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I often find myself silently debating the finer points of sex while doing the sorts of task that require minimal attention. The pros and cons of orgasm is a perennial favourite. I occasionally dwell on my continued inability to recognise any difference in behaviour or attitude in either myself or my wife following periods of no orgasms or many orgasms, which I suppose helps justify our continued enjoyment of them. The other day, though, I found myself wondering what, precisely, the point of orgasm was, its purpose, its reason for existing. For men, since orgasm and ejaculation go hand in hand, the matter seems obvious. Procreation of the species depends on it. The rush of pleasure ensures delivery. For women, it's not so obvious. Sex need only be sufficiently pleasurable for them to want, or be willing, to engage in it often enough to get pregnant. Why, then, do women have the capacity for far greater pleasure, over and above what is necessary? What evolutionary purpose is served by something that appears to have no other underlying motive?

I find it hard to believe that the capacity for orgasm - which is a pretty extraordinary event, however it's viewed - can have evolved on a whim; and, assuming it didn't, I suspect it shouldn't be given up lightly.


Female chimps, when fertile,

mate with lots of males. Who wants to waste an ovum on a guy shooting blanks?

But from her perspective, she may just be seeking the perfect orgasm, or *any* orgasm, or the *next* orgasm.

Maybe the fact that we women are potentially *very* orgasmic, but not always *instantly* orgasmic, serves evolution by encouraging unfaithfulness. Hmmmm....

There is no human moral imperative to obey evolution. —Julian Savulescu and Anders Sandberg, ethicists

Well, lets look at the

Well, lets look at the situations in which women are not always instantly orgasmic versus when they are very orgasmic.

It seems from my own experience that the very orgasmic stage usually comes within a committed partnership with a lover who I feel emotionally open with and who I know cares about me, whereas I am less orgasmic in a sudden encounter with a new lover who I have not established trust and comfort with, or who may not know my body very well.

Its true also that an initial sexual encounter often has more of an erotic charge to it because of the novelty and thrill of not knowing when or if you are going to get laid, and this charge results in higher overall physical and emotional sensitivity but not necessarily orgasmic capacity.

So the pattern I see is that initial relationships offer more of a novelty charge than an orgasmic payoff, while committed relationships offer less novelty and more orgasms.

I think that the fact that woman's vagina contracts and pulls up sperm during orgasm points to a similar function to man's ejaculation during orgasm - and in this sense, there's no mystery to the purpose of female orgasm versus male, eventhough a woman can get pregnant without orgasm or even from rape.

If a woman's multi-orgasmic capacity were designed to distract her from someone she had just mated with, then this multi-orgasmic ability would only distract her in a situation where she literally had a handful of other men there at that exact time she was so highly aroused to serve her if the other man didn't have enough stamina. And that is an argument for the biological logic of polyandry (multiple husbands). I don't think the capacity for multiple orgasms is so overwhelming that one would be so unsatisfied with one or two from one lover that one would actively seek out other men out of agitation to get a few more. More likely, it would make sense to have a few more men already arranged and waiting. But we see there aren't many cultures in which polyandry is practiced, despite woman's multiorgasmic capacity. So I don't think this capacity in women necessarily indicates another way biology has found to make us unable to commit.

An argument could be made that women's orgasmic capacity is designed to produce offspring within a committed relationship. Like I said, the multi-orgasmic response in women often does not happen in casual settings as often. Seeing as how the sperm is pulled up by the cervix during orgasm, multiple orgasms in the woman could ensure that the likelihood of there being a sucking up during the man's ejaculation would be higher. But that's only in the scenario of a man with stamina or a man who does not suffer from premature ejaculation. If I'm in a partnership, and I come faster than he does, then having another and another orgasm increases the likelihood that when he does come, I'll have another orgasm to pull that sperm up.

But this doesn't work in a scenario where the man has no stamina. In that case, he very well may be with a multiorgasmic woman totally unbenknownst to him or even her. If she does know from previous lovers she is multiorgasmic, she will feel high and dry, and yes - might look elsewhere for a man with more stamina. But it seems if she were to do this it would be because she did not have any orgasm. At least for me personally, multiple orgasms are such that after you've had one, you don't really feel left high and dry, even if you know you could have more. In fact, having a few of them usually does not come from any great physiological need to, but from a more psychological place of showing the guy what a stud he is or what a greatly receptive woman you are. And there's little actual emotional receptivity going on when caught up in the act of proving things or showing off.

