Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sweet Spot: Could the Clitoris Go Extinct?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 8:00 AM

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Female hyenas, chimpanzees, baleen whales, and humans all have one. And what do they have? Why, it's that little bump that seems to exist for pleasure and pleasure alone -- the clitoris. There is a long-held belief that the primary purpose of sex is to create babies. Other mammals don't have sex for fun, so we shouldn't either, right? Wrong.

Bonobos, those randy primates, have sex all the live-long day. In fact, they use sex for just about everything -- friendship, status, and play. Sex between bonobos of the same gender? Sure, it's all part of the fun. And it is also very possible that the female bonobo, with her quite large clitoris, is orgasmic. Studies have almost proved it but until we learn to speak bonobo, we won't know for sure.

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So is the clitoris just a biological accident or does the female orgasm aid in evolution? According to Kasey Lee, this is, " ... kind of a non-question. Why does the penis exist? I wouldn't say the clitoris is a vestigial penis (this is one of the theories) or the penis is an exaggerated clitoris, but boys and girls are a lot more similar than we give ourselves culturally to consider. These parts are just organic mechanical manifestations of our reproductive biology."

'Tis true that we are far more similar than we are different. But ejaculation for a male is imperative for procreation. In the female, not so much. Or so it might seem, if we are thinking only about mechanics. The clitoris is believed by some to be adaptive, meaning it evolved because it was needed.

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According to this theory, our ancestral sisters were a wild bunch who tramped about in search of orgasm after orgasm. Why? Because evolution demanded that women seek, as Lorelei Lamberson says, "More pleasure so that more partners are sought, hence more semen and let the best sperm win!" But also with no certain paternity, the regular practice of infanticide could be avoided.

There is a serious problem with this theory. Evolutionary biologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy proposes that because the clitoris is a fickle thing and the reproductive benefits of it need no longer apply, it will keep shrinking until it disappears. Eeek!

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Thankfully, Hrdy is not the last word on the subject. Natalie Angier, author of Women: an Intimate Geography, argues that the clitoris and thus the female orgasm is vital. She says that mass of 8,000 nerve fibers nestled in the vagina, "is designed to encourage its bearer to take control of her sexuality." She uses as evidence the fact that women who are raped rarely have an orgasm. Because "the female orgasm is the ultimate expression of female choice," and a woman's sexual responsiveness affects how willing her cervix is to receive all that impregnating sperm. The power of choice is, in fact, key to the survival of the human race.

Of course, a simpler reason that the clitoris exists, as claimed by Aaron Tsuru, is "to give our tongues something to aim for!"


The Sweet Spot is a blog column about alternative sexuality by Ginger Murray who is also the editor of Whore! magazine. Check back next week for more.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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