4.30.2015

Vaginal Erotic Sensitivity - A Journal Article I Read



I just want to start out by saying that I had to pay 40 stupid dollars for this dumb article that I'm about to summarize in this installment of A Journal Article I Read. It's one that is always referenced in things that want to prove a vaginal orgasm exists, and it's like impossible to find in all my free ways of doing so. I even got a Big Ten college kid to try and get it from their library, and they couldn't get it without paying. I hate paying for that stuff, but I bit the bullet because it had to be read more completely than in abstract form. Ya know though, I have to admit, I was glad I did it. It's kinda got some straight up comic gold in it if you ask me. So here it is, all 40 dollars worth.
(*edit - thanks to some feedback from my very thoughtful friend, Stephanie - I realized I forgot to write the full info here on this article, which includes the year of publication, so here it is. Vaginal erotic sensitivity. Alzate H, LondoƱo ML. J Sex Marital Ther. 1984 Spring;10(1):49-56.)



Here's the abstract. You can find it HERE (p.s. if you want this, just email me, I'll give you the pdf of this article. No one else should have to pay $40.)
Vaginal erotic sensitivity was investigated in a group of 48 coitally experienced volunteers by means of systematic digital stimulation of both vaginal walls. It was found that 45 subjects reported erotic sensitivity located in most cases on the upper anterior wall, and of those, 30 (66.7%) either reached orgasm or requested to stop stimulation short of orgasm. This study supports previous findings indicating that the vagina of most women has a zone (or zones) of erotic sensitivity whose appropriate stimulation can lead to orgasm; it does not support, however, the particular location and characteristics of the vaginal erogenous zone described by other authors.
 The Basics 

  • The study was conducted in Columbia - the country.
  • There were 32 women studied who were recruited, mostly by word of mouth through the university circles. They were generally mid 20's to mid 30's and college educated. These women were unpaid.
  • There were also 16 women recruited "through the good offices of a Madam, with whom one of the authors (HA) is aquainted." HA being the male author. The mean age of these women was roughly the same as the other group, but the average years of education was only 7.1. All of these women are either current or former prostitutes and were paid $16 per examination session.
  • The male author, Heli Alzate, worked with another researcher, a woman named Maria Ladi Londono. The first 4 non-paid women were examined with both researchers conjointly, 12 other non-paid subjects were examined by both researchers but on separate occasions, then 9 others by the male only and 7 by the female only. It never breaks down which were which, though. All the paid ones were examined but the male only. 
  • The women mostly laid on their back with knees bent on an exam table (although some kept legs straight if it felt more comfortable). The examiner washed his/her hands (good thing, since they clearly didn't use gloves), and inserted a lubed index and/or middle finger into the subjects vagina, and systematically "frictioned" the walls of the vagina. The subject was asked to "indicate the sensations, erotic or other, she was experiencing in the different stimulated zones, and when a region of increasing erotic sensitivity was found, increasingly stronger pressure was applied until either the subject reached orgasm, or requested to stop stimulation, or the examiner decided to stop, or the sensation became stabilized - in which case the exploration of other vaginal zones was continued." 
  • "In order to record more precisely some paid subjects' responses, a second examination was conducted on them." - it never breaks down in the study which ones this happened for though.
  • Examiner's or subjects' fatigue, time constraints, or painful sensations felt by subject were the reasons for stopping examination in some cases - although in the study it doesn't break down these different reasons for stopping.
  • They defined orgasm as "the subjective perception of the most intense point in a series of increasingly pleasurable sensations elicited by sexual stimulation." - so basically when the woman said she orgasmed.
Background Info About the Subjects
  • 72.9% of the women had masturbated, all using clitoral stimulation. 91.4% of those reached orgasm always or almost always.
  • 60.4% of them had never or almost never reached coital orgasm
  • Of the 14 women who said they reached orgasm coitally more than half time, 50% said the most favorable position for climax was straddling the man or rear entry. 14.3% of those said it was missionary.
  • 22.9% "reported the impression of having expelled a fluid through the urethra at the moment of orgasm some time in the past"
Vaginal Sensitivity Reported in Study
  • 93.7% reported vaginal erotic sensitivity. The other 6.3% of women only felt unpleasant or painful sensations. 
  • 77.8% reported it as located on the anterior (towards belly) vaginal wall. 33.3% reported erotic response on the lower half of the posterior (towards back) vaginal wall. Very few reported any pleasurable sensation on the cervix or the posterior vaginal fornix (deepest recesses of the vagina).
RESULTS
  • So, of the 32 non-paid subjects, 4 "let themselves reach orgasm at examination." That's right, folks, let themselves. 12 "requested to stop stimulation short of orgasm." I guess ol' Heli Alzate was assuming there would obviously be an orgasm if they hadn't stopped (see above to remind yourself why they might have stopped), and in 2 cases "the examiner stopped stimulation in what he considered to be plateau phase of the sexual response cycle because he was not certain whether the subject wished to climax." Although, again, I guess there was an assumption that they definitely would have if it continued.
  • Of the 16 paid subjects, 12 reached orgasm at first examination. 1 "requested to stop stimulation short of orgasm because she felt embarrassed" Another one couldn't reach orgasm at first examination, but "climaxed easily at second examination." Am I the only one imagining that last woman sitting around talking about this Heli Alzate dude with other gals the next morning during coffee, and she tells them she didn't "orgasm" and they're all like, "What?! Just do it. I had like 3 'orgasms.' and he LOVED it. He's not going to pay you for that easy ridiculous job again if you don't." And, she's like, "Yeah, I guess you're right," and then she "orgasms" real good for him at the next session. Just me?
  • Of the women who "either reached orgasm by stimulation of the vaginal walls or gave indications that they would if the stimulation had been continued (N=30)," 73.3%  - reported maximal response zone on upper half of anterior (facing belly) wall of vagina, 26.7% on lower half of anterior wall, and 30% lower half of posterior (facing back) wall. That's more than 100% because some women reported more than one.


