Category MARY ROACH

Acknowledgments

S

ex research is a little like sex in that most people who engage in it are more comfortable without an audi­ence. The researchers who invited me into their labs did so at the peril of their funding, their privacy, their academic standing, their sanity. For saying “yes” when “no” was the sensible answer, I am deeply grateful to Jing Deng, Anne Marie Hedeboe, Geng-Long Hsu, Barry Komisaruk, Roy Levin, Ken Maravilla, Ahmed Shafik, Marcalee Sipski, and Margot Yehia. I am extravagantly indebted to Kim Wallen for his contributions to not one, but two, chapters, and to Cindy Meston, my sex research swami, for all the help, hospitality, and hilarity.

For graciously enduring my demands on their time, I thank Kim Airs, Jennifer Bass, Irwin Goldstein, Stephanie Mann, Robert Nachtigall, Michael Perelman, Anne Pigue, Carol Queen, Harold Reed, Arlene Shaner, Ira Sharlip, Marty Tucker, and Alice Wen.

This is my third book with W. W. Norton, and there is good reason for that. The list of Norton folks to whom I’m indebted is practically their phone directory. Boldface must be applied to a few of those names: Jill Bialosky, whose editing pencil should be bronzed should she ever retire (an event I will do everything in my power to prevent); Erin Lovett and Winfrida Mbewe, who make me feel bad for every author whose book is launched by someone else; and Bill Rusin, a man born to sell books. I thank you all for your commitment, creativity, and enthusiasm.

Beyond the halls of Norton, praises must ring for photo curator Deirdre O’Dwyer. My agent, Jay Mandel, deserves another 15 percent, and my husband, Ed, deserves a medal.

[1]They don’t mean to tidy up afterward. See p. 208.

[2]FYI, it’s the newest use for Botox. Because what paralyzes your brow­knitting muscles will just as effectively paralyze your clamping vagina muscles.

[3]Six hundred forty-two members and counting.

[4]For example, the pedophile who dabbled in incest (seventeen rela­tives, including Grandma) and bestiality. Kinsey’s inclusion in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female of this man’s observations of preadolescent orgasms—and his tacit acceptance of the man’s behavior—got him into a pot of hot water that he never really got out of.

[5]Watson married Rayner and spent the remainder of his career in adver­tising. Cohen describes a market research assignment early on in Wat­son’s career at the J. Walter Thompson agency The mighty John B. Watson was going door-to-door in towns along the Mississippi River, interviewing people about their feelings about rubber boots. Which is not, I suppose, all that far off from a career in psychology.

[6]It may comfort you to know that the autopsy data on fatal heart attacks during sex suggest that they are rare. In 1999, a team of German research­ers reviewed 21,000 autopsy reports and found only 39 cases. It may or may not comfort you to know that “in most cases sudden death occurred during the sexual act with a prostitute.”

Sex researcher Leonard Derogatis cautions that autopsy statistics are misleading. When men die during sex with their mate (as opposed to in a motel room with a stranger), there usually is no reason to do an autopsy If conjugal sex is taking place, say, three times as often as illicit sex, posits Derogatis in “The Coital Coronary: A Reassessment of the Concept,” then those 39 deaths would reflect a truer figure of 156. Derogatis esti­mates 11,250 sex-related sudden deaths in the United States each year, putting it on a par with hepatitis C, brain cancer, and food poisoning.

[7]A trick question! Fillmore had no vice president and he never ran for office. He came into power when Zachary Taylor died, and failed, despite repeated efforts, to win a second term. Random quotes suggest his oratory skills might have been the problem. Fillmore’s last words (upon tasting a soup): “The nourishment is palatable.”

[8]More famously, Kinsey employed a toothbrush (bristle end first) for this purpose. This, among other things, caused Jones to describe Kin­sey as a masochist, driven by the demons of his repressive upbringing. A past director of the Kinsey Institute told Kinsey’s other biographer, Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, that he viewed the urethral insertions simply as an idiosyncratic form of self-stimulation and that everything else was conjecture. Gathorne-Hardy was invited to the Kinsey Institute fiftieth – anniversary bash, and Jones was not.

A toothbrush, by the way, is alarming but not all that unusual. Uro­logical Oddities, a 1948 compendium of memorable cases, includes an “elderly fellow” with a corsage pin that got away from him, a man who died from infection after inserting a twig from the family Christmas tree, and a farmer who “lost a rat’s tail.” There is always an explanation. The man toting three sets of three-inch surgical steel forceps, for example, insisted that Nos. 2 and 3 had gone in in an effort to remove Nos. 1 and 2, a story that collapsed upon examination, when all three turned out to be in there handle-first. As embarrassing as these hospital visits must have been, they pale in comparison to the Houston man who was taken away, on his back in an ambulance, with a large water tank from a public commode stuck on his penis. “The patient had attempted intercourse with the water-tank hole,” reports В. H. Bayer, M. D., in one of those rare, shining moments when urology approaches high comedy

[9]The able-bodied, as well, Kinsey observed, enjoy expanded physical prowess under the influence of sexual arousal: “The doubling of the body which is necessary in self-fellation. . . may become possible for some males as they approach orgasm.” Or, according to a 2001 Hus­tler article, as they master the yoga pose “the plow” (on one’s back, legs flipped up and over the head). Further tips can be gleaned by renting Blown Alone or other videos starring superlimber porn star A1 Eingang. Wikipedia says that the god Horus was said to engage in autofellatio “every night because ingesting his own semen kept the stars in their places.” Only gods get away with excuses like that.

[10]How did he know this? It’s not what you think. He and a colleague would on occasion hide—with the women’s permission—in brothel bedrooms, jotting down observations. At least I think they hid. It’s pos­sible they drilled a hole in the wall or rigged up something more high – tech, but I enjoy picturing the two of them peering from behind a set of lurid velour draperies. Because that’s the kind of sicko I am.

[11]You need a floor plan to keep track of the vaginas in Human Sexual Response. There are vaginal floors, vestibules, platforms, barrels, and outlets. Are people having sex, or are they just visiting Crate and Barrel?

*“The Penis.

[12]You can’t buy a penis-camera like M & J used, but you can buy a Per­sonal Pelvic Viewer. The PPV is described in the patent as an insert – able video camera that enables a “lone female in a room” to watch real­time images of her cervix or her sexual responses on a TV or computer screen. The phrase “lone female in a room” or “lone female at home” is repeated nineteen times, lending a melancholy cast to the typical tech­nicalities of a patent paper. The PPV, at the time I inquired, was being sold by an organization called School of One—no doubt the alma mater of the lone female.

[13] Alzate insisted these encounters were “ethically acceptable as long as the examiner keeps from being erotically involved with the subject.” Only in the mutant universe of sexology could a man with his fingers in a woman who is exhibiting “hyperventilation, . . . rhythmic pelvic movements, vocalizations, and perspiration” not be considered eroti­cally involved.

