Friday Weird Science: Female Orgasm and Ejaculation. And, Or? Or both?

Aug 20 2010 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

Sci would like to note that the methods of this study are not for the faint of heart. I looked at them and got the feeling that I imagine guys get when people talk glibly of things like ballsack punching.

Let's just put it this way: electrode needles. IN YOUR CLITORIS.

Now, please relax, and we're going to stimulate you to orgasm...

(Sci's face upon reading this paper. The picture is from Hyperbole and a Half, which is a FANTASTICALLY AMAZINGLY HILARIOUSLY AWESOME comic if you get a chance to read it. Seriously. You'll fall over.)

ResearchBlogging.org Shafik et al. "An Electrophysiologic Study of Female Ejaculation" Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 2009.

(Yet again, I have to wonder, WHY are so many of these genital studies conducted in the Middle East? Do they have more funding for this sort of thing?)

NOTE: Photos are NSFW. This happens every Friday, I post something NSFW (even though it's entirely anatomical), and people complain I didn't warn them. It's about female orgasm and ejaculation. I can assure you this ain't going to be a big block of text. :) So not my fault what your boss sees over your shoulder.

I'm sure most of you have heard about female ejaculation, the G-spot, and other mysterious beasts associated with the female orgasm. There is, of course, some debate about whether ALL women are capable of ejaculation, what female ejaculation means, where the G spot is located, and even if the G spot exists (Sci wants to believe the G spot exists, but needs to see some studies that I feel really confident in first. Right now I don't know what to think).

Things we currently know about female orgasm: swelling in genitalia, increases in blood flow to the clitoris, culminating in spasms of various muscle groups and a spike in heart rate and blood pressure.

My, doesn't that sound romantic.

As far as female ejaculation, there are definitely women who do it, no question there. The question is, what IS it, and is it necessarily a part of orgasm? Some studies have shown that the fluid which ejaculating women spurt contains fluids which are associated with prostate tissue, which some women have, and which lend credence to the idea of a separate ejaculatory ability in women. Other studies show it's just urine, and still OTHER studies show it's a mixture of both.

What the scientists were trying to find out in this particular study was whether or not ejaculation was associated with orgasm. Sci's gonna stop right here and say she thinks they did a rather terrible job of looking at their hypothesis. But she's gonna go through it anyway and then I will 'splain.

So they took 38 women, and stuck...needle...electrodes...YIKES...up their corpus cavernosa. But, you say, the corpus cavernosa is an anatomical feature in MEN! Yes, yes it is. It is ALSO an anatomical feature in women, in much more miniature style, in the clitoris.

Here you can see the clitoris in situ, and running along down toward the sides of the vagina are the corpus cavernosa (they kind of frame the very front part of the vagina like a handlebar mustache. Yeah, I said it). They stuck electrodes...in...OWIE every time I think about writing it it HURTS...in there, with the reference electrode on the thigh. They they set about getting the lady to orgasm, via "electrovibration" which I assume means a vibrator. No word on how that may have messed with their electrophysiological recordings.

They also inserted balloon measures into the uterus and vagina to measure pressure. Also, they got a catheter. I hope you can relax.

After stimulation, the women achieved orgasm, at which the electrophysiological readings went nutso (no figures of this, which is...interesting). None of them ejaculated and none of them peed.

They conclude that female orgasm is not associated with ejaculation and that this means that female orgasm is just meant to make women "accept" the sexual act. They also conclude that this means that women who DO ejaculate with orgasm have a pathology and must be examined.

If it is not entirely obvious to you after the last paragraph that my blog voice is dripping with sarcasm, I'm clearly not trying hard enough. I'll be obvious and say that I trust this study about as far as I can throw the authors.

Here's why:

1) The biggest and most glaring problem EVAR: For a study purporting to look at female ejaculation, they made NO effort to recruit women who claimed to ejaculate, and did NOT instruct the women in the study to attempt to ejaculate at climax. No wonder they didn't see anything! How exactly are you supposed to study the association of female ejaculation and orgasm if you NEVER HAVE WOMEN EJACULATE?!?! ANYONE?!!?!?

2) The data: They present several pictures of recordings, at rest and at stimulation with a vibrator. But NONE of those recordings actually SHOW what happens during orgasm. I really thought that was what they were recording, and I'm really rather...surprised...that they didn't show that. All of their recordings looked like this:

I don't know about you, but it doesn't seem to me like the woman that figure is representing is having a grand old time. None of their recordings ever showed the moment of orgasm, which lasts for several seconds and which you HAVE to figure they would record.

