Why do we have orgasm? So intuitively it might seem obvious, scientifically it’s not that black and white.
What seems true is that orgasms have a very old origin, and have only recently been separated from the basic need to reproduce.
In the following article, we’ll explore what we know about orgasms and see if we can find their origin.
What can science tell us about orgasms?
Orgasms are nature’s way reward us for having sex, at least that’s what we are told. The powerful release of hormones that accompany orgasms is one of life’s purest and greatest pleasures.
But they are not universal for all human beings. According to a 1999 study, afight 43% women and 31% of men in the United States between the ages of 18 and 60 meet the criteria for sexual dysfunction.
So, that being said, what can science tell us about them?
To this day, we know, or think we know, the following about orgasms:
– Orgasms can be unintentional and do not always need to involve sexual desire (during rape or even, in some cases, exercise);
– Orgasms can occur without any genital arousal;
– Orgasm disorders are not limited to one sex (as we have seen);
– Orgasms seem to have multiple potential health benefits due to hormones and other chemicals released by the body during an orgasm;
– 1 in 3 men seem to suffer or have suffered at some point from premature ejaculation;
– Orgasms seem to have once been a need ovulation (more on this later);
– Orgasms seem to stimulate fertility;
– Female orgasms could have evolved from men, and;
– Female orgasms have long been linked to psychological arousal, as well as physicalAl, but it can also be true for men.
All right, but before we go any further, it might help to actually define what an orgasm is.
What is an orgasm?
According to Oxford English Dictionary, an orgasm is defined as:
“TThe moment during sexual activity when feelings of sexual pleasure are at their peak. “
Pretty simple, but orgasms are defined a bit more graphically by health professionals and psychologists:
“The climax of sexual arousal, characterized by strong sensations of pleasure and normally marked by ejaculation of semen by the male and by involuntary vaginal contractions in the female.” – Medical dictionary.
But, there are also several types of orgasms. Just to complicate something that should be very easy to define.
Orgasms are also sub-categorized, by some researchers, in the following :
– Combined or mixed orgasms: a variety of different orgasmic experiences mixed together, obviously.
– Multiple orgasms: a series of orgasms over a short period of time.
– Pressure orgasms: orgasms that arise from the indirect stimulation of the applied pressure. It is quite common in children.
– Relaxation orgasms: orgasm resulting from deep relaxation during sexual stimulation.
– Tension orgasms: a common form of orgasm, arising from direct stimulation often when the body and muscles are tense.
So this is it. It’s probably more than you ever want to know about orgasms.
What are the causes of orgasms?
The obvious answer is the height of sexual or erotic stimulation, usually during sex, but that’s not the whole story. What is clear, however, is that they most often occur after a period of continuous stimulation of erogenous zones like the genitals (obviously), anus, nipples and perineum.
When this happens, orgasms are the end result of two basic physical responses.
The first is called vasocongestion. It is the process by which the tissues of the body tend to fill or swell with blood (think of an erection for example).
This is followed by another process called myotonia. This is where muscles voluntarily and involuntarily tighten.
There have been some interesting reports of people experiencing orgasms when you might expect them not to. For example, at the beginning of epileptic medicine or foot amputees experience orgasms in their phantom limb.
Paralyzed patients from the waist down may also experience orgasms. This suggests that it is the central nervous system, not necessarily the orogenic zones, that are the key to orgasm.
Some research in this area, in particular, has revealed some very interesting information.
Between 2001 and 2006, Dr Marca Sipski-Alexander have conducted studies which have shown that approximately 50% of 45 men and 44% of 68 women of paralyzed people could have orgasms under controlled conditions. This was achieved using adult videos and hand-held genital stimulation or with a vibrator.
This would suggest that orgasms can be, in part, reflexive, like urinating. If this is true, it would be seem to suggest that orgasms are the result of nerve connectivity located in the lower body, rather than the nervous system as a whole.
In other words, receiving signals of sexual stimulation from the genitals does not have to reach the brain to come. This suggests that the old joke that men have another brain in their pants might have some merit.
But, of course, a lot more work needs to be done before it can be conclusively proven.
Where does female orgasm come from?
While male orgasms seem to be a much simpler cause-and-effect process, female orgasms have long been more elusive. This has made many people wonder why women are able to have orgasms.
But, it turns out that orgasms might have a very primitive origin. So much so that we may be able to trace its origin to our deep mammalian past.
In many lower mammals, the intercourse is required for females to ovulate. It appears that at some point in our evolution, ovulation became automatic and divorced, in a sense, from the sexual act.
A study in the Journal of Experimental Zoology tried to find out when this could have happened. The study compared primitive mammals to higher, more complex mammals, to see how female orgasms have changed over time.
It turns out that solitary animals, like cats, tend to undergo male-induced ovulation in order to reproduce. They also found that these mammals were showing signs of a physiological response comparable or similar to human orgasms – primarily the body was inundated with prolactin.
It is the same hormone released by human females during the climax.
Placental mammals, like us and primates, tend to ovulate spontaneously (menstruation). It is believed to be a consequence of the fact that we become social animals rather than solitary ones.
If this is true, it would suggest that orgasms are an ancestral “vestigial” mechanism from our deep past. The researchers also found that when ovulation stopped based on orgasm, the clitoris also ceased to be located inside the vaginal canal.
The study also concludes that while the female orgasm has lost its ancestral function, it can still speed up ovulation in men. But that is only if ovulation were to occur within an hour.
But, that being said, orgasms in both males and females have since changed their role for our species beyond pure reproduction. They are, and always will be, a key part of sex.
It makes you enjoy the experience and, most importantly, brings you closer to your partner as a couple.