What's the Purpose of Human Female Orgasm?

Summary and Comment |
August 19, 2016

What's the Purpose of Human Female Orgasm?

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

Evolutionary theory suggests that dissociation of female orgasm from ovulation has “freed orgasm to gain secondary roles.”

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

Unlike male orgasm, which propels sperm into the female reproductive tract, female orgasm seems superfluous to human reproduction and, in fact, is difficult to achieve through penetrative intercourse. These authors ask, “What is female orgasm there for?”

Physiologically, many mammals can only reproduce during a limited season with specific environmental cues and conditions (e.g., daylight length, pheromones, copulation) and availability of a mate to induce ovulation. In humans, ovulation is spontaneous — reliant on a hormonal cycle independent of copulation or other cues — but may have originally been copulation-induced, as evidenced by the surges of prolactin and oxytocin that still accompany female orgasm. In mammals in which copulation-induced ovulation is anatomically triggered by clitoral stimulation, the clitoris is close to or within the vaginal canal. Studies in humans have shown that the distance between the urethral orifice and clitoris negatively correlates with likelihood of intercourse-induced orgasm.


The authors postulate that, ancestrally, ovulation in humans and some other mammals was copulation-induced, and the clitoris was located near or within the vaginal canal. With increasing availability of mates and access to sexual intercourse, spontaneous ovulation evolved, and the clitoris became superfluous for reproduction; thus, female orgasm no longer “serves the purpose for which it originated,” and the dissociation from ovulation might “free orgasm to gain secondary roles.” Female orgasm and its achievement is the topic of numerous lay publications. Medical education urges us to address sexuality with our patients. Although this evolutionary theory might not aid us in counseling, it provides an interesting perspective on why some women find intercourse-related orgasm elusive.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP at time of publication Equity Stryker Corporation


Reader Comments (3)


purpose: it was originally designed to start slower and last longer in order to promote polygamous sexual behavior for the purpose of sperm competition in the societies of our egalitarian ancestors Then we had the agricultural revolution, the ownership of property, monotony... i mean -monogamy, and a lot less female orgasms.

Julio Ozores, M.D. Physician, Psychiatry, UCSF

Some distinctions may help in settling these questions. For example: The authors conflate two aspects of the male orgasm when they say it - the phenomenon as a whole- has the (presumably single) function of propelling sperm into the female reproductive tract. But of course male orgasm is composed of not only of the fluid mechanical "propelling" function , but includes the consummatory/hedonic pleasure that this mechanical function accompanies. This experiential aspect , presumably, is also functional; increasing evolutionary fitness by motivating more frequent coitus.
If the female orgasm has become de-coupled from any function triggering ovulation, the fact that it has no mechanical function nor hormonal function does not mean it was left with no function. In parallel to the experiential/hedonic aspect of the male orgasm, it may simply continue to function to motivate coitus, even if less reliably than male orgasm.

JOSE GROS-AYMERICH Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, INSS -retired

Hi!: is anyone 100% sure that coitus, with or without female orgasm, has no influence in ovulation? I remember having read, sorry, can't retrieve reference, that women regulate from which of her partners their pregnancy comes, by unconsciously, or subliminally, not exactly the same, regulating the depth and quality of orgasm. Thanks, regards, + Salut

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