3) All of the women reached orgasm with vibrator stimulation in an average of 98 seconds. NINETY EIGHT SECONDS?!?! Who are these women, and how do they obtain these powers? That's...really REALLY fast. Makes one wonder.

4) They refer to the upper area of the vagina as being widened during orgasm to form a 'receptacle for semen collection'. This (a) doesn't make a lot of sense, and (b) has been disproven anyway.

3) The second biggest and most glaring problem: I don't think they WANTED to find anything. After all, in the introduction they state:

The above-mentioned studies suggest that there is controversy regarding
the existence of female ejaculation. Meanwhile, if it is prove[n]–that ejaculation
exists in the female, its absence would represent a pathologic condition the
cause of which has to be investigated. We hypothesized that female orgasm
is not associated with ejaculation.

So basically, they don't think orgasm is associated with ejaculation in women because if it WAS, it would mean that women who couldn't ejaculate were suffering from a PATHOLOGY. I don't buy that logic. Just because you can ejaculate doesn't mean that it's horribly wrong if you don't. We aren't men, you know. There are a bunch of differences, most particularly including the fact that sex can be enjoyable and fulfilling in women without the presence of ejaculation (while this is not really true in most men). If you don't believe me, I can put a poll up, OR I can find you a study (if there's been one, if there hasn't, I want to DO one). Orgasm? Good for enjoyment and fulfillment. Ejaculation? A plus, but probably neither necessary nor sufficient.

And then when they don't find ejaculation, they conclude that women who ejaculate must be pathological. Ok, just because we can doesn't mean it's wrong if we don't, and just because we DO doesn't mean it's wrong either. This is a big pile of speculation that is completely unsupported by the literature.

The two main questions that this study raised for Sci were these:

1) What did the recordings look like at orgasm, and are they different in women who ejaculate? In what ways are they similar or different?

2) Is the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy peer-reviewed at all?! Says it is, but...dude, this paper doesn't prove what it's trying to prove, doesn't even EXPLORE CORRECTLY what it's trying to look at, doesn't present data to support even the results they claimed, and draws a set of speculative conclusions unsupported by either data or literature.

Sci isn't impressed. Until I see a real study of this, supported by real data I can LOOK AT, and covering a group of women who ejaculate as well as those who don't, I'm staying skeptical.

Shafik A, Shafik IA, El Sibai O, & Shafik AA (2009). An electrophysiologic study of female ejaculation. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 35 (5), 337-46 PMID: 20183002

22 responses so far

  • The real question is can reading Ray Bradbury stimulate ejaculation in women?

  • Janne says:

    Men can also orgasm without ejaculation, and yes, it can be just as fulfilling. Does not happen commonly and I guess there's a fair amount of individual variation of course, but it's not that rare.

    • Jason Dick says:

      I would agree that men can orgasm without ejaculation, but in my experience it isn't anywhere close to as fulfilling as an ejaculatory orgasm. I'm not saying I think ejaculation is great or anything, just that when I have had orgasm without ejaculation (which, I admit, is a very small sample size, and so may not be representative), the orgasm has been a fraction the strength.

      This isn't to say that my experience will parallel with every guy's experience, but it begs the question as to whether or not ejaculatory orgasms may actually feel more powerful to women as well.

  • Snarkyxanf says:

    Did they actually talk to a woman or read something before they did the design for this study?

    Several of the attention-grabbing studies about women and orgasms I've seen seem to not address the claims of variability between women at all. When the concept you're studying includes the idea "not everyone can/knows how/wants to/does all the time", you can legitimately claim that the concept is therefore problematic, but you should really address the claims you're trying to disprove.

    This reminds me of the study that set out to prove that the gspot doesn't exist by questionnaire.

    • peggy says:

      This reminds me of the study that set out to prove that the gspot doesn’t exist by questionnaire.

      That's certainly less messy and cheaper than using electrodes and data recorders and whatnot.

  • Heather says:

    So, all your critiques of the study are easy to agree with.

    Anyhow, their "study" could have had a little more credibility if they had simply made an anatomical correlation with their results. If there were results (the 98 seconds business under those experimental conditions is pretty incredible).

    That is, there are embryological vestiges of the same sex organs, in both sexes. In women, the variable vestiges of the prostate are Skene's glands. Even more variable in their size (absent to perceivable) as the clitoris or the labia. So, did their study subjects even have the physiological possibility of ejeculating at orgasm?

