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May 27, 2007

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Speaking for the male of the species, I think we're all happy not to need to use menstruation to discriminate between men and women.

Um, I don't understand.

The "anti" woman in the video seems to think that there is some sort of requirement that women take this pill.

I don't think that's correct.

I can't even watch the whole clip. That woman is painfully stupid. Does she realize that none of what she's saying is even remotely coherent?

"More babies" is causing Global Climate Change. It's true!

crayz: the end is the best part...

And Bernard: if only there was only one incorrect thing in what she said. Although I do like the idea that the reason to be against contraception is to allow women to be in control of our bodies.

getting the oil changed

I’ll admit that is one euphemism I never heard. I think I like it though… Possibilities…

What with all of us inspecting one another's labia over coffee and all

Why do I never get invited to this kind of kaffeeklatsch?

On reflection, I'm not even going to get into what's so wrong with that one. I just hope there aren't any vibrators reading this.

My vibrator has its own livejournal, and never reads blogs.

Women have orgasms???

What with all of us inspecting one another's labia over coffee

A growth area for Starbucks!

The evolutionary psychology explanations of orgasms don't sound that implausible. The first one seems like it's probably true. Sex is fun & satisfying because people who enjoy sex tend to have more sex, and orgasms are part of what makes sex fun & satisfying. So our ancestors who had pleasurable orgasms had more sex and left more offspring than any would-be ancestors who didn't have pleasurable orgasms. Seems like that could go for men as well as women. There's no need for people to deliberatively think ahead and consider the possibility of an orgasm - it could even happen through conditioning (like Pavlov's dogs). Rewarded behaviors tend to get repeated, for all animals, and orgasms are one way in which sex is rewarded.

The other theory is weirder but not necessarily false. I don't know how well all the details fit this theory, but there is some research showing that a woman's chances of having an orgasm depend on features of her partner (like symmetry). Vibrators don't invalidate theories about the evolution of sexuality any more than candy bars invalidate theories about the evolution of eating, since neither was around when humans evolved.

Vibrators don't invalidate theories about the evolution of sexuality any more than candy bars invalidate theories about the evolution of eating, since neither was around when humans evolved.

i agree. vibrators weren't around. but on the other hand, fingers were.

I’ll admit that is one euphemism I never heard.
Spotcheck Billy got down on his hands and knees He said "Hey momma, hey let me check your oil all right?" She said "No, no honey, not tonight Comeback Monday, comeback Tuesday, then I might"

getting the oil changed

I’ll admit that is one euphemism I never heard.

Robert Plant apologizes for being nearly incomprehensible on this one, but... here are some selected bits from Trampled Under Foot:



    Ooh, trouble-free transmission, helps your oils flow
    Mama, let me pump your gas, mama, let me do it all
    ...
    Take that heavy metal underneath your hood
    Baby, I could work all night, leave a big pile of tubes
    ...
    Factory air-conditioned, wind begins to rise
    Guaranteed to run for hours, mama, and brand-new tires
    ...
    Come to me for service every hundred miles
    Baby, let me check your valves, fix your overdrive
    ...
    Ooh, yes, fully automatic, comes in any size
    Makes me wonder what I did, before I got synchronized
    ...
    Ooh, feather-light suspension, coils just couldn't hold
    I'm so glad I took a look inside your showroom doors
    ...
    Oh, I cant stop talkin about love
    I cant stop talkin about love

"pile of tubes" !

I stand corrected. A sheltered child I guess… Damn it.

Maybe not – I may have just been too wasted to ever understand a single Zep lyric.

Not sure I can now stone cold sober…

"Well, I done seen 'bout everything, when I see a cooter that flies..."

Yes, that sound was Disney spinning in his refrigerated grave...

It takes a brave soul to stand up against the War On Babies.

For some reason, I had never heard anything by Frank Zappa when I (17) arrived in France to spend half a year living with a family I had never met before. They had two twins, boys aged 13, and I had been instructed by the program I was on not to show any favoritism towards either. This was hard, though, since one was friendly and talkative, while the other more or less incarnated every bad thing about sullen male adolescence.

So I was trying to figure out how to talk to Sullen, without success, when one day I got home from school to find him listening to a new record that he was completely taken with. (I should say that Sullen spoke no English.) I went in to listen, and the first thing I heard was: "You look like a penguin in bondage, boy". I burst out laughing. Sullen was horribly offended and wanted to know what was so funny. I was trying to figure out how to translate the lyrics into French ("vous avez l'aire d'un peguin enchaine", I think I began), and then he was even more miffed, because he didn't get what it meant, and besides, he had been listening to something with bizarro lyrics and hadn't even been aware of that fact.

