Wow. The media are really latching on to this "g spot study" – and distorting it. Here, I walk through my perspective on the New Scientist article, the full text of which can be found here:
1. The title for New Scientist’s article is Ultrasound nails location of the elusive G spot. Seriously? They had to involve a nail/screw/bang reference as in "they nailed the g spot"?
2. Then the article opens with the line "For women, it is supposed to trigger one of the most intense orgasms imaginable". Um, NO!!!!!!!!! Actually the little research that has had women describe their experience with orgasm suggests that women – like men – may experience a range of orgasm types and feelings. Not only can it vary by area of stimulation, but also by type of sexual activitiy (oral sex, masturbation, intercourse), one’s partner, as well as from day to day and throughout one’s life. We have no reason to believe that so-called g spot orgasms are among "the most intense orgasms imaginable." What does that even mean?
3. Oh, scratch that. It apparently means, again according to them, "with waves of pleasure spreading out across the whole body." Oh, my. Once again, women’s orgasms vary. Sometimes they may be felt more "locally" (as in, the contractions around the area of the uterus and vagina may be more pronounced) and other times one may feel a head rush, or more sensation throughout the body. This is not necessarily "g spot specific".
4. Then they write "Now for the first time gynaecological scans have revealed clear anatomical differences between women who claim to experience vaginal orgasms involving a G spot and those who don’t." Well, if one counts a study of 20 women who have a higher than usual ease of orgasm to be a study that is able to show clear anatomical differences related to all women’s absolute ability to orgasm from a certain type of stimulation, then I find that problematic.
5. One of the most infuriating lines to me: "What’s more, a simple test could tell you if it’s time to give up the hunt, or if your partner just needs to try harder." NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Absolutely not. This research does not support the need for "a simple test." The fact is that women, on the whole, do not learn to orgasm as early or as quickly as many men do (males typically learn to orgasm with masturbation around the time of puberty and most are able to orgasm with a partner during early sexual experiences; women begin to masturbate at widely different points in time, and may or may not experience orgasm alone or with a partner, and may learn to orgasm later in life, on average, than males). But women often do learn to orgasm! So what do these anatomical differences suggest? An actual ability in women, or a difference in women who have taught themselves to orgasm (and thus possibly their vaginal walls have changed)?Or something else entirely?
7. At one point, the article describes vaginal orgasm as "an orgasm triggered by stimulation of the front vaginal wall without any simultaneous stimulation of the clitoris." Like many sex researchers, I have difficulty making a distinction between a vaginal orgasm and a clitoris orgasm, since most orgasms appear to involve the clitoris (directly or indirectly). And just think of it: if you are having intercourse, even if it feels like what is sending you to orgasm is stimulation of a certain place in the vagina, the clitoris is likely still being stimulated by your partner’s genitals or pubic bone. How can we really separate the two?
8. This part is a fair description of the research: "So Jannini’s team took a different approach, and used vaginal ultrasound to scan the entire urethrovaginal space – the area of tissue between the vagina and urethra thought to house the G spot
9. This description of the interpretation however, is NOT fair and does what we scientists call "going beyond the data" – Here is the quote "This means, says Jannini, that "women without any visible evidence of a G spot cannot have a vaginal orgasm"." From my perspective and that of many scientists who are now discussing this study, their small study has no basis for suggesting that women without this same type of vaginal thickening (what they are calling "without any visible evidence of a G spot) are not able to have a "vaginal orgasm".
10. New Scientist does go on to show how various researchers disagree with the study authors’ conclusions – some quotes from the article: "Other researchers question whether what Jannini says is the G spot is a distinct structure or the internal part of the clitoris." (Correct: it is unclear what this is – g spot? clitoris? something else?). Even Dr. Beverly Whipple – one of the researchers who literally coined the term "g spot" challenges these conclusions. She is quoted as saying "It is an intriguing study, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that women who don’t experience orgasm don’t have any tissue there."
11. NYU’s Dr. Leonore Tiefer suggests another possibility for the results: that "the women who experienced vaginal orgasms had learned to do so through practice, which has altered their anatomy…"
12. OH NO!!!!!!!!!! A potentially worrying quote: "Jannini (suggests that) ultrasound could be used to test whether a woman has a G spot or not….If she does, it may even be possible to increase its size using testosterone…"
13. At least they note this about testosterone: "This could increase sexual responsiveness, but could be dangerous in women with normal testosterone levels." but then go on to say that "Jannini is running a trial in post-menopausal women and those who have experienced early menopause to see if testosterone treatment can increase the size of the G spot as measured by vaginal ultrasound."
14. Toward they end, it is written that "Jannini thinks his study should reassure women who have never experienced a vaginal orgasm that this is completely normal."
I find this article so problematic. It does not prove that a g spot exists. In fact, no one – not even the authors of the study – know what it is that contributes to the difference in thicker vaginal area. Also, the 20 women who were selected in this study were not like all other women. They were all relatively easily orgasmic (in order to be included in the study, they had to score on the high end of a few orgasm items in a commonly used scale). It is what some scientists would consider an intriguing pilot study - but you don’t make grand claims about a pilot study, you say things like "hmmm… that was interesting, let’s see what happens in a larger study now."
Please use caution when believing mass media reports of sex research. If you have questions about this topic or anything else you see reported in the media, please feel free to ask me a question (firstname.lastname@example.org).
[Above image via this site.]