    But it's so easy to find studies to criticize. What I want to know is, who came up with the idea of conducting this one in their particular animal model?!

  • Heather says:

    Oh I see, you're doing your research a bit early, aren't you? (Jealous admiration of your time management skills. Or else you just think about orgasm all the time. Not that I blame you.)

    You probably would find some interesting things over at Hug the Monkey.

  • Doug says:

    Oh God, I couldn't keep reading past,

    "So they took 38 women, and stuck…needle…electrodes…YIKES…up their corpus cavernosa. But, you say, the corpus cavernosa is an anatomical feature in MEN! Yes, yes it is. It is ALSO an anatomical feature in women, in much more miniature style, in the clitoris."

    I hope those women were amply rewarded for their efforts.

  • chezjake says:

    And apparently not even any consideration as to whether vaginal penetration might possibly have a role in ejaculation?

  • AmoebaMike says:

    It doesn't sound like a very relaxing/enjoyable/romantic way to test these things. ~If~ these women did achieve orgasm as claimed, I'd like to know where it ranked compared to their average orgasm.

    Medal probes and genitalia don't mix well... let alone come together to produce a decent orgasm.

  • Who's Yer Daddy? says:

    @Dick and Janne, a male experiencing retrograde emission would appear not to ejaculate, as the emission ends up in the bladder. The sensation is pretty much the same as a normal ejaculation, however. See Hershlag, et al.,(1991) Retrograde ejaculation. Human Reproduction 6 (2) 255-258.

  • Pierce R. Butler says:

    This report is like a load-bearing test in a materials lab which mentions in passing that stress variation was accomplished by an otherwise unspecified antigravity device.

    Orgasm under lab conditions, with electrodes and catheters inserted, in 98 seconds?!?

    Never mind the ejaculations - the world needs to know a lot more about this "electrovibration"...

  • jeanfromcornwall says:

    Forgive a non-scientist type response, but isn't the application of electrical current to the equivalent male wobbly bits commonly known as "torture"?

  • Candid Engineer says:

    I actually don't find the 98 seconds to orgasm all that incredible- given the right kind of stimulus, orgasm can be anything but voluntary. Think tub jets or one of those massaging shower head things.

  • becca says:

    "I hope you can relax."

    ... I may never relax AGAIN.

  • Thrutch says:

    Hmm, I do wonder if these people know that women can sometimes fake orgasm. In this situation the subjects may have felt pain, discomfort and embarrassment; so perhaps they finished the procedure a little early.

  • Monk says:

    Hmmmm, seeing as how this was done in Egypt, where female circumcision stands at about universal levels (97%, best estimates) I wonder how we are to interpret this study as a whole, as well as by the sum of its parts (which may or may not actually be there). I mean, can we actually say it was 'glans clitoris electro-vibration', or was it only 'where the glans clitoris should be electro-vibration'?

  • [...] has covered a bunch of stuff in the past on the subject of female orgasm. That mysterious thing which so few appear to [...]

  • laurel says:

    This was a funny post!Wow!
    Even though i had some enjoyable sex in the past and many sexual experiences , i never ejaculated until i met my current boyfriend. I suppose i never felt connected or loved like this either. It scared me to death when it first happened, shame , embarrassment , etc..However he didn't mind so i don't hold back now when it happens.It doesn't happen all the time,i'd say 10 % of the time and sex has got to be amazing.It feels nothing like a clitoral orgasm..i do not understand how needles & electrodes could ever compare or stimulate the body to do something that only the most magical sex can do!
    Poor women i can just imagine how clinically strange this experience must have been!

  • Mac says:

    Female "circumcision" isn't. It is the removal of the entire visible part of the clitoris. Often accompanied by removal of the labia minora. Some remove as much of the labia majora as they can manage. Then sew the vagina closed except for a little hole to let menstrual fluids drain.
    What exactly is it that "Liberals" and even some feminists are enamored with Islam?
    Mohammed said that Female Genital Mutilation (not infibulation) was a good thing. However, the al-Koran does not say anything like it; it says that God ("Allah") made the clitoris for the woman to obtain pleasure during intercourse.

  • deva says:

    I once had sex with my girlfriend and during foreplay, which means when i was licking her puss, i was surprised when she lifted her body up in an arc, and held her arched head against the pillow. I was scared too because I really thought if i could go on she would break her neck. Can woman really go so far in an orgasm?

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