Have you always felt silly or a bit like a failure in the bedroom because you couldn’t quite figure out what your lover’s orgasm was all about? Well there is no need to worry that you’re lagging behind the pack – even accomplished sex scientists haven’t got it all figured out yet!
Theories about the evolutionary function have attempted to explain female orgasm in a number of ways. It has been argued that a woman’s orgasm is designed to improve the likelihood of conception by improving uptake of sperm. Others suggest that female orgasm nurtures relational bonds by increasing the presence of pleasurable chemicals in the brain. Still others have posited that the ability to give a woman an orgasm is in some way a sign of male virility, a way for guys to show off how amazing they are to the rest of the tribe. Some biologists have even considered the theory that female orgasm is simply an evolutionary byproduct, like male nipples, leftover from some bygone day and only around because there is no good reason not to feel so good!
What is most confusing for scientists about the female orgasm is the difficulty so many women have in having orgasmic experiences. If there was some evolutionary benefit to female orgasm, one would think more women would find orgasm with a partner easy!
While scientists feel like they’ve had the male orgasm figured out for decades now, they have finally started to make some headway in mind mapping the ladies. Studying the female brain during orgasm is the next big step in understanding the way women work, and new brain mapping technology is pioneering the way to wonderful sex. If you’ve ever wondered what on earth is going on in her head when the fireworks do off, now you finally have a clue.
First scientists mapped the areas of the sensory cortex associated with the nipples, vaginal canal, cervix, and clitoris by imaging a brain during stimulation. Then during the experience of orgasm, they were able to identify how these areas interacted with other parts of the brain to create a fully somatic experience, not just rooted in the sensual but over nearly the entire neural network. Pleasure isn’t the only type of neural pathway activated. In addition to the brain’s pleasure centers, pathways of pain, emotion, reward, and muscle control are stimulated simultaneously.
Let’s Get Technical
Before orgasm, while a woman is still in the state of arousal, brain activity starts in the sensory cortex associated with the genitals. As arousal approaches orgasm, the emotional centers of the limbic system become active, the experience imprinting itself in her long-term memory. As orgasm approaches and her muscles begin to contract, the cerebellum and frontal cortex of the brain light up, areas both associated with muscle movement and motor control. At the peak of orgasm, pleasure centers are stimulated and oxytocin is released, heightening the sensual experience and promoting feelings of love and bonded intimacy.
The human brain can be separated into regions based on structure and function – vision, audition, body sensation, etc, known as Brodmann’s area map.
This visualization shows the functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, brain data of a participant experiencing an orgasm and the corresponding relationships seen within these different regions based on utilization of oxygen levels in the blood. 20 snapshots in time of the fMRI data are taken from a 7 minute sequence. Over the course of the 7 minutes the participant approaches orgasm, reaches orgasm and then enters a quiet period.
Oxygen utilization levels are displayed on a spectrum from dark red (lowest activity) to yellow/white (highest). As can be observed, an orgasm leads to almost the entire brain illuminating yellow, indicating that most brain systems become active at orgasm.
More than 80 distinct regions of the brain are affected during a woman’s orgasm, so many that the only experience to top it is an epileptic seizure. During orgasm, your lover’s brain is effectively incapable of addressing anything else – so don’t ask her how you’re doing mid-way through!
What does all this science mean for you? The most important implications of new scientific discoveries are for women who struggle to experience orgasm regularly. Scientists are even developing an extreme solution which can produce orgasms at the press of a button through an electrical impulse device implanted in the spine! Of course you don’t have to be quite so drastic. The brain is incredible malleable. The more often you use the proper techniques to give her pleasure and bring her to orgasm, the easier it will be every time. Don’t give up on the final destination, but do remember to enjoy the ride!