Polyamory and Women's Orgasms
Are women naturally monogamous?
Posted May 26, 2010
Scientists once claimed that female orgasm was unique to humans and explained that its function was to “sustain the long-term pair bond at the heart of the nuclear family” according Psychology Today blogger and author Christopher Ryan. This theory is problematic partly because more astute observations have revealed that human females are not the only ones to have orgasms. As Ryan so cleverly put it, “Your problem gets worse if the most orgasmic species happen to be among the most promiscuous as well, which appears to be the case.” The fact that the nuclear family is a twentieth century invention also casts doubt on the evolutionary relevance of this theory on the function of women’s orgasm.
Scientific researchers have long been aware of the bias introduced by the expectations, personality and belief systems of the observer. The “self-fulfilling prophecy” has a powerful and demonstrable effect. Selective attention also skews results. This phenomenon became apparent to me as an undergraduate psychology student at UC Berkeley in a lab course where we were instructed to observe and record the mating behavior of the golden hamster while electrodes measured their brain waves. As I watched these hamsters I noticed that in addition to their attempts to mate with females, the males engaged in both self stimulation and homoerotic activity. When I mentioned this to the other students, none of the guys had noticed the hamsters masturbating or interacting with other males, but all of the women had seen both behaviors. Coincidence? I doubt it.
In the case of women’s orgasms, we are up against a number of prejudices which obscure the truth of the matter. First is the idea that women are sexually weaker than men. As ancient Taoist sexual teachings put it, the woman, whose sexual nature is like water, is slower to heat up than the man, who sexual nature is like fire. But like fire, he quickly burns out while she is just coming to a boil. A man who has not learned to delay his ejaculation, or to orgasm without ejaculating, is no match for a woman whose sexual endurance is essentially infinite. Just in terms of our physiology, the average man has difficulty engaging in intercourse with more than one woman in the course of an evening, whereas the woman is much more likely to become orgasmic if she has access to multiple partners who can provide the quantity and variety of stimulation she may need to reach orgasm.
In other words, one of the most common sexual problems for men is premature ejaculation. While many men fantasize about how wonderful it would be to have two women in bed, many become too excited or too confused to take full advantage of the opportunity in real life.
One of the most common problems for women is difficulty reaching orgasm. Women who manage to overcome the conditioning which tells them they are sluts or whores if they don’t adhere to monogamous standards, often report very satisfying experiences.
Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but given this equation, one would expect that in the interest of promoting sustainable relationships, polyandry would be the norm (one woman mated with multiple men). But historically, in most cultures the norm has been polygyny (one man mated to multiple women). Clearly factors other than sexual satisfaction are at play. One of these factors is which gender controls the economic resources and has the political and religious power to make the rules. Another is emotional intelligence. Both of these are addressed in my forthcoming book, Polyamory in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, June, 2010).