5.24.2020

Does masturbation have to include orgasm - a debate with myself



I'm halfway through writing another post right now, and I got into a rabbit hole that I think is kinda complicated and I want to skim it in that post, but don't want to get too deep, so I'm writing a discussion about it here to reference in future articles.

Is it fair to use the word masturbation for self-sensual endeavors that do not at some level have orgasm and/or ejaculation as the intention - even if you're not trying to 'chase' the orgasm and/or ejaculation?




I ask this because it kinda gets at me that there is such an emphasis in female masturbation advice about it not being 'about' the orgasm. I know why that emphasis is there, and I kinda get it and can get behind it, but also if females had a sensible sexual culture where lady-gasm was correctly understood and depicted realistically in our media, and if normal, everyday sex acts made ample room for lady-gasm the way it does for dude-gasms, would we really need to keep assuring females that masturbation doesn't have to include orgasm? And does playing down the importance of orgasm during masturbation also play down the importance of fixing a sexual culture that doesn't give females enough room for their orgasm?

I'm going to play both sides just to have the argument down, because, hey dude, it's complicated and both answers seem a little right and a little wrong to me.

YES - It is fair. Masturbation does not and should not necessarily have the intention of orgasm behind it.

Sexual interaction has a lot of different facets, and orgasm is merely one of them. Things like sensual appreciation, emotion, connection, sexual arousal, fantasy, relaxation, and bodily pleasure can all be focuses. Masturbation is no different. It can be a time to bring one's body a variety of physical pleasures, explore one's fantasies, brew up sexual arousal, connect emotionally with yourself, to relax. A focus on orgasm specifically can overshadow all these other lovely things.

There is also the matter of the large quantity of adult women that have yet to explore their body through masturbation. A sexual relationship with one's self is maybe the most important sexual relationship a person has. However, because of our shit sexual culture, a lot of females have not felt like masturbation was an option for them - especially as teenagers when many males began, and thus lots of females have engaged in partner sex without ever exploring their own bodies and learning what they like sexually, which also means they likely have never orgasmsed. I'd also argue that because a lot of females have had lots of sexual encounters without having also orgasmed, their level of physical and mental arousal associated with sexual stimuli has lowered over time in a way that males or others that can largely, through experience, equate sexual stimuli with the possibility of orgasm, have not.

That all means that sexual arousal in many (if not most) females can become a tricky business - needing more or different stimuli than one might expect. After a number of non-orgasmic sexual interactions or certain cultural stiflings of sexuality, it must, in some ways, be learned or relearned what does (as opposed to what's supposed to but doesn't actually) make them hot. Thus it makes sense that masturbation advice, in a very practical sense, best be put forth to many females as more an investigative journey of the body and mind - something that must be slowly used to find or re-find arousal and bodily sensation. This means the orgasm, quite literally, might be hard to come by until that ability to arouse oneself is gained/regained because orgasm is the release of that physical sexual arousal (release of the pelvic blood congestion and muscle tension built up in physical arousal).

Pushing the idea that masturbation is not complete without orgasm could do way more harm than good because it may seem daunting - particularly for someone that is struggling with arousal, and if orgasm was tried for but not attained, it may feel incredibly frustrating and that frustration and worry could be carried into the next try. It's a truth that being worried about your ability to orgasm while trying to orgasm is a great way to lose arousal and a terrible way to get to an orgasm - for anyone. It's a way of being distracted from the actual genital sensations, of being outside of the moment. An orgasm just sort of happens when one reaches a certain amount of arousal and stimulation, but it can be easily blocked.

So, encouraging masturbation that is more about the journey, is a way to make room for all the people out there (particularly many females) that need low pressure, accepting entry-points into masturbation that allows for self discovery and trial and error. This type of encouragement can also help those females and males that do masturbate for orgasm fairly easily. For these people, they can be encouraged to take time to focus on other pleasures of their mind and body and expand their ability to appreciate sensuality that doesn't lead to orgasm. In particular this may be useful to (probably mostly male) partners of (probably mostly female) people that don't often or ever get to orgasm during sexual encounters. It may allow the orgasming partner to focus on other pleasurable elements that also feel good to their partner and to stop focusing too much on their own drive to orgasm. It could help slow the sex act down and open space for the non-orgasming partner to use their masturbatory work to find their arousal or pleasure and maybe eventually find their own orgasm in the sex.

NO- it is not really fair. I think embedded in the idea of masturbation is at some level an attempt towards orgasm, and the only reason that is challenged is because we have a shit sexual culture where too many women do not orgasm and instead of blatantly calling how bullshit that is, we shove it under the rug by building up the idea that orgasm isn't important (for females).

So, I'm not saying that any masturbation act is not masturbation if there is no orgasm and/or ejaculation at the end, but I think there is a difference and maybe there should be a discernible word for a sensual touching of one's own body that in no way has anything to do with having or learning to or working toward a possibility of an orgasm. I'm not saying you have to chase the orgasm either. I'm just saying that if one is working to cause sexual arousal to arise in the body, there's something a little off about just stopping randomly within that arousal for no other reason than 'orgasm isn't that important.' I mean, maybe you were interrupted or didn't have enough time. Maybe you are taking it slow as a way to learn and stopping in the arousal will help you either control your orgasm better or understand your arousal better to help attain orgasm in future masturbation sessions. Maybe you need to learn to not feel pressure to orgasm, which can block ability to orgasm, so you specifically intend not to orgasm during that masturbation session. Maybe you literally just weren't able to get off even though you tried, and so you stopped.

Orgasm is the release of blood congestion and muscle tension that's been built up during sexual arousal. If there's no orgasm at the end, then one is just left with engorged genitals (btw women have as much blood congestion down there. It's just mostly in the inner clit legs and vestibular bulbs). Isn't it a little odd to think about a dude getting his dick all hard and then just stopping, just because. Like, he could orgasm, but meh, he feels done with the masturbation, so he stops and lets his engorged dick just slowly go down. That doesn't seem all that strange to say for a female though, does it? Even though she would be left the same way, with blue clit.

And that's the bigger point I want to get into. I think the underlying reality to the idea that "orgasm isn't that important" is that it's not important for females. And it's not because it's actually not important. It's because women don't have them near as much as their bodies will allow, as much as they deserve, and as much as males expect to have themselves, and it's easier to pretend women are choosing that because "orgasm isn't that important" than to face the hard reality that our sexual culture simply doesn't provide the space or information or the examples needed to really allow females a true choice about whether to orgasm or not during masturbation and/or sex.

So, on an individual level, yeah, I get it. It's important to not make people (particularly females) feel shamed for not having orgasms, and in some ways saying that orgasm isn't the most important thing helps people on that individual level. Because truly, it's not their fault and they're not broken, and tons of women are in their shoes -no need to feel bad. However, pull out to a larger societal level and it is a fucking problem, and we should be worried, and we should be trying to fix this.

If females were on a level sexual playing field and did have an actual choice in the same way males do, it would be different, and I'd have no problem with reminders that orgasm isn't everything. In fact, for many people (particularly males), it's an important reminder that every sex act with another person is a negotiation that doesn't necessarily need to include their orgasm. But I also feel like those reminders serve more as a smoothing over of the appalling reality that most women don't orgasm most of the time during sex acts, even though our bodies are as able to do so as male bodies. It's a way to just accept that fate instead of looking at it and seeing how fucked up it is. 'Oh, you didn't orgasm? Well, you liked the emotional part right? You got aroused? That's just as important!' But is it? Really? What if you could have it all - the emotion, the arousal, the orgasm?

My point is, the idea of underselling orgasm to me wreaks of underselling female sexuality, and allows us to continue moving forward, eyes closed, ignoring how fucking insane it is that women give so much sexually and expect so little.

5.17.2020

Ladies Have Non-Specific Arousal Patterns? - 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.

A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal. Meredith L. Chivers, Gerulf Rieger, Elizabeth Latty and J. Michael Bailey. Psychological Science. Vol. 15, No. 11 (Nov., 2004), pp. 736-744

Unless something changes, you can find the full article online HERE.


My Quick Summary:
The researchers showed participants (males, females, and post operative M-F tran women - gay and straight groups of each) clips of porn, M-M, M-F, and F-F. They checked their genital arousal during those and also had them rate their own mental arousal (subjective arousal). The researchers found the males and trans women both had higher genital and subject arousal during clips exclusively showing the gender of their sexual preference (M-M clips for gay males and straight trans women, F-F clips for straight males and gay trans women). Females (gay and straight) kinda had an equal amount of genital arousal for all 3 types of clips and tended to say they were most aroused by the M-F clips, but not WAY more aroused.

