Parenthood - The SSL Review

Parenthood (the movie not the TV series) will always remind me of my best friend Leslie. I don't know exactly why. I'm pretty sure we saw it together at the movies, but there aren't a lot of quotes or anything in it that we kept saying to each other or anything like that to keep her and it connected in my brain all these years. None the less, it just generally always makes me think of her. I also just kinda like the movie. It's a comfort food movie to me.  None of that has anything to do with this SSL review. I just wanted to say that stuff.

Okay, so SSL Reviews - that's why we're here. This movie has something that is maybe not technically SSL Reviewable, but it is close enough that I want to do a review anyway. As you know an SSL Review is a critique of depictions or discussions of female masturbation or female orgasm. I only discuss those scenes - not the movie as a whole (unless I feel like talking about more), and I try to focus on the realism of the depiction/discussion and also how it fits into a larger cultural discussion of female orgasm and sexuality.

Check all the SSL Review movies HERE and TV SSL Reviews HERE.

The Vibrator!
The SSL Reviewable part of Parenthood is pretty simple. The whole fam-dambly is over to this woman's house; her teen son and daughter, her parents and grandma, her siblings and their children and spouses are all there around the table eating. Then the lights go out, and her brother gets up to get flashlight.
Brother: "I'll get a flashlight. Where is it in the bedroom?"
(The family murmurs about this and that)Brother: (coming out of the hallway with the 'flashlight') "Where's the switch. Oh here it is." (There's a buzz) "What is this?"
(The lights come back on. The brother sees it. Laughs out loud and heads back into the bedroom.)A kid "What was that?"
Kid's mom: "That was an electric ear cleaner."
Kid: "It was kinda big."
Great Grandma: (with a big smile on her face) "It sure was!"

Wrong idea about how a vibrator is used, maybe...
First off, this vibrator was an old school kind. It was completely phallic - looked like a dildo. Just an off-white, plastic, rounded tip, long cylindrical thing. It looked like it was meant to be put into the vagina. Granted, people do put vibrators in their vaginas, and it can feel quite pleasurable and all that, but let's be honest, the real beauty of a vibrator is the vibrating of the outer clitoral area (because clitoral stimulation creates orgasm not vaginal stimulation...at least as far as scientific research has told us thus far). Not that you can't just put those long, dildo-ish vibrators against the ol clit/vulva area instead of inserting it. In fact, that's probably what most women do with vibrating dildos if they want to come, it's just that I think to many viewers, the understanding they get from what they saw is that this woman uses it to mimic a penis - a vibrating penis, but a penis none the less. And so, to me this movie easily puts out the impression that women masturbate by mimicking sexual intercourse with something that vibrates. There was even that joke with the kid saying it was 'big' and the grandma liking that. That's a joke that relates the vibrator to a penis. It doesn't make as much sense if one is thinking about that vibrator as something that sets against the outer vulva/clit area.

In fact a while later in the movie idea of the devise as a penis/intercourse substitute is further strengthened. The vibrator owning woman is chastising her daughter about her sexual relations with her boyfriend and the daughter storms out of the room saying, "Well, I thought at least someone in this house should be having sex, I mean with something that doesn't require batteries." 

Mama gets real pissed off at this point and yells a lot through the daughter's closed bedroom door ending with, "Do you know why I'm having sex with machinery? It's because your father left to have a party and I stayed to raise 2 kids, and I have no life."

The truth is a lot, if not most verging on all, people get from our culture a deep and strong yet very incorrect sense that women orgasm from things moving in and out of their vaginas, and scenes like the ones above don't do anything to remedy that incorrect notion. I really think plenty of viewers watch these scenes and are left with the idea that she is using the vibrating dildo as a substitute penis, having intercourse with it instead of just rubbing it against her clit like most women actually do.

It doesn't help that the woman who owns the vibrating dildo is a divorcee who in the movie is clearly lonely and struggling to raise her teenage son without a father figure. So, I feel like her use of a vibrator in this movie to some degree was specifically intended as a way to show how much she needs a man. Thus, I feel in this movie, the use of a vibrator is mocked in a way. It's not depicted as a normal and fun thing any woman might have. It's shown as a sad thing that a woman might have to resort to if she doesn't have a man in her life.

But it is still a depiction of a vibrator at least...
On the other hand, I do like the simple fact that a woman was depicted as owning a vibrator. It means she masturbates, and anytime we see a woman in movies or TV masturbate, even if the circumstances are not exactly positive, it normalizes that women masturbate...and that's a good thing because more normalizing of lady-bation means more ladies masturbate, which means more women learn to orgasm, which means more women might be able to transfer that knowledge of their orgasms during masturbation to their partnered sex experiences...which is a great thing for womankind given how little we ladies orgasm during partner sex as compared to men.

The Vulva Rating
So, the depiction of the vibrator and thus female masturbation was not exactly progressive. Whether intended to or not, the shape of the vibrator and the way it was discussed as a substitute for sex with a man made it seem as though she might use it by sticking it in her vagina a la intercourse, and that's not a very realistic understanding of how women orgasm (clit stim, people!) or how women tend to use vibrators for orgasm. Also, the general feel in this movie was that she wouldn't need the vibrator if she had a man, and by god, that's BS. Vibrators are fantastic to have with a man because penises in vaginas do not make orgasm...but penises in vaginas accompanied by a vibrator on a clit sure can make one. It's not all bad though because at least a vibrator and female masturbation was spoken of. So, this gets 2 1/2 vulvas. It's not a terrible contribution to the world of lady-gasm knowledge, but it's also not that great.



