SSL: 1977 Hustler Review Series #4: Kinky Korner

Why I'm SSL Reviewing a 1977 Hustler
So there is a fab lady named Jill Hamilton. She made it into the Orgasm Equality Allies List a good while ago for her various writings. She's awesome and she's goddamn funny. She writes the blog In Bed With Married Women, which you will not regret reading, and she's revo-fucking-lucionizing the classic Cosmo Sex Positions lists.

Now here's where Hustler comes in. She had a give away on her blog, and we readers had to comment and tell her what we wanted so she could pick randomly and ship shit out to us. I saw she had a vintage Hustler, and so I asked - nay begged - for it. I promised to SSL Review it cover to cover, and here I am doing just that.

An SSL Review is a critique specifically of discussion and/or depiction of female orgasm and/or female masturbation in media (usually I do this for movies or TV not magazines, though). I particularly pay attention to the realism and scientific accuracy of the depiction/discussion and how it fits within the larger cultural conversation about female orgasm and female sexuality.

Feel free to check out the previous SSL Reviews of the Advice Column and the Porn Movie Reviews and Bondage article.

"Long-Distance Love" by Diane Newtone in the Kinky Korner section
This is one of those erotic stories one finds in nudey magazines. This one is an absolutely beautiful story about a sex-loving hetero couple (Randy and Diane - this is first person so Diane is the author Diane Newtone ...who is probably some dude that works for Hustler) that move apart due to Randy's new job but still want to keep their sexy love life. They agree that they won't ask each other to be exclusive and will meet up one weekend every couple of months. Something awful crazy happened, though, the first time they talked on the phone after Randy's move. Diane, just out of the shower of course, laid down in her bed to talk on the phone.

"My free hand strayed down to my cunt  and, as we talked, I began to masturbate. I came twice , without letting him know what was going on."
You are a naughty young lady, Ms. Diane. It seems his voice was just too sexy to concentrate on anything he said, and uh oh, it happened the next time they were on the phone too.
"I imagined that he was reaching his exploring fingers under my panties, stroking my pubic hair and caressing my throbbing clit. I pulled the panties down over my hips, kicked them off and jammed the vibrator into my dripping slit. I came almost the moment I turned it on...."
 This time, poor dear, her moans let ol' Randy in on her secret. She was so embarrassed, but who would guess? He was soooo into it, and starting jerking as she told him dirty stories about what she would be doing to him.
"I took the vibrator away from my breasts and mouth," 
I mean she was talking about sucking his dick, so she had to put something in her mouth!
"and jammed it into my cunt, imagining Randy's finger squishing in and out of me."
Then dirty ol' randy Randy chimed in with some dirt stories of his own.
"'Your cunt's practically sucking my fingers into it," Randy whispered hoarsely. "I'm reaching farther into you than I ever have before. My thump is on your clit. I'm going to come. I'm coming so fast that it's squirting out the sides of your mouth."
mmmmm - fingers poking abnormally far into her internal organs and so much ejaculate in her mouth it spills out! Diane - you lucky girl you! This really gets her there.
"I flicked the switch on the vibrator and I came too. My back arched and my pelvis started flying faster and faster. Finally I let go of the vibrator so I could grab my tits and squeeze the nipples. My contractions popped the vibrator right out of my cunt."
Her and Randy laughed about her vibrator projectile story. Later, she made her first visit to Randy and they decided they should hook up with other people and then tell each other about it on the phone. They very much enjoyed this, and ended up with some game side-folk who were into doing a 4-some phone sex where couples on either end of the line 69'd while Diane and Randy talked and fantasized it was each others mouths on their junk.
"When the phone rang, Jack and I were already in the 69 position. Jack was sucking gently on my clit, with a thumb in my cunt and an index finger up my ass." 
The ol' 2-finger clit suck. I won't fault a gal for enjoying that! Many more happy adventures to you, Diane!

SSL Review Discussion
Straight away, I like that the clit was mentioned in this article, 3 times to be exact, and that Diane masturbated and Randy was more than okay with that. Positive depictions of female masturbation normalize it, and that's good because we ladies as a whole need to start masturbating more so that we understand how we orgasm.

Her first masturbation seemed to make sense. It's described as her putting her hand down there, and that makes me assume she is just rubbing her outer junk - the clit/vulva area. That's the area, like the penis for the male, that needs stimulated to orgasm, so that is quite realistic. However, the second and 3rd depictions were closer to porn fantasy than reality. 1. She has a vibrator, but she sticks it in her vagina to come?? :/ mmmm I don't know about that. And 2. She comes instantly upon putting the vibrator up there? Really???

As I am always quick to say, I am not opposed to a vibrator up the vag. It can be a lovely and pleasurable thing. It can even, I dare say, get a gal real aroused, like REAL aroused. But, man, I also dare say, a gal's likely gonna need at least a touch to the ol' clit to get her over the edge to that orgasm. Now, although there is no physical evidence in scientific journals of stimulation to something inside the vagina causing orgasm, that doesn't mean a lady can't come while something is inside of her. In fact, she might prefer something in there while the clit is worked. It is also true that the vibration, even when a vibrator is in the vagina, could rumble things just enough to rumble the lips, which rumble against the clit or rumble the clit hood which rumbles against the clit, and there could be a come from that, but let's be honest. It's secondary vibrations, which although great for arousal, is probably not great for coming.

But really the most BS part of these insta-gasms by insertion is that it really does insinuate that the inside of the vagina getting touched is what makes women orgasm. Ol' Diane's 2nd and 3rd orgasms were clearly triggered by the insertion of her vibrator, and a reader might very well assume it's because something inside her vagina needs to be touched to push her over the edge. That straight up doesn't make sense with scientific understanding of female anatomy and doesn't jive with physical orgasm research in peer reviewed scientific article.

The Vulva Rating
So this is a mixed bag. Anytime the the clit is brought up in relation to women orgasming, it's a win because frankly people just don't talk about it very much. Anytime female masturbation is depicted realistically, that is also a win because too often women are depicted as coming from things that wouldn't realistically make a woman come. And there's the rub (that's maybe a pun, I guess). Diane masturbated 2 more time, and they weren't very realistic, kinda porny-fake, and focused on the vagina for orgasmic stimulation instead of the clit. That's bull. The clit is the organ of female orgasmic stimulation just as the penis is for the male. So, 1 outta 3 is actually not great. I give this a mere 2 1/2 vulva rating.



20th Century Women: The SSL Review

20th Century Women is not The Edge of Seventeen
I saw a trailer for 20th Century Women in the theater, and really liked it - made a note to myself to see it in the theater when it came out. So me and Charlie went, got some popcorn, and I started watching the movie, and I was all like, "dude this is not what I was expecting at all." So I waited wondering when it was gonna change, and then I slowly realized I clearly had the name wrong in my head. It was not called The Edge of Seventeen. So, all that to say I saw The Edge of Seventeen in the theater by mistake because of this movie. It was an okay enough movie, but I was severely disappointed given my original intentions (popcorn helped make it okay though).

I later did see 20th Century Women in the theater though, and loved it. I wanted to write an SSL Review ASAP, but things happen and I didn't. I think luckily I ended up not getting to it until I could do a home re-watch and get all the quotes down perfectly.

An SSL Review
Here's the deal. This may be the the most overtly Orgasm Equality infused movie that exists out there. Like for real. I've never seen a movie - except for maybe mine - so we'll say never seen a movie of the fiction genre- that is more specifically pointing out that 1. women need outer clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm and 2. lots of women just plain go through life not orgasming during sex because sex ends up mostly being penises pumping into vaginas. This movie makes no bones about this. It is bold and correct, and it will be getting a stellar Vulva Rating.

An SSL Review, for those new to the blog, is a critique specifically of depictions and/or discussions of female orgasm, female masturbation, or the clit. I am particularly looking for how realistic the scene is (Does it give incorrect anatomical info? Does it show a woman orgasming from something ridiculous like a butt slap? Those get low vulva ratings), and also for what the scene adds to the larger cultural conversation about female orgasm and sexuality. A list of all my TV SSL reviews are HERE and my movie SSL Reviews are HERE.