[14]Pyrex’s first visit to the human body cavity, but not its last. Because of its strength and refusal to shatter or splinter when broken, Pyrex is popular among safety-conscious dildo and butt-plug manufacturers. Ovenware is the mere tip of the Pyrex iceberg. Beakers and test tubes are often made of Pyrex, as are bongs, water pipes, and the Mount Palo – mar telescope mirror. Pyrex was originally invented as a lantern glass for trains; regular glass overheated and then cracked when snow hit it. It wasn’t until Bessie Littleton, the wife of a Corning Glass scientist, baked a cake in a sawed-off Pyrex battery jar that the baking dish application got rolling. The Pyrex Web site includes a 1965 photograph of Bessie and husband Jesse “re-creating the kitchen discovery scene” for a Pyrex fiftieth-anniversary celebration. The company has no plans to re-create the Pyrex anal-plug discovery scene for future anniversary events.

[15]In addition to book events and art exhibits, CSC sponsors sexuality workshops and “practical skills-building events” (e. g., “Sex Club Eti­quette,” “Safer Sex,” “G Spot Stimulation,” “Positions and Toys for Plus­Sized Partners”) and holds an annual fund-raiser called the Masturbate – a-Thon.

[16]In 1998, a woman in Saline, Michigan, received a patent for a Deco­rative Penile Wrap intended to “heighten sexual arousal of a male and female prior to intercourse.” The patent includes three pages of draw­ings, including a penis wearing a ghost outfit, another in the robes of the Grim Reaper, and one dressed up to look like a snowman. I tried to call the examiner listed on the patent, Michael A. Brown, but he has left the U. S. Patent and Trade Office. And who can blame him.

[17]Marie was unaware of her prince’s proclivities when they married. Her suspicions were roused by the drawings of Greek athletes that George hung on his dressing room walls and, later, by his decision to serve as the gymnastics examiner at the Panhellenic Games. Marie had just given birth to their first son and complained in her diary that while she was home all day “suckling Peter,” George was off, well, suckling peter.

[18]The width of a single inner labium, for instance, ranged from just under a third of an inch to two full inches. Gynecologist and early sex researcher Robert Latou Dickinson mentions a patient whose paired labia minora, in “fullest stretch,” covered a nine-inch span.

[19]In parts of Africa, Haiti, and Indonesia, the wet, welcoming vagina is a turnoff. Men describe it as tasteless or diseased, and women insert all manner of drying agents to deliver the “dry sex” preferred by their men. “All manner” meaning: shredded newspaper, cotton, rock salt, detergent, bark, dried animal excreta. I was aghast until I read Levin’s paragraph about superabsorbent tampons, which, one study claimed, can cause the outer layer of vaginal cells to dry out so severely that it peels away.

[20]Max von Frey was an Austrian physiologist who invented a heart-lung machine some time before an American named John Gibbon did. Dr. Gibbon ultimately became known as the machine’s inventor, while von Frey’s name was linked to calibrated pig hairs. Life is unkind.

[21]A trick also employed to lengthen penises. Though an organ thus freed tends, when erect, to veer off sideways and/or hang down dispiritedly Anyone considering this should know that an Italian study done in 2002 found that absolutely everyone in a group of 67 men seeking surgical penis lengthening had penises within the normal range (from 1.6 to 4.7 inches, flaccid). “Normal” was determined, rather dauntingly, by mea­suring 3,300 Italian military recruits. The authors blame abnormally endowed porn stars for the growing epidemic of penile insecurity.

tFar easier to move a neoclitoris, which is the technical term for a trans – gendered woman’s clitoris, typically fashioned from a stitched-in-place nub of penile glans tissue. Do transgendered women ever request a closer placement? No, says Harold Reed of the Reed Centre for Geni­tal Surgery in Miami. “They are going for looks.” As in, trying to look normal. To that end, Reed places them one inch above the urethra, right smack at average.

[22]Which does not necessarily include semen breath. Van de Velde claims that a “slight seminal odor” can be detected on a woman’s breath within an hour after intercourse, and that the effect can be very arousing for the man. Or anyway, the man who enjoys smelling semen. Van de Velde’s semen connoisseurship must surely have raised some eyebrows: “The semen of the healthy youths of Western European races has a fresh, exhilarating smell; in the mature man it is more penetrating. In type and degree this very characteristic seminal odour is remarkably like that of the flowers of the Spanish chestnut, which. . . are sometimes quite freshly floral, and then, again, extremely pungent. . . .” Perhaps Van de Velde’s bitter outlook on the typical marriage (“that morass of disillusion and depression”) was traceable to something deeper than his distaste for his first wife.

[23]No one in Israel titters over the seeming irony of a sex therapy center in a hospital called Rambam. Rambam is short for the Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (a. k.a Maimonides). Though I now associate him with rear – entry intercourse, the Rambam, as he is known there, was an important medieval Jewish philosopher.

tThe “G ” in G-spot stands for Grafenberg. The term was coined by G-spot popularizer and researcher Beverly Whipple. Whipple contem­plated calling it the Whipple Spot, but refrained for the sake of her chil­dren and other innocent Whipples.

[24]As an alternative, one culture cuts the nipples off boys, to masculin­ize them. Bonaparte gives a quote obtained from a nipple-less Janjero tribesman by an anthropologist named Cerulli. “We do this because we do not wish to resemble women in any way” A journal search turned up no mention of this practice; however, the Janjero were described as fierce hunters rumored to dally in human sacrifice, so presumably nipple-hacking would have been mere fluff to them.

[25]A fistula is an unwanted passageway that develops between two nor­mally separate body cavities. Like tenors, there are three well-known vaginal fistulas. The Pavarotti of vaginal fistulas is the vesicovagino, linking bladder to vagina and allowing urine to dribble out where it oughtn’t. Ditto the urethral one. Most odiously, there is the rectovaginal fistula (an occasional complication of childbirth), which allows flatus and feces to leak out of the vagina. Nothing to sing about.

[26]I’m too polite to ask, but Alfred Kinsey wasn’t. In Kinsey’s landmark 1940s survey of American men, 26 to 28 percent of college-age rural males copped to having had “some animal experience to the point of orgasm.” In a few farm communities “where social restraints on this matter are less stringent,” the figure jumps to 65 percent. Calves, burros, and sheep are the preferred partners, probably because they’re the right height. There is no specific mention of pigs, except to say that “practi­cally every other mammal that has ever been kept on the farm enters into the record, and a few of the larger birds, like chickens, ducks, and geese.”

[27]Or, if you lack a sense of fun, just a can of Boarmate. One two- second spritz at the snout does the trick if the gal’s in heat. Until very recently, you could go on the Web and download a Boarmate Audio File, where you could hear a British man talking very seriously, in an Alistair Cooke sort of way, about “boar odor spray.”

