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A judicious and revealing look at all twenty evolutionary accounts of the trait of human female orgasm, Lloyd's book is at the same time a case study of how certain biases steer science astray. Over the past fifteen years, the effect of sexist or male-centered approaches to science has been hotly debated.

The female orgasm explained

Drawing especially on data from nonhuman primates and human sexology over eighty years, Lloyd shows what damage such bias does in the study of female orgasm. She also exposes a second pernicious form of bias that permeates the literature on female orgasms: a bias toward adaptationism.

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As she weighs the evidence, Lloyd takes on nearly everyone who has written on the subject: evolutionists, animal behaviorists, and feminists alike. Her clearly and cogently written book is at once a convincing case study of bias in science and a sweeping summary and analysis of what is known about the evolution of the intriguing trait of female orgasm.

Elisabeth A. Table of Contents 1. Introduction 2. The Basics of Female Orgasm 3.

The Case of the Female Orgasm - Elisabeth A. Lloyd

Pair-Bond Accounts of Female Orgasm 4. Further Evolutionary Accounts of Female Orgasm 5. The Byproduct Account 6. Warring Approaches to Adaptation 7. Sperm-Competition Accounts 8. William James once defined philosophy as "an unusually stubborn effort to think clearly. This will make great bedside reading.


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What, after all, is sexier than a well-constructed argument? Lloyd provides a measured and scholarly evaluation of adaptive and non-adaptive explanations for human female orgasm, a trait that has been the subject of some controversy, and she does it without jargon or acrimony. It is a model of how to fairly and critically look at adaptation.

The Case of the Female Orgasm

The Case of the Female Orgasm is a review and analysis of the possible adaptive significance of the female orgasm. Donald Symons , an anthropologist. That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts -- a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.

In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Lloyd says. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined. In boys, the penis develops, along with the potential to have orgasms and ejaculate, while "females get the nerve pathways for orgasm by initially having the same body plan.


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  7. Nipples in men are similarly vestigial, she points out. While nipples in woman serve a purpose, male nipples appear to be simply left over from the initial stage of embryonic development.

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    Lloyd says scientists have insisted on finding an evolutionary function for female orgasms, either because they are invested in believing that women's sexuality must exactly parallel that of men, or because they are convinced that all traits have to be "adaptations" -- that is, serve an evolutionary function. Central to her thesis is the question of how often women experience orgasms during sex.

    The case of the female orgasm: Bias in the science of evolution

    She analyzed 32 studies, conducted over 74 years, of that frequency. When intercourse was "unassisted" -- that is, not accompanied by stimulation of the clitoris -- just one-quarter of the women studied experienced orgasms often or very often, she found. Five to 10 percent never had orgasms. Yet many of the women became pregnant. Lloyd's figures are lower than those offered by Dr.

    Lloyd says she has no doubt that the clitoris is an evolutionary adaptation, developed to create excitement leading to sexual intercourse and then reproduction. Related Stories.