The female orgasm has always been somewhat of a mystery to men, and until recently, it was a mystery to scientists as well. Evolutionary analysis helps explain this delightful phenomenon.

by Dalma Boros

Have you ever wondered why we orgasm? The case for men seems obvious: blowing his load means spreading his seed (read: reproduction). But women don’t need to squirt to conceive. In fact, most women primarily experience clitoral climaxes, which are pretty hard to achieve during the dirty without a little handiwork, if you know what I mean. So what exactly is the biological function of the female orgasm?

It was once a widely held belief that both partners reaching orgasm during intercourse helped fortify a pair bond, which is beneficial for good child-rearing. This idea is logical, but it’s inconsistent with the low incidence of female orgasm during intercourse. While sex between a couple may be psychologically beneficial, it does not account for the female orgasm itself. The “sperm upsuck theory,” charmingly named, is another explanation that seems to make sense. Uterine contractions caused by orgasm assist the movement of sperm through the reproductive tract. A more recent proposal involving evolutionary analysis suggests that the female orgasm has no reproductive function, and that women have orgasms because men need them. Let me explain.

Early in development, sex is undifferentiated. In other words, boy and girl fetuses start out with the same junk. The default pattern in vertebrate sexual development is to become female. Genetic males have programmed biological processes that at around nine weeks of gestation stop the default female pattern, inducing a male physiology. Because of this common development, certain components of male and female genitalia correspond to each other. You’ve probably heard that the ovaries and testes are biologically homologous, and derive from the same structures. The same holds true for the clitoris and the head of the penis, which are also known as the glans clitoridis and the glans penis, respectively. Since these structures are developmentally related, the potential for orgasm exists in women.

Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd details this “byproduct” hypothesis in her book The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution. Lloyd analyzed twenty-one evolutionary accounts of the female orgasm, and found this to be the only one with any scientific merit. The byproduct hypothesis has faced criticism from evolutionary adaptationists who feel evolved traits should be useful—in other words, it would make evolutionary sense that we come because it’ll make us want to have sex more often. Lloyd admits that the female orgasm could be adaptive, there’s just no scientific evidence that it is.

Besides scientific judgment, feminist upset has also been elicited by the suggestion that the female orgasm is a “byproduct,” and some feel that this notion justifies neglect of the female O. After feminist backlash, Lloyd coined the term the “fantastic bonus account” as a glittering alternative to the dull “byproduct” epithet. Whether it’s a byproduct or a fantastic bonus, our orgasm is an essential part of our sexual satisfaction so it’s not to be neglected. I recommend showing this article to your man and telling him to trim that mustache because your orgasm needs some attention.