A Few Lady-Bation Memes

I have been doing other things that are not writing this blog the last couple weeks, and so, well, I don't have anything written and I need to post something. All that to say that i'm going to post something easy and non time consuming tonight. I'm watching TV right no and I don't want to stop doing that.

Thus, I've looked up a few lady-bation memes to post here. I, clearly, am heavily pro-ladybation and I also like things that are mildly amusing. So here you go - for your viewing enjoyment...

This, I genuinely like...'cause sometimes you do wake up with raisin fingers ya know?

This is barely amusing, and I actually don't care if my cats watch me masturbate. They don't care either. Sometimes they so don't care that they try to sleep on my legs and stuff while I'm doing it. That's a little annoying, but anyway, I like pictures of cats so that's why this one is here.

Again, not that amusing, but I do like other memes that dude is in, so...

 I just thought this was a good idea for how to watch porn on your phone while masturbating. I'd never thought of this before. Would it actually work well? I don't know. I know you should not get too aroused before you pull the panties down, am I right? Anyway, this is just here as a not to innovation.

This one is just true. It is less work. Sometimes you just want to rub one out with no fuss.

I don't love this one, but I like the word schlick. I like saying it.

Good night. Enjoy a good shlick if you want.


Retro Post: Skeptic Ink Article Critique and the History of The Debate It Led To

Retro Post Intro
This is a retro article. I originally wrote this in June of 2014. I re-read it recently and still feel strongly about what I've said here, and think it's worth a re-issue. 

Plus, this article actually sparked a pretty long blog-to-blog discussion, which I think is also worth going over and linking to here (which I will do below).

The history of the debate that this post led to
You see, after I let commented on the author's (Edward Clint's) original post that I had done some critiquing. He, to my surprise, graciously agreed to further debate.on this topic. He replied to my critique I'm re-posting on his own blog HERE. I replied back HERE

At that point he didn't respond back and about 4 months later, I emailed him seeing if he was still interested in the debate. We had a very cordial relationship, and I told him I hoped I hadn't been too harsh and offended him. He was very nice in his reply, and let me know he 
I am not offended by your style saying, "By internet standards, you're practically Ned Flanders." He went on with a bit of a gripe though. "However, you do appear to have taken a swipe at me in order to pick a fight on the topic you prefer while ignoring the fact that I was not speaking to that topic. I find that borders on disrespectful, not that I believe you intended any offense. You sense that we disagree on that topic, and I think you are straining to find a way to see that disagreement in what I have written, but it is not there. You had, and have, a much better option if you want to have that other discussion: you could have just asked what my position was and if we could discuss that. There's no reason that couldn't happen without us endlessly dissecting whether or not my essay about bad io9 reporting was sufficiently deferential to your sense of history and fact."   

So, I took a little issue to that and emailed him back a long-winded email describing how I thought maybe he wasn't actually reading my arguments because he is speaking on the topics I'm critiquing him on and that we do, in fact, disagree. He, as you might expect, took a bit of issue to that, then wrote me back the following after writing some nice small talk that we'd been engaging on:

Let me clarify some things for you. I am not ignoring or failing to understand what you have said. I am asserting the autonomy and rules of engagement as they apply to your actions. There are two arguments I am perfectly inclined to have and one that I will refuse you. I will call those A, B, and C
A) What is the factually correct definition, description, and nature of orgasm as it relates to stimulation of the clitoris and vagina?
 B) How defensible was my post on clitoral anatomy and bad science reporting?
 C) Whether or not my resolution of A caused my resolution of B. 
I am not wiling to engage with you on C. My reasons for this are that it strikes as not entirely appropriate (as I wrote before, it seems like picking a fight). You don't think that you are, and I take you at your word, so I will give you two other reasons why I will not engage with C. One, we will never get past the "B" component, ever. You are mistaken about your belief here. I am sure you believe your interpretation, but I have access to my own beliefs, intentions, and memories and you are not correct. I simply did not ever intend to say VIO is real and true and should be taken as the truth. I knew it was contentious territory when I wrote about it, and so I tried to stay out of that particular debate, deliberately, knowingly. I've read your arguments to the contrary and they will not succeed. But whatever your beliefs, know that we will never get past "B" and to "A". I will simply not allow a false point criticizing my writing to stand.I will counter every one of your points, and we can go around and around doing that if you wish, as I said I am fine with "B". Reason number two: "A" is a very big debate. It should stand alone, and not be muddied by blog politics about whether I was right in some tangentially related earlier writing or not. It deserves to have its own debate where one side, mine, is not instantly set to the defensive and put in a pit of assumed wrongness. It must begin on clean, neutral terms, or not at all, just like any formal debate.  
 These reasons are why I could not just take you up on your offer, you prefaced it with a C argument against me, forcing me to defend B and preventing me from ever getting to A, because I will not permit this water to be muddied, even if you believe that it already is. I do not, and I will not agree to that as a term.  
 So pick one, A or B, or none of the above. But whichever you pick, you must let the other one go, and if you choose A, then the exchange must be reset and not a direct continuation of the discussion up to now (though of course it can be justly called a consequence of it). Those are my terms. 
I wrote him back a quick email letting him know that if those were his boundaries, I'd be happy to debate A. So, that is the explanation for why we shifted focus, and at that point we started a new and separate debate. He started it HERE. Then I responded HERE . Ed responded back HERE. And I responded a 2nd time HERE

I really enjoyed the chance to debate. I think responding to him and thinking about all this from a different perspective helped clarify a lot of things for me and I'm grateful to that. I'll let you go through all these as you will and get what you get from this debate...it's only like a thousand million trillion hours of reading, so super easy spare time reading - yay!  