The researchers concluded this to mean that males had a pattern of arousal that was specific to their sexual preference and females had a non-specific arousal pattern. Although they point out they can't tell if this is innate or learned behavior, I feel like insinuations throughout are that it's an innate sex difference. There's also, I'd say a quite convoluted, 2nd study in here that uses questionnaires and a subset of the hetero women from study 1 to 'prove' that the conclusion would not be different if the type of women who choose not to participate in studies like these were included nonetheless.

Honestly, I feel like - especially with that 2nd study - this paper is really hard to follow and the way they make their calculations is not as transparent as I usually see. Maybe I'm a bit dense, but this paper was a rough one to get through even though the concept is not a hard one.

Although I appreciate that this paper gave us a snapshot of how different people's bodies and minds react to the particular experimental situation they were put in for this study, I think the researchers (and the many people who have used this paper later to back-up ideas about sexual gender difference), are deeply mistaken if they believe this study gives us a balanced look into the way male vs. female arousal works.

My biggest problem with this study is that the experimental design naively assumes that the males, females, and trans women have similar enough relationships/histories/experiences with sexual activity and porn that their reactions to the porn clips could be compared as if coming from an equal place. I list at the end of this post some of the many reasons why I think the use of pornographic videos would skew the data, but generally it's related to the fact that both gay and straight porn is by and large focused on male orgasm, fantasy, and desire. Also, because of the incredible lack of female orgasm compared to male orgasm in coupled sexual activity, the very idea of sexual activity is simply a different kind of thing to males and to females. I would argue that researchers are sensibly getting the reaction to sexually arousing moving images that they are expecting from the males in the study. However, the reactions they are getting from the females in the study are not reactions to the same kind of purely sexually arousing images, and thus it is problematic to compare them.

Background

  • "Male sexual arousal is category-specific," which basically means that males show the greatest arousal in response to the type of people they prefer to have sex with - i.e. gay guys get more aroused in response to men and straight for women.
  • The idea of category-specificity is sufficiently reliable to ascertain sexual preference for investigative purposes of men that have strong reason to conceal their preferences - such as pedophiles.
  • There are also some studies that indicate arousal patterns are an important source of info in adolescent boys as they formulate their sexuality in adolescents
  • There is evidence to suggest the same may not be true of women. The most direct evidence for this was a 1996 (Laan, Sonderman, Janssen) study measuring how women subjectively (felt about) erotic movies depicting male-female vs. female-female sex acts and also how much their genitals became aroused. No major difference was found between lesbian and straight women on which type of movie they responded to most strongly. Both lesbian and straight women had their highest response to male-female movies. 
  • That 1996 study, while intriguing, has 3 concerning issues. 1. There was not a male-male erotic movie in the this study, and male studies on this subject have indicated the greatest difference in response was between purely female movies and purely male movies. Male-female movies did not show as great a response difference between gay and straight participants because there were both males and females in them. 2. It is not certain whether all the self-identified lesbians were strongly homosexual or more bisexual. A 1996 study indicated that 30% of respondents that self-identified as lesbian also had attractions to males. [Me: I wonder if it is possible that some of the self-identified hetero women had some attraction to women as well. I mean hetero sex is often pretty shitty for ladies, so I think there is good reason to believe that for some largely hetero women, lesbian interactions might seem an intriguing and more pleasurable option - in a way that homosexual activity for men does not, given how focused on male pleasure most hetero interactions tend to be]. 3. The women's genital response was measured with photoplethysmographic instruments, which means a vaginal photometer is inserted into the vagina and uses light to measure the amount of blood in the walls of the vagina (an increase of blood to the vaginal walls is one part of female sexual arousal - and is related to lubrication forming on the vaginal walls). This type of arousal measurement is not as tested as the measuring that is used for males, and the authors think it is important to show for sure that a vaginal photometer is actually capable of showing the kinds of differences seen in male arousal before comparing male and female response.
  • In this study, the researchers are investigating whether female sexual arousal is category specific, like male sexual arousal has been shown to be. Males, females, and post operative M2F trans people were included in this study.
  • "Including male participants allowed us to compare male and female arousal patterns and to demonstrate that our stimuli were capable of eliciting a category-specific pattern of sexual arousal in men. Including male-to-female transsexual allowed us to determine whether differences in arousal patterns between men and women merely reflect differences in the way that genital arousal is measured in men and women, or are due to true sexual dimorphism." [me: A few things: 1. They use the term transexual in this article, which was a more accepted and common term in 2005 than it is now. It generally indicated a trans person that had undergone gender affirming surgery, thus the M2F trans people in this article have undergone surgery and have vaginas and clits. I will use the more simple term, trans, but transexual may appear in quotes. 2. For those that are not familiar, the vagina that is created for trans or other individuals that were not born with a fully formed vagina, is created from non-vaginal tissue, but over a period of healing time becomes fully capable of lubrication caused by arousal. 3. This statement about why M2F trans people were included assumes two things; that arousal patterns of these trans individuals should match the arousal patterns of male individuals because both were presumably born with male genitalia/chromosomes, and that the differences between male and female arousal patterns must be due to innate sexual dimorphisms - i.e. things embedded in a person relating to being born with either male or female chromosomes/genitalia. It ignores the possibility that trans individuals might not share certain sexual dimorphism qualities with the sex into which they were identified at birth, and it also ignores a very huge possibility that the sex differences in the arousal patterns identified in these experiments might have quite a bit to do with how these people and their sexuality developed in relation to their environment. i.e. Just because people born as females tend to have a certain arousal pattern does not mean that it is due to something innate in the female physically. It may have everything to do with how the sexual environment molds females specifically.]


Study 1: Method

  • Gay and straight men and women were recruited through an ad in an alternative Chicago paper. Trans women were found as a subset of the women recruited this way.
  • 69 men and 52 women (11 of these were trans women) mean ages were 32.1 for the non-trans individuals and 42.9 for the trans individuals.
  • All participants were offered financial compensation for their participation.
  • The Kinsey Sexual Fantasy Scale was used to assess the sexual preferences of the participants. Only those that indicated an exclusive or nearly exclusive sexual preference for either males or females during adulthood were used in the analysis. [me: The Kinsey Sexual Fantasy Scale they refer to here, is just a scale from 1 to 6 where 1 is exclusively hetero, 6 is exclusively homo, and 3 is equally homo/hetero (I assume because there is no actual Kinsey Scale 'test' that is verified and used in research - just this scale). The participants must have self-chosen their number. I think this is something that is worth remembering within this study because there are various reasons a person might choose a particular number on this scale but also have sexual feelings that are counter to that number. My point here is that it is very possible that any 2 people that choose a 1 to describe themselves, for instance, may actually have very unique and quite different sexual interests and histories. - something to keep in mind].


Measures and Materials

  • Movies were chosen as the sexual stimulus instead of erotic audio or pictures simply because movies tend to have a greater affect on arousal.
  • Past studies show that the biggest differences in arousal are found between male-male and female-female films. However, the researchers wondered if hetero people's issues (particularly in the U.S.) with the idea of homosexuality might affect the arousal level negatively (for instance - hetero males are expected, bases on past data, to be most aroused by female-female erotic movies, but if they have a strong distaste about homosexuality, that may not be true). So, male-female erotic movies were also included.
  • "The sexual stimuli consisted of six 2-min films with sound. Content varied by the sex of the actors (male or female) and the type of sexual activity depicted (oral or penetrative). Each participant saw films featuring female-female oral sex. female-female penetration (with a strap-on dildo), male-female cunnilingus, male-female penetration (penile-vaginal), male male fellatio, and male-male penetration (penile-anal). Thus, sex of actors and type of sexual activity were independent. Each participant viewed one of two exemplars from each stimulus category, with stimuli presented in random order. A neutral stimulus, depicting landscapes or fauna, was also included, to provide non-sexual comparison for genital and subjective responses to sexual stimuli. An 11-min adaption film (depicting sexually neutral scenes accompanied by relaxing music) was used to assess baseline arousal." 

ME: Okay, so a couple things
So, it seems every participant saw an oral and a penetrative scene each from M-M, M-F, and F-F scenes. Let me ask this - what's up with the lesbian scene with a strap on? Maybe it's just me, but that seems more like a male fantasy of lesbian sex than a lesbian fantasy of lesbian sex. Certainly some lesbians do some strap on stuff, but let's be honest -  neither the lady strapping on or the lady getting reamed are gonna orgasm from that without a reach-around.

Also, I'm wondering about specifics here. When the dude was getting rammed in the M-M movie, was he hard during it? getting a reach-around? or was he soft and taking it? Were the women getting rammed either by penis or by dildo vocalizing in annoying fake-gasms during it? Were any of them getting a reach-around?  Did the cunnilingus look at all like cunnilingus that might actually be pleasurable, or was it stupid - like dumb light licks that would tickle more than get a woman off or ramming the tongue in and out of the hole, which would also likely never get a woman off, or was the dude pulling the vulva apart and being too rough altogether in a cringe-worthy way?