[28]Upon whom one may, if money is no object, use a Nasco Master Artifi­cial Vagina, the “finest artificial vagina ever offered,” featuring “just right stiffness.” Or, for a stallion, the Nasco Missouri-Style Equine Artificial Vagina. (“The leather case permits the vagina to be carried easily. . . .”) Men, of course, are simply handed a magazine and a cup. There is a synthetic human vagina—called a syngina—but it is used in tam­pon R&D. Adman Jerry Della Femina, who once worked on a tampon account, joked in his book that if your campaign went especially well, you got to take the syngina to dinner.

[29]One of the less prominently known similarities between pigs and men: They both fondle breasts. No other males on the planet regularly do this.

[30]1 love eighteenth-century science writing, because the humanity of it— the exhilaration of discovery and triumph—had not yet been stripped away. Check out Spallanzani’s next line: “Thus did I succeed in fecun­dating this quadruped; and I can truly say that I have never received greater pleasure upon any occasion since I have cultivated experimental philosophy.” You can practically hear the champagne corks popping, the whelps yipping underfoot.

[31]Since a male rat will mount and dismount many times before he ejacu­lates, this experiment required intimate knowledge of rodent sexual­ity. An unnamed junior staffer trained himself to “infallibly” recognize what he called the Sign of Ejaculation. Bearing no relation to the Sign of the Cross and only a passing similarity to the Mark of Zorro, the Sign of Ejaculation is a “deep final thrust.” This is followed by “a period of inertia” during which the male lies collapsed on the back of the female, provided, that is, that she hasn’t been plucked out from under him in the name of scientific inquiry.

tl find it hard not to project a sliver of sadism upon the scientists. The hamster guys are especially easy to mistrust, having stated in their paper that “the mated female was killed by a blow on the back of the head.” Who dubs a hamster? What would you even use to deliver “a blow” to a head that small?

[32]Finger-fucking.

[33]For anyone who doubts that bisexuality exists among farm animals, allow me to quote from p. 100 of The Artificial Insemination of Farm Ani­mals. Under item 4 of the section on using teaser cows to arouse a bull before taking his seed, we read that “males are just as effective as females for providing sexual stimulation and are more effective for some bulls.” Also arousing for bulls: the idea of the threesome. “Even two teasers which are ineffective when used singly may bring about stimulation when placed together.”

[34]Not to be trusted. Talmey also makes the claim that a woman deprived of semen—either because she’s not having sex or her man is using a con­dom—will suffer a “veritable thirst for sperma” and “eventually become a nervous wreck.” Ridiculous. Or is it? In 2002, a team of SUNY Albany psychologists published a paper called “Does Semen Have Antidepres­sant Properties?” Of 293 female college students who took a survey, those having sex without condoms were less depressed than condom users and women not having any sex. How depressed the women were was not linked to whether or not they were in a relationship or whether they were on the pill. Reactions to the paper, principal investigator Gor­don Gallup, Jr., told me, have been “largely skeptical.”

[35]If s especially sensitive when you’re an infertility patient who works as a professional inseminator. Anne Marie Hedeboe related the story of one of her colleagues who was traveling overseas to adopt a child. “You can imagine, he gets a lot of teasing.”

[36]It’s possible they also revealed Leonardo’s distaste for intercourse. Anatomist A. G. Morris describes one of the coition figures as a “quickly scrawled illustration… on the corner of a page filled with mechanical drawings of cranes, pulleys and levers.” It was as though Leonardo had set out to work on sex but got distracted by engineering—a scenario that no doubt plays itself out in reverse in the notebooks of countless college engineering students. “Copulation,” Leonardo wrote, “is awkward and disgusting.” He is said to have never bedded a woman.

^Scholars (and rubes like me) use Leonardo rather than da Vinci as a shortened print reference because da Vinci isn’t his surname. Da Vinci refers to where he was from: “of Vinci,” a town in Tuscany. Somewhere along the line, these place references began to be treated as regular sur­names, sparing us from having to similarly exalt Leonardo DiCaprio.

[37]The indefatigable Arlene Shaner, at the New York Academy of Medi­cine, tracked down a portion of this collection for me. Photos arrived in my email box (“I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. I am attaching some Dickinson vaginas for you”) and knocked me flat. The castings are presented in beautiful arched alcoves, like bas-reliefs of saints on the walls of a chapel. Next time you’re in Brooklyn, stop by the SUNY Downstate archives and ask to see the Dickinson vulvas. Or, you know, don’t.

^Something of a theme for Marie Carmichael Stopes. Her popular and controversial sex manual Married Love was written while she was still a virgin. Either she got some things wrong, or she failed to follow her own advice: Stopes’s 1911 marriage was annulled, unconsummated, three years later.

[38]You are perhaps envisioning, as I did, a woman with her knees pulled up to her chest. It wasn’t until I reached Dickinson’s Figure 155 that I realized this wasn’t what he meant. The drawing shows a woman on her knees in a modified doggy-style posture, her chest and one ear pressed to the floor, as though listening for hoofbeats.

[39]A business anthropologist is someone who, among other things, helps corporations avoid cross-cultural misunderstandings. For example, the one that led PepsiCo to run an ad in the Chinese Reader’s Digest that said, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave!”—rather than the intended “Come alive with Pepsi!”

[40]The earliest orgasm on scientific record is that of a three-year-old girl whose mother spied on her and reported her behavior to Alfred Kinsey. Kinsey duly and unwisely—this was 1953—included a detailed descrip­tion of it in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Though he had no dealings with this child or others described in his book, he was accused of pederasty, a taint that dogged him for years.

[41]The California Exotic Novelties Web site features five pages of simu­lated vaginas, many of them crafted from molds of actual porn star ori­fices. Meaning that it’s altogether possible that, say, Alexis Amore made an appearance in the pages of Evolution and Human Behavior.

[42]The world record belongs to Grandmaster Tu Jin-Sheng, who, along with two fellow practitioners, pulled a flatbed delivery truck across a Tai­pei parking lot with their penises in October 2000. For those interested in learning the art, or perhaps starting their own penile delivery service, MartialArtsMart. com sells Tu’s video Iron Crotch.

I’m a little confused because the Taipei Times referred to this tech­nique by the name yin diao gung, or “genitals hanging kung fu”—the fifth of the Nine Mysterious Kung Fus. Mysterious Kung Fu No. Six entails “drawing water back through the urinary tract and into the blad­der by use of a drinking straw,” which does not ease my confusion.

[43]A comforting word about the crooked penis. Dr. Hsu says it is rare to see one that stands perfectly straight. Actually, what he said was: “Most men are communists! Lean to the left! Second most common: bow down, like Japanese gentleman! Number three, to the right. Four, up! Like elephant!”