There's a lot of SSL Reviewable moments in this movie, so I think I'm going to give some background first then talk about this movie's lady-gasm storyline as a whole before I critique and rate the SSL Reviewable moments. I think it will be easier that way.

Background for the importance of this movie's setting (the golden age of the clit)

The Summer of '79
The  thing to know here is that this movie takes place in the summer of 1979. From my perspective, this is the golden age of reality-based lady-gasm cultural information. It was just over 10 years after Masters and Johnson came out with their large, groundbreaking research (Human Sexual Response) that showed the clitoral glans is the center of female orgasm just as the penis is for the male. They found no evidence, in all their many looks at people doing the nasty, for this vaginally stimulated orgasm that so much of the world for so much of history, including Freud, believed in. I repeat. There was no evidence for such a thing as a vaginally induced orgasm. From this new base of scientifically backed lady-gasm knowledge, feminists started writing and talking and surveying about actual female orgasm experience, and doing sexual therapy based of actual scientific evidence instead of what professionals always assumed about female orgasm.

Granted, it was in no way like the world suddenly 'got' the female orgasm and how it had been so mischaracterized and misunderstood for so long, but from what I can tell from the writing of the time, things seemed to be slowly pulling that way. I was merely in my mother's womb during this summer of '79, so I of course did not experience this 70's lady-gasm golden age nor did I see it come to a halt in the very early years of the 80's. I'm only assuming this is the story of things from an outsider looking back at the writing and research of the time. Either way, what happened in 1982 - not 3 years after this movie was set- was that the G-spot was 'introduced' to the world in a book that did 2 big things.

1. It correctly (and with a small amount of physical evidence that has since been expanded upon over the last 40 years with physical scientific investigation), brought the idea of female ejaculation to the culture and connected it to the 'female prostate,' which could be felt through the vaginal wall as a raised area. They called this the 'G-spot'. Sadly, though, the idea of female ejaculation and its connection to the G-spot/female prostate was quickly forgotten and largely ignored in pop culture, staying more in the fringe topic area of female sexuality even to this day.

2. Strangely, the book also asserted that the 'G-spot' was sort of a magic button in the vagina that when stimulated gave women an amazing, full-bodied orgasm. They had absolutely no physical evidence for this, and no scientific investigations in the almost 40 years since have found evidence for there being anything in the vagina that can be stimulated to orgasm - much less the 'G-Spot.' However, this assertion from the book, baseless as it was, was quickly eaten up and taken for gospel in pop culture - in everything from women's magazine puff sex articles to progressive sex education. I assume the prior decade of people awakening to the truth that women came from the outer clitoral glans instead of from penises and such stimulating the inside of the vagina had been pretty stressful and confusing, and a lot of people didn't know how to process that or adapt their experiences to that truth. So, when a book with baseless assertions about how (guess what!?) there is something in the vagina that causes orgasms was published, it blew the hell up. I've always imagined it was easy to let one's self fall back to believing p-in-v intercourse, with no additional clitoral stimulation, could be as orgasmic for women as it is for men. That belief was just too damn comfortable and familiar to let go of as a culture...and we still are white-knuckle gripping the hell out of that hopeful assumption to this day.

Like I said, this book didn't give the fact-based reasoning for vaginal orgasms (although in this book they called them uterine orgasms), but it did break the truth of female ejaculation to the world and that must have given it enough credit to believe anything it asserted. Plus, and I think this is even more important to its success and the longevity of its assertions, people desperately wanted any reason to validate their previous beliefs about female orgasm. So, to me this was the end of the golden age, and from then on, all these feminists who were literally just talking and writing about the clit and female orgasm from a scientifically investigated viewpoint, were slowly edged over to a sort of extremist place in history, as if their clit based discussion of female orgasm was a polar opposite of the equally extreme vaginal based discussion of female orgasm from the Freud era. It's revisionist history, forgetting that one of these 'extremes' is (still) completely un-backed by scientific investigation, and the other is completely based in scientific knowledge. However, still to this day, there is the feeling that feminist of this era talking about the primacy of the clitoral glans were extreme and reactionary..like, it was okay, nay cool even, that they talked about how important the clit was, but for some god-forsaken reason, pointing out that vaginal orgasms had no backing in science and were probably just made up was just. too. fucking. extreme. even though it was completely true.

So the 'extreme' feminist writing in question is front and center in this movie. The main character is reading and reacting to it in a time before 'The G-Spot' mangled and confused the cultural knowledge of what scientific investigation has actually showed us about female orgasm. Not that this was a Utopian time, but it was a unique time that allowed for a critical mind to get more unencumbered, accurate information about female orgasm. Soon after this, I think, it becomes much harder for a thoughtful, critical person to filter through the info. I mean, honestly, as a working class midwestern gal born in 1980, I had to get deep into researching for my movie Science, Sex and the Ladies, before I even became exposed to these 'extremist' feminist viewpoints - and even being exposed, I had to figure out for myself that their viewpoints were not really 'feminist' as much as scientifically accurate. Anyway, that sort of hidden circumstances of that particular era in regard to female orgasm knowledge makes the timing of this movie's setting intriguing to me.

The other thing is that this is a movie about a teen boy in 1979, his Depression era mother, and the people that surround them. This, again, is at a unique time in which feminist theory and influence had been steadily rising in status for over a decade. It, to me, is an incredibly subtle and thoughtful look at what feminism meant to the 3 women and 2 men that make up the main cast - and about what being a woman or being a man means to them. They are of different experiences and different generations, and the truth is that their relationship to feminism, to their own gender, and to the opposite sex is pretty complicated. It's both hopeful and sad and strangely familiar to us even though we're almost 40 years in the future.

And here's the thing, this was written and directed by a man. Obviously, I love the idea of women telling stories of women, and I believe there are things maybe only a person from a group can really tell well about that group, but I also believe that sometimes an honest and thoughtful telling of a story about people you know very intimately can give an outsider perspective that is real and important. It seems like this writer/directer was writing about his own experience and about his close-contact understanding of the women in his family. I think he does it well, and outside of the Orgasm Equality elements, and the general top-notch quality of the acting and movie-making, it's a big reason I loved this movie.

The Lady-gasm Story lines in 20th Century Women
So, here's some basics. Mom (Dorothea) wants help teaching son (Jamie) to be a man and enlists a 20-something woman (Abbie) who rents a room in their home and her son's female BFF (Julie) to help her.

Abbie's reading material story line
Abbie is already teaching him about punk rock, but she also gives him feminist reading. He's in his room reading. We see the following title:
Title: "'Politics of Orgasm' Susan Lydon 1970"
The following is a voiceover as he reads the book:
"Women's sexuality, defined by men to benefit men has been downgraded and perverted, oppressed and channeled. Anatomically all orgasms are centered in the clitoris, whether they arise from direct manual pressure applied to the clitoris, indirect pressure resulting..." (fades into silence)
So, he learns that the clit must be stimulated for a woman to orgasm (which is fucking true as shit), and that plain ol' intercourse won't get it done. Then he puts this knowledge out there in a skateboard park with another dude.
Dude: I fucked Heather so hard last night. She came like 3 times.
Jamie: How did you stimulate her clitoris? 
Dude: with my dick. 
Jamie: Women need direct clitoral stimulation, like with fingers or a vibrator or something. She probably faked it. Women fake it all the time. 
Dude: (seeimg Jamie's shirt) Talking heads are a bunch of fags. 
Jamie: Actually there's a girl in the band, and she's dating the drummer, so... 
Dude: Your name's Jamie, right?(Dude starts beating Jamie up)
He was totally and completely right in this scenario. Women do need clitoral stimulation, and she probably was faking it. Yet, clearly, this knowledge is and was not widespread, even in what I called above the 'golden age of clit knowledge.' And that, my friends, is some reality that I appreciate this movie's dropping.