I ask this stuff because frankly, all types of porn M-M, M-F, and F-F, tend to be focused on male pleasure - both visual pleasure as well as in relation to the physical things being done. Males in porn almost always actually physically orgasm in porn from the things that are physically done to them, and females (even in F-F porn) most often fake orgasms -which means that the stuff that is physically happening to them are not things that physically cause them to orgasm. Which means when males watch porn, the stuff they see relates to them in a very different way than it relates to females. We rarely acknowledge this, and they certainly don't acknowledge this possibility in this study. And for real, cunnilingus in porn OFTEN strikes me as somewhere between painful, bothersome, or completely inept - even in run of the mill F-F porn. It's all showy and more for dudes to enjoy than the actual actresses to enjoy. I wouldn't imagine that's the same for men watching fellatio.
Point is, the male-centric way porn is and the different ways that males and females must relate to it because of that male-centricness is not an issue to overlook in a study like this.

Psychophysiological Assessment and Subjective Arousal

  • Male physiological arousal was assessed with penile plethysmography. A mercury-in-rubber strain gauge was put around the penis to measure circumference changes as erection developed and changed.
  • Female (including the trans women) physiological arousal was assessed with a vaginal photoplethysmography placed up the vagina and measuring vaginal blood engorgement.
  • To assess the subjective arousal felt by the participants, a lever was used that moves 180 degrees where 0 is no arousal and 180 represented the subjective arousal associated with orgasm. The participants moved the lever while watching the movies to express their arousal level at any given time.
  • For all people the physiological sexual arousal measurements and the subject arousal lever movements were continually recorded throughout the experiment.
Procedure

  • Participants sat in a recliner with a tv 5 feet away in a dimly lit room. Previously, they were shown how to use the genital arousal gauge and they fitted it themselves.
  • "They watched the adaption film and then the experimental stimuli (sexual and neutral), separated by return-to-baseline intervals. Participants completed distraction tasks during interstimulus intervals and, after assessment of sexual arousal, completed questionnaires assessing their sexual orientation, sexual experience, masturbation frequency, and orgasmic capacity." So, the adaption film is the 11 minute neutral film, so clearly they started with that. Then, I'm not sure if this means they watched alternating erotic then neutral films during the experimental stimuli or if they watched the erotic films but separated them with time (and not necessarily watching the neutral movies). Either way, it seems they did distraction tasks and also somehow their arousal level was deemed back-to baseline (unaroused, I'd assume) before watching the next erotic movie.
  • I'm also assuming that 'after assessment of sexual arousal' meant after the arousal levels were assessed during the watching of the erotic stimulus movies...so, I assume the participants did the orientations, sexual experience, masturbation, and orgasm questionnaires after the whole movie watching experiment was done. But I'm not completely sure. Maybe it's just me but that paragraph isn't super clear..honestly this whole paper is not super clear.


Data Reductions

  • The score for each participant's subjective rating of their arousal was averaged separately for the time during which they were watching movies for each of the 3 stimuli; M-M, M-F, and F-F. The same was done for each subject's genital arousal scores.
  • "Mean scores were standardized within subject (i.e. ipsatized) because within-subject standardization appears to eliminate the effects of idiosyncratic variation in responsiveness (Harris, Rice, Quinsey, Chaplin, & Earls 1992)."
  • The 'male-female contrast' was calculated for each participant by subtracting their arousal score for F-F stimuli from their arousal score for M-M stimuli. This was done separately for subjective arousal and genital arousal.  A positive score indicates higher attraction to males, a negative score attraction to females. (*This is the score you'll see in figure 1 down there.)
  • Genital (that measurement of blood flow in the genitals) and subjective (the score based on how the participant rated their own arousal using a lever while watching the movies) arousal responses to females were each computed separately by subtracting the arousal responses during the neutral movies from the arousal responses for the F-F movies. The same was done for arousal to males using M-M movie arousal responses and for arousal to M-F stimulus using M-F movie arousal responses.
  • So, some people didn't show much of a genital arousal response, and the researchers decided to exclude the following 2 groups from the analysis. 1. those that had less than a "minimum difference of 0.5 standard deviations between maximum genital arousal to either male or female stimuli and to the neutral stimulus."  2. "men whose maximum response to either male or female stimuli did not exceed their response to the neutral stimulus by at least 2mm." So, basically those that didn't have much of a genital response to either M or F same-sex movies compared to their response to the non-erotic movies. The first one applies to both men and women and the 2nd criteria specifically relates to the raw measurements of how much the penis expanded.
  • That exclusion criteria eliminated 23 of the 69 males, 9 of the 52 females, and 0 of 11 the trans women
  • The researchers fully admit the difference in exclusion rate between men and women is quite significant, but say it's probably due to differences in sensitivity of the penile and vaginal instrumentation used in the experiment. They also say the approximate 1 in 3 exclusion rate for men is common for the type of penile measurements that is being done.
  • The researchers also basically said the exclusion of these (disproportionately male) people did not really make a difference in the study results by saying, "Inclusion of nonresponders did not substantially affect the significance or direction of results." [Me: I know they say it doesn't make a difference, but I still think it's interesting that 1/3 of the men studied just simply didn't show much of a reaction to the movies.]
Study 1: Results
Figure 1 shows the male-female contrast scores for genital arousal response (so - how much blood flow was happening in the genitals). As described above, the male-female contrast is calculated by subtracting each participant's arousal score for F-F stimuli from their arousal score for M-M stimuli. Positive score indicates higher attraction to males. Negative scores attraction to females.  A zero score means there was an equal amount of genital arousal to the M-M films and the F-F films. Clearly, for both females that prefer men (heterosexual) and women that prefer women (homosexual), there were more scores in the zero range than either the males or the trans women.


p739 from A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal.

  • "In general the relation between self reported preference and sexual arousal pattern was much weaker for women than for men or transsexuals, whose results were similar. For example all transexuals and nearly all men had stronger genital arousal to their preferred sex than to their non-preferred sex, but 37% of women did not."
  • "...the association between genital and subjective arousal was lower for women than for men." -  i.e. it was more common for women that their was a discrepancy between what they said they found arousing and the measurement of arousal (blood flow) in their genitals. For instance, they may have said they felt most aroused by the M-M movies, but genitally they weren't any more aroused than while watching the F-F movies. 
  • The researchers wondered if it might be the case that due to homophobia, heterosexual participants would respond more strongly to M-F movies than to the movies depicting homosexual activity of the opposite sex. However, hetero males as a group had the most genital arousal to the F-F movies, and hetero females as a group were slightly more genitally aroused by M-M movies, but much less significantly. However, hetero females did report a much higher subjective arousal to the M-F movies than the M-M movies. As a group, it was almost 3 times as high.


Study 2: Method
[Me: to begin with, I want to say that the data and methodology they described for this 2nd study was even more confusing to me than the first study. I may be dense (please read for yourself and see what you think), but to me there was a lot left unsaid, and I really had to spend, what I felt was way too much time reading between the lines and trying to figure out what the hell they were talking about. So, I want to preface this by saying I'm not nearly as certain that I'm doing this study justice as I normally am. That said, I'm going to generalize more because going through it point by point would be confusing and kind of ridiculous.]

There are previous studies that indicate women who volunteer for experiments that include genital testing, have a significantly different sexual history/profile than women who do not volunteer for these studies. The researchers worried that one might question whether the difference in sexual arousal profile they have seen in this study between females and males or trans women might have something to do with the type of females that volunteer for the study rather than females in general. To test whether this is true, they've created this 2nd study.

The idea was to get sexual histories (using a questionnaire) of females who would and would not volunteer for a study with genital testing. They did this by inviting 232 undergraduate women from psychology classes to an informal information session about Study 1. 104 actually attended. After the informational session, they had them fill out a sexual history questionnaire that included a question about whether they would be interested in participating in the study.

From this group of females, some of the heterosexual women that were interested were chosen to be part of Study 1 (the one described above), so a small portion of the hetero females in Study 1 were pulled from the people in this Study 2 instead of recruited out in the community. From there, the researchers did a couple things.