  • 82.3% of the 17 women who reached orgasm during the exam did so twice or more during the session. 
  • The researchers also do a little test to check for the Rube-Goldberg situation of indirect clitoral stimulation that Masters and Johnson indicate causes orgasm during intercourse for some women (the penis pulls on the labia, which pulls on the clitoral hood, which rubs against the clitoris). For 6 paid subjects who easily reached orgasm during the exams (see - easily having an orgasm pays in this study - another exam and another $16!), "The examiner rhythmically stimulated the lower third of the vagina with his index and middle fingers, mimicking the movements of the penis during coitus, and for the time required to elicit an orgasm by stimulation of the vaginal erogenous zone. Although a clear traction on the labia minora was evident, all subjects felt only a slight to moderate erotic sensation, which either became stabilized or decreased at the end of the stimulation period." So they were skeptical of this. 
  • There is a paragraph describing how the subjects, especially the non-paid ones felt positive about the experience and learning about their bodies, and then it goes on to say, "The quality of the vaginal erotic sensation was variably described by the subjects: Some likened it to that produced by coitus; others found the sensation unlike coital or clitoral stimulation; a few likened it to that felt during clitoral stimulation. several subjects reported initial anxiety and tension, especially when examined by the male researcher. Those who were examined by both authors agreed that the pressure applied by the male examiner was stronger than that applied by the female examiner."
  • "As expected, the paid subjects were significantly less inhibited at examination than the nonpaid ones, judging from their greater ease to let the stimulation go until orgasm."
  • They say that it doesn't seem likely that intercourse is a good way to elicit orgasm since a strong pressure at a particular angle is needed, which is best done by fingers, although doggy style, might be the best intercourse option to get the job done. They also doubt the high incidence of female ejaculation reported in the then recently released book, The G-Spot and Other Recent Discoveries in Human Sexuality. However, they imagine that maybe since 22.9% of the women they studied claim to have had that experience that ability may exist in a minority of women.
Orgasms?

All the orgasms in this study were elicited by the male researcher only. He "could not perceive any emission of fluid through the urethra accompanying them." He also couldn't, "perceive any clonic contractions of the perineal musculature at the time of orgasm, but in a few cases he perceived a rather tonic one." In other words, he specifically never felt the rhythmic contractions of the pelvic muscles that identify orgasm in males and females, but in a few women he felt the muscle tense and stay tensed. (He did note one or more physical signs of arousal in all the women).

Granted, this dude's fingers are not a highly sensitive measuring device for pelvic muscle contractions, and so this should be considered in that light, but it seems unlikely that an orgasm was actually, physically happening for any of these women. It also doesn't seem that an ejaculation was happening. If there was any physical thing happening to these women at the time they said they were orgasming, it was likely something wildly different and yet unidentified...but that's not how the researchers see it.

"The absence of rhythmic contractions of the perineal musculature, even when the subjects were experiencing particularly intense orgasms, runs counter to Masters and Johnson's model of female sexual response." So, it's not that these women weren't orgasming. It's that the whole understanding of female orgasm is wrong? Well, maybe. I guess one possibility is that despite the findings in the largest human sexual response study that yet exists Masters and Johnson's Human Sexual Response), it is still never the less somehow true that for women, but not men, "orgasm" can be something else entirely than what was consistently identified. It can be something, nay anything, that is happening when a woman says she is having an orgasm - even if there is no physical thing happening...Or - just hear me out - maybe that's quite a silly way to think about it. Maybe as scientific study has shown us up to this point, there is a thing called an orgasm in both men and women, and sometimes that occurs and sometimes it doesn't. Maybe when women say they are experiencing orgasm, they were actually experiencing something else, something that isn't an orgasm and should either have a different name or simply not be misidentified as an orgasm. Maybe it was a high level of arousal, a mental or spiritual climax. And then, maybe, just maybe, sometime the orgasms were just plain faked, either very intentionally or kinda non-intentionally just because they felt they were expected to so they did it.  

