By Dr. Pisaster | Pajiba Dirty Talk | June 29, 2011 |
By Dr. Pisaster | Pajiba Dirty Talk | June 29, 2011 |
Mark it in your calendars everyone: Today is the day I lost all faith in the Journal of Sexual Medicine as a reputable source of information. I am sure by now you all have come across this latest study that “finds” a correlation between the shape of a woman’s lips and her ability to have a vaginal orgasm. This paper … is not good science. It’s not even fun, entertaining sorta-science. It’s a rage inducing pile of crap so laden with misogyny and misrepresentation about women’s bodies and psychology that I’d be surprised if the authors have ever personally even been in the same room as a genuine female orgasm. I cannot for the life of me figure out what the editors and reviewers at JSM were thinking. (Oh wait, yes I can, they were thinking of the shiny, shiny headlines). I hope you all are in the mood for some figurative blood and guts, because I am about to rip this motherfucker to shreds.
The setup: 258 women, mostly Scottish, mostly university students, answered an internet survey that asked about their sex lives and orgasms as well as their lip morphology. Specifically, they were asked about their ability to orgasm from various activities, including PIV (that’s shorthand for penis-in-vagina) with clitoral stimulation, PIV without clitoral stimulation, clitorally focused masturbation, vaginally focused masturbation, masturbation with vibrator, clitorally focused manual stimulation by a partner, vaginally focused manual stimulation by a partner, and receiving oral sex. It’s not really clear which of these behaviors “counted” though, since the authors define vaginal orgasms in the introduction as “orgasm induced by penile-vaginal intercourse without concurrent clitoral stimulation,” (Rage mounting …) and at one point quip that women who had not had PIV were excluded from the study because they might “have the endogenous characteristics required for vaginal orgasm but have not yet found an appropriate man.” (Remember ladies, your orgasms don’t count if there wasn’t a penis involved!)
The questionnaire also asked the women to look in a mirror and evaluate the size of their tubercle. That’s the little bit of flesh at the center of your upper lip. In some people it’s raised and prominent while in other’s it’s barely noticeable. The authors of this study hypothesized that the prominence of a woman’s tubercle would predict her ability to orgasm vaginally (from a penis, even!). Why did the authors suspect this little bit of anatomy might be linked to orgasms? Who knows. They certainly don’t bother to explain, nor to justify why they would care about whether a woman orgasms vaginally or clitorally, so loaded is their writing with the assumption that vaginal orgasms are just … better. Because they involve the almighty penis. Sometimes. They do point to some previous studies which find links between the way a woman walks and vaginal orgasms (swaying hips means you don’t have to use your hands or tongue, for all the handless and tongueless men out there), and between “immature psychological defense mechanisms” and an inability to orgasms vaginally* (I have a not-particularly noticeable tubercle and emotional intimacy issues, but my hips swing like a hypnotist’s pendulum and I get off every which way. What does that mean, SCIENCE?). The authors also argue that it would be of value to basic science to know if there are prenatal factors which could influence how a woman gets off. Again, the only reason I can think why that would matter is if you think only vaginal orgasms “count,” or if you want women to be confident in the knowledge that how they get off is a function of the way their specific body is built and not a sign that they are doing something wrong. Since there’s jack shit in this paper that would lead me to believe that the authors are interested in helping women enjoy sex lives unencumbered by societal pressures to experience their bodies in a specific way, I’m gonna guess their motivation was the former.
And now to knock that shit down: The paper concludes that women with more prominent tubercles are more prone to vaginal orgasms. Their results, specifically, were that women with a prominent, sharply raised tubercle were slightly more likely to experience vaginal orgasm consistency in the past month, whatever that means (mean 59.31%, standard deviation 41.57, sample size 32. Dear authors: YOUR STANDARD DEVIATION IS 41 ON A SCALE OF 100 AND YOU ONLY HAVE 32 DATA POINTS. I don’t care what statistical acrobatics you pulled to make that sound significant: This is bullshit.) Women with prominent, gradually raised tubercles, were also slightly above average (mean 54.63, s.d. 42.06, sample size 57). Women with slightly, sharply raised tubercles, slightly gradually raised tubercles, flat, or slightly lower than flat tubercles, all scored lower (means 40.48, 45.87, 29.41, 28.37 respectively, standard deviations all between 33 and 43, and if you’re thinking those last two look maybe kinda significant, please note that they both were based on 10 data points each.) When the authors break it down to a simple binary - prominent versus nonprominent - the means are 56.31% (s.d. 41.71, sample size 89) and 42.06 (s.d. 41.87, sample size 112). Here, I was so mad I made you a graph of what those numbers look like if you assume a normal distribution:
Do those graphs look significantly different to you? Maybe if you squint and pretend there were about 900 more data points? There is nothing of scientific merit that I can find in this damn paper. The study is designed around an outdated understanding of women’s bodies and sexuality and the conclusions don’t even hold up to a cursory reading. It should never have been published and it definitely shouldn’t be granted the slightest bit of media attention. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to drown myself in whiskey.
*I was gonna read those articles too, but then I realized I would probably burst a blood vessel if I did.
**First person that notes grammatical errors/my overuse of parentheses will be stabbed (figuratively). I AM TOO ANNOYED TO PROOFREAD.
Dr. Pisaster has a doctorate in biophysics, not actually anything sexy. She does however enjoy having sex, reading about sex, and talking about sex. Especially when she’s had a little whiskey.