The really disturbing part of this video was that the NARAL woman didn't know how to deal with the blonde clown. The ONLY way to deal with these yahoos is to hit back hard, call them on their bullshit, and insist that they not dominate the conversation.

It is endlessly frustrating watching people on my team play nice and get steamrollered. Liberals need to figure out that we are not dealing with "nice" people interested in a fair-minded exchange of ideas. Those people left the rightist camp years ago.

"Billy was a mountain, Ethel was a tree growing on his shoulder." That was my introduction to Zappa from an older cousin.

crayz: the end is the best part...
The end is the best part, with Cavuto tossing in the line about 12 or 13 year olds taking the pill like chiclets to help out the 'babies, babies, babies' lady a bit. Twelve or thirteen year-old girls...chiclets...Sounds like a little word association going on under Neil's haircut.

Shlain is one of those authors who had an interesting, if wacky, idea, but totally lost me when his writing meandered into an area I knew something about and totally botched it. In this case, I think it was something about how nerves that drastically overstated the degree to which they are electrical signals.

Yes, I have to admit to being dense on the evolutionary fallacy going on here.

It would seem to me that people, um, do have sex in order to have orgasms. Sure, there might be a more direct motivation too, but why wouldn't they bleed into one another when there's conditioning involved. I mean, you can say some people drink coffee because, well, they like coffee. And some people want the kick. What's so odd about thinking that some people who enjoy the taste of coffee in fact drink more than they would otherwise because of the kick?

And on the second point, I've read all kinds of stuff about women enjoying sex more based on (seemingly unrelated) physical characteristics of men. So why should this be a shock?

What I really don't understand is why, in a species that pair bonds, the motivation not to kill your partner wouldn't cut both ways. I mean, geez, I don't want to kill my girlfriend.

What's more, you'd think having sex after having had one kid would imperil the upbringing of the existing kid.

There would be these kinds of effects if the death calculus came into play in thinking about whether to have sex. If they don't come into play, maybe that's reason to think that we really don't think about death when we get it on.

On reflection, I'm not even going to get into what's so wrong with that one. I just hope there aren't any vibrators reading this.

Ok, you got me: literal LOL there.

As for cosmetic vaginal surgery, may I suggest you consider Courtney Cox's Asshole?

I remember the blonde from Cavuto back when she was a brunette and starred in this ad.

Elizabeth Lloyd has written a book, "The Case of the Female Orgasm." It's not so much an attempt to explain the origins of female orgasm, as an attempt to document the strange contortions that evolutionary speculators have put themselves into in trying to fashion explanations.

a sympathetic review here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/17/science/17orga.html?ex=1180497600&en=9eeb453436ca9767&ei=5070

yeah, the line about literate vibrators is very good.

i remember my brother writing a short story about a guy consumed with jealousy, because while he was at work all day he was certain his collection of dildos was making whoopee with his collection of life-sized dolls.

beware the pathetic phallusy, i guess.

Ara: It would seem to me that people, um, do have sex in order to have orgasms.

The evolutionary fallacy here is that, for women, orgasms are not in any way linked with *checks posting rules* babymaking.

In general (so I'm told: I have no personal experience in this, ah, area...) a man who has an orgasm also has an ejaculation. While there are various things that a man can do to ensure his ejaculation will not contain any fertile sperm, I gather there is nothing a man can do to avoid ejaculating when he has an orgasm.

Women produce fertile eggs on a 25-30 day cycle that has absolutely no connection whatsoever with our ability to have orgasms. Furthermore, the method by which a man's ejaculate gets to make possible contact with a woman's egg - assuming she has one available - is not the most effective of methods for most women to achieve orgasm.

(Writing this in accordance with the Posting Rules has been slightly amusing.)

Ara: "It would seem to me that people, um, do have sex in order to have orgasms."

On reflection, I wonder whether this might be a gender difference. In my experience, at any rate, the desire to have sex and the desire to have an orgasm are quite different, and the latter only puts in an appearance when one is already, etc., etc.

While there are various things that a man can do to ensure his ejaculation will not contain any fertile sperm, I gather there is nothing a man can do to avoid ejaculating when he has an orgasm.

There are traditional chinese methods that involve, ah, ejaculating into the bladder.

Women produce fertile eggs on a 25-30 day cycle that has absolutely no connection whatsoever with our ability to have orgasms.

But the likelihood of having those eggs get fertilised *could* have something to do with the chance for orgasms.

I once had a link that claimed the human female reproductive tract is strangely shaped. Most primates have the equivalent of the clitoris etc inside the vaginal opening, while ours is displaced. Another primate has it like ours, gibbons I think.