[44]Of course, you can use any old ring as a cock ring. In China, I saw rings of animal tail skin being sold for this purpose. Robert Latou Dickinson has a note in one of his files about the eyelids of a sheep, the lashes intended as a sort of ovine French tickler. Also on record: the handle hole in the head of a sledgehammer.

Trouble is, without a release latch, you might not get it back off again. In San Francisco, cock-ring emergencies are so common that they have their own shorthand (“С-Ring”) on the Fire Department teletype. The depart­ment’s Heavy Rescue Squad has modified a small circular saw especially for this purpose and occasionally stages practice drills. The latter prove challenging owing to the absence of manipulable genitalia on Resusci – Andy dolls and the refusal of male staff to volunteer as mock victims.

This footnote dedicated to former HR squadder Caroline Paul, who personally liberated four penises, including that of the sledgehammer guy, who did not say thank you.

[45]Lue was the 1988 recipient of the Gold Cystoscope Award, which Dr. Hsu remembered as the “Golden Bladder Award.” The ensuing trip to Google for verification revealed a veritable medical supply catalogue of gold-plated statuary: there is the Golden Speculum Award and the Golden Forceps Award. The American Rhinologic Society bestows a Golden Head Mirror Award. There are at least three different Golden Stethoscope Awards. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Sur­geons, not getting into the spirit of it at all, bestows an annual Mentor’s Award.

[46]The U. S. Postal Service was aware of this practice, and even endorses it. USPS spokesman Mark Saunders points out that it was a nice, if modest, source of additional revenue for the beleaguered Postal Service. “Because I bet these people didn’t use the stamps after that, for mail.” Saunders urges care in choosing the stamps. “For instance, we recently introduced a Distinguished Marines stamp and a Muppets stamp,” both of which would seem, well, just plain wrong. Saunders also felt that some stamps, like the Greta Garbo, might be considered cheating. I asked Saunders if the Postal Service even sells perforated stamps anymore. “Yeah,” he deadpanned. “We’ve got a new dog stamp. It licks itself.”

[47]The semen-as-life-force concept dates all the way back to Pharaonic Egypt. When the creator, Atum, needed to create a pair of helper gods, he masturbated. His seed spawned Shu, the god of air and—surely some­thing of a letdown—Tefnut, the goddess of humidity. This and other tales are detailed in a group of illustrated erotic papyruses, which I read about in a paper by urologist A. A. Shokeir (“Sexual Life in Pharaonic Egypt: Towards a Urological View”). Shokeir’s paper includes a draw­ing of Atum masturbating, which he did by mouth and, as always back then, in profile.

The best-known erotic papyrus is the Turin Erotic Papyrus, housed just down the road from the Shroud of Turin. To avoid confusion, the papyrus is the one that shows people having sex in a chariot and, also, in “the Geb and Nut Position.” Shokeir includes the latter in his paper, noting in his caption that “the man carries a sack over his shoulder and takes her from behind.”

[48]More often, the Patent Office opted for euphemism in the category headings for antimasturbation contraptions. “Surgical Appliance” was by far the most common. Also “Sanitary Appliance,” as though a sneeze guard or a mop could somehow keep wanton sexual impulses in check.

[49]The scrotum enjoys a natural expandability that makes it a good candi­date for use in skin grafts. Researchers at the Shriners Burn Institute in Galveston, Texas, have gone so far as to call the hairy sac “lifesaving.” There are images on the Internet of men with scrotums the size of those inflatable hop-along balls of my youth, but this strays well beyond normal expandability. These men have elephantiasis, and if you know what’s good for you, you will not do a Google search of “scrotum” and “elephantiasis.”

[50]They can also, if they’re the sort who likes to invite comment, order a Neuticles baseball cap or bathrobe, the latter suggesting a disconcerting scenario wherein the proud Neuticle owner suddenly throws open his robe for inspection.

The latest addition to the Neuticles promotional merchandise line is a Neuticles BBQ apron. It has been a sluggish seller.

[51]Rhino poachers of yore were more resourceful than their modern-day counterparts, if no less evil. Li describes them “rigging up a rotten wood fence which the animals like to lean against.” When the animals fall over “they cannot rise quickly and are easily killed.” For sheer originality, though, nothing tops the tactics of hunters of the Moupin langur, an animal that grins “when it sees people” and “when it grins it draws its upper lip up over its eyes.” Whereupon the hunter runs over and nails its lip to its forehead and smothers the creature. Don’t worry, though; it’s probably not true. Li also writes that the animal is ten feet tall and its feet are backward. The more you read Li, the more you wonder about his trustworthiness as a naturalist. One of his longest entries is Clear Liquid Feces of a Man, prepared by burying it in ajar underground to ferment. “The longer the time it is in the ground the better.” Like, say, forever?

[52]But not if you step on one: A sea cucumber under assault expels the organs of its digestive tract through its anus (and then grows another set). Given that the sea cucumber’s greatest threat is Asian cuisine, this “autoevisceration”—essentially gutting yourself and saving the chef the bother—probably needs to be rethought as a self-defense.

[53]A fact that has spread well beyond the confines of panda reserves. The Urban Dictionary includes an entry for “panda penis” (meaning a small one) submitted by a contributor named Lew. Lew’s usage example reads: “That girl said Matthew Reed had a panda penis.” It is Urban Dictionary policy to reject definitions that include the full names of non-celebrities, leading one to assume that the panda slur was directed at some sports or entertainment figure named Matthew Reed, and not Matthew Reed the wedding photographer, or Matthew Reed the assistant professor with the research interest in the interaction of quinoid compounds with cellular macromolecules, or any of the thousands of other “Matthew Reeds” on Google.

[54]1 always assumed that Priapus was a god of something manly—war or shouting or chariot customizing—but in fact he was a god of fertil­ity and gardens. One mythology Web site calls him the “the protector of all garden produce.” Clearly troubled by the girly job title, he took to wearing robes slit high enough to display his enormous cucumber. Those caught robbing his garden were promptly sodomized. “If I do seize you. . . reads an epigram in Smithers and Burton’s Priapeia, “you shall be so stretched that you will think your anus never had any wrinkles.” Encyclopedia Mythica reports that outside of Rome, Priapus was “never very popular.”

[55]Kegeling has since been taken a step further, in the form of vaginal weightlifting. The idea being: You don’t just flex your muscles if you want to build them up; you train with weights. I once tried the Feminine Personal Trainer for a story. It came with a slip of paper telling me not to be overwhelmed by its weight. I wasn’t. I was overwhelmed by its size. Suffice to say, this is the only workout on Earth that calls for vaginal lubricant. The directions tell you to insert and contract, causing the FPT to rise up inside you until all that can be seen protruding is a doorknob­shaped piece of steel, as though you are giving birth to a hardware store. I use mine as a paperweight.

