Friday Weird Science: Rate Yourself, Please.

Apr 30 2010 Published by under Friday Weird Science

So the other day Sci is chatting with some friends, and mentions how INCREDIBLY AMUSED she always is by romance novels. This is for several reasons.
One (1): They have covers like this:
(Seriously, I crack up just looking at these. LOL!!! Ooooh. My new favorite. Look at that bulging codpiece. *snort* HAHAHAHAHAHA.)
Two (2): They are so predictable, particularly the period ones. Sci could write one RIGHT NOW:

"Cerise Everett Longwood, the lovely and rebellious daughter of the Count of (Something-or-Other-which-sounds-terribly-rich-and-important), has never lived life by the rules. Restricted by day by the iron bands of high society, by night she stretches her wings as (a thief/someone who avenges the helpless/an aspiring writer of romance novels/a journalist). But when a (terrible secret/horrible murder/something else mildly chilling) is discovered, she finds the only man who can help her is the man she hates most.
Viscount Feathersly von Rothampton ne Gornesssbaum (or something else complicated and equally offensive to language which is usually shortened to something more romantic that his friends call him, like "Heath"), is not a man to be challenged. Outwardly secure in his position and power, his years in (Her Majesty's service/the army/the navy/Secret Service/something else military and daring) have marked him in more ways than one.
When the delectable Cerise falls into his path, the Viscount's honor demands that he assist her, despite his rivalry and hatred for her brother. But great events are afoot , and Cerise is in no mere danger. And in the heat of the moment, passions arise..."

Coming soon to a bookstore near you!!! Unfortunately, "Scicurious" is a terrible romance pen-name...
But yes, they're all like that. She's lovely (she never ADMITS that she is, she always thinks she's TOTALLY ordinary, but she's of course long and lithe, or short and slim, or short and lushly curvaceous, etc). They never like each other at first. Then they kiss. Then they screw. Shenanigans ensue. It will always end with a marriage and the birth of at least one of their children into a happy, adorable, obscenely rich family.

And Three (3): Sci has always found that these romance novels have the most hilarious representations of female anatomy. The woman is always a virgin at the start (or had an extremely boring sex life before she became an untimely widow at the age of no more than 27), and yet never seems to have a problem with pain or orgasm during the first attempt at intercourse. And what always gets Sci, these women appear to have INSANELY sensitive breasts. Apparently, the guy touches them and the next line always reads something like "bolts of lightning shot through her thighs".
Seriously? I mean, seriously?! Is this normal?
Sci asked her friends. They all laughed, many of them uncomfortably (this happens a LOT when Sci is around...I wonder why...), and no one could give her a direct answer.
Sci turned to the internet.
And her trusty Pubmed gave her NOTHING!!!! NOTHING?!?! Has my Pubmed-fu failed me?! Is it really possible that no one has done a study on variations in nipple sensitivity in women as a variation of the menstrual cycle?! Is this like when I wanted to know about vaginal sensitivity? Why is no one STUDYING THIS?!
Sigh. Someday.
Anyway. Sci did turn up some interesting papers. And it turns out that, while apparently no one cares (and by 'no one', I mean no one with scientific funding, because everyone else in the world apparently cares a heck of a lot) how sensitive women's nipples are and whether they vary as a function of the menstrual cycle (and I'll bet you a PILE of money they do, in fact, let's bet some funding and do this study already), a study has been done on MEN. On men's nipples, and...everywhere else.
Let's get to it. Schober et al. "Self-ratings of genital anatomy, sexual sensitivity and function in men using the 'Self-Assessment of Genital Anatomy and Sexual Function, Male' questionnaire" British Journal of Urology International, 2008.
There's some rather hilarious shaded in line drawings below the fold. You were warned.

So now we get down to it. The authors wanted to "assess the perceptions of healthy men of
their genital anatomy and sexual sensitivity", which they did by a self-rating questionnaire called the Self-Assessment of Genital Anatomy and Sexual Function, Male (SAGASF-M). They took 81 guys between the ages of 22 and 57 (no genital surgery, please), and asked a whole variety of questions relating to pain and touch sensitivity and sensitivity and intensity of orgasm. Apparently all male vertebrates have specific ares of sensitivity, including the penis (obviously), the foreskin,
urethra, scrotum, perineum (known colloquially as the 'taint', as in 't'ain't balls, and t'ain't ass', thigh and anal area. While some studies have been done on the sensitivity to touch, the sensitivity of the penis compared to other sexually related areas hadn't been looked at. Until now.

