Are female orgasms a 'bonus'?
October 13th, 2011
07:14 AM ET

Are female orgasms a 'bonus'?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

What do female orgasms and male nipples have in common? It’s a question that is helping inform research into the purpose of female orgasm (other than simply as a form of pleasure).

Investigators want to know whether the female orgasm is an “adaptation” or “byproduct” of evolution. In other words, does the female orgasm, like the male orgasm, have its own evolutionary raison d’etre and contribute directly to reproductive success? Or is it just an awesome bonus? Make that totally awesome.

This question of whether the female orgasm is an adaptation or a byproduct came to the fore in 2005 with the publication of “The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution,” in which Indiana University professor Elisabeth Lloyd rigorously examined 21 theories that sought to promote the female orgasm as an adaptation and, ultimately, found all of them lacking.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have had some thought-provoking conversations with Lloyd on various topics – such as whether premature ejaculation makes good evolutionary sense – and recently, her work has been once again garnering much-deserved attention.

· One such theory involves “pair bonding,” the idea that orgasm bonds a couple emotionally so that they’re more likely to pursue parenthood.

· Another theory states that female orgasm is a part of mate selection: A woman will choose her mate based on his ability to bring her to climax.

· And a third main theory involves the belief that the contractions of female orgasm will draw sperm up the reproductive tract and into the uterus.

In her book, Lloyd argues that studies show that the vast majority of women do not experience orgasm as a result of intercourse alone, or do so inconsistently, so how could the female orgasm be an adaptation? If the female orgasm, like the male orgasm, was essential to the propagation of humanity, wouldn’t it need to occur consistently via sexual intercourse?

Instead, Lloyd argues to view the female orgasm through the lens of the “byproduct” theory, which holds that orgasm is a trait that is so heavily selected in males (reproduction wouldn’t happen without it) that women retain an inherent capacity – after all, men and women are physiologically the same during the first eight weeks of gestation: Penises grow out, clitorises grow in, but they share the same organic structure and tissue.

According to Lloyd, “It is crucial to note that the penis and the clitoris are the ‘same’ organ in men and women. ... [T]he nervous and erectile tissues involved in orgasm in both sexes arose from a common embryological source.”

This same byproduct theory also explains why men have nipples: The biological necessity of nursing our young makes the nipple so highly selected in women that male embryos develop immature structures as an evolutionary byproduct. Similar to the clitoris, the male nipple contains highly sensitive tissue that contributes to male sexual arousal and pleasure. Male nipples: arousing? Yes. Necessary? No.

Yet a study of twins and siblings published recently in the journal Animal Behavior questions the byproduct theory of female orgasm. Researchers looked for similarities in orgasm function between 10,000 Finnish female and male twins. And although there were significant similarities between same-sex twins, the researchers found no such correlation in orgasm function between opposite-sex twins, a correlation one would expect if female orgasm is a byproduct of male orgasm.

All this debate of adaptation vs. byproduct shouldn’t really matter to the average person who just wants to enjoy orgasms. The problem, though, is that we tend to believe that what’s “natural” is better, even orgasms. And if we do argue that the female orgasm is some sort of “evolutionary norm,” then what should be said of all the women who do not orgasm consistently – that they are somehow not normal?

As a sex counselor, I frequently receive e-mails from women who are unable to achieve orgasm via intercourse and wonder, “What can I do to change this? What’s wrong with me?”

Well, if we stop thinking of female orgasms as something that should naturally result from intercourse, then we can also stop feeling that there’s one right way to have orgasms. In this sense, the byproduct theory offers a more expansive and encompassing view of female sexuality.

Unfortunately the term “byproduct” doesn’t exactly resonate with a sense of the exalted, so perhaps we should stick to Lloyd’s later rephrasing of the female orgasm as a “fantastic bonus” – or as I like to say, totally awesome!

soundoff (1,434 Responses)
  1. online adult dating seattle single

    online dating site somersville connecticut – https://www.facebook.com/Online-dating-site-in-europe-100794568870649 – dating usa rules
    ich online 9

    Search Tags:
    Great expectations online dating reviews
    no replys from online dating
    free online irish dating site
    online adult dating seattle single

    May 18, 2021 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. JebgEncox

    canadian pharmacy discount coupon https://pharmacylo.com/ online pharmacy bc

    May 18, 2021 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. LebnEncox

    canadian pharmacy reviews canadian pharma companies list of approved canadian pharmacies

    May 18, 2021 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. LebnEncox

    canadian pharmacy 24h com safe http://xlnpharmacy.com/ online pharmacy reviews

    May 18, 2021 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. 먹튀검증사이트

    Excellent article. I will be dealing with many of these issues as well..


    May 19, 2021 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. FmrfEncox

    generic cialis prices https://cialisee.com/ cialispills online

    May 19, 2021 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Adonis Washington

    I couldn't resist commenting 🙂


    May 20, 2021 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kristin Lane

    Greetings! Very helpful advice on this article! It is the little changes that make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 20, 2021 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. https://www.sfgate.com/cannabis-paid/article/best-cbd-oil-for-dogs-15812674.php

    Just bookmarked this blog post as I have found it rather valuable.


    May 20, 2021 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. 토토사이트

    I must thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I'm hoping to check out the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own, personal website now 😉


    May 20, 2021 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. 먹튀

    I couldnít resist commenting. Very well written!