[56]To those who would say this is unnatural, I direct you to consider the male shark, whose sexual apparati are also erected with saltwater. Shark “claspers” fill with seawater before the predator mates.

[57]In 1989, a team of psychiatrists at SUNY Downstate Medical Cen­ter interviewed twenty-one men who did so regularly Some had always been able, and some had come upon the ability later in life. The latter group combined those who had taught themselves, using a variety of techniques generously covered on the Internet, and those who stum­bled upon it accidently, such as the fifty-nine-year-old skeet shooter who had continued thrusting on behalf of his wife and surprised himself with a second orgasm. Whereupon he exclaimed, “Doublee!”—described by the paper’s authors as a term for shooting two clay pigeons with a double-barreled gun, an event even rarer than male multiple orgasm.

[58]Medical dilators have been around since the early 1800s, mostly under the name bougie. There is a bougie for widening most every tube in the body There are cervical bougies, urethral bougies, esophageal bougies, vaginal bougies. There is even, yes, a sinus bougie. Not only is there an anal bougie, there is a neoanus bougie, used for dilating a new asshole. Hegar refers to the man who invented this particular dilator. More spe­cifically it refers to Ernst Ludwig Alfred Hegar, and if ever a name called out for anal dilation, it’s that one.

[59]A word of apology to the male reader. There is no way for me to ade­quately appreciate how uncomfortable this may be making you. As a consolation, I promise never to witness and describe the insertion of a Disposable Internally Applied Penile Erector. (Yet one more way to stiffen an unstiff penis.) U. S. Patent 4,869,241 describes a stiff, hollow (so semen can come out) plastic tube designed to be “slidably placed” in the urethra. By the urethra’s owner. Writes patent holder John Fried­mann—clearly of tougher stuff than my husband, Ed, who actually crossed his legs as I read this to him—“One merely slides the support tubing down the urethra.”

[60]Close to but not quite the world’s most embarrassing underthing. First prize must go to the Deodorizing and Sound-Muffling Anal Pad. The patent’s background material details the sad decline of the human anal sphincter muscle, whose gripping capacity fades as we age. The absorb­ing layer is said to “trap the sound of a flatus,” as though one might later drive it to a less populated area and release it.

The Anal Pad should not be confused with a prior invention called the Anal Napkin, which, in turn, should not be confused with the din­ner napkin.

[61]Not entirely an exaggeration. The collagen fibers surrounding the cor­pus cavernosum of an erect penis are as stiff, by weight, as steel. I learned this in 1999, while interviewing Diane Kelly, then at Cornell University, the planet’s lone expert on the biomechanics of the mammalian penis. The fibers are arranged in two layers, one perpendicular to the other, which keeps erections from bending or ballooning out of shape when they’re squeezed. If you use enough force, however, a penis will buckle. “Penile fracture” is the preferred term. It refers to a ruptured corpus cavernosum rather than a broken bone. Humans don’t have penis bones. Dogs do, and chipmunks and muskrats and various other mammals, all of them represented in the fabulous Smithsonian Institution penis bone collection that languishes, tragically, in an off-site storage facility. The largest penis bone is that of the walrus. The Inuit call it an oosik and used it as a war club.

[62]Not her real name.

[63]And from HAFD, hyperactive acronym formation disorder. The con­dition has reached epidemic proportions in the sex research community. Cindy Meston staged a quiet parody in her days as a postdoc at the Uni­versity of Washington. She had the task of composing a questionnaire to screen patients to see if they were promising candidates for surgical correction of a crooked penis (due to Peyronie’s disease). The surgery repairs the crook but takes as much as an inch off the length. Meston called the questionnaire the Washington Examination of Expected Neg­ative Identity Post-Peyronie’s: the WEENI PR

[64]Other things enter MRI tubes less slowly. Anything magnetic is subject to the projectile effect and, if brought too close, will abruptly lift off the ground and hurtle through the air toward the giant magnet at up to 40 mph. This has, in the past, included ladders, floor buffers, laundry carts, IV poles, and, in July 2001, an oxygen canister that fatally beaned a six- year-old boy as he lay in the tube.

[65]Lef s get used to this word, because there are few likable substitutes. In a study of male and female genital slang carried out at five British universities, respondents came up with 351 ways to say penis (e. g., veiny bang stick, custard chucker, one-eyed milkman, bishop) and only three for clitoris: bean, button, and the little man in the boat. The authors felt this reflected society’s disregard of female pleasure, which is probably true, but I simply bemoan the lack of useful synonyms. The third one is well-nigh unusable, as anyone from this side of the Atlantic would assume the reference was to the Ty-D-Bol Man.

[66]A clitoris does not, of course, ejaculate semen. But some women—40 percent according to a 1990 survey of 1,292 women—do, like men, expel a substance from their urethra during orgasm, especially orgasms from stimulating the G-spot region. The nature of this “ejaculate” has been the source of extended debate—urine or not urine?—and diverse scientific inquiry. One woman devised a home experiment in which she swallowed a tablet that dyes urine bright blue. She then “inspected her wet spots,” which she reports were either colorless or faint blue. One research team collected specimens of “the expulsion” and asked outsiders to character­ize it. It is a testimony to the generosity of the human spirit that these volunteers both smelled and tasted the specimens. (Several specified that it “had no urine taste” without further specifying how they would recog­nize this taste. One likened it to watered-down fat-free milk.)

[67]Women get them too. It took science a while to figure this out. You couldn’t simply hire a grad student to sit and watch all night, as was done in 1944, when science first confirmed that men were dependably getting erect as they slept (three to five times per night). And the average clito­ris was too small for early-model strain gauges. What you needed were some congenitally enlarged clitorises, a fancy strain gauge, and a power­ful need to know. In 1970, a trio of University of Florida researchers pulled together all these things and assembled them in a sleep lab. The women in the study were found to have a similar number of erections as did a control group of men, and, as with the men, they usually happened during REM sleep.

[68]We have three Houston researchers to thank for this statistic. In 1985, the trio attached a pressure gauge to the tip of a penis-shaped Plexi­glas rod and penetrated a small group of female volunteers. It seems to me that if they wanted to approximate the surface friction that exists in real intercourse, slippery-smooth Plexiglas was a poor stand-in for penis skin. Though I suppose that when you are doing an experiment that involves penetrating coeds in your lab, surface friction is less of a concern than, say, human subjects review board friction.

[69]What is it with pathology journals and autoerotic deaths? Every other issue seems to have a case report of some heedless, autoasphyxiated corpse with ill-fitting briefs and a black bar across his eyes. Occasion­ally, they seem to be in there for sheer color, as in the case of the young Australian who perished from “inhalation of a zucchini.” This one raises more questions than it answers. Was he trying to intensify his climax by vegetally choking himself, or was it a case of overexuberant mock fel­latio? (We do learn that the zucchini was from his wife’s garden, admit­tedly a nice touch.)

