The Female Orgasm & its Importance to Human Race
The question regarding female orgasms and their necessity in the process of evolution is one which has been asked many times. And for many people, the concept of questioning it seemed mildly unnecessary in itself – they’re worthwhile to women so who cares about their necessity for the human race? But the topic is a tough one to explore from an evolutionary standpoint. Many biologists do suggest that male non-human primates experience something similar to intercourse, usually judging from a marked change in their body language during ejaculation. So the rationale behind the male orgasm is obvious. For men, orgasm and ejaculation go hand in hand, and with such pleasure preceding the ejaculation, a man is effectively encouraged to spread his seed. A man who experiences orgasm through ejaculation is far more likely to put extra effort into finding sexual partners, than men who ejaculate without any accompanying pleasure. But the physical process of the female orgasm is altogether different. In women, the orgasm isn’t connected to the release of an egg into the uterus, and women can only get pregnant once in any given period of time, so the number of partners is less of an issue in terms of the evolution of a species and its survival.
So why is the orgasm a part of the female sexual experience? It may well be a part of evolutionary adaptation, or it may just be a lucky break. But if it’s down to evolution, what is it offering in terms of survival of a species? Men and women experience very similar physiological changes during orgasm, which usually lasts around a minute. In both sexes, the rectum contracts at intervals of around 0.8 seconds, where lots of muscles in other areas of the body also spasm. There are a number of chemicals which are released at this time, from serotonin to oxytocin. In women, the muscles in the vagina and uterus contract too. These contractions are the basis for one of the evolutionary explanations of the female orgasm – known as the sperm retention theory. Many researchers hypothesise that when the vagina contracts, it is aiming to retain more sperm, to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant. Another theory in keeping with this idea is that orgasm tires a woman out, causing her to lie on her back after sex – it is during this time, researchers say, that more sperm can stay within the body and make its way towards the egg.
Currently, the big theory is that women have orgasms for no reason at all – there is no adaptation, it’s simply a wonderful accident which stems from the initial phase of foetal development. This was a popular theory in the ‘70s and has recently seen a revival. In the initial development hypothesis, women simply have orgasms because men do. In the early stages of development within the uterus, the foetus isn’t gendered, and the hormones which determine the gender haven’t yet kicked in. So when the gender is decided, it still has the nerve pathways that create the orgasm. But if this theory is correct, what does that mean for the state of the orgasm in women? If it’s not vital for survival of the species, will it be phased out? What we can determine is that there is still a long way to go before we know the real reason for the female orgasm – its cryptic purpose still baffles researchers to this day.