As a sex writer and a vagina-haver, there is nothing on God’s green Earth that makes me angrier than trend pieces about the elusive G-spot orgasm. I don’t have G-spot orgasms. I don’t (personally) know anyone who does. And I don’t know any free-thinking, right-minded men who truly believe, in their heart of hearts, that the locomotive thrusts of their penises alone are getting the job done. And although most research backs up my personal experience with this, that hasn’t stopped countless books and magazines and sex toy companies from profiting off our sexual insecurities by telling us the G-spot orgasm is real and within reach.
So you can imagine how thrilled I must have been when, earlier this week, a landmark study came out in Clinical Anatomy concluding what I and millions of other women had already suspected: That the vaginal orgasm is not a thing, that the G-spot orgasm is a “scientific fraud,” and that the one and only path to climax is direct clitoral stimulation.
“Female orgasm is possible in all women… during masturbation, cunnilingus, partner masturbation, and also during vaginal/anal intercourse simply by stimulating the clitoris with a finger,” the researchers, Vincenzo and Giulia Puppo, wrote (as the earth shook from thousands of women enthusiastically nodding their heads and screaming, “Yes, yes!”). G-spot orgasms, they say, “are without scientific basis and they not [sic] accepted by experts in human anatomy.”
Sex bloggers on the Internet were also pretty thrilled by the study, if their borderline exultant responses were any indication. “If you are a woman and you think you’ve had a vaginal orgasm, you are wrong!” crowed Salon. “Stop taunting us with claims of your intense, superior vaginal orgasms. It doesn’t exist and it never happened,” the Daily Beast chimed in, similarly ebullient in their sense of victory over G-spot-orgasm-havers. Even Cosmo started backtracking, triumphantly proclaiming in a headline: “Stop trying to make vaginal orgasms happen.”
It didn’t matter that all three of these publications have, at various points, implicitly or explicitly tried to make the vaginal orgasm “happen.” (Cosmo, in particular, has built an editorial empire on the idea that the G-spot orgasm both exists and is easily attainable.) For years, sexually active women have been divided into two camps: Those lucky ladies who can achieve orgasm via penetration, and those who cannot. The ebullient response to the Puppo study was a raspberry in the face of those annoying, freakish G-spot-orgasm-having women, a call to arms for them to step out of the spotlight and let us normal clitoral-orgasm-havers have our moment in the sun. “Nyeh-nyeh-nyeh-poo-poo, G-spot havers!” everyone seemed to be saying. “Everything you know about your vagina is a fraud!”
There’s just one problem with the study’s claim that the vaginal orgasm doesn’t exist: There are an awful lot of women who say they do. Namely, anywhere between 7 and 30 percent, depending on what study or survey you’re looking at. (Larger numbers tend to be from older studies, like the Hite Report, which polled 2,000 North American women on the subject during the 1970s.) Regardless of the specific percentage, there is a substantial number of women who say they achieve orgasm via vaginal penetration—and these women probably won’t take too kindly to being told that what makes them and their vaginas feel good is a “scientific fraud.”
These women—and they do exist, though I am not one of them—have been told throughout their lives that the way they achieve orgasm is wrong, and they are wrong for thinking otherwise. If you imagine, say, being told that the way you’ve brushed your teeth your entire life was incorrect, you can come close to guessing how frustrating that must be. “There are a plethora of misconceptions about the G-spot. It isn’t the be all end all of female pleasure. It’s not a magic place you can just find and immediately start having the best orgasms of your life,” Penny, a blogger who runs the sex blog Penny For Your Dirty Thoughts, wrote in a post on the subject earlier this year. “[…] But the G-spot is a real, physical thing. Period.”
Earlier this year, when I spoke to the adult performer Cytherea, who’s known as the “Goddess of Gush” for her prodigious female ejaculation abilities, she was similarly incensed by the suggestion that her ability to orgasm wasn’t real. “I don’t understand how it works, to be honest with you. I don’t know the whole medical terms,” she said. “All I know is this: When I have an orgasm, I get extremely wet. And it feels really frickin’ good.”
It’s true that there is a lack of scientific consensus over whether the G-spot exists. But many researchers have proposed various explanations for why some women come from penetration and others do not, some of which are predicated on the idea that a vaginal orgasm actually stems from the “root” of the clitoris responding to stimulation. (Another compelling explanation: The “C-V distance” theory, which states that a woman’s ability to come from vaginal sex depends on how close her clitoris is to her vagina, or approximately 2.5 centimeters or less.)
The fact that we haven’t arrived at a consensus on what should be fundamental information about the female anatomy reflects both researchers’ squeamishness toward matters of female sexuality, and just how complex the female anatomy really is. But it seems pretty clear that the Puppos’ claim that clitoral stimulation is the be-all and end-all of female orgasm is just reductive and wrong, in the same way that Freud was reductive and wrong when he made the same claim about vaginal penetration nearly a century ago.
As Katy Sukel, a science writer and the author of Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships explains in a recent New Scientist op-ed, the authors’ assertion that all women can come from clitoral stimulation fails to take into account “why so many women don’t climax even with sufficient clitoral stimulation—or why some are capable of orgasm in the absence of it.” The study, Sukel argues, ignores the enormous role the brain plays in orgasm, as as well as studies on how direct cervical stimulation can lead to orgasm in paralyzed women.
The truth is, sexuality is far more complicated than either scientists or sex bloggers like myself would like to admit to ourselves, and in light of the rich and storied history of the misconceptions and myths surrounding women’s health issues, this applies doubly to female sexuality. Studies like the Puppos’ may serve to confirm most of our deeply held beliefs about our own bodies and what gives us pleasure, but just because they make most of us feel good about ourselves doesn’t mean that they make all of us feel good about ourselves, or even that they’re accurate.
“We’d all like to believe that all women can have orgasms,” Sukel writes in her piece. “Yet, until scientists are willing to take a comprehensive, collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the many clues and contradictions in female sexuality, we have no hope of making sure that possibility becomes a reality.” But in truth, we don’t need scientists to confirm what we already know about ourselves and our own bodies. All we need to do is take a few minutes out of our day to close our eyes and do some exploring and figure out what feels “really frickin’ good” for us.
Photo by Giuseppe Chirico/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)