It's hard if not impossible to separate biology from sociology. Who knows? Perhaps the observation I have, that women are less orgasmic all around and less multi-orgasmic in casual encounters than they are in committed partnerships is only a sign of the sociological dynamics of the culture I live in.

If I lived in a culture that was a tight-knit community, where there was a joint effort to harvest food and share childrearing duties, I might not really care that much about commitment or security or finding a good provider. And we can see that in many cultures that live closer to the land (like the Kung tribe), both men and women get married but both are equally assumed they will take lovers. Not as much is at stake for the woman or the man if the responsibilities of adulthood are shared amongst the tribe. But there is one other feature of the Kung that differentiates it from other tight-knit communities, and that is that they are nomadic. It has been argued that man's control of women correlates historically with his need to control property and to know that his wife is bearing his offspring alone in order for heredity and inheritance of property to make any sense. A woman in such a patrilinear and patriarchal culture has no community support of offspring should she take another lover and get pregnant by him. Thousands of years living within such a sociological situation is bound to affect woman's overall physical response, her sexuality, and her orgasmic capacity - leading to a situation in which she would be more orgasmic when she feels safe and cared for, and less orgasmic in a thrilling but dangerous encounter with someone who could completely overthrow her status and desirability in her community.

But just because this is more or less the situation that is coloring our sexuality now, does not mean that in a culture where there was more of a social support structure, women wouldn't be multi-orgasmic on a first encounter with a man.

Who's to say with all this stuff? I think we can notice that biology has an influence over us, but I don't think we will ever be able to say definitively: this is purely biology's work or motive, and that is culture's. Because our biology is constantly changing and adapting to our social situations. So, for example, if we see an increasing trend in people learning to conserve their sexual energy in a time of overpopulation, this could be biology's agenda too: to cut down on the number of human inhabitants at a time when the planet can't handle it anymore. Why must we always think biology uses the same tactics for its agenda, no matter what? After all, its not to our biological advantage to be overcrowded. This leads to sickness and reduces the likelihood of survival. Perhaps it is your biology, adapted to these particularly insane times, that has been speaking to you all along, Marnia. Perhaps you are simply more tuned in to the evolutionary edge of biology's agenda? Perhaps rather than outsmarting biology, you are actually the proponent of its most urgent agenda: slow down human reproduction so as to be able to survive at all as a species.

You may be right

I've often wondered if my homosexual friends are also hearing this message not to procreate on an overcrowded, toxic planet. Many of them are so loving (and love kids so much) that had they been straight they would have produced lots of little ones.

In any case, this message seems very hard for biology, or any other spokesperson, to get through to fertile mammals. Wink

For the record, I wasn't thinking of women being motivated to add lovers because they were multi-orgasmic, but rather because they were left unsatisfied in some way, and therefore open to scratching their itches elsewhere (even if they *never* found a situation to scratch that itch).

I thought I read somewhere that the orgasmic-contraction-sperm-sucking experiment had not been replicated. What's the latest on that?

I never knew an experiment

I never knew an experiment had been done on that, it just makes sense. Perhaps its not true - certainly enough women get pregnant without orgasms for it not to be that necessary even if it does do that.

Who choses?

Is that the way round it is? From my observations of animals, it always looks like it's the male who's the greedy one; but I can't say I've made an exhaustive study. Maybe it's more subtle than it looks.

Just to clarify, you're suggesting one possible reason for the existence of female orgasm is that the pursuit of it encourages females to seek out more than one sex partner, thereby increasing her chances of getting pregnant, and from more than one strain of sperm?

It's certainly plausible. I wonder why I didn't think of that.


you're too good a lover to ever have left your highly aroused partner "high and dry" as you nodded off into your post-ejaculatory coma...but it does happen. And if it had happened to you, you might have thought of this theory yourself. Wink

I once caused a relationship to end by complaining about this situation...and realized later that I *really loved* that man, and that my damned genitals should not be relied upon for relationship advice.

It was, in fact, that relationship that caused me to ask what was really going on in my relationships, and how to improve my results. You can see where that dangerous question led. Smile But the good news is that I now realize that if we want strong bonds, our first priority needs to be regular bonding behaviors, with orgasm not the focus (even if it sometimes occurs).