So then we see him at home getting his wounds tended to.
Mom: So what was the fight about?
Jamie: clitoral stimulation
Mom: Why do you need to fight about that?
Jamie: I don't know. I want to be a good guy. k? I just wanna be able to satisfy a woman.
kinda confused, frustrated, weirded out, and unsure what to say) Kid, I'm sure you will (walks away quickly)
Later he's sitting with Abbie and she says:
Abbie: The next time a dude tells you a sex story, you just have to agree with everything he says and act like it's right, even if it's not because they don't want to be contradicted. They just wanna live in their fantasy lands.
Abbie knows he's right, but instead of this being some grandstanding moment of being right, she just tells him to shut up because it's easier. I mean, I like this because it's just real. That's what women do all the time when it comes to sex and our orgasms. We just go along; because it's easier, because we don't know how to say what we want to say, because we don't want to offend or rock the boat, because we don't realize there's other options. I like the sorta defeated realism in this scene. It highlights how ingrained those misconceptions about how ladies orgasm really is, and how not straightforward change is. In fact it points out something important - some men are so sensitive and angry about this kind of information that they would beat someone up rather than have their pride hurt at all. However, I also like that this scene doesn't back away from acknowledging that Jamie's understanding of female orgasm is correct either.

Julie's orgasm story line
Later, he's walking with his BFF who is his own age. They've been friends for years, and he's grown to like her romantically. She likes him a lot as a friend but is very clear that she does not want to get sexual with him. She often sneaks into his room and sleeps (just sleeps) with him. She does get sexual with other guys pretty regularly though -  including some that are super assholes. It clearly bothers Jamie that she would have sex with other dudes but not nice ol' him (I think there's a good storyline in here later about Jamie's feelings of entitlement to Julie sexually, but that's not specifically SSL Review relevant). They are walking and talking (this is after the fight above), and Julie is holding the feminist book he's reading.
Julie: I can't believe Abbie gave you this book.
Jamie: It's interesting. What's it like...for girls?
Julie: What?...sex?
Jamie: orgasms.
Julie: Do you really wanna know what it's like?
Jamie: yeah.
Julie: I don't have them.
Jamie: What?
Julie: None of my friends do.
Jamie: Then why do you do it?
Julie: There's other reasons. You know, like the way that he looks at you, or the way they get a little bit desperate at some point, and the little sounds that they make,  (
She closes her eyes and mimics a guy grunting - Jamie laughs) and their bodies - 'cause you don't exactly know what they're gonna look like or smell or feel like until you do it. But yeah. Half the time I regret it.
Jamie: Well, then why do you do it?
Julie: Because half the time I don't regret it.
This is everything to me. I love this scene because this. is. real. This is the reality for so many girls (and women as well). Penis-in-vagina intercourse is the most common, acceptable way for a girl to engage in sexual activity, yet it doesn't necessarily include the organ of female sexual pleasure, the clit, so it often doesn't include orgasm. That female orgasm should not be expected from intercourse is not something we learn - in fact we all grow up believing quite the opposite, and it wreaks havoc on female sexuality.

I don't think people really put thought into what happens when a person has a bunch of sex but no (or too few) orgasms. Julie listed those other reasons why she has sex, and those all make sense. There are other reasons to have sex, but without orgasm, sex is not like we expect it to be from depictions and stories we see all around us. Those are from a male point of view that takes orgasm as a given in sex. Just as Julie describes, there is adventure and a sense of intimacy in sex that is super interesting and exciting. Boys feel that too I'm sure. But again, boys most often have an orgasm. If the girl a boy has sex with turns out to be a bitch or her breath stank, or she was too rough with him - those are annoying maybe, but at least he came. Something made it worth while.

But what if the boy a girl had sex with has stank breath or was shitty to her afterward, or was too rough or demeaning, AND he came, but she didn't? It's a completely different situation. It can make a girl feel shafted, used, regretful - real quick. So, without orgasm it's nice when it's nice - in all the ways Julie describes above like the smells, the surprise, the feel, the arousal.  However, when it's bad, it's really bad and can pretty quickly verge into feeling mean, violating or violent. That is something we don't consider about girls and sex, but we see this on Julie in the movie. She seems harmed by some of these interactions - like when a guy said he would pull out and doesn't. Her immense sense of adventure and wonder and arousal that leads her into these sexual experiences are probably not different from the adventure, arousal, and wonder that would lead any given boy on those same sexual adventures. So, it's sad that, because we live in a world that miseducates everyone on how women orgasm and reinforces incorrect understandings of lady-gasms, women and girls get fucked over subtly and not so subtly in so many ways that boys don't as a result of this very natural sexual experimentation.

Anyway, I think Julie's story has the sadness, the sweetness, and sense of adventure that an actual young woman in her situation might have. I like that she is not portrayed as fully tragic nor as a stereotype of wild female sexuality as so many depictions of girls like her tend to be. She is more complicated than that, more real.  Also, I think it's poignant that again, even in this golden age of clit knowledge, this girl and her friends are out there having a bunch of sex and no orgasms - a situation that is still quite common today (See the 2009 book Dilemmas of Desire). Her answers to Jamie's questions are raw and real and reflect the truth that the way our culture tends to have sex (without clitoral stimulation) leaves women and girls without orgasm and vulnerable to harmful sexual interactions.

Mom, feminism, and orgasms
This is an interesting twist that brings his mom into the story a bit. She is at her vanity, and he is sitting on her bed reading this to her. It titles as he reads.
Title: "'It hurts to be alive and obsolete :The aging woman' Zoe Moss 1970" 
"I am gregarious, interested in others, and I think, intelligent. All I ask is to get to know people and to have them interested in knowing me. I doubt whether I would marry again and live that close to another individual, but I remain invisible. Don't pretend for a minute as you look at me that I am not as alive as you are, and I do not suffer from the category from which you are forcing me. I think, stripped down, I look more attractive than my ex husband, but I am socially and sexually obsolete, and he is not. I have a capacity now for taking people as they are, which I lacked at 20. I reach orgasm in half the time, and I know how to please. Yet I do not even dare show a man that I find him attractive. If I do he may react as if I have insulted him. I am supposed to fulfill my small functions and vanish."
We see clips of his mother that would lead us to believe that this paragraph does reflect aspects of her experience.
Mom: Wow. What do you think of all that? 
Jamie: I don't know. Maybe I'm a feminist. (He smiles)
Mom: So, you think that's me? 
Jamie: (He becomes embarrassed and apologetic) Oh, I don't know. 
Mom: So you think you know me better because you read that? 
Jamie: I don't know. 
Mom: Then why are you reading it to me? 
Jamie: I thought it was interesting. 
Mom: (somewhere between mad, frustrated, and defensive) Okay, well, I don't need a book to know about myself. 
Jamie: I'm sorry. (his words are barely audible. He gets up and leaves)
Soon his mom is talking to Abbie.
Abbie: It's helping him.
Mom: Helping him what?
Abbie: It's helping him become a man. It's what you were talking about.
Mom: Learning about female orgasm is helping him be a man?
Abbie: Well, what man do you know that cares anything about that...I mean that's a miracle.
Mom: Look, he's just a high school kid okay. It's too much. I'm telling you.
Abbie: I think he seems really okay with it.
Mom:  You know you don't actually know what you're doing with him
Mom leaves frustrated, and Abbie seems resigned.

It is clear in this movie that Jamie's mom, Dorothea, is a very open-minded progressive, feminist lady. She made her career in a male dominated field long before the feminism of the 60's and 70's swept the nation. Yet...she is incredibly uncomfortable with the sexual feminism of this era. It very likely is relevant to her life, because the truth is orgasm is a subject relevant to any sexually active person, but it doesn't feel like the kind of feminism she wants to associate herself with. She is an older mom and was of the depression era. That may be part of it, and I like seeing the relationship to different feminist ideals in different generations and genders, but I don't think that's it.