But I misplaced the link and didn't find it now, instead I found things that claimed primate clitoral positions and shapes are greatly varied. The original author was making a point, it wasn't exactly a crackpot site but not disinterested either. So I don't know.

At any rate, if human women have less reliable orgasms than other primates, that might itself have been selected. Human women are capable of having far more children than they can raise effectively, and it makes sense to resist that temptation. If we were prey animals that can expect to lose lots of babies to predators then it would make sense to maximise birthrates and minimise the needed parental care.

It's plausible that our structures have been subject to natural selection, but it isn't necessarily easy to guess what exactly has been selected.

Furthermore, the method by which a man's ejaculate gets to make possible contact with a woman's egg - assuming she has one available - is not the most effective of methods for most women to achieve orgasm.

Probably humans have not had much selection to maximise the chance of pregnancy per mating.

I've seen claims that orgasm does increase the chance of fertilisation -- that it somehow transports sperm that would otherwise have a harder time arriving. I don't know how correct that is. The actual scientific literature seems confusing and confused on such topics, and the popularised stuff is even worse.

The basic evolutionary-theory principle seems sound. Genes get selected when they maximise the production of offspring that themselves reproduce. What's hard is to predict what will get that result in a human context, where social status may affect reproductive success more than anything else.

Keeping one eye on the posting rules ... there is some evidence that a woman who has an orgasm after a man ejaculates in her may be more likely to conceive than a non-orgasmic woman, or a woman who achieves orgasm before the man. During female orgasm, the uterus and cervix contract, the cervical opening dilates, and the cervix itself dips into the upper area of the vagina where the ejaculate has been deposited. (Safe for work link to about.com is here).

But it's a pretty damn Rube Goldbergian mechanism nonetheless. A man who ejaculates into a fertile woman at the right time of the month has a pretty good chance of impregnating that woman. It is highly unlikely, although not impossible, that non-ejaculating males become fathers. Female orgasm increases the odds of that woman becoming pregnant, but is not a necessary pre-requisite, as all sorts of non-orgasmic women get pregnant every day.

Maybe easy orgasm for women makes them more interested in sex generally whether they can be impregnated or not, and by being more interested, they are more attractive to men, and more likely to keep a father happy and with her, and therefore the child is more likely to survive.

J Thomas: But the likelihood of having those eggs get fertilised *could* have something to do with the chance for orgasms.

Er: no.

jrudkis: Maybe easy orgasm for women makes them more interested in sex generally whether they can be impregnated or not, and by being more interested, they are more attractive to men, and more likely to keep a father happy and with her, and therefore the child is more likely to survive.

Er: no.

FWIW, the single biggest difference between all other primates and us is that we go through menopause. We don't keep ovulating our entire lives. At some point, with thirty-odd years ahead of us, we stop ovulating - it ceases to be possible to have children of our own. This created the grandmother - a woman with a lifetime's experience in how to bring up children, who was not currently bringing up any children of her own.

And I think it far more probable that, rather than relying on the chancy and improbable links between orgasms/sex/male provider sticking around/children surviving, female menopause became an evolutionary positive because children with grandmothers were more likely to survive.

I was particularly impressed by the argument that NARAL and Planned Parenthood have been fighting to control women by, um, giving them reproductive choices. It was almost as funny as the "Big Pharma" mantra, as though drug reps are grabbing women on street corners and shoving pills down their throats.

"Orgasm = wants more sex" is a reasonable behavioral equation - until you look at other primate species' behavior. Esp. bonobos.

They seem to regard the primary purpose of sexual behavior to be social bonding and conflict avoidance. Much of what we call "sexual behavior" (particularly the non-intercourse parts of it), is apparently grooming and play behavior to them. To put it more crudely, they diddle around with one another constantly, with little regard for gender for age, and the result is a happy, cohesive troupe.

Since women's orgasms have no biological connection to pregnancy, and since we are primates, and since heterosexual intercourse is the least effective way to bring a woman to orgasm... it seems clear to me that the purpose of physical, sexual pleasure isn't to make more babies, but to facilitate social cohesion.

Er: no.

Well, I guess that put us in our place, didn't it? I was referring to the same study that Mary was, and I don't vouch for it. Might be true, might be true sometimes to some extent, might not.

I agree that the grandmother role is likely highly selected. Was the selection for menopause or was it for long life? Humans live rather longer than most animals. Did we once maintain fertility life-long and then menopause was selected? If so, the selection may have been for reducing the overhead of multiple defective babies -- Down's syndrome etc. Grandmothers who didn't have stillbirths and disabled children would live longer and also provide more help of many sorts to their relatives. But grandmothers whose babies were as good as younger women's babies might be for many purposes as useful as younger mothers.