1. They compared the sexual histories of the women that did and did not want to participate, and there was in fact a difference in things like the average number of sex partners, interest in porn, masturbation frequency, orgasm during masturbation, etc. (Table 2 below). This matched what was seen in previous studies on the topic, but the researchers noted that just because there were these differences in experience didn't necessarily mean that those differences in past experience between the 2 groups would translate into different arousal patterns between those 2 groups - particularly different arousal patterns that would disrupt the conclusions made in Study 1.

p742 from A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal

2. So to find whether women that are uninterested in participating in this study, had they been included, would tend to have an arousal pattern that might disrupt the findings of Study 1,  the researches did some digging into the genital arousal data of the women from Study 2 that were included in Study 1 and correlated that data with their sexual history answers. From there they further correlated those genital arousal / sexual history correlations to the differences identified between the women in Study 1 that did and did not want to participate. [Me: this is were it gets really convoluted. Exactly how these were correlated and combined (not that I would get the statistical maneuvering, but it's not even there for those that would get it), and actual clarity that those were combined in that way are just not in here. I really had to read between lines, and the Table 3 (below) that gives the numbers related to this double correlation (I think) doesn't even have any kind of description or explanation.]

Study 2: Results
For Table 3 below, what I believe those numbers are, are the result of some type of correlation calculation to indicate how likely it is that among the women in Study 1 who were recruited from Study 2 (29 of them total), their arousal scores from each of the categories (M-M vs. N for example) were related to their answers to the Study 2 Questionnaire question on the left. As you can see, the 3 highest numbers down there are marked with * or ** that indicate a p value of less than .05 or .01. The general rule is that a p value of less than .05 means the correlation is a significant one.

Thus, the researchers found from their calculations that only the answers about frequency of orgasm during masturbation, in only 1 category of genital arousal and 2 categories of subjective arousal, would be related to arousal patterns. "Three significant correlations showed that higher frequency of orgasm during masturbation was associated with higher genital arousal to male-male stimuli, higher subjective arousal to female-female stimuli, and more subjective arousal to female-female relative to male-male stimuli. Thus there is no convincing evidence that volunteer bias led to a misleading picture of female sexual arousal patterns."  [me: They don't specifically say this, but I am assuming that the reason they conclude this is because the categories where there did seem to be a significant correlation do not work against the conclusion of the Study 1. For instance, they found that heterosexual women who orgasm more frequently during masturbation also are more likely to volunteer for a study like Study 1.. They also found those same women are more likely to have a stronger genital arousal to the M-M movies. So, knowing this, the researchers could assume that if more hetero females that were not interested in participating in this type of study were nonetheless included, they would tend to have a less strong genital arousal reaction to M-M movies, which would only reinforce the conclusions the researchers already reached in the study - that females don't necessarily have the strongest genital response to the movie exclusively depicting the gender they sexually prefer - the way men and trans women do.]

p742 from A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal


Discussion and Conclusion

  • "Our findings suggest that women have a nonspecific pattern of sexual arousal that is quite different from men's category specific pattern."
  • The researchers found that males and trans women who prefer men showed significantly stronger subjective and genital arousal to erotic movies depicting exclusively men and the opposite was true for males and trans women that prefer women. For both straight and lesbian females, this was not true. Both groups showed genital and subjective arousal responses only modestly related to their preferred sexual partner category.
  • They believe this could not be related to volunteer bias (the idea that women who don't want to participate in a study like this, if included, would skew the overall data differently), because of the conclusion they found from Study 2.
  • They also don't believe this difference could be due to the different ways the genital arousal was measured in males and female because trans women showed similar patterns to males even though they were measured the same way the females were. It is of note as well that trans women followed male patterns also in subjective arousal responses.
  • The researchers do not believe that although females seem to show arousal to all types of people, that this means they are not the sexual orientation they believe themselves to be. They note that despite female ability to be aroused widely, women do not participate in homosexual activity more than men.
  • "A self-identified heterosexual woman would be mistaken to question her sexual identity because she became aroused watching female-female erotica; most heterosexual women experience such arousal. A self-identified heterosexual man who experienced substantial arousal to male-male erotica, however, would be statistically justified in reconsidering his sexual identity." 
  • "Our results cannot directly address whether sex differences in category specificity of sexual arousal is innate or learned. Our findings that male-to-female transsexuals show a male typical pattern, however, helps to rule out some explanations. Women's non specific pattern might not be fully explained by their lack of visible genitalia because transsexuals show a category-specific pattern despite a similar lack." [me: besides there being a lot here to unpack about assumptions related to the physiological qualities of trans people and about how and when trans people develop sexual identities and patterns, there is also a simple note that although the post-operative trans women in this study do not currently have genitals where arousal is easily noted, they almost certainly did all through their adolescents when many sexual patterns may have been ingrained. How they related to their genitals compared to cis men and women might be a whole other story, but I think it's a bit disingenuous to use their current situation as evidence that lack of genital visibility isn't likely influential in arousal patterns.]
  • The researchers again note a possible limitation of their study - that using the "pure stimuli" of movies showing homosexual acts might be offensive or bothersome to some (homophobic) heterosexuals, and this may be a weakness of their study. They think another study that did not use homosexual acts, but instead maybe solo sexual acts might be useful.
  • They say a second limitation is assuming that participants weren't consciously controlling their genital arousal . They point out a study where some males were able to do that. However they think this is unlikely for a few reasons. They pointed to another study where males who had a strong reason to control their genital arousal (during penile arousal assessment for pedophilia) could not. They also note that studies have shown males can lessen their genital arousal response, but cannot increase it. So, "although heterosexual male participants might be motivated to suppress sexual arousal to male stimuli because homosexuality is stigmatized, gay men would not be similarly motivated to suppress arousal to female stimuli; yet gay men's arousal was also category specific."
  • The paper concludes with: "The sex difference reported here has important implications for future conceptualizations of women's sexuality. Sexual arousal, especially genital sexual arousal, likely plays a much smaller role in women's sexual orientation development than it does in men's. Female sexuality, in general, may be more motivated by extrinsic factors, such as desire to initiate or maintain a romantic relationship, than by intrinsic factors such as genital sexual arousal (Baumeister, Cantanese, Vohs 2001). This basic sex difference in the role of sexual arousal processes highlights the need to use distinct models when investigating the development and expression of female and male sexuality." [me: or, and hear me out, the differences identified in this study may be an indication of how very different sexual culture, sexual experiences, and sexual imagery are for females than they are for males. This may an indication that what we think of as the common sexual experience is really the male sexual experience and what we understand to be common sexual imagery is actually deeply male-centric sexual imagery]

Some of my own thoughts
I appreciate any study that shines a light on the realities of how sexual things tend to work in people. I think there are useful things to be gleaned from this. Ladies (and really all people because there were people in the other categories that didn't perfectly align either - just less of them), just because your genitals are getting all swollen and wet in a situation doesn't necessarily mean you're actually interested in being part of something or that you are/should be mentally excited about it. Same if you feel mentally aroused, but your genitals are dry as a bone. It doesn't mean you don't want to be a part of something. Those 2 things may not always match up. That's the reality, and it doesn't mean you're broken. They are merely clues to pay attention to and help inform your decisions.

I also think it's useful to know that in the situation set up in this study, the participants reacted the way they did. I believe that knowledge could be the start of some digging that brings about even more interesting knowledge. What worries me though is both the specifically expressed and the underlying assumptions about why the results turned up like they did. What I see in this study is the researchers making a conclusion about how females, by their very nature, experience and express our arousal and sexuality. Even though the researchers specifically point out they can't say for sure if it's innate or learned, I feel that the tone of the article leans to innate, and this study is often used as evidence of the innate male-female differences in arousal pattern. However, I think one has to overlook a lot of cultural shit and a lot of realities of human sexuality to assume in any way that this study could be a look into the innate nature of female sexuality. And, I think it's a little bonkers to assume that this experimental design puts males and females on any kind of level playing field for sensible comparisons to be made.

I have a lot of reasons why I think this absolutely does not give a fair, even handed assessment of males vs. females. It is not a level study design even though on the surface, it may seems to be. For your reading enjoyment, below is a list of things off the top of my head that I believe affect and likely skew the outcome of this study. I completely understand that it's hard in a study to control for all the things in our world that affect the human experience. However, I think that these are large variables, yet weren't even considered in the experimental design and weren't discussed as possible limitations to the study. That, I can only assume, means the researchers either didn't consider them or didn't consider them important enough to discuss. Which in turn, I believe, means the researchers think this study was much more objective than it actually is, and that's a problem.

1 Sexual Experience Differences
Orgasm, people. Females orgasm in couple situations so much less than males. The female relationship to sexual activity is deeply different from the male relationship for this fact alone. I won't go into details because it's a lot and I already have tons of posts in this blog that describe how and why women don't orgasm during sexual activity even though our bodies are no less capable than men's (for instance: stimulation inside the vagina as one might get from intercourse is not stimulation that causes orgasm in females; all of media seems to insinuate it is, though, and that women should orgasm from getting banged; sex ed sucks and the clit is ignored, etc.). But the point is, to males sexual activity=orgasm and that's not true for female.