What I like about these scenes are the very palpable feelings of pride and indignation that we see from Dorothea. I think those are feeling that all women can relate to when it comes to not only certain aspects of feminism, but to sexuality and orgasm in particular. Orgasm is private and thus naturally embarrassing, but it is also soaked with social expectations that are confusing or contradict personal experiences. For women throughout the ages, admitting to our orgasmic realities, whether it be admitting to orgasming or to not being able to orgasm or to not orgasming in a particular way, had and still has consequences to one's standing in society, one's sense of self, and one's romantic relationships that can be quite severe. So being guarded and private, prideful and in denial are to be expected. This makes it hard for feminism surrounding orgasm to take off. Women have a lot to gain but also a lot to lose from rocking this boat...just as men do. Anyway, I like how the difficult and complex nature of feminism and orgasm activism is reflected in Dorthea.

The Vulva Rating
Like I said at the beginning of this post, 20th Century Women is the most unabashedly Orgasm Equality Revolution-style fiction movie I have seen. It not only straight up quotes important orgasm-related feminist writing of the 70's, but it also portrays a realism in the women characters' experiences of orgasm, sex, and feminism that are rare in movies and TV. The setting of this movie in the summer of 1979 gives it a uniquely perfect opportunity to speak on female orgasm from a perspective of sound scientific knowledge before our culture is flooded over so fully, not 3 years later, with a bunch of wishful, regressive information - in a way that buries the ability to really find good solid information on female orgasm even for quite thoughtful, critical people. So all that is awesome.

There is also a clear statement inside this movie that the clitoris is the organ of female sexual pleasure; that it needs to be stimulated for a woman to orgasm; and that plain ol' intercourse alone will likely not get the job done. It doesn't back away from that statement either. Even when the movie quite realistically shows Abbie advising Jamie to outwardly back away from his truth-telling in front of other men, she still acknowledges it is truth-telling. The harsh punishment Jamie receives for putting those ideas out there to other men is also a poignant reminder that the feminist writing Jamie references was (and still is) deeply revolutionary.

This is just about as good a movie as one could get for Orgasm Equality. I can't imagine how many people seeing it today are literally exposed to that kind of feminist writing on female orgasm for the first time. 20th Century Women is not just realistic, but also what it adds to the cultural conversation on female orgasm and sexuality is incredibly important and progressive. I love it.

20th Century Women gets an unprecedented 5 1/2 vulvas out of 5!



Random Male Hite Report #22

Hello, friends. It's time for another Random Hite Report! In 1976, Shere Hite dropped The Hite Report where she compiled detailed survey answers from over 3,000 women about sex, masturbation, orgasms, and relationships. It's insane to me how revolutionary this book still is. Read it, seriously. We really haven't changed that much in 40 years, and it's an incredibly insightful read.

Then in 1981, she dropped The Hite Report on Male Sexuality where over 7,000 men give detailed answers about sex, relationships, and women. It too is revolutionary, and the honesty, vulnerability, and detail in this book is so important and moving. I think everyone should read this too. So, I give you a taste every now and then to entice you to get these books. Seriously, they are both like 1 cent online.

Anyway, what I do is flip to one random page and copy the contents of that page, no more-no less, directly onto this blog. Enjoy.

 The Hite Report on Male Sexuality
Knopf, 1981 pg 1047

The following page is in the section in the Appendix about the participants answer to the question 'Why Did You Answer This Questionnaire?'

    "Why did I answer this questionnaire? Two months ago, I couldn't have done it. I could not have bared my soul, even anonymously, as I have done here if i had nt established communications with the best all-around woman I have ever met. The totality and utter completeness of the honesty that exists between us is now so great that I am unable to resist giving a response which I must suspect will be unique and will stand out among all the other responses received. I am well aware that I am probably not the only man in the world who has my sensitivities to the needs of a woman, but i am also aware that the likelihood of your receiving a response, from other men, similar to mine is very remote."
    "I am interested in filling out one of the questionnaires as I am perfectly squared away when it comes to sexual intercourse, I'm horny as hell, get great pleasure out of making sure my lady has orgasms, usually more than one, oral at first then using my fingers and tongue and finally one when I enter her as she is by now quite ready to go over the falls so to speak. I think I could set anybody in the world straight on their problems of sex. Confidence is the biggest factor."   
    A few mentioned enjoying the idea of being part of published study: 
    "I answered this questionnaire because I wanted to be part of making history and think what I feel and say is significant and useful."
    "I have often regretted that since most of my sexual relationships have been clandestine all my wonderful experiences will die with me. This is as close as I'll ever get to recording the kind of sex life I've had."
    "I answered this questionnaire because I feel I am part of a historical kind of research. and I want to be part of it. I also want to see if you will quote me and in what context, but I probably will not recognize my answers because I think many men feel as I do." 
    A few men said they answered as a way of changing society: 
    "I'm answering this questionnaire in hopes of letting other men realize that value of a true male-female relationship and the need for a positive move toward ending the stereotypes and the ideal of male domination over women."
    "I am interested in the alternative society and helping to hatch it."
    "I want to be part of the movement in our New Society and feel that answering this questionnaire is participating in the movement. I do all I can - I felt I answered with embarrassing candor - and think it's time men's feelings became known." 
    And one man gave as his reason: 
    "I am answering from the experience of over forty-three years of love of a wonderful sweetheart, wife, and mother. We fell in love just after she finished high school and our love never waned but instead, steadily grew deeper. I am seventy-four, and though she left this life some time ago, I am still in love with her. I am answering this to honor her memory." 
A few men had more frivolous reasons: 
    "I answered the questionnaire because the idea of a male survey fascinated me. Then, too, I thought it would be wild to tell friends I was part of the survey when the book comes out. Also my New Year's resolution was to do more things this year."
    "I don't know. It's ten o'clock in the morning, just got off midnight shift and am very tired. Maybe I like questionnaires."


Playboy 2006 SSL Review - March

Why I have a stack of decade old Playboys that I'm SSL Reviewing
Long story short I took them from my parents house thinking I would review them for this blog and then didn't actually do that for over 10 years but now want them the hell out of my house because I hate clutter and don't know how I've not thrown them away all these years. Also, I thought I had all 12 months, but some are gone. If you want the longer story, check out the 1st 2006 Playboy SSL Review I did.

SSL Review Basics
An SSL review - as many of you know is a critique ONLY of discussions or depictions of female masturbation and/or female orgasm. I critique the realism and also what the depiction/discussion adds to our culture conversations on the topics of female sexuality and orgasm. I usually do these SSL Reviews for either movies or TV, but magazines are fun from time to time. This SSL Review will be a bit more relaxed and simple than most. I'd like to have a little fun here (but I will still give it a vulva rating).

So, please enjoy the full SSL Review of the Playboy Magazine from March 2006. I will review each SSL Reviewable item starting from the front of the magazine to the back.

1. The Playboy Advisor (porn to fall asleep?)
My husband has been staying up late to look at porn on the computer. He says he can't fall asleep otherwise. I tell him he can always wake me, but he says he doesn't look at the sites because he wants sex. Do many men use porn to fall asleep? -J.P. Virgina Beach, Virgina 
Many men use masturbation to fall asleep. That's fine as long as it doesn't affect the sex life you share. Online porn is easier for a quick release than waking the wife, and we've never felt that every orgasm has to involve a conversation. That goes both ways.
Okay, mostly this is about a man's orgasm - a man's porn-induced masturbation orgasm to be exact. However, at the end they say, "that goes both ways," which insinuates that the ol' Playboy Advisor approves of some on-the-side wife-bation via porn action as well. I approve of the advisor's approval because, by golly, I think everybody, even (maybe especially) those who are coupled, should take some time for some self-orgasming....particularly the ladies. Anyway, my point here is that anytime anyone acknowledges that women might masturbate, that helps normalizes women masturbating, and that is good for women and our sense of entitlement over our own orgasms.