...And Now the Original post from June 2014

Charlie sent this article to me (The Clitoris Revealed and How io9 Got It Wrong) from Skeptic Ink. The author (Edward Clint) was lambasting a recent i09 article on its terrible coverage of a 2009 study that used a sonogram to look at the full clitoral complex (there's a lot of erectile clitoral tissue below the skin). The study linked an area where part of the clitoral complex got cozy against the vagina during penetration to an area the 5 women in the study felt was a pleasurable one in the vagina. The researchers suggested this may be the "g-spot" (as in the "g-spot" may actually just be the area where the root of the clitoral complex butts up against the vagina during penetration and not be some piece of anatomy within the vagina). There is a suggestion that this "g-spot" is linked to the "vaginal orgasm" the 5 women in the study claim to have, but there is no specific causal connection asserted in the study's conclusion. 

Edward Clint rightly details how the io9 article covering the study is characteristically silly in the way media interpretations of scientific studies always seem to be, and I appreciated that he pointed that out. In fact, I loved that this article pointed out a lot of things about scientific reporting that annoy me (not telling the full story, over exaggeration, only picking out the parts that seem exciting), but then at the end of the article, there is a section called "The vaginal orgasm and the G-spot debate: We can all stop caring now," and that's where it all goes wrong. 

Frankly, I don't think that Clint (and he's not alone - honestly his tone and arguments are very much the status quo) has a good handle on some important aspects of this subject, Let me tackle the larger issue first.

An orgasm caused by stimulation of something inside the vagina (a Vaginally Induced Orgasm or VIO),  has never actually been recorded. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. It doesn't exist in scientific record. (I explain that further HERE and HERE if you are interested).  Most people writing about g-spot/vaginal orgasms don't know or completely ignore this. They, quite wrongly, take for granted that VIO's exist, and I think it twists the entire picture of female sexual response into a confused mess that is not helpful to anyone. Take for instance Clint's discussion about the "vaginal vs. clitoral orgasm debate." 
In the first half of the 20th century, notions of vaginal vs. clitoral orgasm took hold (thank Freud, who coined the term vaginal orgasm), along with the ignorant and sexist notions that women incapable of the “vaginal” orgasm were “frigid” and that penis-vagina sex was the only source of orgasms that counted. This lead some feminists to adopt the opposite and politically-valenced position that the vagina was irrelevant to pleasure, and that the vaginal orgasm was a lie. Just in case you think I am overstating, feminist Anne Koedt wrote in 1970, It has also been known that women need no anesthesia inside the vagina during surgery, thus pointing to the fact that the vagina is in fact not a highly sensitive area. (This quote was repeated to me in a 2012 gender studies classroom by a professor, quite seriously) This is why it’s good to remember the opposite of wrong is not necessarily right and that it’s a bad idea to confuse facts with moral values: facts can change. 
He seems to play Anne Koedt as some crazy ideologue, but she is not. Koedt was part of a larger feminist campaign that emerged from the then recent Master's and Johnson physiology of orgasm research. M&J's research described how there was no evidence of VIOs and showed how stimulation of the clitoral glans caused female orgasm. That research is, to this day, still relevant and foundational. Let me be clear. Orgasms caused by stimulation of the clitoral glans have been described, documented, and there is a clear understanding of what is needed to get them and who is capable of having them. Orgasms from vaginal stimulation have not been documented or described and there is no clear understanding of what is needed to have them or who is capable of having them. 

Koedt's statement that the vagina has very little sensitivity to touch and that the vaginal orgasm is a lie is not just a willy-nilly opposing reaction to Freud. It is what the science says (this was true in 1970 and still today). Freud's theories, including the "vaginal orgasm" that he so kindly birthed into this world, are just some completely untested ideas a famous dude had that really, really caught on - that's all. To pose Freud's bullshit against Anne Koedt's article, an article that is backed up by good science, is just plain silly.

Even after the G-spot was "discovered" and brought into the public eye in 1982, there still has been no causal connection documented in a lab between something in the vag being stimulated and an orgasm. From the G-spot's 1982 "coming-out,", we did learn that there are prostate-like ducts surrounding the urethra that protrude out from the vaginal wall when excited (this is what I would define as the g-spot), and that when there is sufficient pressure and stimulation of that area, some women ejaculate (which is different from orgasm) through their urethra. That is the only type of sexual release caused by vaginal stimulation that has been documented, and yet strangely this article and almost all like it ignore this very real and concrete quality of the g-spot. Instead the focus is on its possible part in a type of orgasm, that frankly, may not even exist. 