[70]The nerve-dense bit of tissue on the underside of the penis, where shaft meets glans. “Along with the tip and the testicles, these are the sen­sitive parts,” says Marty. “The whole rest of the penis, you could throw away.”

[71]Merriam-Webster OnLine’s preferred pronunciation is CLIT-oris. If you click on the little speaker icon, you can hear a nice lady saying “CLIT-oris” out loud for you, over and over, as many times as you click. The nice lady will also say “cervix” and “nipple,” but it is the nice man who gets to say “vagina,” “vulva,” and “orgasm,” plus all the male genital words. Smelling sexism, I entered “housewife,” which was read aloud by the woman, as was “maid,” “stewardess,” and “flower.” However, it is also the woman who pronounces “linebacker,” “doctor,” “president,” and “fireman.” So never mind. Can you say “waste of half an hour”?

[72]Or, if they are followers of sixteenth-century naturalist Li Shih-chen, sun-dried, powdered wolf epiglottis. Li’s hiccup remedy, found in the Chinese Materia Medica, is probably quite effective, for in the time it takes to track a wolf and sun-dry its epiglottis, even the most stubborn case of hiccups will invariably have passed.

[73]1 can’t speak for Butt, but Dorcus was once a popular and desirable name. There was a magazine for “embroiderers and needle artisans,” popular in the early twentieth century, titled Dorcus.

[74]Far from the worse thing that ends up in rectums. “Rectal Foreign Bodies: Case Reports and a Comprehensive Review of the World’s Lit­erature” includes a list of objects doctors have removed from rectums over the years. Highlights: a frozen pig tail (one of the 7 female cases in the total caseload of202), a bottle of Impulse Body Spray (“incarcerated” in a thirty-seven-year-old lawyer), a parsnip, a plantain (with condom), a dull knife, a cattle horn, a salami, a jeweler’s saw, and a plastic spatula. Multiple holdings in the same rectum are listed under the heading “Col­lections.” These include several that could pass as still-life titles (“oil can with potato,” “2 apples,” “402 stones”), several that probably couldn’t (“umbrella handle and enema tubing,” “lemon and cold cream jar”) and one that suggests a quiet evening in the Biltmore (“spectacles, suitcase key, tobacco pouch, and magazine”).

^“Obtained” being a handy euphemism. Paralysis disables the sphincter that normally closes to keep semen from heading off into the bladder. Thus, electrically prompted ejaculations are often “retrograde,” disap­pearing into the manly recesses unless someone “milks” the semen out into the light of day.

ІА Brindley tradition. At a 1983 urology conference, Brindley delivered a lecture about a new impotency drug, papaverine, that produced robust erections when injected directly into the penis. He began by showing his audience, a group of around eighty urologists and their wives—many en route to the conference cocktail party and dressed in formal attire—a series of slides of his own penis, after various dosages. He then revealed that, five minutes earlier, he had injected himself with papaverine. He pulled the fabric of his track suit tightly against his hips to reveal the outline of his medicated member. Not satisfied, he then pulled down his pants, revealing, in the words of eyewitness Laurence Klotz, “a long, thin, clearly erect penis. ” Klotz’s account of the event was published in

[75]Vereen came in for rehabilitation after he was struck by a car (though not paralyzed) while walking on the Pacific Coast Highway some years back. Sipski recruited Vereen to do the introduction on Sexuality Reborn, which he undertook with admirable dignity and no dancing.

[76]For years, Dr. Woog had been aware that women were using his inven­tion as a vibrator. Every now and then, returned toothbrushes that passed through quality control “clearly seemed to have been used in that way,” said his son Lionel Woog, who oversees marketing for the vibrator com­pany Advance Response. At a certain point, a lightbulb went on in the elder Woog’s head, and he set to work on a vibrator. “It’s the same idea,” said Lionel. “You want to stimulate the tissue without damaging it.” Lionel told me the story of the Eskimos, and how their gums deterio­rated when they moved to settlements and began eating processed foods instead of raw animal parts. Vigorous chewing, he explained, stimulates bone growth and keeps gums healthy. Woog’s Broxodent electric tooth­brush used to be given to marines on nuclear submarines. “They ate a lot of canned foods,” said Woog, and the toothbrush helped keep their gums in shape. It was a popular item with the men, maybe even for that reason. As Lionel Woog says, ‘You have to masticate.”

[77]The most interesting being the woman in Taiwan who, once or twice a week, would have an orgasm (followed by a mild nonconvulsive seizure) when she brushed her teeth. The smell of toothpaste alone wouldn’t trigger it, nor was it limited to any specific brand. It didn’t happen when she poked at her gums with a chopstick or when she moved her empty fist back and forth in a tooth-brushing motion. Curious neurologists at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital gave her a toothbrush and toothpaste and hooked her up to an EEG. Sure enough, after thirty-eight seconds of the “highly specific somatosensory stimulus” we call toothbrushing, it happened. The woman, whose case report appears in a 2003 issue of Seizure, was neither delighted nor amused by the situation. She believed she was possessed by demons, and soon switched to mouthwash for her oral hygiene.

[78]Highly decorated in both pursuits, Sprinkle holds a Ph. D. in human sexuality as well as a spot on the Adult Star Path of Fame in Edison, New Jersey The Path of Fame was the brainchild of Mike Drake, manager of the Edison porn emporium Playtime. Drake also oversaw the con­tents of Playtime’s Adult Time Capsule, which include an autographed CyberSkin replica of Sprinkle’s vagina. Other items bound to confuse the earthlings of 2069 include nipple clamps, a Decadent Indulgence Vibrator with rotating pleasure beads and “clitoral hummingbird vibra­tor,” and a set of “starter anal beads.”

tShe figured this out by borrowing a perineometer, a contraction­measuring device first built by Arnold Kegel to document the vaginal strength gains of Kegeling women. To this same end, Kegel made Before and After plaster casts of women’s vaginas, to show that their Kegeling regime had rendered them firmer and less “gaping,” to use the termi­nology of Kegel’s colleague Marilyn Fithian. “You had to get the plaster out before it got too hard,” Fithian told me in an interview years ago. Otherwise, it would get stuck, and no amount of pelvic floor muscle strength was going to help you. “You had to break it inside the vagina,” said Fithian, who was in her seventies then and still Kegeling.

[79]If you think there’s no link between sex and sewing machines, think again. Early sewing machines were treadle-powered, and medical com­plaints among seamstresses common. Somehow, the men of Victorian medicine decided that the rhythmic pumping of the treadles was arous­ing women and leading them down the scarlet path to wanton mas­turbation—and that this “self-abuse” was the cause of their complaints. Wrote J. Langdon Down in the British Medical Journal in 1867, “I was struck with the similarity of some of the effects presented to those which my observations at Earlswood had taught me to connect with habits of masturbation.” Earlswood meaning the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Idiots. (Where Down was a physician, not a patient. I think.)