Babies conceived barely-premenopausal have something like a 20% rate of Down's syndrome now, and that isn't the only problem. So it makes perfect sense that we'd select for long life and also for menopause, rather than select for long life and more eggs and then select for reduced genetic defects among old eggs.

I think you have one of the more supportable evolutionary arguments here. There likely has been selection on the other issues also, and there may be supportable arguments about it even if the current arguments look particularly flaky.

I fondly remember a collection of arguments about why human men can't tell when a woman is fertile. Lots of female mammals go into heat, and only mate then. We do a lot of mating that is very unlikely to result in pregnancy. So they were elaborating more and more elaborate arguments about this. And then a woman made the argument that lots of women can't themselves tell when they're fertile. Why would that be? And she made the argument that women who wear themselves out raising more children than they would choose to, are selected over women who have only as many children as they want.

CaseyL: "and since heterosexual intercourse is the least effective way to bring a woman to orgasm..."

THE least?

Cite?

J Thomas,

Children born of younger mothers were more likely to have mothers until they were old enough to care for themselves, and therefore more likely to survive. The short and brutish lives of our ancestors probably did not provide very many post menopausal grandmothers. It seems to me that menopause would be as likely an evolutionary step based on survival rate of the children born to older mothers as the survival rate of the mother.

xanax: THE least?

Well, I suppose that playing tapes of Jerry Falwell sounding off about lesbians, feminists, and witches, would probably be the least effective method. (Do you need cites for that?)

J Thomas: ? I was referring to the same study that Mary was, and I don't vouch for it.

Oh, I see. I misunderstood: I thought you were making a different kind of argument.

Did we once maintain fertility life-long and then menopause was selected?

No other primates experience menopause. Then again, no other primates live as long as we do. (Proportionally speaking, or so I read in some Stephen Jay Gould essay, humans live twice as long as our metabolic clock tells us we "ought" to live.)

xanax, I don't have a cite, any more than I can define the universe and give three examples.

That masturbation, cunnilingus, and manual stimulation bring human women to orgasm more reliably than penetrative intercourse has been common knowledge for, um, decades.

I think you may have thought that I meant "foreplay plus intercourse" when I said "heterosexual intercourse." I didn't. I meant just the penetrative part.

a bunch of non-scientists should probably be careful making evo-devo guesses about the basis for female orgasm.

cue pharyngula here.

a bunch of non-scientists should probably be careful making evo-devo guesses about the basis for female orgasm.

Why? Will the scientists gang together and beat us up?

"Will the scientists gang together and beat us up?"

No, but they might falsify our existence, and then we'd disappear.

Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender asks if he'd like a drink. Descartes responds 'I think not,' and disappears.

"No, but they might falsify our existence"

Don't get me started.

There are traditional chinese methods that involve, ah, ejaculating into the bladder.

There are also traditional chinese methods for living forever and eating nothing but air. Given that there's been a lot of traditional Chinese, all eating and dying, you have to take these things with a grain of salt. Retrograde ejaculation *sounds* like a good idea...

(BTW keep track to see if your forehead swells when you try this_

FWIW, the single biggest difference between all other primates and us is that we go through menopause. We don't keep ovulating our entire lives.

Amother explanation, of course, is that this is largely irrelevant. We evolved under conditions which ensured very few proto-humans lived to see grandchildren, and menopause may be an artifact of a reproductive system pushed beyond the conditions it evolved under.

BTW, I'm not dismissing the "grandmother" hypothesis; I'm just wondering whether its as important as people seem to think.

"Don't get me started."

It wouldn't provide a basis for female orgasm?

Take that back, Gary: I won't have you impugning rilkefan's manhood!

BTW, how is the rilkesprog nowadays? Adorable as ever?

A Scotsman, a German, and a Frenchman walk into a bar.

"Poto, ergo sum."
"Tell me the way to go Hume."
"I Kant."

Preemptive strikes:

The Humean predicament. Also, Humean nature, the Humean condition, it's only Humean, 'Humean, all too Humean', etc. Descartes before DeHorse. Nietzsche is dead -- God.

via CaseyL: "the least effective way to bring a woman to orgasm is (hetero sex)..."

Jes: "Well, I suppose that playing tapes of Jerry Falwell sounding off about lesbians, feminists, and witches, would probably be the least effective method"

I sense a contest brewing.

J Thomas, Mary, and Jesurgislac, article that Hilzoy linked mentions the theory that orgasms increase the chance of conception (which they call the "uterine suck-up theory") and says that it "has been more or less proven false."