PS Males may be greedy, but during their "heat" (mating period), females can be just as greedy...and likely to initiate sex. This has even been noted in human females. Hormone surges at that time change behavior. You guys get a steady high-testosterone dosage all the time.

Blinding Flash of the Obvious

For some reason, I was thinking that the act of female orgasm serves to initiate powerful contractions that assist the sperm up the birth canal towards their destination.

Also, an orgasmic woman tends to be a well lubricated woman and I believe these secretions help the sperm to thrive and survive in their journey to the ovum. I remember learning about natural birth control and the appearance of "mucus" mid cycle to announce fertility. Add to that an increase in "horniness" and you have a divine recipe for procreation!

There is something exquisitely, powerful about being drawn in by a horny women as she exhibits wanton abandonment in the throes of her quest for orgasm and us guys do our best to ride the wave all the way to the beach before we expend the sperm necessary to insure propagation of the species.

Now that's what I call teamwork!

Then again, I may be all wet in my speculation and way too horny to even tempt this topic but has that ever stopped me? Wink

Ladies? Biologists? Help me out here!



Intriguing ideas

I have to admit to feeling a little dim since neither the notion of female orgasm being a device for ensuring more than one sexual partner nor for assisting sperm to reach the egg had occurred to me. Either or both might be true, I suppose. However, from what I've heard, female orgasm doesn't seem to occur that much during intercourse. Nor does it appear to happen much in animals, though I imagine it's difficult to quantify. Certainly, the female animals I've seen 'being served' never look like they're experiencing anything remotely orgasmic! In any event, pregnancy obviously happens regardless of whether or not an orgasm has occurred. To me, it doesn't ring true that nature would plumb in such an extraordinary mechanism for assisting efficient procreation when it is both haphazard and surplus to requirements.

I'm not sure about the allure of orgasm causing females to look elsewhere for satisfaction, either. I mean, that search might happen, of course; and it might seem to be driven by the pursuit of pleasure; but given that a male can fertilise a thousand different females, whereas a female can only be fertilised by one male, and, say, on a maximum of ten occasions in her life, as an evolutionary tactic it seems somewhat heavy handed, especially as orgasmic fulfilment is little more likely with one male than another.

I still harbour the suspicion there's something else lying behind the female capacity for orgasm (that's also shared by the male orgasm, but which is clouded by its association with ejaculation) that has nothing to do with fertilisation, and less to do with the pursuit of pleasure than some form of energetic release. I often equate orgasms with sneezing. There's something equally convulsive about both. If I allow a sneeze to be a whole body activity, which requires a certain amount of privacy, it can be an enthralling experience. At heart, it's only about expelling an irritant from, or through, the nose, but it uses a mechanism that can appear to 'clear' much more than that. It's like being given a good shake.

Anyway, it's just an idea I have, in my continued quest to find value in orgasm, and to understand what it might mean to give it up.

God and Intelligent Design

I think this is a good time to consider how to explain the inexplicable from another slant.

I always enjoy your posts Sood, including the wonderful things that you ponder and throw out for comment.

What if God from his omnipotent perspective has more than biology in mind as part of the divine plan? Maybe we are way over-thinking this as your logic Sood does point out that orgasm does not seem to fit from a purely biological perspective to maximize procreation. You are also astute to point out that there is no clear analog for orgasm in animals so....

What if God made orgasm purely for human beings to enjoy? The icing on the cake so to speak (pun intended?) of our sexuality.

In moments of doubt and to further this momentous dialog - I take the random thoughts that spark in my mind and run in all sorts of random directions.

The French have a wonderful term for orgasm: la petite mort - literally, "the small death". And just when you thought the only French contributions to the world were berets, the Bordeaux region of wine and french fries! Wink

And while the term can refer to the post-orgasmic fainting in a heap after hot, steamy sex - I believe that it as also tied to the "spiritual release" that is part of the transcendence that God wants us to experience as part of the expenditure and exchange of our vital life force.

