The great G-spot debate

Have scientists really proved the existence of the elusive female erogenous zone?

Published February 21, 2008 2:40PM (EST)

Depending on how you feel about the hotly contested G spot, this naughty bit of science (via New Scientist, via the BBC) will elicit sighs of either relief or exasperation. According to a new study published in last month's Journal of Sexual Medicine, not only is the G spot real, it's scientifically detectable through ultrasound. In a study conducted with 20 sexually healthy females, researchers from the University of L'Aquila in Italy found that all nine of the women who reported having vaginal orgasms also had thicker skin in the "urethrovaginal space."

Not so fast, say the G-spot skeptics, who claim that the thicker skin could be the backside of the clitoris, or that vaginal orgasms might lead to muscular development, resulting in thicker thin. The G-spot believers -- embodied by Beverly Whipple, coauthor of the groundbreaking 1981 book "G Spot," which coined the term -- meanwhile question the study's conclusions because they suggest only some women have G spots. The pro-G-spotters suggest that maybe, if women learned to stimulate them, we'd all report double happiness.

Why all the controversy? It seems that some regard studies like this as a plot to trap women into either the missionary position or the doctor's office. Petra Boynton, a sexual psychologist at University College London, told New Scientist that distinguishing between women who have G spots and those who don't has been exploited by the industry that has evolved around labeling some women as "dysfunctional."

"If a woman spends all her time worrying about whether she is normal or has a G spot or not, she will focus on just one area, and ignore everything else," she told the New Scientist. "It's telling people that there is a single, best way to have sex, which isn't the right thing to do."

Really? With the burgeoning business of vaginal modification, Lord knows we should all feel protective about normative notions vis-à-vis our private parts. But c'mon. The results seem to be suggesting that the G spot isn't a patriarchal medical invention but a simple anatomical variation.

It's tempting to poke fun at studies like these -- especially those issuing from Italian medieval cities with fewer than two dozen research subjects. Yet after decades of interpreting female sexual differences in terms of psychological pathologies, such studies are heartening. As the researchers point out in their abstract, since the physiology of women's sexuality isn't fully understood, the variations between women's sexual function and dysfunction may have more to do with their anatomy than previously assumed.

Still, one comment from lead researcher Emmanuele Jannini did rub me the wrong way. "For the first time," he told the New Scientist, "it is possible to determine by a simple, rapid and inexpensive method if a woman has got a G spot or not."

Hey, I can think of a simpler, faster and less expensive method than that -- and probably a lot more fun than lying spread-eagled with a medical device snooping around your inner sanctum. Besides, why should women care? Since survey studies like "The Hite Report" show that only 30 percent of women have orgasms during intercourse, why should we still feel compelled to get the final word on our G-spot status?

Wherever you come down on the G spot's existence, the accompanying photo to the BBC story is sure to bring a smile to your lips. It's as if they found the G spot inside this woman's dental work.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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