Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Real Reason Why We Fake It; A New Study Attempts to Reveal All about Women's Orgasms. Isn't It Time We Put Anxiety Aside and Stopped Treating Sex like a Gymnastic Performance?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Real Reason Why We Fake It; A New Study Attempts to Reveal All about Women's Orgasms. Isn't It Time We Put Anxiety Aside and Stopped Treating Sex like a Gymnastic Performance?

Article excerpt

Byline: JOAN SMITH

WOMEN may be able to fool their lovers by faking orgasms, but the truth shows up on a brain scan, according to new research from the Netherlands.

When a woman genuinely reaches a climax, large parts of the brain shut down, providing a different "map" from a woman who is pretending.

"The main thing we saw was deactivation in women," said Professor Gert Holstege of the University of Groningen, who studied 24 volunteers of both sexes. "It was unbelievable, very pronounced."

Women who habitually fake orgasms will be relieved to learn that this difference was evident only when the volunteers were placed in a scanner, in laboratory conditions.

But like so much sex research - a new study is published every other week - might the latest revelations confirm what we already know?

The Dutch brain scans showed that the cortex, the conscious part of the brain, remained active when women were faking, a finding that led the researchers to conclude that conscious thoughts get in the way of orgasm.

Specifically, they recognised that fear and anxiety prevent women reaching a climax - as almost any adult woman on earth could have told them.

Similarly, a study published two weeks ago suggesting that a woman's ability to reach orgasm might be genetically determined caused great excitement - until it was pointed out that the claim was based on responses to two vaguely worded questions in a postal survey about many other aspects of behaviour.

What is more puzzling is why such studies continue to make headlines.

Large-scale studies of human sexual behaviour began to be conducted only in the mid-20th century, when their conclusions really were world-shaking. The pioneer in the field, Alfred Kinsey, trained his assistants to conduct interviews with thousands of American men and women, publishing his findings in Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male, in 1948. A volume on female behaviour followed in 1953.

Kinsey's work inspired a husband-and-wife team, Masters and Johnson, who tried to use more scientific methods after his research was criticised for relying too heavily on his subjects' truthfulness; Kinsey was also attacked for using atypical populations, such as prisoners, which included higherthanusual numbers of sex offenders. Masters and Johnson studied 700 men and women having sex or masturbating in laboratory conditions, publishing their findings in a famous book, Human Sexual Response, in 1966.

What this research achieved was the demolition of all kinds of myths about "normal" sexuality, prompting a revolution in sexual behaviour which was soon taken up by the women's and gay liberation movements.

Old-fashioned ideas about sex went out of the window, including Freud's notorious insistence that "mature" female orgasms originate in the vagina, not the clitoris. …

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