Back to Basics 5: WEIRD SCIENCE EDITION: THE LADIES

Aug 27 2010 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Friday Weird Science

This one is for the ladies:

And today I present you with the man himself: Ernst Grafenberg, discoverer of the G spot, and, only slightly less well-known as the inventor of 'the ring' and its potential use in contraception.

It's weird, historical science time.

Grafenberg, E. "The role of urethra in female orgasm". The International Journal of Sexology, 1950.


Sci has been hit by a multitude of misfortunes since beginning this post. This includes spilling water on her cell phone, water on her computer, having an experiment fail, and being completely unable to find a really cute pair of sparkly ballet flats (should anyone happen to come across such awesomeness let me know where they can be had. Sci will take sequiny ruby slippers, or something else awesome and sparkly. She wear a size 8, and has had trouble finding cute cheap shoes in that size). But the worst thing of all: a total lack of wireless. She will cry and cover herself in sackcloth and ashes in an effort to appease the gods, and in the event that this does not have a positive result, the post will go up as soon as she can get to internet. Because she cares. Because of this, however, there will be no awesome links. I will find them and link them as soon as I can, but it may end up being later rather than sooner.

Where were we...right.

Reading older papers about sex is always a rather humorous, but kind of sad experience. It's funny because, well, it's funny. But it's also sad to realize that people drew these silly conclusions, demonstrating both a lack of understanding (which could be explained by a lack of technique able to probe to phenomena), but also demonstrating how much they we either not listening, or not bothering to ask, what women really thought about sex. Of course, we're all blinded by societal restrictions, and back in 1950, things were actually quite repressive. Many women grew up not really knowing what sex WAS, let alone how to obtain satisfaction from it. So I guess it's not all that surprising.

So, in true historical form, the author starts out by noting that up to 80% of women are frigid. I think it says a lot in Grafenberg's favor, however, that he thinks most of these "documented cases" are incorrect. He states that "genuine frigidity should be spoken of only if there is no response to any partner and in all situations".

Gafenberg not only describes female ejactulation, he goes into a detailed decription of the female genetalia, and what exactly happens to them during arousal and orgasm.

This has to be one of the best papers I have ever read for getting some amazing quotes. Where to begin:

"One of my patients, who married early a very much older, rich man and had two children, pestered me persistently with questions as to why she could not experience an orgasm...I finally asked her, if she had tried sex relation with another male partner. No, was the answer and reflectively she left my office. The next day in the middle of the night, I was awakened by a telephone call and a familiar voice who did not give her name asked: "Doctor, are you there? You are right!"...I never had to answer any further sexual questions from her.

Oh, it gets BETTER:

"Hardenberg mentions that nerves have been demonstrated only inside the vagina in the anterior wall, proximate to the base of the clitoris. This I can confirm by my own experience of numerous women."

Ah, Grafenberg, that ol' womanizer. And of course, Grafenberg gave the G-spot its name, and its first description:

"An erotic zone always could be demonstrated on the anterior wall of the vagina along the course of the urethra."

Some more modern studies have indicated that this area is most sensitive because women may have prostate tissue, similar to men. In men, the prostate wraps around the urethra, and is VERY sensitive to stimulation. In some women with a demonstrable amount of prostate tissue, this also appears to be the case. Unfortunately, the AMOUNT of prostate tissue in woman varies a great deal more than in men, and further studies need to confirm whether or not all women have the tissue at all.

Of course, with the prostate surrounding the urethra, it explains why some people like to insert things into the urethra, trying to get stimulation. Grafenberg, poor guy, apparently saw a lot of this, including two GIRLS who were trying it with hair pins (they got stuck), other girls who apparently used pencils (SPLINTERS, think of the SPLINTERS), and a solider who got lonely on duty and tried it with a RIFLE BULLET. Must have been very lonely. One can only ask what other things have been used, that just didn't get caught and result in medical intervention.

Regardless of the prostate question, it is clear that the anterior wall (that's the bit toward the front, directly behind the clitoris. And men, if you have to question where exactly the clitoris is, it's probably about two inchesd away from where you think it is. Results may vary) of the vagina has something special about it. Grafenberg noticed that, during orgasm, the anterior wall of the vagina actually presses downward, against whatever is...in the vagina at the time.

Dr. G also notes that the urethra of women has some erectile tissue surrounding it, similar to that in men, though usually much reduced. In fact, clitoral erection, the swelling of the clitoris in response to physical stimulation, has been known for some time. He dismisses, however, the idea that the uterus performs a role in orgasm, and particularly speaks of an experiment which proves that female orgasm doesn't cause the uterus to "suck in" semen. Apparently they studied this by having women put in a cervical cap filled with contrast oil, and then have some good sex. The contrast oil never made it up into the uterus or even past the cervix, implying that there wasn't a lot of sucking going on.

But now, on to ejaculation.

Everyone knows that the vagina is capable of secreting lubricant, and that it is particularly lubricated during sexual exploits. In some women, a steady production of fluid during and a little after intercourse is all that you're going to get. But in others, there is a "convulsory expulsion of fluids [that] occurs always that the acme of orgasm and simultaneously with it". Apparently, for those exploring closely enough, large quantities ("large" is relative, it's a few mLs, but that's about equal to some volumes of male ejaculate) of fluid are coming not only out of the vagina, but out of the URETHRA. Of course, the first thing all the doctors thought was that the woman got overexcited and peed herself. While this can happen, please give us the benefit of the doubt and assume that we have more control than that in most cases. And recent studies have found that it's not urine at all, rather it contains high levels of chemicals found in...ejaculate.

Grafenberg hypothesized as much, and believed that the secretions originated from something adjacent to the anterior wall of the vagina. Should the prostate hypothesis turn out to be true, the prostate could be where the fluid is emerging. In males, the prostate produces some of the chemicals in ejaculate (obviously, the chemicals that are not sperm, which come from the testes). Dr. G also noted that the ejaculate must be for some purpose other than lubrication, because if lubrication was required, you'd think it would come at the beginning of intercourse, rather than the climax.

But what is the purpose of female ejaculation? No one really knows. It's fairly clear that not all women CAN ejaculate, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of selective pressure for female ejaculation. It's possible that it's a by-product of similar development between male and female body plans. However, it's also very possible that it could have a use. Some studies have postulated that, as the fluids that come out have some antimicrobial properties, the gush of fluid could help clear bacteria from the urethra and vagina, bacteria which may have gained entrance during sexual intercourse.

So how does Grafenberg finish his treatise on the female genetalia and orgasm? With a description of some good positions, of course. He recommends the female on top as a way to better stimulate "erotogenic" parts, particularly getting the clitoris and vagina at the same time. He also mentions that missionary is less likely to stimulate the G-spot, as the penis doesn't always have the steep upward angle to hit the anterior vaginal wall, unless of course the female can throw her legs over the male's shoulders, which might improve the angle.

But Grafenberg believes that the best position is the one that some think might be most "natural": doggie style. And this is where we get to the best quote: "the stimulating effect of this kind of intercourse must not be explained away...by the melodious movements of the tesiticles like a knocker on the clitoris, but is merely caused by the direct thrust of the penis towards the urethral erotic zone". "Melodious movement"?! Hey, I mean whatever words give meaning and all, but "melodious" is not really the word I would have picked...

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