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Have Scientists Solved the Mystery of the Female Orgasm?

author image Michelle Vartan
Michelle is a mission-first journalist and content producer, telling stories that will help better other’s lives. She covers environment, health, human-interest, community and travel. Michelle lives in Santa Monica, Ca.
Have Scientists Solved the Mystery of the Female Orgasm?
The female orgasm is rooted in evolution. Photo Credit: volkovslava/iStock/Getty Images

We've long heard talk of the "feminine mystique" — especially when it comes to our bodies.

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That sense of mystery also shrouds the climax, with even scientists scratching their heads about why we orgasm in the first place.

Scientifically speaking, there's a reason for everything. Most men orgasm during sex with an obvious biological purpose to reach and fertilize the egg. However, women's big "O" has always been a big question mark — until now.

The Purpose of the Female "O"

Women orgasm less than men, and the muscle contractions aren't proven to help a woman get pregnant. So what's the biological point of the miraculous "O"?

A group of researchers have recently concluded that though it can feel like a miracle, it's actually rooted in evolution.

Over the years, there have been many scientific theories attempting to identify the purpose of the female orgasm, including pulling sperm closer to the egg, a way for women to select high-quality mates (as if), or a fantastic pleasure bonus to being emotional and intimate. But thus far, none of these theories are widely accepted.

That is, until this new study uncovered where the female orgasm originated. The authors say that the female orgasm started in mammals about 150 million years ago to help with ovulation or releasing the egg to be fertilized.

Led by a Yale professor of ecology and biology, the researchers looked at non-human mammals (before scientists had only studied humans and primates), and focused on a specific reflex — the release of hormones prolactin and oxytocin. For many mammals, this orgasm-linked reflex played helped stimulate the release of eggs from ovaries.

150 million years of evolution led to this famous scene from "Harry Met Sally."
150 million years of evolution led to this famous scene from "Harry Met Sally." Photo Credit:

How the Orgasm Has Evolved

The co-author of the study stressed that the orgasm 150 million years ago was not what it looks like today. Today, the orgasm, which once served the purpose to stimulate ovulation, has evolved, taking on another important role — pleasure.

Mystery solved, right? Not exactly. There is still more we don't know about the female orgasm, like why some can't get them.

Past studies show that part of the reason women don't always orgasm is because the clitoris is separated from the vagina. Interestingly, this new study also notes that the clitoris appears to have shifted position throughout evolution (it used to be located inside the vagina) — making it less likely to be stimulated through intercourse.

Though this is consistent with other mammals' evolution patterns, some doctors concede that they don't know why this unfortunate consequence happened over time.

Right when they thought they had women figured out...

What Do YOU Think?

Why do you think the female orgasm has caused so much discussion among scientists? What are ways that you find it easy to orgasm? How can we further open discussion around female sexuality? Tell us in the comments!

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