Are Orgasms Genetic? - Don't thank your mom quite yet

Dr. Ruth Westheimer

Let me begin by saying that I have great respect for anyone who seriously explores human sexuality. Without Alfred Kinsey, Masters & Johnson, Helen Singer Kaplan ‑- the woman who trained me ‑- and all the others, we sex therapists wouldn't have the scientific information we need to help people have satisfying sex lives. But just because a research study is done, that doesn't always mean its results should be shouted from the rooftops. While sometimes they're merely unhelpful to the average person, in other cases the effects of releasing a report could be altogether harmful.

Two research teams, one that studied Australian twins and one that studied British twins, just released results stating that the level of difficulty a woman has reaching orgasm is genetic. I'm not a scientist, and I haven't seen the details of this report, so I'll assume that what these scientists discovered ‑- that inherited factors determine why some women have an easier time having orgasms while others have more difficulty ‑- is true. But why does it have to be international news? When the average woman reads about this report, will she think, No wonder I have so much trouble reaching orgasm! It's because of my genes and out of my control and give up? Or worse, will her partner read about it and decide there's no point in continuing to try to give her an orgasm because she must not be genetically capable?

Now, granted, the scientists who conducted this study admit that genes aren't the only factor. Apparently, while genes may make it easier or more difficult for a woman to have an orgasm, they don't make it impossible. If that's the case, then all this knowledge will provide women is another obstacle to overcome on their way to achieving the orgasmic response they desire. We all know that when a woman is worried about her ability to orgasm, it can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. She can become trapped in a vicious cycle where the more she worries, the harder it is for her to get aroused, which makes her worry even more. And ultimately the likelihood of having an orgasm slips further and further out of her reach.

Whether this study holds water or not, I want to ask you to disregard it. After all, your hair color is determined by your genes, but that doesn't mean you can't change it. You may be slightly shorter than most, but you can simply wear a taller heel. Our genes don't dictate our lives; we make adjustments. And you can do the same with regard to sex by using a vibrator, extra lubricant or even just some extra effort. Whatever you do, don't give up. Do whatever it takes to have a healthy and satisfying sex life.

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