Another issue I have is that Clint confuses two different " clit vs. vag debates." There is a debate about whether a vaginal orgasm exists at all. This is the debate I'd like to have and the debate that was in question with Anne Koedt and similar feminists of the time. Then there is the debate about whether VIOs are caused by something actually in the vaginal structure  vs. the idea that VIOs are caused by indirect stimulation of the deep clitoral roots through the walls of the vagina. Clint sort of lumps these two together as the clit vs. vag debate, but they are actually quite different. The first follows what is scientifically known and simply sees no evidence for a VIO. The second assumes that VIOs obviously exist and is simply asking whether the clitoral legs stimulated through vaginal penetration is the cause or the vag itself. 
The modern research tells us that everyone is right! Or, everyone is wrong, however you’d like to parse it, because all of the parts are important. And right on cue, both “sides” of the G-spot debate have claimed immediate victory with the anti side saying “See, it’s just clitoral!” and the pro side saying “see! it is real, and just where we said!”. The correct answer is, researchers aside, who cares? 
What if the orgasm some women experience during vaginal intercourse is caused by the internal clitoris? Does changing the mere label and invisible mechanism for the event from “vaginal” to “internal clitoral” change a thing about the event for anybody involved? Does it somehow change moral arguments about the political equality of women? I don’t think that it does. Isn’t it cool if it’s a fact that the G-spot that some women report actually is the spot where the clitoris contacts the anterior vaginal wall?
This is annoying to me because the very important debate about whether vaginal orgasms even exist, the debate he unfairly poo-pooed as just a feminist reaction to Freud's nonsense, is further being pushed into irrelevant obscurity because he's incorrectly lumping it with a debate about which undefined mechanism causes an undocumented, not understood, orgasm that may not even exist. "Is it the thing in the vag we can't find?" vag side says, "or the penis pushing against the wall of the vagina - which then pushes on the surrounding tissue - which then pushes on the clitoral leg that causes VIO?" clit side asks. Framed this way, Clint's right, who cares? It probably doesn't exist anyway. (and P.S. when it's said that the clit has more nerve endings than the entire penis, it is meant that the clitoral glans, the part on the outside, has that many nerves, not the whole clitoral structure. I can't find anything that says how nervy the inner clit legs are, but I think it's fair to say it's a hell of a lot less nervy than the glans. The inner legs engorge with blood when aroused, that seems to be their claim to fame - not intense nerviness). 

My other major problem with Clint's last 3 paragraphs is a little more complicated. You see, although I've already pointed out that a VIO is neither understood nor documented, and that wondering which part (the inner clit or the vag) causes these VIOs is kinda useless since we can't even describe the thing they supposedly cause, the idea of a VIO is still incredibly important to tons of women and their partners. Women and men hear it exists, and the details of what exactly may cause it are a matter of great interest. A quick scan through advice columns, magazine articles, books and the internet would easily show how interested people are in this. It shouldn't be taken lightly that women are in search of better information about these types of orgasms, and I was bothered by the flippant way Clint speaks about the level of actual interest non-research people might have in the specific details of how a VIO might be achieved. 

Frankly, I think Clint underestimates the amount of worry, confusion and frustration women (and men) carry about VIOs. Just think about it. These VIOs are over-abundantly depicted in porn, romance novels, and everywhere else sex is depicted. They result from the most common of sex acts - vaginal-penile intercourse. They are low maintenance (just get banged!), supposedly wildly amazing orgasms, yet only 20 to 30% of women say they can experience these elusive trophies of female sexuality. Why wouldn't people hang on every tidbit of information about them? People are not stupid, and they know that understanding these detailed mechanisms are the key to both learning and teaching how to achieve VIOs.(Does the inner clitoral leg really butt up against the vagina to cause these wildly elusive VIO's or is there another stand-alone piece of anatomy some women have that makes them unique and lucky vag-gasm princesses?!? Are all women's bodies capable of VIOs, or just some? What is the anatomy difference among the haves and have nots? Is it the sex position or the dude's junk size that makes it possible?). Just telling people that it's a vague area that can be reached through the vagina is not enough. People certainly want more. I think it's ridiculous, given how much of an importance our culture puts on VIOs to say, who cares? 

So, again, my larger issue with this article and the g-spot/vaginal orgasm debate in general is that the discussion begins from the assumption that there is something that causes these vaginal orgasms, but no one (even quite skeptical people) thinks to say, "hey, wait....what exactly is a VIO? Oh, there is no real definition? It's never actually been physically documented? Why is that? Hmmm, maybe it's kinda problematic to be looking for the cause of something that is not actually defined." 

Having straight-faced discussions about which possible anatomical configuration causes vaginally induced orgasms is as gross to me as discussing what causes women's intuition. Yeah, people talk about it as if it exists, and women will even tell you that they have it, but it is not defined. It may not even exist, and there is no way someone can identify the cause of something when no one knows what exactly that something is. This is pretty basic stuff, and critical people should be looking at and talking about this debate differently. In the future, I would love to see skeptics be as thorough and skeptical about female orgasm as they are with evolution, religion, and global warming.


Glamour Joins the Orgasm Equality Fight

So, yo, yo, yo. There's an article that actually came out last year, but it slipped through the cracks, and I am just now posting about it. That means nothing about how much I love it though.

It's an article in Glamour called, "Are you ready for the war on bad sex?" and it's about the bullshit that is our sexual culture when it comes (or more likely doesn't come, if you get me drift) to lady-gams. The ever awesome Gemma Askham, who has already made my list of Orgasm Equality Heroes, and who I write about HERE, wrote it and in it talks with a variety of women out there activating on the subject. I am proud to be one of those ladies she speaks with in the article, and I feel absolutely elated to be among those other women calling BS on our culture's ignorance and ambivalence towards female orgasm.

Honestly, it really is exciting to see some boldness on this topic. I love seeing people speak more directly to the idea that vaginas don't make orgasms and that clits are the organ of female sexual pleasure. I love seeing it clearly put out there that women are able to orgasm as quickly, easily and reliably as men do...and then seriously question why the hell we don't much of the time. I love that there seems to be some real movement on this topic i like to call orgasm equality.

Some of the other women Gemma talks with in here have already made my Orgasm Equality Heroes list (Jenny Block, who I wrote about HERE ) and some women I am for sure interested in writing about in the future (Breanne Fahs, Lydia Daniller who co-founded OMGYes that has been on my list to write about for quite a while actually, and Naomi Hutchings)

Anyway, I LOVE women speaking out and I LOVE women highlighting the women who are speaking out. This is how revolutions - orgasm equality revolutions - begin, my friends.

Go check out the Article.