Why else do we so often exclaim, "Oh God, oh God, Ohhhhh Goddddddddd!!!! [bigsmile]

All kidding aside, I resonate with Hotspring's observance that she is more orgasmic with a trusted partner and I believe that is how God intended it to be. In that regard, in God's divine design, sex is a much richer, fuller experience in a committed relationship which also is potentially the optimum design of a core family for raising children, other than the obvious supplementary benefits of the "it takes a village" approach to child rearing.

It cuts both ways in this regard as many men can testify to erectile dysfunction in a stressful "hot sex" "fucking" situation as opposed to "making love" with a loving, trusted partner where the sexual sharing can continue endlessly with the focus on loving touch and other pleasures that do not require an erection or for that matter, an orgasm.

I can also remember sex with women that were non-orgasmic and no matter how masterfully I pushed all the right buttons, there was something lacking, some level of trust not there or perhaps a fear of men or even their own bodies that prevented them from fully letting go which is also a prerequisite to the orgasmic experience.

Sooo Sood - so glad you asked!

So what if orgasm is God's gift to us - designed to be wonderful good fun and to refresh us as we recreate spiritually in a loving, trusting relationship called marriage while at the same time we propagate the species!

In the bible, God talks about how "the two shall be one flesh" and once again, I see some deeply spiritual truth in this ancient book of wisdom that still makes sense, even today.

That is what some call "intelligent design" and it speaks to me of a divine creator that really loves us to make sex such darn, good fun!

Turning sex into recreational sport ignores the divine intent to experience "soulgasm" with a partner, something much more meaningful than a mere orgasm!


I also like to think that

I also like to think that orgasm is there to entice us to rediscover out spiritual potential.
Until one learns how to "flip the right switch" orgasm may well be the cause of separation, how many of us have experienced.
After that, it may well be the gate to heaven.

The challenge is to find the right switch and to learn how to flip it... :)

The Taoists

speak of different *kinds* or orgasms. The key may be which aspect of our nervous system we activate:

The usual orgasm seems based on performance, the other on relaxed, merging feelings. The Taoists, at least, found that the second is more likely if one rules out conventional orgasm as a goal. Makes sense.

I've found that whatever happens during one blissful encounter...there are lingering effects on the nervous system that can cause unwanted emotional distance over the next two weeks. So unless that kind of friction is not a problem for you for some reason, it's worth *not* tripping the switch. That is, over the long haul, gentle lovemaking pays.

La petite mort

I don't know much about God's wider purpose; but I'm sure there's more to our lives than biology determines. For me, there's definitely something of the divine in orgasm; though I'd be the first to admit, there are orgasms and orgasms, and sometimes they can be like damp squibs.

I like the idea of a soulgasm. I'm not sure I've ever had one of those. I can confirm, though, that the more 'recreational' my approach to sex, the less meaningful it becomes. It's still fun, but falls short of leaving a lasting legacy.

I think, if we are spiritual beings - a concept I've always struggled with, but one I suppose I ought to accept, given that I believe in life after death (as well as before birth) - there's the distinct probability we are endowed with features that have no biological purpose. In trying to discover what lies behind orgasm (outside of male ejaculation) I was rather hoping I would find a higher purpose to something I'm still rather cagey about denying myself. If I could discern what that purpose was, I might be able to wonder if there were alternative ways of attaining it, or if it is more sensible to hone what skills I already have.

It may be, of course, that the 'small death' is simply a preparation for the big one. What seems to happen in orgasm is so all engulfing, so destructive to pettiness, it does suggest a (momentary) return to the source.

I hope you're well, Richard. You certainly sound chirpy!

Another thing I've noticed

Another thing I've noticed is that casual sex generally leads to std's or some sign of irritation in the vagina. Men do not experience the physical symptoms of many stds as readily as women because they do not have a damp place to harbor them as much. So as a woman, my incentive to have casual sex is much lower because I am likely to get a yeast infection or something else, whether or not I have an orgasm. I think the barometer of how enlightened the sex is can be seen in the health of the woman's vagina. I've found that by just caving into casual sex for the need of personal release, I will often pay dearly for it in the form of my vagina getting sick: ultimately, it has the final say over how promiscuous I continue to be, and who with. The quality of the interactions determine whether it gets sick or not. It seems to me that if biology wanted me to have as many partners as possible, my yoni wouldn't be prone to sickness when I took that route.

