The Case of the Female Orgasm: An SSL Book Review

Are you looking to read a good crime drama with plenty of mystery and appalling deceit? Well then, I suggest you read The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Study of Evolution. Why? Because I find the history of research into the evolution of the female orgasm (which author Elisabeth Lloyd expertly navigates) a crime against science. A crime, I say! I'm being a bit dramatic here, but honestly, this book opens one's eyes to absolutely glaring problems that exist in most of the scientific discussion surrounding the evolution of female orgasm, and the reasons that the problems were and continue to be ignored are really kind of a mystery...a mystery that Lloyd seeks to solve.

I pretty much fell in love with it and the author. I had learned about it at the very end part of my writing for the movie. I was spending much less time reading stuff and taking notes and much more time writing and preparing to shoot a movie. When I heard about it, though, it seemed important to check it out, so I immediately bought a copy and read a bunch of write-ups about it on the ol' interwebs. When it showed up at my door, I read through a few areas and answered some questions about the content I had after reading stuff online. I actually read enough to decide and use it to cite the statement in the movie about female orgasm not improving fertility (cause it is about the most comprehensive assessment of that statement out there). I thought the book seemed right on target for the argument it was making, but I never took the time to fully read through it because the subject, although very much related, was outside scope of the arguments I was making in the movie. That is until a few month ago. I read the hell out of that book, and it's a thing of beauty as a total package.

I will preface by saying that I really like Philosophy of Science, and this book is just that. I fell into a Philosophy of Science class in college because I just didn't want to take a straight up mushy, "I think therefore I am" Philosophy class for my requirement.  It just wasn't my cup of meat, ya know? My decision paid off. It was actually a really time consuming class, but I wanted more, so I took Philosophy of Biology my senior year even though my Chemistry degree didn't require it (and I'm not one to overdo class taking). I'll try not to be all gushy here, but those classes flipped something in my brain, and I have never thought about science the same again. I am skeptical of it and respectful of it in a whole new way. That brain flip, plus an intro to feminism course (and oh yeah my personal interest in porn at the time) got me heavy passionate around that time about looking into what would become this movie.

So, yeah, I got mad love for Philosophy of Science, and one thing that really strikes my fancy about it is the way it very methodically, logically, carefully moves toward keeping science ever in check, and I think science needs to be kept in check. Science is just a word and scientists are just people, but both can change our world drastically.  When "science" or "scientists" lose integrity, I think our world suffers. We so we need that ongoing critique of science and scientists, science techniques, and science institutions that Philosophy of Science provides.

The Case of the Female Orgasm indeed takes up that noble-ass cause.  Lloyd decisively rips apart sad evolutionary arguments that strangely ignore completely the overwhelming evidence that, for females, orgasm and reproductive intercourse are not often joined. She uses basic scientific logic to shred crappy research studies commonly used to back up evolutionary arguments that should no longer hold water. She does it all with a measured, thoughtful tone. It's a very "science-paper" read in that she largely does not use her language for flowery romps but to get her point across exactly as it should be made. I have a special place in my heart for that kind of writing because it means to me that the author is taking pains to be serious and careful. Its focus is a rock steady argument. In the end, her argument about which existing evolution of the female orgasm hypothesis comes out as most plausible is easily convincing - almost too easily, which makes her discussion about why other crap hypotheses have endured and still endure so interesting.

 I've read some push-back about this book (including one within the book The Science of Orgasm that I'd like to write about soon), but frankly I haven't seen anything that has any bite at all. In fact, I feel like people spewing off about this book haven't read it, like they are just completely ignoring her main points. It kinda seems that the strange power the topic of female orgasm has to make evolutionary scientists forget basic rules of science and make evolutionary hypotheses anyway also allows people to ignore the information in a book about the evolution of the female orgasm and critique it anyway.

If you ask me, I'd say this is an important and in some ways revolutionary book for science, for philosophy of science,  for feminism, and for sexuality.

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