Random Hite Report #23

Hello, welcome again to one of my favorite segments on the SSL blog, Random Hite Report! It's simple really. I flip through the pages of the The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality  (or sometimes The Hite Report on Male Sexuality) by a one Ms. Shere Hite and copy the contents of the page where I land - no more no less. Anyone who reads my blog will know that this 1976 book is a fave of mine; not only because of its realistic and progressive insight about the female orgasm that is still shockingly relevant 40 years later,  but also because of its very touching insight into the lives of the women who took part in this huge, comprehensive survey. This is an under-appreciated and under-read book if you ask me - I suggest you buy it online (seriously, you can get them for like 1 cent) and read it.

 So, sit back, getcha a beverage, and enjoy a little...Random Hite Report...you never know what yer gonna get!

The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality Dell. 1976.
Pg. 131 From chapter "Orgasm" in the section 'Are Orgasms Important' under the heading 'Women are now under great pressure to perform by having orgasms, especially during intercourse.'

   "I'm very wary about telling new partners I don't have orgasms because then they make it a contest to see if they can be the one to make me come. I really resent being expected to come, and almost forced if I don't."
    "Sometimes I have felt that reaching orgasm was more a matter of satisfying my partner's desire to satisfy me than my own need for orgasm."
    "You're supposed to be uninhibited and have orgasms, and when I do it makes him feel confident and secure. Orgasm is important, but not as important as he thinks: my orgasm is actually more important to m husband than to me!"
    "Yes, I must have an orgasm. Otherwise, I'm not a real person and making him feel bad and maybe he'll abandon me. Men enjoy making love more to women who have orgasms."
    "I would enjoy sex with no orgasm at times, if I felt other people weren't uptight about it, and if the reasons were my own. Maybe sex would be better if we'd never heard of orgasms."
    "I'm afraid that new partners will think I'm wierd and not as sexy as other women if I don't have orgasms-or that I'm selfish and aggressive if I do!"
    "I wish orgasms didn't exist. Then maybe sex would be fun." 
There is also a social pressure that says a woman who has an orgasm is more of a woman, a "real" woman.    
"I don't think orgasms are that important; the literature has given women another burden. But I'm ashamed to admit, because of the myth, I feel 'good' having an orgasm - like I'm a real woman! Arrrgh...."
    "I can enjoy sex without orgasm, but psychologically I feel like I'm a failure, like a not totally functioning woman."
    "Orgasms are continually talked about. Therefore if I don't have one, I feel inadequate."
    "The idea of having orgasms is important to me, but I can certainly enjoy sex without having them. Worse than not having an orgasm is the feeling that I've failed or that I'm frigid or unsexy. I feel a lot of pressure,...


How Women Rate Their Genital Sensitivity and Appearance: An Article I Read

Self-assessment of genital anatomy, sexual sensitivity and function in women: implications for genitoplasty
Justine M. Schober, Heino F.L. Meyer-Bahlburg, Philip G. Ransley
BJU Volume 94, Issue 4 September 2004 Pages 589–594

My Intro
So I wondered upon this article looking at references in another one, and thought it might be a good one to write about right quick. It's about something I am pretty interested in reading more about, and I think it is headed down a very necessary path - understanding the orgasmic and arousal capacity of different parts of the female genitals in an effort to preserve those qualities when feminizing surgeries are required.

So, in terms of 'feminizing surgery,' I think this article was mostly written with intersex people in mind. If you haven't heard the word intersex before, you should look into it. There are people born every day that don't fit neatly into the physical category of male or of female. It's a normal variation in the possibility of human bodies, but you may not know about it because it has traditionally been taken on by the medical community to correct these bodies to either male or female in a swift and secretive way - sometimes that included genital surgery at a very young age. However, intersex people are starting to advocate for themselves and the newborn intersex children that cannot speak up; telling the medical community that medical intervention is not always needed and that intersex people deserve to choose the level of gender-related medical intervention. I wrote a little about this in 2010. The activism of intersex people is something we should all educate ourselves on a bit.

Anyway, although advocacy on intersex issues has done a lot of questioning about when and if masculizing or feminizing surgery should take place, there are still times that surgery seems appropriate by an individual intersex person and their doctors. There are also gender confirmation surgeries, genital reconstruction surgery for patients who have undergone female genital mutilation, elective genital cosmetic surgery, and other medically necessary genital surgeries. All of these surgeries would do well to preserve areas of arousal and orgasmic capability.

All that to say that there needs to be good information about the sexual sensitivity and functioning down there in order for there to be good surgical decisions.

My Quick Summary And Opinions
This paper is a very small initial step towards better information about where people experience erotic sensitivity in their genitals so that surgery to them doesn't fuck up capabilities for arousal and orgasm in that area. The authors point out that the quality assessment of a feminizing surgery had, in the past, often been based on how the surgeon, instead of the patient, perceived the anatomy and function - which clearly is not ideal.

So, to ascertain good patient assessment, these researchers did this here pilot study. They utilized a new (in 2004 at least) questionnaire that used pictures and questions to help a group of genitally "normal" women identify different areas of their outer genitals and inner vagina on a scale of 1-5 for the area's 'orgasm intensity' and for the effort required to achieve orgasm. They also had to select pictures and descriptions that best described their genitals.

From the results, the researchers found that women had the most orgasmic intensity above and on the clitoral glans, although they also had some (in order of greater to lesser) on the labia, the sides of the clit, below the clitoris, and around the vag-hole. There was less orgasm intensity inside the vagina, but the deepest part was rated higher in intensity than the middle or the part nearest the outside. Also women tended to rate their clits size as normal even when they picked a drawing to describe it that experts would describe as abnormally large.