Consider a female and a male that have about the same amount of sexual activity in their lives, but realistically the male will come about 90% -100% of the time, and the female may only comes 30-70% of the time (if at all). In this case (which is not an uncommon case), sex itself is a different thing to each of those people with different expectations and associated feelings. Would it be crazy to assume that the male in that situation be more quickly and strongly aroused by things related to the sex they've had in their life, since those things seem to always lead to orgasm? Would it be crazy to assume that the female in that situation has much more complicated reactions to things related to the sex they've had - a mix of arousal, boredom, frustration, obligation - maybe it's more associated with love/romance/relationship than to eroticism and arousal - given that sexual activity doesn't always mean orgasm for her?

2 Porn, man. 
Different groups of people have very different histories, experiences, and baggage related to porn, and I'm not saying that in the 'individuals have individual experiences' kind of way. I'm saying that in the 'porn as a whole is acutely focused on male desire, orgasm, and fantasy, yet we largely ignore that and naively expect other people to glean the same experiences and feelings from it - which is utterly insane' kind of way.

The researchers in this study clearly don't get this because they don't acknowledge that this could be a limitation of their study. Also, there is no detailed descriptions of what the porn they show is like (what the people looks like, the intensity level, how it's shot-angles/close-ups, the sound and film quality, are there reach-arounds during the penetration scenes?). They only mention what type of sex act and whether the actors are male or female. There is not even a mention that the researchers took into consideration those details.

 Let me just list out some elements of porn (and I mean mainstream porn that you might easily find on any videotape or streaming site) that cause it to be such a different experience for females vs. males. I honestly don't know how to contextualize these things I'm saying for the trans experience, but they certainly are a part of it, and I'll leave it to people who know that experience better to pick through.

  • Females generally don't orgasm in porn. They moan and scream and fake a lot, but they barely come ever. Males, whether gay or straight, come almost 100% of the time. Imagine the difference in watching something where the people like you are having sexual things done to them that literally don't lead to orgasm. Whether you watch it and see the faking as faking or you assume it to be real and try to fit that incorrect depiction into your own expectations and experience - either way you have a very different relationship to it than people who watch it and see things happening to people like them that lead quite specifically to orgasm. Also just consider what males glean from porn about female sexuality and females about males sexuality...and how deeply seated and complicated those understandings are.
  • Mainstream porn (both gay and straight) is by and large focused on the needs and wants of the male viewer. Note the orgasm situation discussed above, but also it's how the people are positioned and how they look, and how they interact, what angles the camera gets. It's a little strange to me that the researchers didn't consider that there is a difference in porn depending on what kind of viewer it's focused toward. However, they probably didn't think about that because as a society, we don't think of it. Hetero porn is touted as porn that's made for both hetero males and females, but it's not. It's largely made for the male viewer, and it's rarely admitted. I really think it's incredibly naive and blind to assume that hetero porn made specifically for the male viewer would be as arousing to the female. Equally, why would gay porn made for males be as arousing as gay porn made for hetero females or lesbian porn made for the male viewer be as arousing for the lesbian? That the researchers had no worries that the very same male-male film might get a different reaction from gay men as it did from straight women, reveals a significant blind spot in the experimental design. 
  • Porn is, let's be honest, sometimes incredibly gross, boring or painful for the female actors in a way it is not for the male actors. Even if the porn clips in this study were not that way, it is very likely that at least some of the previous porn the participants have seen was this way at least some of the time.  Like, there is not an insignificant amount of mainstream (we're not talking BDSM or niche porn - just basic hardcore) where a woman gets slapped; on her face, her ass so hard she gets red welts, her pussy. Also, ladies often get loads blown in a pretty distasteful way on them. Often, the cunnilingus they get looks silly and not like it would work for orgasm at all (and it doesn't, so..). The way dudes touch the pussy is often cringy too - like way too rough or pulling it in weird ways.  And, sometimes (often?) the fucking looks really painful - like she's making noise and squirming, but any woman that has had a dick hit her cervix knows it's really just her dealing with the pounding until it's done. Even if the female participants use and enjoy porn - even if they like porn like I just described, it's still part of the baggage they carry in their minds about porn that men largely don't, and it very likely has some kind of differing effect on how their mind and body reacts to porn or the idea of porn..
  • Can we remind ourselves that the researchers chose a sex act that would lead to neither females orgasming for one of the F-F clips? Two women fucking with a strap-on. Like, why? I mean, I know that this is a thing some lesbian couples dabble in, but unless there was also a bunch of clit stimulation included (and the researchers certainly didn't mention a reach-around was involved), it's just a really strange mimic of something dudes like to do with women because it makes their dicks come, but is kinda useless for the ladies involved (almost like it's a show for male hetero dudes, huh?). It's a little weird and male-centric a thing to have in this study. 

3 Body Image
I don't know exactly how this might affect the outcome of this study, but there is truly a difference in how female vs. male bodies are depicted in our world. Female bodies, even very young female bodies are made to look sexy. The camera looks at them with angles the emphasize the ass and boobs. Clothes, even professional and casual clothes show much more skin than male clothes tend to. Females in general put more effort into looking sexually attractive, with make-up and hair styling and shaping underclothes. Female nudity in movies tends toward sexiness and male nudity tends toward comedy. I imagine for both males and females, sexual/nude images of males have a very different connotation than sexual/nude images of males, and on top of that those images affect both how we see our potential partners and how we imagine and understand ourselves. The way those things interact differently for different genders and different sexual preferences is complicated, but something to consider when using sexual imagery to compare these different people.

In Conclusion, Ya'll
I mean, I think using body and mind reactions to porn as a way to get an equal comparison of males vs. females is like using reactions to movie scenes of murder to compare horror directors and war survivors equally. I'm not trying to make a 1:1 comparison between males/females and horror directors/war survivors. I just want to point out that males and females are 2 groups that have very different perspective on sex. Even if it's not something that is discussed or even recognized in society, it doesn't make it any less true. It's naive to use moving images of sex and assume reactions from males and females can be compared 1:1. The results will be skewed - and that's without even considering how complicated a thing like sexuality is on an individual level.

5.09.2020

She Devil - The SSL Review




She Devil
Did I love Roseanne as a kid? Yes, at one time in my life my mom and dad were, respectively, a bartender and a motorcycle mechanic just like Rosanne and Dan at one point in the show. Their life seemed a lot like my life; midwest, the food they ate, their friends seemed like the type of people my parents were friends with, my older sister as a teenager and my parents fought in similar ways as Roseanne and Dan fought with their oldest, Becky. They talked to each other and to their kids a lot like my family did. The difference was they had a 2 story house, and at the time, I kinda felt like people in 2 story houses were rich, and that seemed like a mistep in the show to me, and also they loved sports, and my family just didn't really ever watch sports except for the Olympics (we watched every bit of that we could) and also basketball when the Pacers were in the playoffs, which they did a few times in the 90's. And, they had a younger son DJ (and eventually another baby named Jerry after Jerry Garcia when the show started going off the rails), but me and my best friend Leslie used to say she was DJ, I was Darlene, and my sister was Becky - so we made that fit too.

I haven't seen the new Rosanne, and I'm aware Rosanne herself has gone off the rails, but I will admit I do have a special place in my heart for her and for that show; Rosanne as a woman who at one point in her life made work that gave visibility into a particular aspect of female working class midwest life. It was and still is underrepresented. I have a strong appreciation for art creators who, even if they just do it well once or twice, take their authentic experience, one that doesn't already have a strong history of exposure, and force it out in front of us so that we all may get a larger perspective of the world.

I wrote all that just because I wanted to write about that show. This post, however, is not about that show but about a movie Rosanne was in at about the same time, She Devil. I saw this movie, I'm assuming on a video we rented from Marsh Supermarket down the street when I was about 9 or 10. Just as a fun fact, the first video we ever rented and watched when we got a VCR was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.



Anyway She Devil stars Rosanne Barr, Ed Begley Jr., and Meryl Streep. I just watched it again a couple months ago, and ya know it still held up for me. It's a weird, cooky, black comedy that has some maybe not completely on-point, but era-appropriate feminist values in it. Not a bad watch. It was also directed by a woman (written by men though). However, does it hold up for SSL Review? No. It's getting a low Vulva Rating unfortunately.

SSL Review
An SSL Review, for those that need a little refresher, is a review specifically of any discussion or depiction of female orgasm, female masturbation, cunnilingus, or the clit. I critique the realism of the depiction/discussion and also write about what the depiction/discussion says about and/or adds to our cultural understanding of female sexuality and orgasm. I try my best to just stick specifically to those SSL Reviewable moments, so it usually stays pretty focused on those parts of the movie only, but sometimes I like to digress.

