In an episode of the American television sitcom comedy Seinfeld, the character Elaine (Julia Louise-Dreyfus) and Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) get involved in a discussion of Elaine’s orgasms when the two were dating.

Elaine: I faked it.

Jerry: That whole thing, the whole production, it was all an act?

Elaine: Not bad, huh?

Jerry: What about the breathing, the panting, the moaning, the screaming?

Elaine: Fake, fake, fake, fake.

A new theory.

The female orgasm has been a mystery to men, women and also to evolutionary biologists, who for decades have been attempting to determine its purpose.

Now, a report in “The Journal of Experimental Zoology” offers up a new theory for the phenomenon that may have begun millions of years ago.

The paper, “The Evolutionary Origin of the Female Orgasm,” by Mihaela Pavlicev and Gunther Wagner, proposes that the orgasm in the female human is a reflex that originally served a purpose in female nonhuman mammals millions of years ago. That purpose was to induce ovulation or the releasing of an egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube, where it could be fertilized by a sperm.

This process inducing ovulation, an ancestral necessity, has now evolved into a spontaneous reflex, making the orgasm an unnecessary biological function, Pavlicev and Wagner argue.

Does lack of function make orgasms less likely?

The fictional Elaine may have spoken for a majority of women. Pavlicev and Wagner point out that the “human female orgasm during sexual intercourse is uncommon, in particular without additional clitoral stimulation; the orgasm is in fact more common during female masturbation or homosexual intercoursethan during actual heterosexual intercourse.”

Male orgasm never questioned

Biologists have had little interest in studying the maleorgasm as the ejaculation that brings pleasure to the male serves, as it always has, the clear purpose of providing sperm to fertilize the female egg.

The pleasure derived from the act would increase the male drive to continue the phenomenon, which, from an evolutionary view, would be beneficial to increasing and maintaining the species’ population.

Still a mystery

The muscle contractions and other physiological stimulations a female experiences during an orgasm have no direct correlation with resulting impregnation and therefore remain merely a means of receiving pleasure and perhaps stimulating a bonding between the female and her partner.

Other theories

Some scientists argue that a female’s orgasm may still serve a functional purpose in that the contractions can serve to draw the male’s sperm deeper into her reproductive tract and possibly increase the odds of a successful fertilization. The “fantastic bonus” theory argues against any functional purpose of an orgasm other than a pleasurable stimulation that results from the biological process of mating. These and many other theories are still, for the moment, simply theories and no definitive evidence for the purpose of a female orgasm has been accepted as scientific fact.

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