Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The myth of the myth of the vaginal orgasm.

Okay everybody on the Internet, let's make a deal: I won't tell you how to have orgasms, and you won't tell me that mine don't exist.

Figleaf linked to this post on Pandagon about how the G-spot is really just a magic feather that might give you orgasms if you believe, and we shouldn't think less of it just because it doesn't exist in objective reality. Which is deeply weird for me to read, because as far as I'm concerned, it's right there! Give me your finger and I'll show you. It's like reading a debate on the existence of the human nose. (Complete with smartasses saying "what we've thought of as the 'nose' is actually just a cartilage structure containing scent-sensitive cells!" as if that's some paradigm-shifting revelation.) I have a spot in my vagina that is both palpable and sensitive, and it gives me crazy orgasms from penetrative sex.

I really hate the disdainful tone people take toward "the ol' pump and dump," because that's how I get off! I don't get off at all on "the ol' fiddly diddly," but I don't think that means no one likes clitoral stimulation. I hate being told that that PIV sex is dudeocentric or old-fashioned when it makes me come my brains out.

But I think the overwhelming reason [people believe in the G-spot] is that the desire to believe women when they report subjective experiences is ascendant, while willingness to believe that women might trick themselves into believing something because it’s what men want to hear is descendant in feminist thought right now. Women say they have G spot orgasms, we believe women, end of story. I respect where this desire comes from.
No! This isn't philosophy! This is my vagina! It exists in consensus reality! Shit like "respect the desire" is condescending as fuck. "Oh yes, I understand why you might say you have a nose, and I respect that. It's important to believe you!"

But what this struggle ends up doing is obscuring that there’s a third possibility, one that neither G spot defenders or dismissers seem willing to entertain, which is that the women’s experiences can be totally real and also that there’s no such thing as the G-spot.
I never really thought of myself as a G-spot "defender." More like "owner." But I guess that makes me a really rabid defender? Reasonable people should be able to compromise on whether something exists. Like maybe I only have half a nose really.

It’s interesting to consider if the G spot only occurs in some women, which would explain the huge gap between experiences without further shaming of women who don’t have G spot orgasms. But what this research indicates is that if this is true, then it isn’t genetic. I’m personally quite comfortable with the possibility that the G spot “exists” only in women that find the process of stimulating it exciting instead of boring, but of course, that kind of thing is culturally difficult to swallow.
If the G-spot was a placebo effect, though, I wouldn't have this experience, which happens very often: "mmm, not quite, mmm, a little further in... OH GOD DON'T YOU DARE MOVE ONE INCH OH GOD RIGHT EXACTLY THERE." It's a pretty complex hallucinatory process if I can hallucinate that much difference between two spots that are millimeters apart and would feel the same if one of them wasn't, you know, my G-spot.

The problem is that if the difference between having a G spot and not having one is suggestibility to the possibility---i.e. that you have orgasms by stimulating a specific part of your body when other women don’t, because you believe that you can---then the shame would transfer from those who don’t to those who do, who would be falsely led to believe that it’s all in their heads and they’re crazy or something. This is due to the aforementioned weirdness people have about believing that what’s in your head is real, plus an giant dose of sexism. [...] But part of it is that “it’s all in your head” is used to dismiss the reality of women’s experiences, even though something that happens in your head is quite real.
No. This isn't the problem. The problem is that it isn't all in my head. It's all in my vagina. There's a ribbedy bit and it makes me make funny noises. Being told "it's real to you, sweetie" is infuriating not because I don't respect subjective experiences but because this isn't subjective!

Look. I get the picture. Amanda Marcotte doesn't have a sensitive G-spot. Fine for her. But she's got no damn right to go around telling me how my vagina is.

It also bothers me how much this whole thing is couched in implications that women who claim to have G-spots are giving in to the evil mens. Any form of female pleasure that is easy and pleasurable for men is suspect. It makes you a collaborator, and your existence (or at least your talking about it) is an impediment to the women who have more difficulty with orgasms. I can't help reading between the lines that a woman who gets off on cock alone is giving it up too damn easy, the slut.

"The existence of the clitoris has always been hotly debated, and new research suggests that identical twins don't have clitorises either, or something. But many women claim to feel clitoral stimulation. Many claim that they're just filthy sellout sluts making things harder for the good girls, and we should respect this important feminist opinion. My theory, however, is that they're merely imagining they have a clitoris and this gets them off, and we should respect their hallucination if it works for them."


  1. My girlfriend damned sure does have a G-spot, & I know where the fuck it is. Both our lives would be poorer were either not true.

  2. I fucking love my G spot, and I am not relinquishing it.

    (That article made my head spin. I did not visit all the links, but I thought the New feminist thinking was that the G Spot is actually an extension of the clitoral nerve bunch or something?)


  3. I just...don't understand this new "study" at all. Like you said, I know the g-spot exists, it's there! I've felt it with my own fingers! Mine isn't as responsive as some people's (I'm a clitoral kind of gal) but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. What the hell?

