Researchers have long been fascinated by the female orgasm. It isn’t necessary for a woman to orgasm during sexual intercourse in order to become pregnant. By contrast, in men, orgasm and ejaculation are synchronized. It is almost always necessary for a man to orgasm in order to ejaculate, inseminate and thus impregnate a female partner. This incongruity between the male and female sexual response has left scientists curious as to what purpose, if any, the female orgasm might have.
One theory is that the female orgasm helps promote high quality mate choices among women: one of the driving mechanisms of sexual selection. Just as peahens gravitate toward peacocks with more flamboyant tails, women may use orgasm as a cue for mating. In most species, males compete for access to females, while females will only mate with their preferred males.
This could be a consequence of the dramatically fewer gametes (ova/eggs) females are born with for a lifetime, compared to the billions of gametes (sperm) males are able to produce throughout theirs, which renders the female gamete a precious asset. Furthermore, reproduction has greater consequences for females than males, since they are more impacted by pregnancy (and its associated risks), childbirth, breastfeeding and even childrearing. As these researchers note: “Mate choice is not a trivial issue. One of the best ways to ensure that genes find their way into subsequent generations is to pair them with a member of the opposite sex who is healthy, reproductively viable, and has high-quality genes.” Due to the significance of its implications, various studies have tested the hypothesis that female orgasm functions as a way of promoting high-quality mate choices.
Many studies have reported that the female orgasm is related to certain male characteristics. For example, males who are viewed as funny, creative, warm, faithful and better smelling elicit more orgasms in their female partners, and put in more effort to induce partner orgasm. Women with more masculine and dominant partners report more frequent and earlier orgasms, and women with more attractive male partners are more likely to have experienced orgasm during their most recent sexual encounter. Relatedly, women with partners their friends find attractive report greater orgasm frequency. This particular finding provides support for the sexy sons hypothesis, which posits that a male whom other women find attractive will sire offspring that inherit this quality (“sexy sons”), who will be deemed attractive by women of the following generation.
One study found that a woman’s orgasm frequency was associated with her partner’s family income, self-confidence and attractiveness. The authors reported that “love” came in at only fifth place, following qualities like how protected the women felt by their partners or how much of a catch they thought their partners were.
The male characteristics associated with female orgasm are believed to be proxies for good genes, fertility and health. The mate-choice hypothesis suggests that males who elicit more frequent and intense orgasms in females thereby signal that they are high-quality mates. Furthermore, female orgasm can act as a heuristic for determining which males are likely to make good fathers. These factors suggest that the female orgasm provides women with feedback about their mate choices.
These findings could have limitations. Perhaps orgasm frequency or intensity positively influence ratings of other qualities in one’s partner (for example, intelligence and generosity). Do high-quality male characteristics actually elicit female orgasm or does the positive experience of orgasm encourage women to see high-quality traits in their partners? It wouldn’t make much sense for a woman’s self-reported orgasm frequency to influence ratings of her partner’s family income, shoulder width, muscularity or how attractive her friends find him. But perhaps it may exaggerate her perception of more subjective features that are difficult to measure, such as her partner’s sense of humour (also associated with orgasm frequency).
The female orgasm, then, is not only a feel-good experience that encourages sexual activity and thus reproduction, but serves as a powerful tool for women, providing valuable information regarding mate choices.
That’s one theory as to why women orgasm.
I don’t think this is that big a mystery. A conscious being needs a conscious motivator to undertake survival behavior. Why does food taste good? Because it’s a motivator to do something that’s necessary for survival. Notice how food tastes so much better when you’re hungry? How a drink of water is unremarkable, except when you’re super thirsty, when it becomes exquisite. Reproduction is just as essential to survival (of our genes), so why shouldn’t pleasure centers be used to motivate one to undertake the reproductivce act? Sex takes two. If the female got no pleasure out of it, why would she do it at all? Remember, this all evolved long before people were able to make the conscious “sex = baby” connection. It was all about sating immediate urges.
And all total theory, and all total nonsense! Saying women orgasm because of what men do, or not do, has it backwards. Men orgasm because Woman orgasm! The base fetus is female! Only in the presence of an Y chromosome, does the fetus turn into a Male. Hence, the ability to Orgasm is a Female trait, that benefits the Male when it develops. But you cannot separate the two! If woman didn’t have the ability to orgasm, or lost it during evolution, then that same would happen to men too! It’s the same reason when people ask “Why do men have nipples”, because they don’t nurse offspring! Men have nipples, because Females have nipples! And, we circle back to my earlier point, the base template for the human being at conception, if Female! It’s simple Science!
Just a little tip. Providing a satisfactory (indeed even supremely pleasant) sexual experience for one’s mates makes you a more desirable mate – and you will get a lot more (voluntary) sex from an individual whom you have pleased. Where you have not pleased your partner, you will more likely have to struggle to find a new one, and so on ad nauseam since females (like males) do not want to repeat unpleasant experiences. This has less do to with some generic set of “high-quality male characteristics” than with not being a self-centred male chauvinist…. or rather not being a make chauvinist IS a “high quality male characteristic”. In that sense, the female’s positive experience of orgasm is part and parcel of the positive experience of the whole (male) human person. Not surprisingly, that is perceived by lots of women as a high-quality trait in a male partner. The two… Read more »
“It isn’t necessary for a woman to orgasm during sexual intercourse in order to become pregnant.” True, but if we think about it, something similar could be said about the male orgasm: the ejaculatory mechanism does not require pleasure for it to work.
The fact that the female orgasm is unconnected to an indispensable procreative mechanism should be irrelevant for understanding its purpose. (The hypothesis presented validates this viewpoint.)
And the fact that in men orgasm and ejaculation happen to be synchronized should also be irrelevant for understanding why men experience orgasm at all.
“This incongruity between the male and female sexual response has left scientists curious as to what purpose, if any, the female orgasm might have.” They should be equally curious regarding the male orgasm.
I wrote some more about this here: https://cdelosada.medium.com/the-female-orgasm-cd744084231e?sk=e7be9422df67caa9c3782df9c4b8acd7
The English science-fiction writer Olaf Stapledon, in his 1930 novel “Last and First Men,” described a future human species where women used orgasms as form of natural birth control–if they did NOT wish to become pregnant they allowed themselves to expeience orgasms, where as they consciously repressed their orgasms when they DID wish to conceive.