2. The Playboy Advisor (stretching your birth canal vs. multiple orgasms)
In October the Advisor implied men  would be willing to give birth if they could have multiple orgasms. Obviously the Advisor has never given birth. I am sure most women would give up multiple climaxes in a heartbeat. -K.B. Greenville, Kentucky 
We'd take that bet. The pain of childbirth lasts a day, while multiple orgasms lasts a lifetime. Notably...(then it goes onto describe how men might get pregnant).
First off, men can have multiple orgasm too (remember orgasm and ejaculation are 2 different things for males and females alike. They just usually don't. In this study HERE one of the men had multiple orgasms that ended when he ejaculated with the last one (and yes, my sweets, of course this study included measurement of pelvic muscle activity to verify the orgasms these people were claiming. I would not cite an orgasm study that did not).

Secondly, not all women have multiple orgasms, and those that do aren't like living some kind of orgasmic dream. It's just seconds - like seconds not really even minutes  - more orgasm. The all-night screamfest that I assume the advisor assumes women are engaging in every night is just bullshit from porn.

Thirdly, I don't like the advisor's smugness here. I hate when dudes act like women have this huge one up in the orgasm department  - like such a huge one up that it's sooooo unfair. That's bull to the shit. It's bullshit because the fake idea that women are bestowed some magical ability to orgasm for hours does not make up for the actual fact that women as a whole orgasm a shit ton less in sexual interactions than men do. As it is, multiple orgasms or not, men still have it way better in the orgasm department and acting like men would easily trade the pain of childbirth for what women have orgasm-wise is straight up ignorant of how little women actually orgasm when they're having sex with men. Fuck that insincere rewriting of reality.

Let men have childbirth and the perma-gasm myth that in reality pans out to having way too much intercourse without orgasm at all. It's all yours Playboy Adviso. I hope you enjoy the idea of a lifetime of ecstatic multi-orgasming as much as woman kind does!

3. The Playboy Advisor (hetero sex inclusive toys??)
Are there any sex toys that a man and woman can both use at the same time? -H.N. Montreal, Quebec 
Besides lube? You might enjoy the Blue Dolphin or the Diving Dolphin, available Babeland.com. These are jelly penis rings with two tiny vibrators attached like guns in a holster. One points up to stimulate her clitoris during penetration while the other points down to tickle his balls. Babeland also sells a variety of cock rings with vibrators attached to stimulate the clitoris during intercourse.
Yes, sir. I absolutely approve of recommendations for sex toys that include clitoral stimulation during intercourse (since, you know, women kinda absolutely need outer clitoral stimulation in order to come and all)

4. Sogbo's Wife (A bit of fiction)

So this is a fiction short story written by Tony D'Souza. It's basically about a guy that goes to live in a little African village - I can't remember why. (I read this magazine, noted the SSL Reviewable things, took pictures and then threw the magazine out...but that was about 2 months ago and I just don't remember a lot about it really). He tells a story in it about a local dude from that village that went back to his hut. His door was locked, and he heard his wife all moany-sexy and stuff, and he was all like, 'I bet she took a carrot or a slender sweet potato and she's pleasuring herself with it!' So, he starts beating off to her moans (which they mention is also a big sin), then he can't take it anymore and pushes in the door saying, "Remove the carrot wife! I am going to possess you!" He falls on her to put it in, but instead he gets in the butthole of the dude who's fucking his wife. Then, things happen after that.

Later, another older man is talking to the non-local main character who is having an affair with a local woman. The older man seems to know, clearly disproves and insinuates that he knows by saying to the non-local guy, "Women don't really satisfy themselves with carrots, Adama."

So, basically there was a discussion from the perspective of some old-school, religious, masturbation-is-a-sin dudes about female masturbation. The assumption we get first is that if she were masturbating, it must be by sticking a phallic thing in her vagina to mimic intercourse. Obviously this is not generally how women masturbate. We ladies actually tend to rub our clits because that (and not inner vaginal stimulation) is what actually makes women orgasm. However, that is a common way men like to fantasize that women might masturbate, so it makes sense these men would talk about it. Later the older dude mentions that women don't actually pleasure themselves with a carrot, but he doesn't say that meaning that the whole carrot-intercourse thing is bullshit and if she were masturbating, she'd probably just be rubbing her clit. No, he said that to mean women don't masturbate - the have affairs so real non-husband penises can make them come.

Basically female masturbation is discussed in a skewed, male-centric, physiologically incorrect understanding of how women orgasm and thus how they might masturbate. But, I think it's probably a realistic way that these types of old-school conservative men would talk, so it's not the worst. It's just status quo...which, actually, when it comes to female orgasm is kinda the worst.

5. A Cartoon Orgasm Revolution

from Playboy March 2006
"I've got a lot of things to do, so I'd like to cut out the foreplay and go straight to the orgasm. So, I won't be needing you today."
Oh snap! She just called her sexual interactions with that dude the foreplay to her masturbation afterwards (where she finally gets to orgasm). I mean, she ain't just whistling dixie, am I right? Ladies get way too much of the ol' non orgasm-inducing penis-in-the-vagina pounding,and I appreciate that this buxom cartoon lady finally just said what needed to be said - 'Go the fuck away and stop bothering me so that I can actually orgasm.'

I mean another option would have been for her to find a guy that would go down, rub the clit, let her rub the clit (with her hand or against his body), or use the vibrator every time they fucked. But, hey sometimes (a lot of times) those guys are hard to come by, and you just need to trade them in for a vibrator.

*I'm choosing to assume the thing she has laying on her bed is a vibrator that she will be rubbing against her vulva/clit and NOT a dildo that this cartoonist thinks she will use to mimic intercourse like those dudes in the story up there thought.

Vulva Rating
Well, there was a metion of female masturbation that was normalizing, which I like, and there was a recommendation of a hetero sex toy that added clitoral stimulation during intercourse, which I also like. Then there was the cartoon that reminded us women don't need penises for orgasm - just clitoral stimulation - which is consistent with peer reviewed scientific investigation, so that's solid. there was a kinda neutral mention about conservative men talking about women masturbating by mimicking intercourse which is unrealistic, given the lack of clitoral stimulation, but acceptable given the circumstances of the fictional characters.

 However, there was a smug ignorance that both overestimated the amaze-balls-ness of multiple orgasms for women (and the exclusiveness of multiple orgasms to women btw) and heavily overestimated how much women women actually end up orgasming during sex with men even if they do have multiple orgasms. That's exemplifies the really incorrect and confused understanding of female sexual experience that plagues our world, so hated that.

So it's a mixed bag and I'll give this issue 3 vulvas.


A Good Study About Female Orgasm In The Brain: A Journal Article I Read

Well, my friend, this is another installment of A Journal Article I Read - a segment in which I read a lady-gasm related peer-reviewed journal article and try my damndest to summarize the article here for you without taking away too much of the detail and subtlety, yet making it readable and not too long. I do my best to achieve those goals, and that's all I can say. 

In these summaries, you can assume that anything I write is a genuine attempt to reflect what is said in the paper - even if it's shortened or summarized. My opinions, if I have any to add will either be inside brackets likes these [me:], or in a section headed in a way that clearly lets you know these are my opinions. All quotes are from this article unless specifically noted.

You can check out the list of all the past 'A Journal Article I Read' Summaries HERE.

My Quick Take On This Article (for those preferring a quicker read)

Regional cerebral blood flow changes associated with clitorally induced orgasm in healthy women. Georgiadis JR1, Kortekaas R, Kuipers R, Nieuwenburg A, Pruim J, Reinders AA, Holstege G. Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Dec;24(11):3305-16. 

What they did...very basically This lovely article investigates what parts of the brain are activated (by observing where blood flow is increased or decreased in the brain) during 1) non-sexual relaxation 2) imitation of orgasm 3) clitoral stimulation (performed by the male partner of the participant) and 4) orgasm. The study includes 12 different women, and each woman is allowed 3 tries to have an orgasm during the correct timeframe for being able to measure what's happening in the brain. 6 orgasms were ill-times and 2 did not have muscle activity that was distinct from the orgasm imitation, so those 8 were not used, leaving a total of 20 orgasms actually used for this study.