(apparently, men are very sensitive to blue, red, and green colored chalk).
First of all, it turned out that there was very little variation in how sensitive men were in various areas. Most men were most sensitive to touch, sexual stimulation, and orgasm intensity on the ventral side of the penis close to the glans:

You can see there that the glans is the bulge at the tip of the penis. The ventral side would be the bottom. This would be the area colored in the heaviest in the pictures above (though Sci doesn't think it shows very much). Other areas nearby are slightly less sensitive but still very up there.
But what Sci found really interesting was the ratings of other areas of the body. The authors found the highest sensitivity after the penis in (surprise!) the scrotum. But from there, from highest to lower, sensitivity went as follows:
1) The ear
2) The perineum (skin between the scrotum and anus)
3) The neck
4) The nipples
5) The butt
6) The anus (exterior more than interior)
7) The WRIST
8) and the Axilla (that would be your armpit. Yes really).
Sci is really disappointed that they didn't do a shaded in diagram of all of these. So she did one for them.
male sensitivity3.png
(I tried red the first time around and it looked...awkwardly bloody. Sci would also like to note that, while she was coloring this in, Mr. S noted that one of the things he loved about her is that she's so MATURE.)
The researchers also noted that ratings of partner stimulation were usually higher than self-stimulation (it feels better if someone else it doing it to you).
So there you have it. But Sci wants to know, where are the LADIES?! Millions upon millions of dollars devoted to Cosmo telling you "how to achieve your best orgasm yet", not to mention the entire porn industry totally convinced they know what parts of a woman are most sensitive, and there's no RESEARCH on this?! Scientists, we can do better.
Schober JM, Meyer-Bahlburg HF, & Dolezal C (2009). Self-ratings of genital anatomy, sexual sensitivity and function in men using the 'Self-Assessment of Genital Anatomy and Sexual Function, Male' questionnaire. BJU international, 103 (8), 1096-103 PMID: 19245445

15 responses so far

  • JerryM says:

    You come up with the questions, and I'll find the women who'll answer...

  • Pascale says:

    Sounds like a study Cosmo might fund.

  • Monica says:

    That sounds like a very important study- maybe we can send it to some men's magazines. Take they guesswork out of pleasing a lady. Or maybe they are just interested in gratification of themselves. Which would be one explanation for why there is a study published for men and not women. I think it would also be interesting to find out the cultural differences in reported sensitivity areas- see if there are societal pressures that would prevent men from honestly acknowledging where their erogenous zones are. How would those from middle eastern countries or those specific religious sects report on #2 and #5?
    Nice post!

  • CS Shelton says:

    In my limited experience, men's nipples are more sensitive than women's - to the extent that it's more uncomfortable than arousing for anyone to mess with them. As for the menstrual thing, some women's breasts vary in size with the cycle (water gain) and it seems like smaller breasts are more sensitive. But that's just anecdotal experience.
    My question is this: How many of the supposed women writing these things are real? These seem conventions HAVE to have been invented by a dude. It's ridiculous.

  • nolrai says:

    It seems really strange to me that the wrist and ears are more sensitive then the lips. I would rate the lips as right after the anus personally.

  • Pascale says:

    BTW, I have spent some time studying the content of romance novels (don't judge me) and you forgot one of the most important components of true romance sex: NO ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES!
    Sex with a hot, shirtless, true-love guy doesn't get you pregnant before matrimony! No STDs! Some awkward next-morning moments, but nothing is perfect.

  • Katharine says:

    Hmm. In the interests of data-collecting, maybe all us female commenters could contribute to an informal, SurveyMonkey-esque poll of the erogenousness (erogenosity?) of the same areas.

  • Katharine says:

    Adjusted for women, of course. No penis or scrotum and such.

  • canuck_grad says:

    What about how it varies after pregnancy?? I had my son 2 years ago, and I can tell you, my sexual preferences have definitely changed... the specific spots that are more sensitive have changed, and as a result, I even prefer different positions!

  • hectocotyli says:

    Aw, could a cross-sectional slice of a penis *be* any cuter?

  • Andreas Johansson says:

    As for the menstrual thing, some women's breasts vary in size with the cycle (water gain) and it seems like smaller breasts are more sensitive.

    I'm told that's because the total numbers of nerve endings per breast is constant, so smaller breasts have more per unit area.

  • Lab Rat says:

    Fascinating, and the shaded diagrams were actually a really easy and instant way of looking at it. The bit about the neck and wrists is very true though, they are way more sensitive than you might think.

  • Allen says:

    A study of women would have to have an 'n' so large as to make the undertaking practically impossible. We men are simple, in fact, that arousal and orgasm is a near certainty at every encounter. With you women folk, it seems to be a different story. The parameters of your experiment (which I would gladly lend data to and participate in at a moments notice)with regards to females would also have to include, if memory serves, thoughts, sounds, ambiance, emotional connection, feelings and the actual physical 'pleasure making'. ...and the cross section of the penis makes me cry...

  • The shaded picture looks shadily like a hotel room under UV light...