My Thoughts

Okay, so real quick, let me just recap. A dude pays some prostitutes associated with a madam he's "acquainted with" to take part in a "study" where he uses his bare hand to try and make them come on multiple occasions where he pays them each time, and most of them say they do come - multiple times in fact. They don't actually exhibit the physical markers of orgasm, but he assumes that just means that the research so far about lady-gasm is wrong instead of questioning whether these women were just doing what prostitutes get paid to do - make the client happy. In this case, maybe that is telling him that they orgasmed, confirming that he's right about his hypothesis that he can make ladies come if only they will let themselves (I mean, for all they know this was a dude's weird kink and not a study at all). 

Can we just back up to the unpaid women also? Is it possible that our dear researcher made these women come less because, well, they may not have been approaching the situation as a paid prostitute. I think this thought should have at least been considered in the discussion of the study instead of going straight to the hypothesis that the prostitutes were just "significantly less inhibited at examination than the nonpaid ones, judging from their greater ease to let the stimulation go until orgasm."

Also...So the actual percentage of women who claimed to reach orgasm is 35.4% of total (17 of 48 women studied), 12.5% of the unpaid and a whopping 81% of the paid subjects. However, the researchers use the number of women who either reached orgasm by stimulation of the vaginal walls or gave indications that they would if the stimulation had been continued. That is 14 out of 16 paid and 16 of the 32 unpaid - and they take that from the 45 women who said they felt erotic sensitivity in the vagina (not out of the 48 total subjects) to get the 66.7% of women who reached orgasm or requested to stop short of orgasm in the abstract. So, the numbers thrown out in the abstract are a bit misleading.

Anyway, this study and the conclusions others seem to draw from it are a hot mess in my opinion. It is not a blind study. The researchers who took the data and did the exams are the same who decided on the results. There's lots of room for bias. The examiner clearly had a hypothesis that he hoped would work out and that may very well have been reflected to some degree in his subjects. It also doesn't actually show that vaginal stimulation can cause M&J defined orgasm at all as is often purported. It specifically points to that not being the case. It's also highly suspect whether the orgasms reported were actually anything physical at all. The stimulation seemed to cause arousal in women, but not a M&J orgasm or even any other specific physical quality (besides maybe the few women the researcher felt as tensing and staying tense). It boggles my mind that the thought of faked orgasms was not even uttered. This is a scientific study and all possible conflicts should be considered. That this possibility was not considered is telling.


7 comments:

  1. Ridiculous! I can't believe this study was even published. Did it not go through the normal channels? What rubbish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it was in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, so I assume it got reviewed. Sometimes crazy studies get through, though I guess. Fun read though :/

      Delete
  2. Wow.... This study is as inconclusive as Pavlov's cat! I am astonished to believe this made it past any kind of serious review process. (While I am not in medicine or the biological sciences, I am a Ph.D. chemical engineer, so I'm often on either side of the whole peer review thang.)

    All of your critiques of the methodology and the controls are valid. There was no consistency at all, and even their assessment of who had orgasms is... screwed.

    It's not news to anybody that some women have orgasms from vaginal stimulation, some don't, and that there is a continuum to sexual response on any conceivable scale one might wish to construct. But this study was so flawed that they didn't even confirm the obvious. Anyone who cites this as evidence for vaginal orgasms is clutching at straws; anyone stupid enough to believe that their numbers intrinsically mean anything has proven they're incapable of even pretending to be a scholar.

    Of course, the real harm done is to the poor women who are led to feel deficient by some dipshit who tells them that their sexual response is abnormal or unhealthy as the result of lousy scholarship like this. There is enough invalidation out there. More is certainly not needed.

    Thank you for exposing this crap for what it is. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S. I would be interested in a copy of the article. Feel free to send it to goodheartduck@gmail.com. It is quite a racket getting access to info these days, isn't it! (P.S. I also have a copy of a cartoon of Pavlov's cat. Trade you for the article!)

      Delete
    2. Totally sending it your way! Thanks for writing. I LOVE hearing from people, and you're take as someone who both reviews and writes peer reviewed articles is particularly excellent. I'd love to hear if you have any further thoughts about the article once you read it. Thanks again!!!

      Delete
  3. I hope the researcher in question remembered to wash his hands before he ate anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Poignant consideration, Mr. Reverend Hornibastard. Let's do hope he was hygienic - for a variety of reasons....

      Delete