The article also raises "hidden ovulation" as a puzzle and discusses possible evolutionary explanations, including:

1) to make it more difficult for women to avoid pregnancy by using fertility awareness methods of birth control (especially given the health risks associated with pregnancy in those days)

2) to facilitate pair-bonding, since a male can't just swoop in when the female is fertile; they have to have sex all month for him to be sure to have hit the fertile part of the cycle

3) to make it easier for women to have an affair during the fertile part of the cycle, since her partner can't "mate guard" as effectively when he can't focus his attention on the few days per month when she is fertile

There is a growing body of research, somewhat consistent with the 3rd hypothesis, showing how women's sexual desires and behaviors change during the ovulatory cycle. There is evidence that the fertile part of the cycle is when women are most likely to prefer men with signs of good genes (e.g. symmetrical faces, pdf) and to seek out an affair (pdf), especially if their partner doesn't have good genes (e.g. a complementary immune system). This research also shows that you don't have to be explicitly aware of something for it to influence your behavior.

Gary, surely you've seen my "we're all just heaps of elementary particles evolving according to some Hamiltonian and as such indistinguishable from cantaloupes and concrete" screeds here.

Anarch, Rilkekind is indeed adorable, though he also has sharp teeth now. I bought a new camera for the purpose of better displaying the adorableness, but I haven't had a chance to assemble it what with having to chase after the baby all the time.

In spite of my atheism I always liked the islamic theory that orgasm is god's gift to preview heaven.

What I miss in all the theories is an explenation for why women can have so many more orgasms than men.

As far as the anti-mentruation pill goes: menstruation is really inconvenient even if you do not engage in copulation or related activities.

Before hearing about this US hype of volontary female circumcision I only knew one person who had her labia operated on; and she did it because biking hurt. Which is very inconvenient in the Netherlands, especially if you don't have driving license.

Article several weeks back in the NYTimes about what happens with ducks and the biological "war of the sexes" that has occured: "The drake has a corkscrew WHAT?!! And it's HOW long?"

Turns out that for some Asian species this "evolutionary war" has become, um, pretty aggressive due to the activity of the male ducks. End result: female ducks of this particular species have a labyrinth up there.....

there is some research showing that a woman's chances of having an orgasm depend on features of her partner (like symmetry)

And here I thought it was all about mastering the Venus butterfly....

That was my introduction to Zappa from an older cousin.

Call any vegetable
And the chances are good
The vegetable will respond to you

may I suggest you consider Courtney Cox's Asshole?

I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to click through on that one.

And what, no jokes about Bach's organ?

Thanks -

Francis,

a bunch of non-scientists should probably be careful making evo-devo guesses about the basis for female orgasm.

Scientists should too, for that matter. The amount of nonsense I read based on speculation and not science regarding "explanations" of behavior that is allegedly based on evolution is far too great.

Dutchmarbel,

Before hearing about this US hype of volontary female circumcision I only knew one person who had her labia operated on; and she did it because biking hurt. Which is very inconvenient in the Netherlands, especially if you don't have driving license.

This is the first compelling argument I've heard in favor of American car culture to date.

I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to click through on that one.

You really should: it got Soloway an executive producer spot on Six Feet Under.

all these theories of why we women have orgasms keep ignoring the itsy bitsy fact that women's orgasms need have nothing to do with intercourse and fertility.
There's an extremely cool site www.dinahproject.com - lots of stuff on lybrel, orgasms etc..

Debra: all these theories of why we women have orgasms keep ignoring the itsy bitsy fact that women's orgasms need have nothing to do with intercourse and fertility.

Yes, but I'm beginning to think het women keep this quiet so that het men won't get discouraged. ;-)

Okay, so I don't have a comment of any actual relevance to this post, but I thought I'd share with you the means by which I arrived.

Essentially, I was reading a web-comic where the "retrograde wheelbarrow" was mentioned as one of the character's favourite sex positions. So I did what any right-thinking human being on this interweb we call The Interweb would do; I Googled "retrograde wheelbarrow sex position".

And it brought me here.

I love technology.

Good lord, Hopefull! You're not the only one!

Well, I'm a regular reader of both ObWi and xkcd, but I didn't google when I read the comic.

Wow, I'm here for the same reason...and no doubt countless others as well

Me too!

Me too!

me too! =) Long live xkcd, it has a greater impact than we imagine =)

There have not been conclusive studies in the event of taking Avodart [Dutasteride] in the presence of hepatic failure or renal failure. This drug is highly metabolized in the liver and advisable to be avoided in hepatic failure.

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