[80]You just never know what you’re going to see when you sign up for a sexual arousal study. At a sex conference I attended last month, a researcher gave a presentation about an arousal assessment technique called thermography To make sure that nonsexual reactions like laugh­ter weren’t causing the increase in temperature, the subjects’ genitals were also thermographically filmed while they watched clips from a Mr. Bean movie.

[81] Artistic representations of vaginal lubrication tend, historically, toward hyperbole. Old Japanese woodcuts show it sloshing forth as though from a garden hose. Dickinson writes in his Atlas that men who played the roles of women in classical Greek comedies would be shown during love scenes with “bags of fluid” hanging between their legs.

t Films by the porn-star-turned-director Candida Royalle are a sex-lab favorite. Meston likes the one about the guy who had the meaning of life tattooed on his erect penis. Alas, he can’t get it up (and won’t just tell anyone what it says), and so a cavalcade of existentially inquiring hotties tries to make big the writing tablet.

[82]For instance, who else would have funded a study of “the passage of fla­tus at coitus”? Flaturia, as Shafik has musically named it, is distinct from embarrassing vaginal fart sounds caused by air getting trapped behind the penis during sex. In flaturia, intestinal gas “leaks loudly” from the rectum during sex. Blessedly, it is rare: an affliction of women with a weak internal anal sphincter.

[83]While reflexes like the vaginocavernosus may serve to heighten a wom­an’s passion, they cannot stand in place of it. Eight of the ten French­women “were indifferent” to the overtures of the ballooning pressure probe.

[84]The female earwig is renowned for her maternal fastidiousness. She cleans her eggs obsessively with her saliva, which contains an antifungal. If someone—and it is unclear to me who this might be—enters her den and scatters her eggs, she will dutifully gather and repile them. However, if this happens once too often, she will eat them. Even earwigs have their limits.

[85]Ditto humans. In 1973, researchers put a group of students (who’d never met) in a pitch-dark room for an hour, after telling them each would leave alone and never see the others. In other words, no judg­ment, no consequences. Meanwhile, infrared cameras were rolling. Ninety percent touched a stranger, 50 percent hugged one, and an unspecified number “necked.” When the experiment was repeated in a lighted room, no one made physical contact.

A boy who admitted to necking with a stranger named Beth said: “We expressed it as showing ‘love’ to each other. Before I was taken out, we decided to pass our ‘love’ on. So. . . Laurie took her place.”

“People share strong yearnings to be close to each other,” concluded the authors. “However, social norms make it too costly to express these feelings. Perhaps these traditions have outlived their usefulness.” Oh, probably not.

[86]A visit to Yerkes will forever after distort your image of corporate America. On my flight home, the woman behind me was talking about the presentation she was planning for a man named Mark. Her seatmate had just finished up a series of displays at the regional sales conference.

[87]Ladies, do not get involved with a chimp. Not only are they fast ejacula – tors, they want to perform this minor irritation constantly. (Highest copu – latory frequency of all primates.) And here’s how they let you know: “the male invitation posture,” in which the male sits on the ground, knees up and legs wide open to, quoting Reproductive Biology of the Great Apes, “reveal his erect penis.” As an alternate wooing strategy, the male chimpanzee will shake a branch at you.

[88]A category defined by PE expert Marcel Waldinger as one to one and a half minutes Intravaginal Ejaculation Latency Time (IELT)—a high – octane way of saying How Long He’s in Before He’s Done. “Definite” premature ejaculation is defined as consistently less than one minute. (Certain antidepressants are being used these days to treat PE—includ­ing some that can be taken a couple hours before sex.)

You never hear much about the opposite condition, delayed ejacula­tion. Possibly, this is because for years it was called “retarded ejaculation,” and who wants to admit they’ve got that?

[89]Shortly after his discovery, Michael patented the chemical makeup of the copulins as a sex attractant. George Preti, a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, says a major fragrance com­pany in the seventies was said to be adding synthesized monkey copulins to its perfumes. Which seems disgusting, until you learn that another ersatz sex attractant fragrance, called Realm, was made from skin com­pounds derived from scrapings off of, quoting Preti, “the inside of casts worn by injured skiers.”

[90]Preti and gang were clearly not speaking for the millions of soiled- panty enthusiasts in our midst. A Google search on “soiled panties” produced 78,000 hits, most of them directing you to freelance sellers, women who throw up a Web site with a couple of photos and a PayPal link. Wikipedia says some Japanese sex shops operate panty exchanges for girls, who wear a pair overnight and then exchange them for a new pair on their way to school. “The more soiled they are, the more they will fetch at sale,” says Wikipedia, yet further distancing itself from stuffy rival Britannica.

[91]Hirsch speculated that the effect could be Pavlovian: “The smell of cucumber or Good ’n’ Plenty. . . may bring back fond memories of Grandma’s backyard.” But why would the women be sexually aroused? And why use candy-coated Good ’n’ Plenty instead of straight licorice? Has Dr. Hirsch gone Good ’n’ Fruity?

[92]But not rectally. Anal sex—which Masters and Johnson dubbed “rectal coition”—was shunted off to its own little investigation. Twelve cou­ples were observed: five gay and seven straight (three of the latter being strangers). The researchers studied anal sphincter contractions (conclu­sion: it mainlyjust hurts at first) and looked to see if arousal causes rectal lubrication (it doesn’t).

“Persons Studied in Pairs”

The Lab That Uncovered Great Sex

W

hen I began this book, I harbored a naive fantasy that I would find a team of scientists working to discover the secret to amazing, mind-rippling sex. They would report to work late at night in a windowless, hi-tech labo­ratory and have unplaceable accents and penetrating stares. Week after week, couples would be hooked up to instru­ments, measured, interviewed, filmed. Data would be ana­lyzed, footage reviewed, and one day one of the researchers would set down her pen and nod knowingly.

I suspected that the secrets uncovered in this lab would have less to do with vasocongestion or vaginoclitoral dis­tance or hormones than with how the two people on the bed in the laboratory felt—about one another, and about sex. And that those feelings would color and inspire the things they did. And that without those feelings you could play the overture and hit the crescendos just fine, but the music would not take you to the same rapturous place.

One day, with only two months to go before I turned in the manuscript, I found that lab. In 1979, William Masters and Virginia Johnson published Homosexuality in Perspective, a book to which I had never before seen or heard a ref­erence. For five years, Masters and Johnson observed and compared the laboratory sexual encounters of straight, gay and lesbian, and “ambisexual” couples. (The team coined the term to refer to nonmonogamous sexual opportun­ists who show no preference between men and women throughout their very busy sex lives.)