So here we go. I have tons of these reviews btw. You can find all the other movie SSL Reviews HERE and the TV SSL Reviews HERE.

The Scene - Rolling In A Pink Circle  Pleasure Bed
I don't think I'm ruining anything to say that Mary (Meryl Streep) and Bob (Ed Begley Jr.) fuck. It's in the trailer - even a piece of this sex scene is in the trailer. So, they do. There's a couple scenes of them getting it on, but this is the only one that also includes the 'big finish' if you will. The others are just a quick cut of them in it or they get interrupted or something like that.




Mary's this perfectly coiffed Romance Novelists with a beautiful pastel manor. Her bedroom is a sweeping, draped, pillared space with crystal lamps and french doors. The bed is upon a platform, large, pink and circular. Mary and Bob begin at one side, their heads toward the foot of the bed. They are missionary, wrapped fully in the sheet. They roll, arms wrapped around each other, with some gentle sex vocalizations all the way across to the other side of the bed, he's on top again when they arrive. They kiss in that position for a couple seconds, and then roll back across until they are again in missionary, him on top. She gives some grunty, staccato 'uhs' as they do this. They then begin to kind of push and crawl themselves further toward the middle and foot of the bed as they both are making their final sexual vocalizations. As they are doing this, she moves one knee up so she's almost but not quite hooking her leg over his back. At that point she makes a final 'aahhh' like she just came. Immediately he kind of grabs her arms and raises them over her head and he does his final 'ooohhh' like he just came. He then collapses on her and they bathe in their sexual pleasure for a few seconds. He looks down at his watch and then starts backing down her body inside the sheet they were wrapped in. She playfully and a little excitedly, says, "oh, what are you doing?" But he's not going down on her, he's just getting out of bed to hurry back home, and she's a bit bothered.

My SSL Assessment: Basic Sex, Basic Fake
An overview assessment of this scene, and what I think was the intention and what most people would take from it, is that these two were having romantic, wild, passionate sex, and they both came basically simultaneously.

My assessment is that they were having quite active, but very basic intercourse, and Bob came just after Mary faked it.

Here's the deal. No hands were ever near Mary's vulva, so she definitely wasn't getting manual stimulation to her vulva/clit area while they fucked. Yes, they were quite pressed against each other during the whole thing, so it is very slightly possible that her vulva/clit area might have been getting enough stimulation from his pelvis pressed against it for her to come, but there was no grinding from her or pelvis movement that might have seems like she was trying to rub off on him. So, although I've seen much worse simultaneous intercourse orgasm scene where the 2 were positioned clearly so there was nothing touching the clit/vulva area, I still don't think this scene seems realistic. Even if I'd like to believe that was the intention from the actors and director, the truth is that one wouldn't expect any viewer to get anything from that scene except 'ladies can come from a passionate fuck' i.e. 'dicks in vaginas make ladies come.' There is nothing in this scene that indicates anything more than a good fuck made this woman come.

That makes it unrealistic, because as you know if you read this blog, stimulation on the inside the vagina should never be expected to make a woman orgasm given that it has never been physically shown to do so in all of scientific literature. Seriously, women need outer clitoral/vulva stimulation to orgasm as much as men need penile stimulation.

The Vulva Rating
I mean, this scene is just one on top of a pile of millions depicting a woman orgasming from nothing more than a dick moving around in her vagina. While it's clear to any rational viewer in all those scenes that the dick needs stimulation, the organ of female pleasure, the clit, is just plain ignored for the easier, more convenient idea that women should be able to orgasm from vaginal stimulation during the same sexual act that make men come. This scene and all the many, many like it (the majority by far of all depictions of lady-gasms - I don't have the statistics, but I'm willing to put money on that) all reinforces in all our minds the very incorrect notion that ladies will come when you fuck them. this idea is deep in us all from all the things we've heard and learned and watched in our lives, and this passionate tryst just helps to keep that idea alive and well a little longer.

Although this scene was unrealistic and strengthened the hold of incorrect ideas about how women are supposed to orgasm, it didn't do anything other than depict commonly accepted notions of that time (and of this time) - dumb as they may be. It didn't depict anything that really took understanding about lady-gasm backwards, so it won't get the worst rating, but it didn't help either, so it won't get a good rating. Also, I'm giving a tiny upward edge tto the rating because I liked how excited Mary got when she thought Bob was going to go down on her after they just fucked.

I give She Devil a 2 vulva rating
(!)(!)


5.02.2020

Ejaculation Associated With Bladder Muscle Overactivity? - A Journal Article I Read



Well, my friends, 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.

Do women with female ejaculation have detrusor overactivity? Cartwright R1, Elvy S, Cardozo L. J Sex Med. 2007 Nov;4(6):1655-8.

My Quick Summary
In order to identify if bladder abnormalities (specifically problems with bladder control) tend to exist in women that claim to ejaculate during intercourse and/or orgasm, the researchers (who have a urogynecology practice) investigated 6 women that claimed to ejaculate and 6 women who claimed to have never ejaculated. They had them fill out a 3-day journal of their peeing situations, and they also did a test where they filled their bladder up and checked to see if they could hold it while doing things like coughing. What they found was that none of these 12 women had issues with bladder control. Although in their practice they have identified some women who they believe misidentified their bladder control problems during sexual activity with ejaculation, this study showed that not all women that claim ejaculation also have bladder problems. They conclude that if women have liquid release during orgasm or intercourse but do not also exhibit other symptoms of bladder control problems, then there need to be no more medical investigation, and these women should be assured that their release is not a problem.

I think this is a really simple, thoughtful, generally well-done study. Although it's quite small and specific, I believe it adds 1 tiny drop into the already quite small pool of knowledge that can be used to help piece together an understanding of sexual fluid expulsion. I also appreciate that this study does not seem to push any agendas and doesn't carelessly confuse ejaculation with orgasm - because they are not physiologically the same thing.

Introduction

  • "Questionnaire surveys have suggested that 40% to 54% of women have at some time experienced an expulsion of fluid at orgasm [1,2]." There have also been references to female ejaculation throughout history and in more recent discussions by Dr. Graffenburd in the 50's and Beverly Whipple in the 80's who "reported that a minority of women passed small volumes of fluid during heightened sexual arousal or at orgasm."
  • "Although it is anatomically and physiologically plausible that small volumes of fluid might be expelled from the para-urethral Skene's duct, some sources imply that it is a normal part of female sexuality to discharge large volumes of fluid at orgasm." [Me: "Skene's gland is said to be the female prostate since it is the embryological, yet less developed, equivalent to the male prostate. It wraps around the urethra and can sometimes be felt through the vaginal wall towards the front of the body in the area that is most commonly called the G-spot (although G-spot is also used as a catch-all phrase to describe an imaginary button that causes vaginal orgasms).]
  • The authors go on to describe how now there 'ejaculation gurus' that try and teach women to ejaculate and porn that shows large volumes of fluid expulsion. "The most anatomically and physiologically plausible explanation is that such fluid is emitted from the bladder."
  • Maybe partially because of those misleading depictions in porn and the like, it remains controversial what the liquid at ejaculation is - urine, prostate fluid, vaginal secretions, a mixture of the two?
  • There are some past studies, but many of them have small sample sized and some are not peer reviewed.
  • Some studies showed higher levels of prostate enzymes than would be expected in urine
  • One study catheterized 7 women who claimed to regularly experience ejaculation. For all of the women, "large volumes of fluid were passed down the urethral catheter, with the timing of fluid expulsion corresponding with the peak of orgasm." [Me: So, in other words in this study there seemed to be liquid coming from the bladder during sexual arousal even though the bladder had been emptied beforehand].
  • In the author's urogynocological practice, they often treat women with bladder control issues. A previous study has indicated that orgasm can cause a detrusor (muscle on wall of bladder) contraction that can cause leakage, and women who complain of leakage at orgasm have a high prevalence of detrusor overactivity. However, symptoms of detrusor overactivity do not only include leakage at orgasm or intercourse, but also other bothersome things like urinary urgency and frequency.
  • The authors, as female ejaculation has become more commonly known, have treated women with a proven detrusor overactivity diagnosis who rationalized the leakage at orgasm as ejaculation. So from this anecdotal evidence, they wanted to see if they would find a connection between ejaculation and detrusor overactivity - and particularly wanted to see if women that self identified as ejaculating also showed this bladder condition. This was not meant to stigmatize but to help counsel women who presented leakage at orgasm and also to maybe better understand the physiology of ejaculation.