    May 20, 2021 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 3CEvqgTjPYP3ue

    37242 70174Most what i read online is trash and copy paste but i feel you offer something different. Maintain it like this. 790918

    May 21, 2021 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. 사설토토

    I blog frequently and I truly appreciate your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.


    May 21, 2021 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. chloroquineorigin

    aralen chloroquine phosphate https://chloroquineorigin.com/ – dolquine buy chloroquine online hydroxychloroquin cloroquine

    May 21, 2021 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. 먹튀사이트

    This is the right site for anyone who hopes to understand this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been written about for ages. Wonderful stuff, just great!


    May 21, 2021 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. cyclosporine

    cyclosporine medication cyclosporine 100 mg

    May 21, 2021 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. cyclosporine

    cyclosporine medication cyclosporine cost

    May 21, 2021 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. chloroquineorigin

    aralen buy online [url=https://chloroquineorigin.com/ ]arechin [/url] clozapine clonidin https://chloroquineorigin.com/

    May 21, 2021 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. BbshMile

    is viagra taxed https://loxviagra.com/ what happens if a female takes viagra

    May 21, 2021 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. AnooEncox

    viagra satis fiyati https://llviagra.com/ – efeitos do viagra nos jovens le prix viagra 50mg

    May 21, 2021 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. 토토사이트

    I used to be able to find good information from your blog articles.


    May 21, 2021 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RebfZisse

    cialis sales canadian [url=http://rcialisgl.com/ ]cialis where to buy[/url] cialisВ®

    May 22, 2021 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. BbshMile

    taking viagra for fun https://loxviagra.com/ viagra side effects blood pressure

    May 22, 2021 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. jaw crusher parts

    Leading Specialty Steel Plate Processing Service Center. Demand A Quote Today! ASME Certified Distributor Of Abrasion Resistant Steel Plates.


    May 22, 2021 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. 먹튀사이트

    Having read this I thought it was very enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this informative article together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 22, 2021 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. combigan

    combigan generic brimonidine dosage

    May 22, 2021 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. FmrfEncox

    cialis purchase canada http://cialisee.com/ – where to find cheap cialis cialis order online

    May 22, 2021 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. LbsoZisse

    cialis pre https://ucialisdas.com/ – cialis reviews photos cialis for daily use

    May 22, 2021 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. LbsoZisse

    365 cialis http://ucialisdas.com/ online cialis

    May 22, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. 먹튀검증커뮤니티

    Hi there, I think your site could possibly be having web browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Aside from that, wonderful site!


    May 22, 2021 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. FmrfEncox

    cialis online purchase canada https://cialisee.com/ cialis supr active

    May 22, 2021 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. 사설토토

    Hi, I do believe your website could be having internet browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Besides that, excellent website!


    May 22, 2021 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. GtnbCrulk

    viagra dose http://jokviagra.com/ viagra dose

    May 22, 2021 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Ali Vopava

    Your one stop shop for all your Business's Online Marketing Needs.


    May 23, 2021 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RebfZisse

    cialis brand 20 mg https://rcialisgl.com/ online cialis canada

    May 23, 2021 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. chloroquineorigin

    chloroquine prophylaxis aralen buy aralen buy online arechin https://chloroquineorigin.com/

    May 23, 2021 at 06:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 토토사이트

    Hi, I do believe this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may return yet again since i have book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    May 23, 2021 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Soosteemocush

    tadalafil without a doctor prescription https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ – buy cialis pills tadalafil cialis best price usa tadalafil https://tadalafilol.com/

    May 23, 2021 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. tausAffessy

    cost tadalafil generic tadalafil daily online side effects for tadalafil prescription tadalafil online https://cttadalafil.com/ – cheap generic cialis for sale

    May 23, 2021 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. cyclosporine

    buy cyclomune cyclomune 0.1% eye drops cost

    May 23, 2021 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Tritreviewifind

    cheap cialis pills for sale buy cialis tadalafil liquid side effects of tadalafil https://tadalafilww.com/

    May 23, 2021 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. scrap metal shredder parts

    Leading Specialty Steel Plate Processing Service Center. Demand A Quote Today! ASME Certified Distributor Of Abrasion Resistant Steel Plates.


    May 23, 2021 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. tausAffessy

    where to buy cialis without prescription cialis tadalafil where to buy cialis without prescription cialis at canadian pharmacy https://apcalisetadalafil.com/

    May 23, 2021 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tritreviewifind

    what is tadalafil tadalafil cialis buy tadalafil buy cialis https://tadalafilol.com/

    May 23, 2021 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. combigan

    combigan eye drops generic buy generic brimonidine

    May 23, 2021 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. AnooEncox

    will viagra get me hard http://llviagra.com/ – viagra bei ejakulationsstГ¶rung viagra a vendre a quebec

    May 24, 2021 at 02:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jule Meltz

    Your one stop shop for all your Business's Online Marketing Needs.


    May 24, 2021 at 03:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. LebnEncox

    erectile https://xlnpharmacy.com/ 24 hour drug store

    May 24, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Tembepteriope

    https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ cialis tadalafil tadalafil without a doctor prescription what is tadalafil buy tadalis

    May 24, 2021 at 05:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. combigan

    combigan uk combigan side effects

    May 24, 2021 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.