So, the researchers said even with the preliminary nature of this study, they gained some insight. For instance maybe clits can be larger than experts now think and still be deemed normal and feminine - which may mean less need for clitoris reducing surgeries in intersex people. They also noted that since the top of the clit was rated as sensitive as the clitoral glans itself, then they should be real careful about snipping the skin up there.

Those are both well and good insights. They seem sensible and aligned with the data that was received, but I have to say there seems to be a general problem with the questionnaire in this study. It seems like these questions were actually pretty confusing to the women. 16% of these women said their vagina was not big enough for a penis and another 4% said it's not even big enough for a tampon...yet ALL of these women said they had intercourse. So there's something amiss that should cause one to wonder if the answers these women gave are reliable for the types of questions the researchers thought they were asking.

And on the whole question subject...Let's just be honest that women get real squirrely when they start answering questions about their orgasms. You know I don't trust women's self reports on this, and researchers shouldn't either. First off, women are known to fake orgasms - and that mental game-playing that goes into women pretending to have pleasure that they aren't actually having during sexual interactions could twist its way into how women answer survey questions about orgasm. Also, there is so much BS out there in the world about what orgasms are supposed to be like. I mean well up into the 70's medical professionals were telling women that they were sick in the head if they didn't have vaginally induced orgasms - (which is a way of achieving physical orgasm not actually found in scientific literature and for all we know might literally be an impossible feat). So, in all reality, with all the confusing and incorrect info fed into women's heads about what their orgasms are supposed to be like, it's very possible women call things orgasms that aren't actually a physical orgasm (i.e. the rhythmic release of pelvic muscle tension caused by arousal). They also might be making room in the survey for different non-orgasmic experiences. For instance maybe they are rating actual physical orgasms "Strong" and high arousal moments or ejaculations or spiritual climaxes as "mild" orgasms - or maybe even the other way around.

So, what I'm saying here is that women could be claiming they've had orgasms from stimulation of areas that they have not - for a variety of reasons. Maybe the researchers think they are hearing what women are telling them about where they can be stimulated to orgasm. However, they are really hearing a chaotic mix of where women can be stimulated to orgasm, where their partner likes to stimulate them, where they think they should be stimulated to orgasm, where they can be stimulated to arousal, where they can be stimulated to ejaculation, and where they most often get stimulated.

So, I think there are a lot of worries with this questionnaire just like any questionnaire where women are asked to self-report about orgasm...but I will say, the purpose here was to learn more about how women feel about their genitals, and even if a woman doesn't get an actual physical orgasm from wherever she said she did on the questionnaire, there is still some value in knowing that she answered the question about herself the way she did...although I do so wish researchers who rely on questions like these would fully acknowledge the limitations of female orgasm self reports.

Article Summary
Alright, and now for the details of this article - If you have any questions, please just check out the
Full Article. It's available! (big thanks to the authors letting this out into the world - I love that)
As always: Any quotes are directly from the article unless otherwise stated, and assume everything written is at least a rough summary of what the authors have said unless I write my own opinion in the  (Me: ...).

Also, check out all my summaries of SSL Journal Article HERE.

The researchers tell us that in the past the assessment of how good a feminizing surgery went was often based on how the surgeon perceived the anatomy and function instead of the patient, and that this kind of surgery has recently come under a lot of fire because there seems to be a lot of cases where the patient's sexual functioning was impaired. In fact, some intersex activists have called for a complete stop to this kind of surgery until more is known . So clearly research into how women perceive their genitals and orgasmic functioning before and after surgery is important and needed quickly.

The authors go on to say that there is some good info out there about anatomy, physiological changes during orgasm and sexual arousal, and some other aspects of male and female genital physiology,
"However, standards for measures of the visible aspects of the female genitalia are largely lacking. For instance, the average diameter of the glans in adult females and the length or protrusion of the clitoris in the relaxed and aroused state are not well documented."

The researchers tell us that "genital sensation and its underlying innervation is even less complete, especially for women." However, there's a lot of detail known about what kind of sensation and touch needed for lady rats to get into lordosis (which is their sexually receptive position). Obviously, rat stuff can't be directly compared to human-lady stuff, they tell us, but it may have some relation. One of the authors has done some rat clit research, so there's a lot of detail there I won't go into.

The researchers also point out that although there is some research about tactile sensitivity in female genitals (with vibration, heat and touch), that tactile response is not quite the same as sexual stimulation, and a complete mapping of that is yet to be done. They note Graffenberg (the G-spot guy) said there's sensitivity in the vagina close to where the urethra lays above the vagina (lower anterior of the vagina), and Kinsey decided from masturbation studies that the cit and labia were the most sensitive and Singer and Singer "indicated that there are many sites of sexual sensation which differ in the kinds of orgasm they produce." (Me: so there's a variety of claims among top sexual researchers about what areas in the female genitals are most important to orgasm and arousal)

There have been fetal nerve studies of female genitals and a recent study has expanded information on clitoral innervation. They show the greatest nerve density in female genitals is above and fanning out down to the clitoris.

The researchers then point out that although it is possible and important to actually watch and measure women as they touch and arouse their genitals for data sake, it is a hard thing to do for a variety of reasons. Also,even if one were able to get that kind of physical, observational data, one would also need a good questionnaire to get the subjective perspective of the woman's experience to pair with that objective anatomical data (me: true dat, true dat). So, either way, a good questionnaire is important for this type of work.

This pilot study was used to test the questionnaire out on genitally 'normal' women to better understand its feasibility before it was tried on women having genital surgery and to "test whether women can discriminate between various genital areas in terms of erotic function in this self-report format."