They physically verified orgasms with rectal pressure readings!
The beauty of this study is that the researchers didn't just take the participants' word for if and when an orgasm happened. Way too many lady-gasm researchers do that, and it severely lessens the usefulness of their data because there are so many reasons women may say they orgasm when they really did not physically orgasm - ranging from simply faking because they feel like they should be orgasming to not really understanding that 'orgasm' doesn't necessarily mean any old feeling of climax - which may lead a woman to say she orgasmed when she actually was experiencing something else like an emotional peak or a highly aroused state without orgasm. It'd be nice to say that a woman's say so is the best resource for whether she had an orgasm or not, but that's just not true - not in any way that works in a scientific study of the physical elements of orgasm. There's just too damn much confusion and misinformation permeating our culture about female orgasm that muddies women's understanding of their own sexual functioning.

Plus, frankly, this is science, and if a scientist is investigating what effect a particular event has on a body, they better be damn sure that the 'event' is happening before they see how the body reacts. That's just good scientific method, and not ensuring the event happened would muddy and confuse any results that came of it. It's like studying the body's reaction to a heart attack in people who say they've had a heart attack, but not verifying if they actually had heart attack and inadvertently mixing into the study people who had a panic attack but thought it was a heart attack. It's bad science, and it's really bullshit that lady-gasm scientists indulge in this regularly...so again, very pleased that these scientists did their scientific due diligence here.

Anyway, in this study the researchers verified orgasm by physically checking rectal pressure (basically the women had a small probe in their anus that was constantly measuring the pressure from the pelvic muscle). This way, they were able to observe the rhythmic pelvic muscular activity during the time the women claimed orgasm and could see if it was different than the muscular activity when the women were imitating orgasm  (including imitation of the rhythmic pelvic muscle activity), becoming aroused, or resting.

What they found...very basically
In the end their research indicated that there were particular areas of the brain that became more or less activated during orgasm as compared to resting or to the controls of arousal by clitoral stimulation and of imitating orgasm. The prefrontal cortex and left temporal lobe showed large decreases in blood flow during orgasm that would indicate, from previous research, that inhibitions were lowered and sexual arousal was high. There were also increases found in the left deep cerebellar nuclei indicating, from previous research, that there was increased motion in the central body muscles such as the pelvic muscles. These results were comparable to brain activation during orgasm/ejaculation and arousal seen in previous studies on men.

My thoughts
I am no neuroscientist and cannot comment on the specifics of the statistical analysis and methodology details, but as with all of these studies, I go with the assumption that they are using their tools well. What I can and do comment on is the broader use of the scientific method to make the conclusions they make about female orgasm. So, it's not really a high bar I set for these studies. They just need to not over-reach and not ignore important fundamentals. Happily, this study easily reached above my bar for a solid lady-gasm study.

The only thing I would have liked to see is probably a bit beyond the scope of this study, but I'll mention it anyway.  It seems that 2 of the 28 orgasms claimed by the women in this study happened at the correct time to record brain activity, but were dropped from the analysis because their rectal pressure readings (which indicate pelvic muscle activity) were indistinct from the controls - i.e. those 2 claims of orgasms cannot confidently be categorized as orgasms like the others because they didn't show rectal pressure readings that were distinct from the women's imitation of orgasm.

I completely agree with not including those 2 claimed orgasms in with the others for this study. They are possibly not physically the same things as the others. The researchers were absolutely on point with that. What would be cool, though, is if they also reported some data on those two sans-physical-marker-orgasms. A woman or two in this study did call whatever happened those 2 times an orgasm, and we know that sometimes women do claim orgasm when an orgasm cannot be physically detected. So lets start parsing out how to understand women's claims of orgasms vs. what's happening physically during the claimed orgasms. It'd be fantastic to get some details on that so scientists can begin having some data based answers for what women mean when they say orgasm.

For instance, I'd love if this study could answer a few things: Was it the same women that claimed both these orgasms or was it one orgasm a piece from two women? Were these sans-physical-marker-orgasms either of the women's 2nd or 3rd orgasm attempt? What exactly was their rectal pressure readings like compared to the control? Was the brain activity that happened during these 2 thrown-out orgasms more similar to imitation of orgasm, to arousal, to rest? Did it have any similarities to the readings during other women's orgasms who did have distinct rectal pressure readings? Did the women who claimed these sans-physical-marker-orgasms say anything about the experience that set it apart from the other orgasm experiences? We absolutely need to look at claims of orgasm with and without the distinct pelvic muscle activity separately, but we should be investigating both so we can clear some shit up.

But these are hopes and dreams for the future. Now on to the summary.

  • Male orgasms, being linked closely with ejaculation, are coupled with reproduction but there is no strong evidence female orgasm is linked to reproduction in this way...even though ideas for how it might be linked have been proposed. 
  • Most female orgasm research has focused on physiological parameters. It has been shown that heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and even plasma concentrations of oxytocin and prolactin increase (They cite this Carmichael et al. study I summarized HERE and this Exton et al. one I have not HERE). Also, rectal and vaginal pressure change during orgasm likely due to the involuntary rhythmic contractions of pelvic muscles (They cite Masters and Johnson's Human Sexual Response and this study Bohlen et al. I summarized HERE.
  • "Experiencing orgasm is a function of the brain and this is confirmed by clinical studies: brain trauma, epileptic seizures and psychopharmaca may strongly influence the orgasmic ability and/or experience (Lundberg & Brattberg, 1992; Aloni & Katz, 1999)." 
  • Citing Sholty et al, the authors say conscious action and concentration seems to be needed for women to reach orgasm but things like pleasure and loss of conscious behavioural control are things some women describe during an orgasm (cited from this Mah & Binik study I summarized HERE)
Past studies on this topic
The authors then go over different methods in the past that have been used to study the brain during orgasm:
  • EEG on men during ejaculation  - no conclusive findings
  • SPECT on men during ejaculation - "increased activation in the right prefrontal cortex and decreased activation in all other cortical regions." No deep or subcortical brain regions analyzed.
  • PET - on men during ejaculation - "showed various activations during ejaculation, mainly in subcortical parts of the brain." This study was done by this team of researchers.
  • "In women only one study exists:" which is the Komisaruk one I've summarized HERE where MRI brain activity was reported for women claiming orgasm during cervical self-stimulation. "Unfortunately, the statistical power of this study was low, which makes the activations, which were scattered throughout the brain in each of the three subjects, very difficult to interpret." So not a lot out there about brain function during female orgasm.
"We aimed to investigate orgasm-related brain activity in healthy women. PET was used because it is more robust to motion artifact than fMRI." 

Hypothesis for brain activity during female orgasm:
  • Decreased activation of neocortex
  • Increased activation of subcortical parts of brain
  • Expect "involvement of dopaminergic cell groups in the ventral midbrain and their targets in the striatum" (because orgasms have rewarding nature)
  • Activation of the hypothalamus (because that's where prolactin and oxytocin are produced)