Subjects and Method

  • 6 participants that self-identified as having experienced female ejaculation and 6 that had not were recruited from the researcher's institution staff. They were between 27 and 41 and having given birth between 0 and 3 times.
  • They were given a short survey asking about frequency and conditions of ejaculation. All 6 of the 'ejaculating' women said they ejaculated either "often" or "sometimes" and did so either during masturbation or intercourse.
  • "Each women completed a 3-day bladder diary, documenting the volume and timing of urinary void."
  • Each woman also completed 2 short validated bladder questionnaires; one asking about perception of desire to void and the other asking about bother associated with lower urinary tract symptoms.
  • Each woman also underwent 'short provocative ambulatory urodynamics." This is basically a test for detrusor over-activity where a catheter is placed up the urethra and anus, and the bladder is fully filled for about 30 minutes while the participant is asked to do things like coughing and heel bouncing while holding their pee.
  • Data was analyzed by a blind 3rd party. There was no difference between the groups and so no extra statistical analysis was performed.


Results

  • There was no indication of detrusor over-activity in either group and the bladder-diaries showed no significant difference between groups.
  • There was no significant difference between the scores on the validated bladder questionnaires about desire to void. "Almost all the women agreed with the statement, 'I am usually able to finish what I am doing before going to the toilet.'"
  • The scores for the validated bladder questionnaires about bother associated with lower urinary tract symptoms were "marginally higher (more impairment) in the female ejaculation group." This was due to 2 women in that group who had given birth that "reported occasional bothersome stress incontinence."


Discussion

  • "This study does not exclude the possibility that female ejaculate is coming from the bladder. It does however, demonstrate that women who report female ejaculation do not necessarily have the associated symptoms or pathophysiology of women who complain of coital incontinence."
  • This research did not replicate the "symptoms" of an ejaculation. The women were not sexually aroused, so there is still a possibility that for the ejaculating women there is uninhibited detrusor (muscle of bladder wall) contractions at orgasm. A future study in this vein, but with women during sexual arousal and orgasm would be useful and informative.
  • Like most female ejaculation studies, this sample size was small, and it is possible there was bias in that women who had incontinence issues may not have volunteered for the study.
  • The researchers also wonder if there could be bias because the ejaculating women in this study did not necessarily experience it frequently. Other past studies have used women that were able to ejaculate at most episodes of intercourse or masturbation.


Conclusions
"Based on our findings, we would recommend that women who report female ejaculation, in the absence of other bothersome lower urinary tract symptoms, do not require further investigation. They should be assured that this is an uncommon, but physiological phenomenon."

4.24.2020

Future Man - The SSL Review



Future Man
I watch a lot of TV and movies. That's just a fact. I started watching a show called Future Man last night. We really just chose it because in the trailer they say some things in it that makes it sound like the plot of the The Last Starfighter which is a 1984 movie that I just happen to see for the first time last week. Charlie has seen it many times given his oldest brother loved it when they were kids. I wouldn't say it's a good movie, but it's also not bad, and I also quite enjoyed it. Anyway, it was really just curiosity. I'm diggin' the comedic value of ol' Future Man, though. It pulled us in. We're only on Ep 3, but we'll keep on with it.



Funny thing, though. It had an SSL Reviewable moment in the 3rd episode - it's not going to be rated high, I'm sorry to say, but I did think it was a particularly telling scene which makes it kinda interesting to write about it.

SSL Review Refresher
As you know, only depiction or discussion of female orgasm and/or female masturbation and/or the clit are eligible for SSL Review. Nothing else counts, including plain 'ol sex if it doesn't include anything listed above. I specifically critique the realism (for instance, were the physical things happening to that women while she orgasmed things that could realistically cause orgasm for a woman?) and also speak on what the depiction/discussion reflects from and adds to the larger cultural discussion around lady-gasms and female sexuality.

You can see all the SSL TV Reviews HERE (and as always you can find all the movie SSL Reviews HERE).

The Scene S1 Ep3: standing, cross-armed, and from behind
So, I don't think I'll ruin anything for prospective viewers if I set the scene a little to help ya'll understand what this is all about. Okay, so there is a character, Josh, who is just a normal 2017 dude. Then there are 2 very intense, murderous characters from the future - a future of severe deprivation and war. Their names are Tiger (a female) and Wolf (a male).

Josh has just met and had a short adventure with these two. It's abundantly clear these two are of a different place and time and have a very different sensibility. He leaves the room they are in and when he comes back in, they are fucking. He's weirded out, but they are not.

Tiger is standing up. Her pants are around her mid thighs. Otherwise she is fully dressed and her shirt is hanging past her hips so you don't see any private part areas. Her arms are tightly crossed in front of her. Wolf is behind her. His pants are also down around his mid thighs. He too is otherwise fully dressed. His hands are gripping each of her upper arms, and he uses that grip to kind of pull her around and into him as he pumps, but she's also pumping back. She's not passive in this. It's all kind of comic, though. Their body alignment and angle doesn't quite make sense for vaginal intercourse, and they are aggressively grunting as they push against each other. In fact, it's best described as a cooperative aggressive encounter rather than anything that seems sensual or even sexual.

So, Josh walks in the room and finds them fucking and then turns and tries to like get out of there or not see what is happening or something, but Tiger and Wolf aren't bothered. During the below conversation they are still aggressively, yet somehow casually banging. Tiger has not unfolded her arms. They also occasionally look at each other in, I don't know, aggressive annoyance a few times and jerk their bodies accordingly.
Josh: Jesus Fucking Christ!
Tiger: Hey, where ya going?
Josh: Do you guys want some privacy?
Tiger: We're just chargin' up.
Josh: This is just something that people typically do in private.
Wolf: Why?
Josh:  Because you do it with someone who means something to you.
At this point they pause for a second and then laugh heartily until Tiger gets back to their previous demeanor and barks at Wolf.
Tiger: Don't stop.
They go back to exactly what they were doing before, and Josh turns away from them and continues to talk about the plot stuff he came in there to originally talk about.
The two then move sideways to a chair. They sit back in it, with Tiger kind of sitting face forward on Wolf's lap and bouncing up and down. They stay genitally connected and aggressive in their pumping as they make this change. Tiger's arms moved from crossed to supporting herself on either side of the chair. Wolf's hands are still grabbing Tiger's upper arms.
Josh:  (turning back to them in frustration) Can you please stop. Please!?
Wolf: I can't. I'm not fully charged yet.
Josh: Charged for what?
Tiger: It's standard operating procedure to release tension - (then looking back at Wolf) two micrometers to down to the left! 
Wolf kinda pulls on her right arm and shift his body and then continues pumping/bouncing as they were.
Tiger:  Nice work soldier! (btw - Tiger is Wolf's commanding officer) Fully charged in 3, 2, 1. 
She said that last line loud and intensely, but the next lines her and Wolf scream simultaneously - less sexually and more just aggressively.
Tiger: Yeeeeaaahhh! Fuck yeah, soldier! That is how you perform! Yes - fuck yes! Ahhhhh!
Wolf: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Fuuuuuucccckkkkkk! Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!
Then they both get up and put on their clothes.
Tiger: Alright. Tension released. Ready to kill.

My SSL Assessment: great idea, incorrect execution, shitty sexual culture
On the surface, I like this scene.
I like the intention I think I see behind it. Clearly this was meant for comedy first and foremost - a way to add humor to an otherwise dry discussion about important plot points. I mean, it's weird that it's standard operating procedure for these soldiers. It's weird how aggressive they are. They also seem kind of alien and rough - and it's a little surprising they would be fucking, so the whole situation works for comedy. But, I also think it is meant to secondarily convey things about them and their culture. The practicality, pragmatism, and lack of sentimentality in their practice of releasing tension through orgasm (i.e. "fully charging") before battle is clear and abundant. I think it also conveys something about gender and also their relationship. She is his commanding officer. She is bad ass. The other future soldiers we saw were about 50/50 ladies and gentlemen and all seemed equally murderous and capable. It seems like in a world where only survival matters, discriminating against people based on gender is silly and useless. Tiger and Wolf's sexual encounter, I think, was meant to reflect that. It may have also been meant to reflect their ability to work together cooperatively and respectfully. When she tells him a specific and very small direction and amount (2 micrometers) to move, he does it right away, and it doesn't just seem like it's because she's his boss. It's that they are both working together to fully charge, and by god, they get it done. She reflects that in her orgasm screams of "Fuck yeah, soldier! That is how you perform!" They do the damn thing.