A new questionnaire was used, the Self-Assesment of Genital Anatomy and Sexual Function, Female version (SAGASF-F) (me: I really tried to find this full questionnaire online, but couldn't find it anywhere. It has been used in several studies since though.)

"The SAGASF-F was designed to obtain a woman's perception of what her genitals look like, to map her experience of cutaneous sensitivity, sexual pleasure, discomfort/pain and orgasm across specific areas of her genital region, and to elicit reports of perceived changes in sexual function after surgery, if applicable. Genital pictures and descriptive phrases are used to facilitate systematic self-reporting. The pictures were based on the digitization of selected drawings of the clitoris and vagina, which were digitally modified to represent variations in size and location, and to identify specific areas of the genital region for sensation ratings."

Subjects and Method
The participants were women employees of a hospital. They were recruited and given the survey that they could complete anywhere and drop off anonymously into a box at the hospital. The 1st 50 women to return the survey are the participants.  Half had a college degree. Their education spanned HS diploma to doctorate. Mean age was 38.7, and 42 of the 50 were white. It took about 25 minutes to take the survey.

The Survey
There is an intro to help understand the rating tasks. Then that participant is asked to "select one of several options of appearance, size and position of her clitoris and vagina. In addition, she rates on a 5-point Likert scale her orgasm intensity and the effort required to achieve orgasm for several graphically and verbally demarcated areas at and around the clitoris and within the vagina."

The results were calculated and a visual depiction of orgasm intensity and orgasm effort were created over genital pictures.

(me: I'm a little confused about exactly how the questions and pictures were presented to the women in the questionnaire, but it says women were "presented with sets of response options in terms of graphs and phrases, and asked to select the best description of their anatomy..." I'll quote whenever they describe the survey because that's the only clue we have to how it was worded, etc.)


For the clitoris:
46% 'moderate-sized and raised'
42% 'small and raised'
6% 'large and slightly long'
4% 'large, raised'
2% 'enlarged and long'
(me: there was an option of  'I cannot locate my clitoris' and no one must have chosen that)

For vaginal location:
92% 'vaginal opening in midposition'
8% 'near anus (far back)'
(me: 2 other options were available to choose, but the paper does not say what they were)

For vaginal opening size:
78% 'adequate for sexual penetration'
16% 'just large enough to insert finger or small object, but not large enough to insert average sized penis, regular tampon or speculum'
4% 'not large enough to even insert small dilator or finger or small tampon'
2% 'very large'
(me: no one chose 'cannot locate my vagina' 'I have no vaginal opening' 'other (describe)' or a 4th option that must be a size somewhere smaller than 'adequate for sexual penetration' but not the other ones listed above)

All women reported their vagina was 'deep enough for intercourse with and average penis'

Deeper blue indicates stimulation area creating the most intense orgasms and deeper red indicates area most easily stimulated to orgasm, from Schober et.al. 2004

"to rate orgasm intensity the women were presented an item of the following form for each of the anatomical areas (after a written introduction to facilitate the understanding of the ratings). 'sexual touch/stimulation of this area by a partner or yourself, ... , has produced (rate 1 through 5):' 'Orgasm' (followed by a line with the anchors: 1/none, 2/mild, 3/moderate, 4/strong, 5/intense)."

For orgasm intensity, these are the areas with the highest to lowest mean ratings: clitoris, above clitoris, labia, below clitoris, sides of the clitoris, around vaginal opening

"For orgasm effort the women were asked for each area: 'If orgasm was achieved, please describe the effort required.' (followed by a line with the anchors: 1/very strong, 2/strong, 3/moderate, 4/little, 5/very little)."

For orgasm effort, these are the areas that had easiest to hardest mean ratings: clitoris, above clitoris, labia, below clitoris, sides of clitoris, and around vaginal opening

"For relationship between vaginal depth and orgasm intensity and effort, the women were presented with highlighted pictures representing vaginal depth at 3 levels' the introitus (Area A), mid vagina (Area B) and deep vagina (Area C), along with the same questions as above about orgasm intensity and effort."

The most intense orgasms and least effort went from deep to mid to introitus.

From Schober et.al. 2004

"Whereas only two-fifths of the women indicated a clitoral size that would typically be regarded as normal, a similar proportion selected a descriptor 'moderate sized and raised' and a picture showing a clitoris that experts judged as larger than normal" The researchers wonder if that means there is less need than thought for clitoral reductions, but they also point out that 16% of women said their vaginal opening couldn't fit a penis yet all the women in the study 'reported being sexually active and engaging in sexual intercourse.' So maybe more work is needed on how women understand genital size - and also some direct anatomical measurements from a professional would probably be good to add to this type of data as well.

The researchers found things they thought were surprising:.
1) Both the clit and above the clit show about equal ratings of orgasmic sensitivity - both rated much higher than other areas. This does correspond to where the largest bundle of nerves are though.
2) The areas inside the vagina rated most orgasmically sensitive is deep in the vagina. This seems odd because the lower part of the vagina towards the belly-button (lower anterior region) is where researchers often say women have more vaginal sensitivity and where the location of the G-spot is often discussed. The researchers wonder if this is because their research is self reported and other research has used data that includes response to touches in different areas.

"For vaginal sexual stimulation, the scores of orgasmic sensitivity of the vagina at any depth are less than the scores for external surfaces."

Although this is a preliminary study, the researcher thought it suggests 2 important things things about genital surgery:
1) Many healthy women perceived their clitoral size to be something an expert would say is too large. Maybe this means women will accept a larger clit size than is commonly believed. This could mean maybe less surgical intervention in clitoral size in the future.
2) Healthy women find the area above the clit as or more orgasmically sensitive than the clit itself. This, plus the fact that nerve placement is densest above and on the clit, "makes a strong case against surgical separation of the skin above the clitoris to prevent nerve disruption..."


Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories S1 Ep 5: The SSL Review

Great Job!
So, let's talk about Tim and Eric. You might know them from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! which you might have seen on Adult Swim between 2007 and 2010. Maybe not. I was a bit of a fan. It's some wierd fucked up shit in that show, and it's not everyone's bag. Below is the show opening just to give you a little taste of it.

Okay, so I recently watched Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories, which apparently originally aired in 2014, but I only noticed on Hulu last week. These are very much Tim and Eric -ish, but with a very different production quality aesthetic and more of a narrative format. One of these, "Roomates," Season 1 Episode 5 has an SSL Reviewable moment in it, and that's why I'm here - to review that.

An SSL Review
As my loyal readers know, an SSL Review is a critique of depictions or discussions of female orgasm and/or masturbation. That is it. Nothing else gets critiqued in an SSL Review (unless I feel like critiquing something else). In general I'm focusing on how realistic the depiction discussion is and how it fits into the larger cultural narrative about female orgasm and women's sexuality.

If you'd like to see all the SSL Reviews I've done, check 'em out for MOVIES and for TV.

Mutual Masturbation with Mamacita
I discussed above how wierd Tim and Eric stuff is, and this episode of Bedtime Stories is no exception. It makes it a little hard to SSL Review because nothing in these shows can be taken seriously, but at the same time, all depictions/discussions are part of the cultural discussion, and I find them all worthy of some scrutiny.

Here's the details, it's pretty simple. One guy, Franklin Bing, gets suspicious of his mother who is visiting and his roommate, Tony Dort. Franklin comes home to his apartment and hears some muffled sexual moaning and grunting. When he opens the bedroom door, his mother and his roommate Tony are kneeling on the bed facing each other. They are pant-less with shirts on. Their private areas are scrambled so  we can't see the details, but they are clearly masturbating. Both are making kinda moany vocalizations as they rub their own junk. They stop and try to cover up when they are discovered.

Franklin goes into the living room and the two follow him in. (p.s. -There is kind of a running gag in this episode where the two men sprinkle Spanish words in their talking, but they are sometimes incorrect or off in some way.)
Tony: Franklin, las siento mi hermana, but me and your mom have something special, something real, and I guarantee you it's not sexual in nature. All we're doing is looking into each other's eyes, and then we mutually masturbate, comprende?
Franklin: No comprende. Masturbation is sexual. Masturbation is sexual, Ton!
Later after thinking about it, Franklin tells Tony he's okay with it, and they hug it out. As they're coming out of the hug, Franklin says to Tony in a jovial way, "Why didn't you tell me you jerked off? To which Tony replies very seriously, "We don't touch," before Franklin seemlessly moves into another subject.

Later they go looking for the mother and find her with a guy who makes juice (it's related to the story kinda - you'd have to watch). He's hot and has an accent. The mom says it's over and it was just a fling. Then the juicer guy identifies Tony as "Tony Cheese" a porn personality with a tiny penis. He denies it at first, but we find it's true and see a clip of him in a porn where two women kick him in the junk.
Juicer Guy: I always say to myself, what would life be like having such a small penis, you know, having all the girls make fun of you.
(The mother kinda laughs)
Juicer Guy: You know because I have a very large penis so it's not problem for me.
(The mom smiles in a satisfied sorta way)
Franklin then gets pissed because Tony didn't put that on his roommate application, and Franklin evicts him. As Tony's leaving the mom says
Mom: He does have a very small penis.
My Thoughts
First off, I am a longtime fan of mutual masturbation. It's fun, hot, low mess, no fuss, disease-free, pregnancy free, and everyone comes in the end. Please feel free to read more about my love for it, HERE and HERE.

Point is, I like seeing it depicted because it is largely not something that one sees in TV, movies, or books. I also like that the small snippet of the mom masturbating while looking into Tony Dort's eyes was realistic. She had her hand over her vulva area and was moving it around. So, basically it was stimulation of the outer genitals in the general clitoral glans region - which is certainly the kind of stimulation that could bring a woman to orgasm. So all is well there. Mutual masturbation is also treated here as something loving and that the two people involved really enjoyed (I think this sense of mutual masturbation exists even despite the general weirdness of the show's tone).

However, that sense of mutual masturbation, I think, is then taken back after the conversation with the juicer guy. I feel like the choice to have Tony turn out to be a dude with a micropenis and for the mother to have left him for a hotter guy with a giant penis puts the mutual masturbation they were having into a whole new light. I don't know what the actual intention for these choices were (honestly, one may never know such a thing for a Tim and Eric episode), but I think the audience could easily come away from this with the sense that the two were mutually masturbating not because it was what they really wanted to do, but because Tony's dick was too small to have intercourse with...and that he's a lesser person and lover for it.

Granted, all these plot points are also just wierd and may be there for wierd-sake, but I think in the overall scheme of things this episode reinforced incorrect ideas about large penises being better for ladies. Penises, even large ones, do not create female orgasm. Stimulation of the outer clitoral glans does, and do you know what sexual act involves plenty of orgasm-creating stimulation of the outer clitoral glans? Mutual masturbation, that's what. This show could have given a nod to orgasm equality by allowing their characters to genuinely choose and enjoy a little discussed sex act that is equally orgasmic for both men and women, but instead they held the status quo and passively mocked it while endorsing the incorrect feeling that big penises and intercourse are more pleasurable and desirable for women.

Still, they did utter the words mutual masturbation and depicted it with physical correctness, and that in itself is a feat, so it's not all bad. I give this episode 3 out of 5 vulvas.