Materials and Method

  • 12 women
  • mean age 34 (range 21-47)
  • volunteered with their male partners
  • right handed
  • healthy and no history or psychiatric or sexual disorders
  • "Genital stimulation was provided by the male partners and was centered on the clitoris, because clitoral stimulation most easily leads to orgasm (Mah & Binik 2001; Lloyd, 2005). An adhesive band was used to restrain the subject's head. During scans the subject had her eyes closed. The couples were allowed to communicate verbally between successive scans."
RP (rectal pressure) and PSA (perceived sexual arousal) data acquisition
  • "Rectal pressure was measured continuously with a rectal probe ...The probe was positioned in the rectum by an experienced urologist."
  • "...after each scan subjects were asked to rate their perceived level of sexual arousal on a 10-point scale (0, not sexually aroused; 10, highest level of sexual arousal ever experienced)."
PET measurements
[Me: quick background: To get these readings of brain activity measured through PET, a radiotracer has to be injected into the blood. After injection, reading of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) can be detected in the brain for a very short amount of time, and this increase or decrease of blood flow is the 'brain activity' they are looking at. This study detects for only 120 seconds after each injection.]
  • The PET scans were made in 3-D mode
  • Each scan was 120 total seconds and was preceded by injection of the radiotracer (32 mL injected at 8mL/s). The 120 seconds of scanning was broken down to 8 dynamic scans; the first 7 lasting 10 seconds each and the final scan lasting 50 seconds.
  • Each participant had 8 of these scans consecutively with approximately 8 minutes in between the end of one scan and the injection of radio tracer for the next scan.
Scan 1: REST: "passive nonsexual resting state."
Scan 2: IMITATION: "voluntary repetitive contractions of the hip, buttock, abdominal and pelvic floor in a rhythmic 'orgasm-like' fashion, while receiving stimulation to the clitoris. This condition was included to control for the motor output during orgasm."
Scan 3: Another round of IMITATION
Scan 4: STIMULATION: "receiving clitoral stimulation without executing bodily movements. The subjects were encouraged to enjoy the stimulation, but were also explicitly instructed not to have an orgasm. This condition was included to control for the clitoral stimulation and high sexual arousal during orgasm."
Scan 5: Another round of STIMULATION
Scan 6: ORGASM: "orgasm induced by clitoral stimulation. The subject tried to reach orgasm in the first minute after tracer injection. After each orgasm attempt, volunteers reported whether they had reached orgasm and, if so, when they thought it had occurred relative to the moment of tracer injection."
Scan 7: Another round of ORGASM
Scan 8: Another round of ORGASM

Data analysis

RP (rectal pressure) and PSA (perceived sexual arousal) 

The women's claims of orgasm were only used in the study if:
1. "according to the subject, orgasm was unambiguous and occurred in the first minute of the scan"
2. "the orgasm report was supported by the rectal pressure of the same scan"
3. "within a subject the rectal pressure pattern of a reported orgasm and that of an imitation were clearly distinct, because both involved contraction of the same muscles, but probably with different frequency characteristics." (they cited Bohen et al for this)
  • Because past data has shown rectal pressure (RP) fluctuation to be an important feature of orgasm, the standard deviation in rectal pressure (RPstd) over the 1st minute of each woman's 8 scans were calculated and each woman's RPstd were normalized.
  • Their ratings of perceived level of sexual arousal (PSA) were not normalized 

PET measurements
  • The researchers describe the software etc. used for the PET measurements in the brain -  things like spacial pre-processing, global blood flow normalization, etc., but details weren't added to this summary.
Below is a basic list of what analyses were carried out. 
(The authors also describe a bunch of statistical analysis for how they do it, but that is too out of my realm to describe here.)
  • Main effect - this was investigating "which were the primary brain regions involved in any of the experimental conditions."
  • Comparison between conditions: Compared rCBF (regional cerebral blood flow, or loosely, 'brain activity') between stimulation vs. rest and orgasm vs. rest. Then orgasm vs. stimulation (which helps control for sexual arousal since sexual arousal should be part of both the stimulation and orgasm) and orgasm vs. imitation (which helps control for motor output since pelvic movement and rectal/pelvic muscle contractions are part of both). For the last 2 comparisons, "A less stringent significance threshold (P<0.0001, uncorrected) was used in order to be more sensitive to smaller brain regions that may be involved in female orgasm, such as the hypothalamus and ventral midbrain."
  • Regression analysis - the women's self-reported sexual arousal levels (PSA) were correlated with the rCBF in each area of the brain [me: the researchers mention there was only 8 women who provided the sexual arousal info instead of 12, but don't say why]. Also the RPstd (rectal pressure variability) was correlated with rCBF in the same way.


Number of orgasms studied
"Six women reached one orgasm, four women reached two orgasms and two women reached three orgasms each. Six orgasms were ill-timed and two had an indistinct rectal pressure pattern. Therefore of the 28 orgasms reported, 20 were included in the analysis. There was a high intersubject variability with regard to the orgasmic rectal pressure patterns, but in multi orgasmic women, rectal pressure patterns looked consistent between orgasms. Figure 1 demonstrated that orgasmic rectal pressure patterns were clearly distinct from those during imitation."

from Georgiadis et al 2006 p.3307

PSA  (perceived level of sexual arousal) results: 
shown as: median rating (lowest rating, 3rd quartile rating)
REST: 0 (0,0)
IMITATION: 4 (3,5)
ORGASM: 9 (8.1, 10)

RPstd (rectal pressure variability) results:
shown as: median ratings (lowest rating, 3rd quartile rating)
REST: 0.31932 (0.14852, 0.55158)
IMITATION: 0.91827 (0.5398, 1.4363)
STIMULATION: 0.45855 (0.3753, 0.65063)
ORGASM: 1.811 (1.3366, 2.1299)

PET measurement results
"...changes in rCBF are called significant in the case of a corrected cluster P<0.05. Subsignificant rCBF changes (P>0.05 corrected) are called trends."

[me: So at this point the researchers write out in detail which parts of the brain show increases or decreases in rCBF between different experimental states (REST, IMITATION, STIMULATION ORGASM). There's a lot of information and a lot of brain words that are pretty foreign to me. So, I'm not going to summarize that here. Luckily the authors themselves kinda summarized it in pictures, so I'm just going to use those, because I think they are pretty simple depictions of pretty complicated results. As always, if you are truly interested in this detail, then you can probably get a hold of this article somewhere, and you should do that, and then please let me know if you have any thought. I'd love to hear them.]

from Georgiadis et al 2006 p.3310

from Georgiadis et al 2006 p.3310


In relation to hypothesis
  • The decreased rCBF in the neocortex during orgasm was observed and was consistent with the hypothesis.
  • "Active limbic and subcortical involvement in female orgasm was less than anticipated"..."however, significant orgasm-related increased rCBF was found in the deep cerebellar nuclei." 
  • "the perceived level of sexual arousal was positively correlated with rCBF in the ventral midbrain and right caudate nucleus." [me: the caudate nucleus is linked to dopamine production, so the researchers did, with a little extra statistical oomph, find correlation between dopamine related brain areas and orgasm as they hypothesized]
  • [me: the researchers did not find activity in the hypothalamus as expected, but they discuss why they might not have later in this paper.]

PSA (perceived sexual arousal) 
  • Orgasm was the condition where the women claimed the highest level of PSA
  • PSA was much higher after stimulation than after imitation of orgasm, and actually most of the women later said that the act of intentional pelvic muscle contractions during imitation actually kinda prevented sexual arousal - even though they were getting clit stim during imitation. However, the women said the stimulation phase was quite enjoyable, and they often had to restrain themselves from coming during this phase.
  • "Indeed PRstd was significantly greater during orgasm than during the other conditions, despite the fact that during imitation there were strong rhythmical contractions of muscles in the pelvic region."

rCBF changes during STIMULATION
"The importance of the clitoris for female sexual pleasure is undisputed. However, this is the first account of brain regions involved in the experience of clitoral stimulation."

