More inaccurate g spot information from New Scientist

 

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?

6. Okay, I used to think the researchers were doing a good job of putting their small research into the context of a wider body of knowledge that still has a lot to learn. However, it seems that one of the researchers offered this quote which I disagree with "For the first time it is possible to determine by a simple, rapid and inexpensive method if a woman has a G spot or not," says Emmanuele Jannini at the University of L’Aquila in Italy, who carried out the research." No, it is not possible. We need a good deal more research to find a) if what they are seeing is even what one could fairly describe as the g spot and b) whether this test is the best use of that.

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 (see Diagram). The team scanned nine women who said they had vaginal orgasms and 11 who said they didn’t. They found that tissue in the urethrovaginal space was thicker in the first group of women (Journal of Sexual Medicine, DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00739.x)."

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 (drdebby@mysexprofessor.com).

[Above image via this site.]

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • Vincenzo Puppo

    RE: Gravina, Jannini et al. Measurement of the thickness of the urethrovaginal space in women with or without vaginal orgasm. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2008;5:610-18.
    I read the full text of the article: this article it is not scientific, I not understood because it is published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine…

    The authors write of a “urethrovaginal space”, but this term is incorrect from a scientific point of view, and it’s not used in anatomy.

    The authors write “The urethrovaginal space (where the Halban’s fascia runs) seems critical, being constituted of fibro-connective tissue and …”, but the anterior vaginal wall is separated from posterior urethral wall by the urethro-vaginal septum, and the anatomy of these structures is always described in anatomy textbooks. The size of urethro-vaginal septum is variable (5-12 mm) and the size of the muscular fibers present in the anterior vaginal wall and in the posterior urethral wall are variable. One “vaginal” orgasm at least once in the past month (in women that reported at least two acts of sexual intercourse per week…) it is not a significative difference with women without “vaginal” orgasm. Besides the authors write “By vaginal orgasm we mean the orgasm experienced after direct stimulation of the anterior vaginal wall by penetration”: but the authors do not write what was the position of coitus and how many women had masturbation.

    The authors write of Grafenberg and of G-spot, but Grafenberg in 1950, hasn’t discovered any G-spot. Sexologists and people who believe in a “vaginal spot” should not use Grafenberg’s name yet.

    The authors write “human clitoris-urethrovaginal complex, also known as the G-spot”, but this definition is incorrect: the G-spot (that currently is only an hypothesis) of Ladas, Whipple, and Perry is the Skene’s glands (i.e. female prostate, that is not embryological remnant).

    The authors write “The close physical proximity of the urethra and the clitoris to the anterior vaginal wall suggests an association between these anatomical structures and sexual function” and “The presence of pseudocavernous tissue (clitoral bulb) in the anterior vaginal mucosa is a frequent but not universal finding (86%)”, but there’s no part of the vaginal wall adhereing to the clitoris, in the anterior vaginal mucosa there isn’t a pseudocavernous tissue and the bulbs don’t develop from the phallus, they don’t belong to the clitoris: the term clitoral bulb isn’t used in anatomy.
    Urethrovaginal space, clitoral bulb, human clitoris-urethrovaginal complex, periurethral glans, G-spot, they are not terms used in anatomy.

    The measurement by ultrasonography of the “space” within the anterior vaginal wall (that has no function in female sexuality, and what would be the normal measures of this “space”?…) is incorrect from a scientific point of view. Gravina et al.’s article increases the confusion on this topic (i.e. female orgasm) in sexologists and in women.
    From sexologists it’s important to spread people scientific notions and the use of a correct scientific terminology describing female sexual anatomy and physiology.
    See also on You Tube, the video (Clarifications about some theories in sexology and about a correct sexual terminology) presented to EFS congress, April 2008, in Rome, this is the address:
    http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=E52HiDw5bhM or http://it.youtube.com/newsexology

  • Vincenzo Puppo

    RE: Gravina, Jannini et al. Measurement of the thickness of the urethrovaginal space in women with or without vaginal orgasm. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2008;5:610-18.
    I read the full text of the article: this article it is not scientific, I not understood because it is published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine…

    The authors write of a “urethrovaginal space”, but this term is incorrect from a scientific point of view, and it’s not used in anatomy.

    The authors write “The urethrovaginal space (where the Halban’s fascia runs) seems critical, being constituted of fibro-connective tissue and …”, but the anterior vaginal wall is separated from posterior urethral wall by the urethro-vaginal septum, and the anatomy of these structures is always described in anatomy textbooks. The size of urethro-vaginal septum is variable (5-12 mm) and the size of the muscular fibers present in the anterior vaginal wall and in the posterior urethral wall are variable. One “vaginal” orgasm at least once in the past month (in women that reported at least two acts of sexual intercourse per week…) it is not a significative difference with women without “vaginal” orgasm. Besides the authors write “By vaginal orgasm we mean the orgasm experienced after direct stimulation of the anterior vaginal wall by penetration”: but the authors do not write what was the position of coitus and how many women had masturbation.

    The authors write of Grafenberg and of G-spot, but Grafenberg in 1950, hasn’t discovered any G-spot. Sexologists and people who believe in a “vaginal spot” should not use Grafenberg’s name yet.

    The authors write “human clitoris-urethrovaginal complex, also known as the G-spot”, but this definition is incorrect: the G-spot (that currently is only an hypothesis) of Ladas, Whipple, and Perry is the Skene’s glands (i.e. female prostate, that is not embryological remnant).

    The authors write “The close physical proximity of the urethra and the clitoris to the anterior vaginal wall suggests an association between these anatomical structures and sexual function” and “The presence of pseudocavernous tissue (clitoral bulb) in the anterior vaginal mucosa is a frequent but not universal finding (86%)”, but there’s no part of the vaginal wall adhereing to the clitoris, in the anterior vaginal mucosa there isn’t a pseudocavernous tissue and the bulbs don’t develop from the phallus, they don’t belong to the clitoris: the term clitoral bulb isn’t used in anatomy.
    Urethrovaginal space, clitoral bulb, human clitoris-urethrovaginal complex, periurethral glans, G-spot, they are not terms used in anatomy.

    The measurement by ultrasonography of the “space” within the anterior vaginal wall (that has no function in female sexuality, and what would be the normal measures of this “space”?…) is incorrect from a scientific point of view. Gravina et al.’s article increases the confusion on this topic (i.e. female orgasm) in sexologists and in women.
    From sexologists it’s important to spread people scientific notions and the use of a correct scientific terminology describing female sexual anatomy and physiology.
    See also on You Tube, the video (Clarifications about some theories in sexology and about a correct sexual terminology) presented to EFS congress, April 2008, in Rome, this is the address:
    http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=E52HiDw5bhM or http://it.youtube.com/newsexology

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