  4. Bah. To think with how many times I've heard other women tell me they don't have a g-spot, and then two minutes into conversation you'd realize it's some frontal part inside their vaginas that feels really, really good, but it's not a g-spot, it's just a part in their vaginas that feels really, really good.


  5. I have a g-spot! I LOVE my g-spot! My clitoris is often too sensitive for direct stimulation. Penetrative sex is how I get most of my orgasms, and almost all of my earth-shattering ones. damnit. My g-spot rules!

    Also, I totally love your comment Holly, comparing having a g-spot to having a nose. It's that clear cut to me too. It's there. I can show you damnit. bah.

  6. This was really interesting. I don't have a G spot as far as I know, but I mostly got off through intercourse (handjobs work ok, oral not at all, vibrators not at all, masturbation hasn't worked for years. :-( ) All the talk about what sex is supposedly like for women usually makes me feel pretty damn weird.

  7. Holly, you have this fabulous way of cutting right through the bullshit.

  8. What I love is the way they reject out of hand as ludicrous the notion that there could be significant biological variability among women as to sexual anatomy and responsiveness. And that obviously there isn't if it isn't "genetic". HELLO, THERE IS A REASON WE DISTINGUISH BETWEEN GENOTYPE AND PHENOTYPE!

  9. Hershele OstropolerJanuary 5, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    I don't think she's denying that it's a physical reality (and as has been cleverly pointed out on one blog I read, it's equally wrong to say "this is how it works for me, therefore this is universal/normal" no matter what side you're on). The study seems to support the notion that "g-spot" could be a name for the place on the vaginal wall where the crurae are on the other side, rather than a separate thing. That doesn't mean it's not real, and it doesn't mean the sensation is entirely -- or at all -- psychosomatic.

    I agree with your nose analogy, but I think that's also a fair characterization of a nose. It only falls in that anosmia is far rarer than not coming from penetration per se. No one is saying "you don't really have a nose, you only think you have a nose because you smell things."

  10. It was on slashdot, so it must be true ..

    *nods sagely*

    seriously though, I know I have a g-spot. In fact I could find it in 3 seconds or less, regardless of a gun being held against my head. And so what if it varies from woman to woman? It's like saying that every man should have the same sized penis.

    I think men are just in a huff about this because they're geographically impaired both in cars and in a vagina, so clearly it must not be there.

  11. Interesting post...although I may not have a
    g-spot...doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I am not sure if the author is suggesting the fact that a g-spot doesn't physicaly exist for most women or that it only exist to those who believe it's there.
    Personally an orgasm is an orgasm I could care less how I achieve it as long as it's there I am good.

  12. I know at least one woman with a g-spot. I can feel it and it changes when she gets aroused. She loved it when I ate her and stroked it atthe same time, and I got to where I could figure out when she was just about to cum and hold off for a bit and draw it out, make things last a bit longer.
    Poor Amanda. No wonder she's so depressing and mean. I say that sincerely.

  13. Oh, and on a related note!

  14. I'm pretty sure everybody's got a "g-spot" in the same sense that everybody's got a "bridge of the nose." Pretty much all my partners have had that little ridgy/ribbed area under the pubic bone. As you say "because, dude, it's there!"

    Even better? Pretty much all of them have reported sensation when I touched them there with my fingers. (Though, interestingly, not so much during intercourse, about which in a moment.)

    Where the controversy shows up, however, is what that sensation is to them. Most of them haven't really cared for it one way or the other. Some small number have found it actively irritating. And about the same number have acted as though being touched there with my finger, fingers, or thumb feels very, very nice indeed.

    So I think the real question, and what's so irritating about the current phrasing, isn't whether there is such a "bridge of the nose" sort of thing. That's kind of uncontroversial since it's showed up in even very old anatomy books. Instead it's about whether it's erotically/orgasmically sensitive. And that's all over the map.

    As to the question of intercourse, most people's penises are a lot rounder and smoother and less "crook-y" than fingers. And so they're less likely to press in too hard between the vestibular bulbs of the clitoris and, consequently, wind up mildly irritating the urethra the way fingers do. With the result that while it might be harder to do it "right" for some women it's a lot harder to do it "wrong."

    That's my subjective experience only, of course, and in this particular case that's appropriate to discuss: it'll never be my "g-spot" I'm talking about.

    Anyway, that's where I think the controversy arises. Not over whether it's there on everybody but over whether if feels good for everybody. Thing is you don't need a twins study to tell that. You just need maybe three or four women partners and a willingness to communicate.


  15. Figleaf - The study was asking about anatomy and sensitivity simultaneously with that terribly worded question about the "so called G-spot, a small area the size of a 20p coin on the front wall of your vagina that is sensitive to deep pressure?" Pointing out the ribbedy bit doesn't fully refute it, but it's half the battle.

    Thing is you don't need a twins study to tell that. You just need maybe three or four women partners and a willingness to communicate.
    Actually, I'd say that a study could tell you interesting things about the G-spot, but:

    A) It needs to not entirely hinge on self-reported answers to vaguely-worded questions, you gotta get out there with a speculum and a veeerrry thorough Human Subjects Review Board evaluation.