What if there was no divide between biology's agenda and that of the spirit? Marnia has pointed out that with this approach, women tend to get less infections. That could be a perfect example and reflection of the health that comes when woman has spiritually acknowledged what she most deeply wants and deserves, which is union with her beloved, deep ongoing care and devotion - for both her physical and emotional health. Rather than a way to outsmart biology, I think that this approach is a way to bring biology and spiritual yearning together as one. The focus on generosity, nurturing, and mutual pleasure nourishes the spiritual partnership to such an extent that the bonds between the man and woman are stable enough both to have a healthy family if they choose, or to continue to enjoy one another if they do not or if their children are grown, or if they have produced enough. Either way, the point is that procreation does not necessarily negate spiritual union if it is done within the context of a sexuality that is broader and has a greater purpose than just procreating. Why must we choose one or the other, and think they are opposed? Well, because we have not been educated at large in sacred sex practices, that is why it is not an option. Without this education, we keep trying to get our spiritual connection through fertilization-driven sex. In my opinion at least, no matter how valuable an orgasm may be in terms of physical and psychic release, orgasmic sex is fertilization-driven sex, and my ability as a woman to enjoy the spiritual freedom of sex is greatly limited when I am worried, concerned, or taking on the bulk of the responsibility of shouldering the possibility of pregnancy. So this sex becomes distorted, no matter the pleasure: I take the biological risk for the mutual recreation and emotional unloading.

Sood I find it interesting that you say "if we are spiritual beings" after mentioning that the more recreational your approach to sex, the less meaningful it becomes. So then what is the difference to you between the recreational approach and that other attitude, what is that other approach as it manifests in you, who does not know if humans are spiritual beings or have a soul? Yet you like the idea of a soulgasm.

I like what you say about the small death as being a preparation for the big one. What I find valuable about the nonorgasmic approach to lovemaking is that by taking away orgasm, one learns there is no end or beginning to it - to the potential of ecstacy, which is the potential to die into every moment. The point of Buddhism is to help us to wake up into the change and interdependence in all and train us to consciously die in every moment, overcoming the illusion of ourselves as separate beings and thereby experiencing the ecstacy that comes with identification with our true selves as interdependent beings emmanating from the same source. It seems to me that when we have an orgasm, we are experiencing this true source (we experience pleasure because we momentarily forget who we are), only via the route of involuntary muscle contaction and neurochemical changes rather than conscious awareness. In Buddhism this would have little benefit because our life purpose is to become conscious of who we really are in every moment of life so that we are able to move through the bardo states at the moment of death and thus become completely liberated.

I really like the non-judgemental and practical approach that Buddhism has to this issue. In this tradition, orgasm has value in teaching us something about our body's energy, and it is a good symbol for the experience of bliss, but because it is not used in the right way, it does not lead us to both bliss and wisdom. Here are some excerpts from "The Bliss of Inner Fire" by Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

"A Gelugpa lama wrote that a sign of having gained control over the mind is that the body and its nervous system become conducive to meditation. In other words, your realizations show in the way you coordinate the energy of your body. You could say that one of the things you are trying to do when you meditate on inner fire is develop awareness of your body. You are learning to communicate with your own physical energy.

Orgasm is used as a SYMBOL for the experience of everlasting bliss. According to tantra, the resource of orgasm is something good; we can learn from it.

When our desire explodes and we are about to lose energy through our sex organ, we should be able to bring the kundalini up from the lower chakras and spread it into the right places. These exercises help us learn how to handle our energy. Eventually WE BECOME ABLE TO TRANSFORM OUR EXPERIENCE OF BLISS INTO WISDOM.

Both men and women should learn to work with their desire and control their sexual energy, rather than losing it.

Even during orgasm, there is experience to some extent of the three visions, and also of the clear light. The problem is that [during orgasm] we are not aware of them. We do have such experiences, but we are definitely not using them in the right way. When we do use them correctly, we can produce the everlasting satisfaction of simultaneously born great blissful wisdom."

Thanks, as always, Hotspring

Interesting post. I hadn't thought of the goal as translating bliss into wisdom, but I've seen it happening over and over again in this forum. Beautiful.

You will be pleased to know that the new book doesn't pit us against our biology. It just says we can choose how to balance the tension between our "mating program" (fertilization-driven sex leading to habituation) and our "harmony program" (bonding behaviors). Both are part of our biology, but I believe our "default" program calls for an uneasy tension between these two programs. So I don't think it is harmful to speak of "outsmarting" biology when we consciously choose a different balance between these two programs - one which leads to better health and clearer perception (and ideally, greater wisdom).

