on a male’s genes to the next generation. No mystery there.
For women, the evolutionary path is harder to figure out. The muscle contractions that occur during an orgasm are not essential for a woman to become pregnant. And while most men can experience an orgasm during sex, it’s less reliable for women.
“ My gut instinct is that something that matters so much at an emotional level, the intense pleasure of an orgasm, would seem to have reproductive consequences.” Said David Puts, an evolutionary anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University.
Puts and his colleagues decided to carry out studies to test the possibility the possibilities that orgasms increase the odds that women’s eggs are fertilized by a genetically attractive male.
Not all evolutionary scientists agree with this theory. Elizabeth Lloyd, a philosopher at Indiana University reviewed 18 different studies and concluded that the female orgasm does not serve any evolutionary purpose and that it’s nothing more than the by-product of the male orgasm.
And yet the clitoris has 8000 nerve endings, more than any other part of a human body and this compares to only 4000 in the male penis. It has a foreskin or hood, and even a shaft, all of which engorges and swells when aroused. With all this design, there must be a very important purpose for this part of the female anatomy.
But now Pavlicev and her colleague, Gunter P. Wagner of Yale University are making the case that the human female orgasm has a deep evolutionary history that reaches back to early mammals.
They began by getting better acquainted with the sex lives of other animals, poring through obscure old journals to garner information on species ranging from aardvarks to koala bears.
They found that many female mammals release oxytocin and prolactin during sex; the hormones released by women during orgasms. They found that in many of these species, the females use a radically different form of reproduction. While women release an egg each month, other female mammals, such as rabbits and camels, release an egg only after mating with a male.
When early mammals mated, the clitoris could send signals to the brain, triggering hormones that released an egg. Once the egg became fertilized, the hormones may have helped ensure it became implanted in the uterus.
I always like to think that every part of our bodies has some purpose and so I tend to agree with this latest formulation. It is a wonderful thing to contemplate that both men and women’s orgasms not only provide great pleasure but are instrumental in procreation.