The strongest rCBF increase for this study was in the left SII (secondary somatosensory cortex).
  • In past studies rCBF increase in left and right SII has been associated with blood increase in the penis and increase in the right SII has been associated with stimulation of the erect penis. 
  • Increases in the SII is also consistently associated with visual erotica, and has been associated with non-sexual stimulation of the dorsal penile nerve, penile skin, and in women, the vaginal vestibulum. 
  • In fact, the SII increase in that past vaginal vestibulum study was stronger when the vestibular stimulation was perceived as painful. The researchers wonder if SII might assign a particular conscious label to stimulus - in the present study the sensation being 'sexual.'
There was also significant rCBF increase on the dorsal (upper) right SI (primary somatosensory cortex) with a non significant increase on the dorsal left side.
  • This result adds to the variety of results creating a controversy about the location of the external genitals on the SI. 
  • Originally and in some later studies the genitals were said to be located ion the paracentral lobule of the SI, but this study agrees with some others that place it dorsally on the SI.
There was increased rCBF in the left side OFC (orbitofrontal cortex), which is interesting because "it has been suggested that increased activity in this region may inhibit sexual behaviour." [me: this result of increased rCBF in this area is unexpected because decreased activity in this area has been associated with decreases inhibition and increased sexual arousal. The researchers put a pretty good hypothesis for why they might be sseing this result later in the paper, though]

"Decreases of rCBF were not statistically significant." (during STIMULATION)

rCBF changes during ORGASM
"Despite liberal statistical thresholds, there was no orgasm-related increased rCBF in the hypothalamus, the brainstem or the striatum, regions known to be key players in the sexual and/or rewarding behaviours." [me: if you recall, the researchers had hypothesized that they would see increased activity int he hypothalamus, but did not]

There was a cluster of increase around the clitoral part of the SI (seen increased during STIMULATION as well), the cluster also included areas corresponding to abdominal, hip, leg and pelvic floor muscle control.

There was also a significant increase in areas of the cerebellum.
  • Activation of this area was also seen in a previous study by these authors during male ejaculation/orgasm.  
  • These areas are also known to be crucial for axial (central part of body) sensorimotor control and be associated tightly with the primary region of motor system (primary motor cortex). 
  • In previous studies, similar increases were found with voluntary contraction of the pelvic floor indicating these activations are probably related to control of the central body muscles.
Significant decreases were found in areas of the frontal and temporal lobes.
  • In previous studies similar decreases were found in men during sexual arousal and orgasm. 
  • There is also lots of clinical evidence (like cases where there is damage to these areas) that show less blood flow (similar to decreased rCBF) to these areas of the brain affecting orgasmic and sexual behaviour - particularly showing that these areas have inhibitory control over sexual behaviour. 
  • Thus, it seems lowered blood flow (decreased rCBF) to these areas "would release the inhibition and enable sexual behaviour."

STIMULATION and IMITATION as control measures
  • Comparing "rest" in the brain to any "activity" in the brain can be problematic because you're not just seeing the "activity." You may also be seeing other things your brain needs to be involved in to do that "activity," like focusing on a goal or something like that. So, that's why the researchers added the states of "STIMULATION" and "IMITATION" into the study as controls for the activity "orgasm." "More specifically, stimulation served as a control for the genital stimulation and heightened sexual arousal during orgasm whereas imitation served as a control for the orgasm-related motor output."
  • The large rCBF increase in the area of cerebellum related to central body (axial) motor function between STIMULATION vs. ORGASM was not there between IMITATION (motor output control) and ORGASM. "We therefore conclude the rCBF increases in deep cerebellar nuclei were related to axial motor output, regardless of the behavioural and emotional context."
  • An interesting result was the particularly large decrease of rCBF in the OFC from STIMULATION to ORGASM (because it had actually increased from REST to STIMULATION even though it was also expected to decrease). If you remember, this area is known to be related to sexual inhibitions. So increase means more inhibited (less sexually aroused) and decrease means less inhibited (more sexually aroused). During ORGASM, it decreased a lot which made sense with previous studies indicating that type of decrease correlates with less inhibition and more sexual arousal. However, it was strange that there was actually an increase from REST to STIMULATION. That does not make sense given that the women said they were very aroused, and past data has shown genital stimulation and arousal decrease rCBF in that area. The authors think there is a simple explanation for this though: A previous study showed a similar increase in men watching erotica who "voluntarily suppressed emerging feelings of sexual arousal." These men intentionally were inhibiting their arousal. In the same way, most women in this study said (off the record) that during the STIMULATION portion, they often had to intentionally 'hold-back' from orgasming because they were specifically asked not to orgasm. These women's brains, like the men's in the previous study, may have been showing us the intentional inhibition.
  • Although the decrease in rCBF was greatest between STIMULATION>ORGASM, it was also present when ORGASM was compared to REST and to IMITATION. So, no matter what, the decrease of rCBF in the OFC was a clear quality of ORGASM.
  • "From these control comparisons a very interesting distinction emerged regarding the rCBF decrease during orgasm: rCBF decrease were predominately 'prefrontal' for the sexual arousal control comparison (orgasm <stimulation) and mainly 'temporal' for the output control comparison (orgasm<imitation). These control comparisons provide evidence that the temporal lobe deactivation is related to the level of sexual arousal, but that the prefrontal cortex deactivation causes the behavioural release that characterises orgasm."
  • "RPstd reflects activity of the muscles in the rectal vicinity. RPstd correlated positively with rCBF in the left deep cerebellar nuclei, confirming the results from the t-contrasts that this region is related to axial motor output."

Changes in dopamine related brain areas
  • After some small-volume corrections with the data, areas of the ventral midbrain and caudate nucleus showed increased rCBF in relation to increased perceived sexual arousal (PSA). 
  • The A10 dopaminergic cell group is located in the vental midbrain and plays a role in rewarding behaviours including; euphoric states induced by drugs of abuse, pleasurable music, and even eating chocolate. 
  • "In the present study PSA was highest during orgasm and because PSA correlated positively with rCBF in the ventral midbrain, this finding underlines the reinforcing nature of orgasm in women."

Limitations and considerations

Why measure rectal pressure?
  • Because the reports of orgasm in this study are crucial to getting appropriate results, the researchers felt that the measuring of the rectal pressure helped in two ways. 
  • First, since the women knew it was being recorded, it may dissuade from them giving false reports. 
  • Second, of the reported orgasms, the researchers could check to see if the rectal pressure during the reported orgasm could be discerned from the imitation. It could in all but 2 of the reported orgasm, which were then thrown out. 
  • So, the researchers feel that, "the orgasms included in the present study are likely to be 'real'."
Was increased blood pressure during orgasm an issue?
Although orgasm is known to induce a big blood pressure increase, the researchers are not worried that the increased blood flow in the cerebellum (the only area of significant rCBF increase in the brain during orgasm) was merely a result of heightened blood pressure. There is no worry largely because it happened also during the imitation of orgasm, and also because past literature showed activation in that area during voluntary motion of pelvic floor muscles.

Why wasn't hypothalamus activity seen?
The hypothalamus is known for its role in female reproduction, and during orgasm it might release oxytocin or prolactin, but it did not show any significant involvement in orgasm for this study. Here are reasons the researchers think this might be the case:
1. "synthesis of these hormones is unaltered and release requires no metabolic increase and hence no rCBF increase."
2. the PET scan may have not had the resolution to detect the activity
3. Komisaruk's 2004 study suggests that stimulation of the vagina and cervix may actually be better at activating the hypothalamus
4. "there was high intersubject variability in orgasmic RP (rectal pressure) patterns and although no objective proof exists for orgasmic typology (Mah & Binik 2001), these different RP patterns might still reflect a qualitative difference in the orgasmic experience."

"We conclude that the decreased rCBF in the prefrontal cortex and left temporal lobes is the main feature of orgasm in women. In particular, activation in the left lateral OFC seems to reflect the level of behavioural inhibition during sexual behaviour. The deactivation of the temporal lobe is directly related to the level of sexual arousal. As the regressive analyses revealed, the deep cerebellar nuclei appear to be involved in orgasm-specific muscle contractions while the ventral midbrain and right caudate nucleus suggest a role for dopamine in the orgasm. This novel finding might have important implications for the treatment of anorgasmia, a prevalent female sexual disorder which probably originates in the brain." [me: or originates in years of the clit not being touched properly, yet expecting orgasm anyway...Seriously, I know there are cases of anorgasmia that exist despite appropriate sexual touch, but I dare say there is also a portion that originate because we live in a world where women are expected to orgasm from a penis in their vagina and where the clit is all but ignored in most sexual education, sexual depictions, sexual advice/therapy, and sexual interactions.]

***Bonus fun fact: a short list of words I had to look up while writing this: axial, perfusion, salience, conversely, precluded***