I now think of the situation sort of like driving a car with two pedals. It's up to each of us how we use them, depending upon our goal for a relationship/our lives.


Great, I look forward to

Great, I look forward to reading the second edition of your book.

Ken Wilbur outlines one characteristic of evolution as being the ability to transcend and include rather than transcend and repress. So I think of biological urges as being a great power and force in our lower chackra centers. We can utilize this energy by chanelling it up into different chackra centers/states of awareness rather than dispelling it and staying at that level of awareness. The desire energy brought upwards and stablilized into broader states of awareness can then include more than the motivation of survival - it can embody the motivations of generosity and love.

As far as the Buddhist state of "simultaneously born great blissful wisdom" is concerned, lets get a better idea of what they mean by "wisdom". Wisdom here is not information, it is the realization of emptiness. This is not the realization that nothing exists. It is the realization that everything is absent of inherent self-existence. The wisdom state is the enlightened state, which is nonduality and non-self-existence.

Deep sex

By 'recreational sex', I meant sex that is pursued for fun, to fill in time. I enjoy it, my wife enjoys it, it brings us closer together; but it isn't what I would call 'deep'. Deep sex comes about between us only in certain circumstances and it's not easy to explain what these circumstances are. We don't set out to have this sort of sex, or if we do, if often doesn't turn out that way; and sometimes it happens when least expected.

What defines deep sex for me is when we go from being two separate bodies, writhing together, in our individual worlds, to seeming to be one body. Obviously, we don't become one body, but the kinesthetic effect is as if we are: our 'individual' movements seem to be so well correlated with our responses to those movements it's as if one person (made up of both of us) is doing the orchestrating. When this leads to orgasm, it's a culmination of union, which is both intensely pleasurable and of lasting benefit (I believe).

For me, where our souls fit into this is unknown. It's not something I've thought about much. As I've mentioned before, I'm not too comfortable with words like 'spirit' and 'soul', as I'm unsure what they mean. 'Soulgasm' still sounds wonderful, though. It holds out the joyful prospect of merging, which, for me, is the ultimate form of sex.

I think on the whole, the longer orgasm is delayed, the more likely our sex is to be 'deep' rather than 'shallow'; and, of course, if orgasm is avoided altogether, there is no reason why the union between our individual selves can't be experienced just as, or even more, fully, without the explosive ending.

Spirit Journey

I am in the midst of medical tests for determining the state of my health Sood and coming back to blog is a wonderful diversion to keep me distracted from this less pleasant aspect of my current life circumstance. I expect a good report from my Doctor next Wednesday and equipped with my new raw, vegan lifestyle - expect that only good things await me in 2009.

I love this site for the convergence of two of my favorite topics - spirituality and sexuality - as I can remember pondering both for most of my life, doing my best to make sense of it all.

You are quite right, I am thinking we are endowed with features that have no biological purpose! I tend to ramble, you put it perfectly, succinctly!

My mind, body and spirit journey of healing my health has me purposing to aspire towards the more spiritual end of the sexual continuum and finding the community here at Reuniting was a miraculous reminder of something my spirit had known for a long time:

The ability to control and delay orgasm to linger longer in the spiritual realm will remain a divine gift available to all of us. Practicing this gift with a loving partner is a path of many blessings along the way.

Yes, it is all about return to source and there are many paths to attain that, not just sexual. The mistake is to rely on our sexual partner exclusively to create that as each person is limited in their humanity as we all are.

I remember one encounter with a tantric goddess - one of many that came out of the Osho experience - and she remarked how she could have an ecstatic, spiritual experience by gazing upon the beauty of a tree just as well as with a man sexually, the tree being preferable to any man devoid of higher, spiritual energy and wisdom.

Mind you, I love a tree just as much as the next guy but the bark is kinda rough compared to the smooth skin of a goddess!

So yes, consider me chirpy! I am thankful each day for the gift of life - something that I came so close to losing, or so it seemed at the time.

And now, instead of desperately fighting not to die, I chose each day to live with love and faith and appreciation for the many blessings that surround me.

God is good!