I mean, I love the idea of this scene. I love imagining a future in which a sexual encounter would be so utilitarian and cooperative, where two people could just work together to help each other "fully charge" right out in the open, and it doesn't get bogged down with weird sideways sentimentality. It's like 2 people helping each other put on sunscreen. It's actually quite a sweet look into these 2 characters' world, and I think it says something for the intention in this show about how they expect that females are treated in this future - as equally psychotic killing machines. Females, it seems, are also equally desiring of being "fully charged" and are meant to be depicted as living in a world where they have equal access to it. I mean, again, I love that idea.


Big problem though. 
Our current world is so fucked up, bat-shit crazy backwards about female sexuality and specifically female orgasm - that the physical stimulation depicted as causing orgasm for this female is a type of physical stimulation that should never be expected to bring an actual human female to orgasm. It's like doing this scene but instead of Wolf rubbing his dick inside Tiger, he is just rubbing his butt against her - nothing touching his dick area at all...and he's depicted as orgasming from that without any irony - like nothing at all is weird about that. And to top it off the audience doesn't think anything of it either - even though it is objectively ridiculous to assume he would orgasm from that kind of physical stimulation.

Now, I fully realize that what I just said probably seems waaaaay more ridiculous to you than the scene I'm comparing it to where a woman comes from nothing more than a dick moving in and out of her vagina, but the scene in this show only seems less ridiculous. It is not actually less ridiculous.  In the reality of how bodies and orgasms work, they are quite similar in their ridiculousness.

Here's the deal. Tiger had zero stimulation to her clit. Neither her hands nor his were anywhere near touching it. He was behind her, so there's no chance she might have been rubbing her clit/vulva area against his body, and she was standing in the middle of the room, so she wasn't grinding it against bedding or a wall or whatever. When she asked him to adjust by 2 micrometers to the left, it was clearly related to how his dick was angling into her or something and gave the impression that those 2 micrometers changed something about how his dick was stimulating the inside of her vagina...and that change in stimulation was what got her to "fully charge." Point is that the clit was obviously and intentionally all alone. It had nothing to do with this sex act, yet - and here's the kicker,  stimulating the clitoral glans/vulva area is as important to female orgasm as penile stimulation is to male orgasm - which, we can all agree is rather important.

I'm not lying to you
Listen, I know there's a lot of talk these days about how the inner part of the clit can supposedly get stimulated to orgasm through the vagina. That line of thought has very recently kind of eclipsed the previous decades of talking about the ability of the g-spot to be stimulated to orgasm, which kind of eclipsed the previous centuries of people just assuming the inside of the vagina itself caused orgasm from dick stimulation. Here's the big open secret, though. Those are all bullshit theories used to explain the cause of a thing our culture desperately wants to exists, but doesn't actually seem to - the vaginal orgasm (an orgasm caused by stimulation inside the vagina with no additional external clitoral stimulation).

You'd think that with all the talk of them and depictions of them and scientific research into them that 'vaginal orgasms' would have been physically observed somewhere in scientific literature. They have not. Ever. They don't seem to actually exist. There is no actual description of what a vaginal orgasm physically is (again, because it's not been observed - but not for lack of scientific interest or investigation) and even if they did exists, none of the scientists researching them (i.e. desperately trying to validate our obsession with the idea of them) seem to agree on what might, maybe be the possible cause of them - Is it the 'inner clitoris'? The 'G-spot'? A thick area of tissue between the vagina and urethra? The cervix? The vaginal barrel itself? Even though researchers often speak as if they do, none of them have any physical proof for any of these causes - probably because, and I'm just spitballing here, it's hard to find a sensible cause for something that doesn't exist. Anyway, I could go on, and oh I do. I literally made a movie about this and also made this whole fucking blog site with hundreds of long-form essays relating to this, but I'll digress. If you are actually interested, or don't believe me that vaginal orgasm is some made up shit (because you've heard science has proved it or you/your lady-partner/your bff/a celebrity you follow swears by vaginal orgasm - seriously, there's tons of reasons you might assume I'm blowing smoke up your ass) then may I gently suggest you start with THIS BLOG POST and then maybe THIS ONE and THIS ONE (it's not short), and then if you're still interested, allow me to kiss your face. If at this point you still think I'm an idiot, I still want to kiss your face for reading all that, and I would like you to write me directly with your discontent. Seriously. I have contact info in this blog. Either way, you are on your way to the Orgasm Equality Revolution, and I love it.

Okay, so all that to say it's deeply telling that this scene would exist unquestioned in pop-media as a depiction of a male and female engaging in a sexual act that ends in simultaneous orgasm. 

Maybe I mean deeply disturbing not deeply telling.

Honestly, I don't even know quite how to express what I'm feeling about this - even though I feel it all the time.

There's a complete and utter feeling of absurdity to me - of showing a woman orgasming under such clearly unorgasmic physical circumstances. Critiquing these kinds of scenes is like all I think about all the time, and it immediately reads as utterly false.

But at the same time, it also feels completely common and unstrange given that I've seen that very depiction my whole life in every type of media and in a variety of different versions.  It is what we (including me even after over a decade of activism focused on how ridiculous and incorrect that very type of depiction is) tend to imagine when we think of sex. I still fantasize about and masturbate to scenes like that even though I know they would be unorgasmic to me. There is an idealized loveliness to the ease of attaining the pleasure of orgasm for both parties merely by a pure fuck. It feels like how it should be...even though it clearly is not.

Even if you don't believe what I discussed above about vaginal orgasm being a crock of shit, it is undeniable that only a minority of women (around 30%)* have ever even claimed to experience it. That is not even really controversial. That in and of itself should give us all pause regarding how lady-gasms are depicted vs. reality. What that does to women's understanding of our own sexual bodies and sexual experiences and how that might affect how we perform our sexuality is a whole other bag of worms, but something you might want to roll around in your brain.

Then there is the fact that I have devoted almost 20 years of my free time to thinking and writing about lady-gasms from this perspective, so I know, really know, that most people don't think about female orgasm in our culture the way I do, and there is barely a reason that anyone would or should. What I said above about vaginal orgasm is not just controversial - that would indicate that there is like a lot of back and forth about it, and there is not. Not really. Yeah you might hear from time to time about "is the vaginal orgasm real?,"  but it is intensely lopsided and even voices leaning towards the 'vaginal orgasm is bunk' side, even the most progressive sexperts and activists still leave room for the idea that some women do have vaginal orgasm...or that yeah females need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, but you can get that through the vagina too. They, either intentionally or through ignorance, ignore that there is no physical evidence to back that up or that there is no specific physical description of what a vaginal orgasm is or how it might happen - even with decades of research into that most precious of sexual goals. The best our culture does on this is admit that most women don't have vaginal orgasms, but to say that vaginal orgasms don't exists is so foreign it almost doesn't even register as a point of view.

My point here is that mine is not an argument most people have given much thought to and don't at first (or second or third) glance see as important. I sound like I'm overreacting, maybe a bit of a know-it-all bitch, and anytime I talk about this stuff I have to also present a bunch (probably too much for anyone to want to pay attention) of evidence to back-up what I'm saying because there's no shorthand for expressing the simultaneous ridiculous and also extremely normal situation of a scene like the one we're discussing here. If there were a shorthand for this, we probably wouldn't even need to be having this discussion now.

So because of all that, this aforementioned scene and the fact that it exists and is uncontroversial is both a great indication of what our culture really understands about how female orgasm works and also a clear and disappointing indication of how deep-seated and incorrect that understanding actually is.

The Vulva Rating
But, it's like, I can't really blame the creators of this scene for having intentions of sexual equity (that I believe they had), yet ridiculously showing a female orgasming from physical stimulation that should never be expected to make a female orgasm. I can't blame them because believing women can orgasm from a dick rubbing inside their vagina is an idea so deeply ingrained in our cultural conscious that I almost can't expect them or anyone else to know better.

Yet, the scene is what it is. It's a completely unrealistic and misguided depiction of lady-gasm, and although it is not strange or uncommon to see a scene like this, it is ultimately harmful. It, along with so many other scenes like it, sit uncritiqued in our minds making up our collective vision of "sex" and "female orgasms." It miseducates us all, creating unrealistic expectations that we will have to wrestle with in varying ways our whole lives.

So, I can't give this a good vulva rating because this scene adds negatively to the overall understanding of female orgasm and thus to the Orgasm Equality Movement. However, although it's not progressive or even a physically correct depiction of lady-gasm, it doesn't exactly take us backwards. It merely maintains the status quo, which is a shit situation but the status quo none the less. I really think the people involved in creating this scene had good intentions, I'd like to think that at least, and so I'm going to be generous on the rating. I give this 2 out of 5 vulvas. (But do check the show out. I think it's pretty damn funny).

(!)(!)

*The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution. LLoyd, Elisabeth A.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2005. (You can find a deep dive into various studies on vag-gasm % stats in the first chapter of this book.)