    B) It needs to not assume that "identical twin" is a synonym for "human Xerox," because identical twins have different gene expressions and development and experiences.

  16. I sent the BBC a comment to the effect of, "Each of my male partners has preferred focused stimulation on a different part of the penis. With this logic, we have "proven" they were missing the rest of their penises."

    AAaargh why did I follow the link to Pandagon why why whyyyyyyyyy??!!!!1!!

    "Pump and dump"... C'mon, make it a little bit more obvious what you really think of women who like penetration. I happen to like vaginal AND clitoral stimulation and can get both at the same time by doing missionary.

    (Halp! I made a wordpress account but can't figure out how to comment as that identity.)

  17. As for the wording of their questions you could very quickly prove that men don't have prostates either. I mean, what would you get if screened out gay and bisexual men who's "digital manipulation" might bias the results, then asked 1500 paired-twin men "do you believe you have a do-called prostate gland, a walnut-sized area on the front wall of your rectum that is sensitive to deep pressure?"


  18. This sort of reminds me of way back when doctors thought that menstrual cramps were all in the heads of the women who complained of them.

  19. @Anonymous:

    What do you mean, "way back when"? According to the plethora of doctors I've seen (oh yes, change 'em like socks, I do), if Motrin can't fix it, I'm imagining things.

    P.S. Either my G-spot doesn't work, or I haven't got one, but I sure as know they exist!

  20. I am a *gay man* and I've found the G-spot. My boy prefers to call it "the back of his cock." It's incredibly obvious and it makes him feel incredibly good. Perhaps the testosterone made it swell up, as it did with his cock. At any rate, they damn sure didn't ask any trans dudes if they have a G-spot.

  21. *shrugs* I don't think I have a g-spot, but I also don't have the gene expression for being able to tan, and I don't have a wine-colored birthmark. It doesn't mean that other people don't have them, or that tanned skin or wine-colored birthmarks are somehow psychosomatic.

  22. Ugh! I hate this sort of b.s. Thanks Holly, for being so on target. :)
    How hard is it to imagine that some women don't have a sensitive G-spot? Like some women don't get off on their nipples being stimulated, and some like buttsex a whole lot more. I mean, we do know the prostate exists, but I don't think every guy in the world wants buttsex. Just because not some portion of women don't have raging orgasms from it doesn't mean it's not there. *grumble grumble*

    Also, I'd like to take a (long ass) moment to commiserate with kaffeine: "According to the plethora of doctors I've seen, if Motrin can't fix it, I'm imagining things."

    Seriously, it's driving me nuts. I went to one doctor to try to get some new pain meds, because Motrin will space me out without giving me relief, and you know what HER response was? Take MORE. I was like... excuse me, did you think I hadn't TRIED that? To get to the point where I experience significant pain relief, I get so sleepy and spaced out that I forgo all work to take a nap for the whole day. I can't afford to DO that! My doctor at home, who is pretty awesome, prescribed me this pain medication that is made specifically for women with PMDD (the only one I've ever heard of). I was really excited, and went to go pick it up from walgreens... and found out the no longer make it. You know why? Not because it was dangerous, but because they weren't making enough money off it. FUUUU....

    Well, we'll see what happens at my next appointment. I had a few pain pills given to me after a car accident, and they worked amazing things on my period pain without spacing me out.

    Us silly females, with all our imagined sensations. x.x

  23. Who cares about how people come? Does it matter? I say let partners please each other in whatever way is enjoyable for them.

  24. I put my hands up and confess that I truly wish I could come from vaginal stimulation alone. But for me... (As with 1/3 of the female population) it's not happening.

  25. Scientists aren't saying that there's not a sensitive area inside the vagina, or that it's impossible for some women (very few) to achieve orgasm through penetration alone. The only thing they're saying is that vaginal/g-spot orgasms shouldn't be considered different than clitoral orgasms. There's a growing ammount of research that shows that the mythical g-spot is just the internal nerves of the clitoris, which is indeed much bigger than what was thought at first. Thus, speaking of "vaginal orgasms" is inaccurate and artificial. And it was Freud who proposed the distinction, not women.
    So nobody is saying that you're not having those orgasms; they're just saying that it's the clitoris, not the vagina what produces them. Indeed, around 70%-80% of women can only achieve orgasm through direct stimulation of the clitoris. The vagina itself has a low density of nerves.

    1. That's very true--I completely agree with most of your statement. But is it really that bad to differentiate between orgasms that are stimulated from different places? Especially since a lot of women like one or the other--I personally like vaginal the most but can achieve clitoral climax--then is it really "inaccurate" to simply categorize one stimulation from this area and another from another area? It doesn't really matter that they may be connected at the be all end all, it only matters how it's achieved. So to me it makes sense to call one "vaginal", as in, achieved through internal stimulation from the vagina, and "clitoral," from stimulation of the clitoris.