The front page of The Daily Telegraph, and newspapers across the world, report breathlessly the famous G-Spot has at last been uncovered. Dr Adam Ostrzenski, a Gynaecologist based in Florida, who has apparently published a research paper in the May issue of the ‘Journal of Sexual Medicine’, seems to claim he’s found it. The G-Spot is the location of a special area of the vagina, which supposedly plays a key role in reaching vaginal orgasm for women, during vaginal intercourse. If it’s true this has, at last, been definitively identified, then this discovery could spark a new sexual revolution, or perhaps assist in treatments of sexual dysfunction.
The G-Spot gets its name from Dr Ernst Gräfenberg, a New York gynaecologist who in 1950 described a zone located at the front part of the vagina (roughly the same locale mentioned in this latest investigation by Ostrzenski) which is believed to trigger vaginal orgasms. But the area has been of speculation and interest going back much further in time, argues Dr Marie Helene Colson, Director of the Sexology program at Marseille Faculty of Medicine, in France. She points out this spot is referred to in tantric texts with the name ‘‘Kanda’’, and in the Taoist tradition as ‘‘the black pearl’’ of eroticism.
Despite the trumpeting of this discovery in headlines across the world, it is important, if perhaps a bit of a cold shower, to point out that this latest ‘study’ involved the dissection of the anatomy of a single elderly woman, and wouldn’t really qualify as a definitive piece of research involving a large sample, in the eyes of many Sexologists. Dr Colson is sceptical about the level of scientific rigour of much of the past research on the G-Spot, and it does seem as if every few years some new academic group, or popular author, trumpets a new discovery of the G-Spot. For example, she points out that a previous 1981 study (which similarly claimed to have located the G-Spot as the latest research) was also based on just one case alone. The popular book by Alice Ladas and Beverley Whipple published in 1982 – The G-Spot and Other Recent Discoveries about Human Sexuality, which really put the G-Spot on the map in terms of popular consciousness, uses anecdotes and stories rather than scientific research. Another much trumpeted study in 1983 concerned 11 women, but in fact only four confirmed they’d reach orgasm by stimulation of the G-Spot.
Scepticism of whether the G-Spot exists at all spills over into Feminist theories. Perhaps its perennial search tells us more about the patriarchal desire for a vaginal orgasm to be possible, over a clitoral one. The famous feminist author Sheer Hite grabbed headlines in Time Magazine, amongst other places, in 1987, for her two reports, involving a survey of 1844 American women. Her research lead her to conclude the only true female orgasm arises from the clitoris, and not the vagina. So the search for the elusive area has begun to resemble a fumbling search for the Holy Grail in the sceptical eyes of many, including in particular some feminist critics, and it is notable that so many those who claim to have found the G-Spot, appear to be male researchers. Colson’s own review of the research over the last few decades on the search for the G-Spot, a paper entitled ‘Female orgasm: Myths, facts and controversies’ and published in the academic journal ‘Sexologies’, leads her to conclude the mistake might be in looking for a specific spot, as opposed to a wider area. She points the finger at the whole front wall of the vagina, which possibly transmits arousal to the clitoris by stretching the ligaments that are inside it, with to-and-fro movements during intercourse.
Colson argues the most recent studies, using much more rigorous ultrasound techniques, compared to older research, suggests part of the clitoris can descend to rest against the lower part of the anterior wall of the vagina. So high sensitivity of the zone around what is described as the G-Spot, could be related to its amplification caused by the protrusion of the clitoris swelling and descending to rest against it during the to-and-fro movements. This more ‘dynamic’ theory might also explain the variability being found between women as to where this elusive ‘G-Spot’ might be. Ultrasound research now seems to be revealing a thinner front vaginal wall in women having more difficulty experiencing vaginal orgasms. Positron Emission and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance work also suggests stimulating this specific zone might affect pain perception during childbirth. This is because of the release of endorphins, which are heroin-like pain relieving but also euphoria inducing, natural body chemicals. This would provide an even more powerful biological and evolutionary reason for why there should be a G-Spot.
In the March issue of the ‘Journal of Sexual Medicine’, the same journal where this much trumpeted new research is supposed to be published in May, another research team reported that there’s no “strong and consistent evidence” to confirm the existence of the G-Spot. Oddly this paper has received almost no attention from the newspaper front-page headline writers. A team lead by Amichai Kilchevsky and Ilan Gruenwald from the Neurourolgy Unit, Rambam Healthcare Campus, Haifa, Israel and the Department of Urology, Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, USA, argue in their paper, ‘Is the Female G-Spot Truly a Distinct Anatomic Entity?’ that the possibility there may be more than one genital focus of erotic arousal in women is sexually liberating. It expands sexual enjoyment beyond the clitoris. Their review of the research on the G-Spot concludes that whether the G-spot actually exists is probably less interesting, compared to what this perennial search and desire for its existence tells us about our approach to sex. They point out the G-spot has become a multimillion dollar business producing books, videos, and products, designing a better type of orgasm. But they sound a warning; some medical professionals take advantage of the ‘cultural glorification’ of the G-spot and offer interventions such as “G-spot augmentation.” This involves injecting collagen into the vagina, theoretically enhancing sexual stimulation. Kilchevsky and Gruenwald point out that although popular and widely advertised, these procedures have never undergone proper scientific evaluation, so claims as to their success should be regarded with scepticism, until more data is available.
The evidence from various surveys is that approximately 60% of women will never achieve a vaginal orgasm, and will only achieve one by clitoral stimulation. This suggests that there is a wide variation in the nerve supply of the front wall of the vagina. It is important that these women are aware that they are normal, and do not need to resort to treatments such as G-Spot augmentation with collagen. The idea of the G-Spot could possible harm the self confidence of some of these women, who do not achieve a vaginal orgasm. No current treatment or surgery can overcome this. So it looks like once the excitement over this latest study to get so much attention has died down, we’re most probably all going to have to go back to fumbling around again.
And this might just be normal.
Dr Raj Persaud is a Consultant Psychiatrist based in London and Emeritus Visiting Gresham Professor for Public Understanding of Psychiatry. Dr Nicholas Morris is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in Private Practice in Central London.