Female orgasm: Mystery solved?

© Jessica Rinaldi
There’s been a lot of mystery around the purpose of the female orgasm in the science community, as it’s not essential to reproduction. But US researchers now say they’ve found its evolutionary origin. Sounds like time well spent.

While its function has left biologists baffled “for centuries,” researchers from Yale University and the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, now believe that our female ancestors only released an egg after achieving an orgasm, which is still the case for other mammals, including cats, rabbits and camels.

Mihaela Pavličev, co-author of the study published in the JEZ-Molecular and Developmental Evolution journal, says it’s “important to stress that it didn’t look like the human female orgasm looks like now” and that it was “maybe modified further in humans.”

To come to this conclusion, scientists delved into how other mammals have sex and they found that a hormonal surge is associated with an orgasm, signaling the release of eggs from the ovaries.

It’s thought that the female orgasm of our ancestors around 75 million years ago was likely rooted in a similar mechanism with the study stating that “the pathways by which ovulation is induced” can also be traced in the human orgasm.

As humans evolved, spontaneous ovulation developed and eggs were released regardless of sexual activity, and this ancestral mechanism became redundant, although there are questions around as to whether it is now no longer required.

“There is a lot of discussion about whether it could have any functions like in bonding behavior and things like that,” said Pavličev. “So we cannot exclude that it actually has co-opted some other function after it lost its function in reproduction.”

The study backs up its theory through the location of the clitoris in different mammals, which aids in achieving orgasm. In mammals which rely on hormonal surges during sex, the clitoris is generally found inside or near a female’s sex canal, ensuring it is stimulated.

The clitoris of those that ovulate spontaneously though is usually found further away, meaning the clitoris of our ancestors was likely inside the canal to help induce ovulation.

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Previous theories have suggested the female orgasm is just a “fortunate consequence” of sex, while the other main hypothesis is that it’s designed to help women choose and bond with a partner.