To keep the subjects’ identities secret, the research­ers did indeed schedule the sessions late at night or on weekends, when no one was in the building. The rest of it surpassed even my own imagination. While some of the subjects were having sex with their spouses or long­term partners, others were doing it with a stranger—not a stranger of their choosing, but one assigned to them by Masters and Johnson. These latter men and women would show up at the lab, chat with the researchers, and, follow­ing a short orientation session, get down to business with a man or woman they had never before laid eyes upon. While Masters and Johnson observed.

I learned about the project in a New York Times health column. Jane Brody had described the book and its conclu­sions the week it came out. The subheads the paper had supplied were vague and coy:* “Persons Studied in Pairs,” ^Except for this one: “Rape Fantasies for Both.” Masters and Johnson published a list of the top five sexual fantasies of the gay and straight men and women. Forced Sexual Encounters was either No. 1 or No. 2 for all four groups. Both straight men and lesbians imagined themselves interchangeably in the role of rapist and “rapee.” In the case of gang rape fantasies—I so love this—gay men occasionally “played an additional role of planner or organizer.”
said one. It was like writing up the Million Man March under the headline “Persons Walking in a Group.” In a sentence at the end of a paragraph 5describing study proto­cols, Brody notes simply: “Some were assigned partners.” The casual reader, alighting here, might have mistaken the column for a piece about square dancing. I immediately tracked down a copy of the book.

Подпись: bonkAs always, and like most sex researchers, Masters and Johnson were stingy with the irrelevant details. I can tell you that the thermostat was set at 78, presumably because the couples were naked and, of course, had no covers over them. I can tell you that some of the participants asked for background music, though I cannot tell you which albums, just as I could not tell you the titles of the “stimulative lit­erature” used to arouse subjects in Human Sexual Response twenty years before.

The team did mention that many of the men and women who had been assigned a partner worried that this person wouldn’t find them attractive. Oddly, the reverse anxiety never surfaced—no one seemed concerned about whether they themselves would feel any attraction to the stranger whose genitals they were about to experience in almost every way imaginable: manually, orally, coitionally.[92] Catching something wasn’t a concern, because everyone was screened for venereal disease, and AIDS hadn’t yet surfaced. The researchers themselves had but one qualm. They wor­ried at first that some of the subjects might come on to them
and/or make small talk, I cannot tell which, for they phrased it as “the problem of study subjects attempting social inter­change” with the researchers.

Unlike Human Sexual Response, this project did not pri­marily concern itself with the physiology of arousal and orgasm. Everything Masters and Johnson had observed in their heterosexual subjects in the fifties (a subset of whom became the later project’s hetero group), they found, applied to homosexuals. Having now observed “hundreds of cycles of sexual response” in gays as well, they quickly concluded that arousal and orgasm are arousal and orgasm, whether a couple has one, two, or zero penises between them.

A large chunk of the book is spent comparing “func­tional efficiency” and “failure incidence” of the different groups: gay versus straight versus ambi, long-term ver­sus assigned. Table after table with titles like “Functional Efficiency of Ambisexuals in Manipulative Stimulation and Coition.” This was Masters and Johnson as their crit­ics saw them: the mechanizers of sex, obsessively focused on “effective stimulation,” reducing passion to a series of impersonal physical manipulations.

But ultimately the team set aside their stopwatches and data charts and turned a qualitative eye upon their volun­teers. What emerged were two portraits. There was effi­cient sex—skillful, efficient, goal-directed, uninhibited, and with a very low “failure incidence.” Here there were no significant differences among the study groups. Basically, anyone who signed on as a Masters and Johnson volun­teer—gay, straight, committed or not—tended to have, as they say, 100 percent orgasmic return. Because really, why would people who knew themselves to be iffy responders volunteer for this project?

But efficient sex was not amazing sex. The best sex going on in Masters and Johnson’s lab was the sex being had by the committed gay and lesbian couples. Not because they were practicing special secret homosexual sex techniques, but because they “took their tinted They lost themselves—in each other, and in sex. They “tended to move slowly. . . and to linger at. . . [each] stage of stimulative response, making each step in tension incre­ment something to be appreciated. …” They teased each other “in an obvious effort to prolong the stimulatee’s high levels of sexual excitation.”

Another difference was that the lesbians were almost as aroused by what they were doing to their partner as was the partner herself Not just because, say, fondling a breast turned them on, but because their partners’ reactions did. Masters and Johnson’s heterosexuals failed to grasp that if you lost yourself in the tease—in the pleasure and power of turning someone on—that that could be as arousing as being teased and turned on oneself. “Not only were com­mitted lesbians more effective in satisfying their partners, they usually involved themselves without restraint… far more than husbands approaching their wives.” The straight man, in most cases, “became so involved in his own sexual tensions that he seemed relatively unaware of the degree of his partner’s sexual involvement. There were only a few instances when the husband seemed fully aware of his wife’s levels of sexual excitation and helped her to expand her pleasure. . . rather than attempting to force her rapidly to higher levels of sexual involvement.”

The same criticisms applied to straight women: “This sense of goal orientation, of trying to get something done. . . was exhibited almost as frequently by the heterosex­ual women as by their male partners.” They ignored their husband’s nipples and just about everything else other than his penis. Meanwhile, the homosexual men lavished attention on their partners’ entire bodies. And the gay men, like the gay women, were adept at the tease. Unlike the wives: “Rarely did a wife identify her husband’s pre­orgasmic stage. . . and suspend him at this high level of sexual excitation. …”

Masters points out that the heterosexuals were at a disadvantage, as they do not benefit from what he called “gender empathy.” Doing unto your partner as you would do unto yourself only works well when you’re gay. “Since rapid forceful stroking was the pattern of choice during male masturbation,” Masters wrote, “it was also a consistent pattern during the male’s manipulation of his female partner’s clitoris.” The lesbians’ lighter touch was “generally the more acceptable. …” For no doubt similar reasons, the straight women, their husbands told the researchers, “did not grasp the shaft of the penis tightly enough.”

But the empathy gap is not insurmountable. One has only to speak one’s mind. The other hugely important dif­ference Masters and Johnson found between the heterosex­ual and homosexual couples was that the gay couples talked far more easily, often, and openly about what they did and didn’t enjoy. Gay men and women simply seemed more comfortable in the world of sex. Masters gives the example of the heterosexual men’s finger insertions: “Though many heterosexual women evidenced little pleasure. . . and were obviously distracted by [it],… only twice did they ask their husbands to desist.”

It seems to me that heterosexuals have come a long way since 1979. The media’s ubiquitous coverage of sex and sex research—as well as the genesis and population explosion of TV, radio, and newspaper sex advisors—have chipped away at the taboos that kept couples from talking openly with each other about the sex they were having. Bit by bit, sex research has unraveled the hows, whys, why-nots, and how-betters of arousal and orgasm. The more the research­ers and the sexperts and the reporters talked about sex, the easier it became for everyone else to. As communication eases and knowledge grows, inhibitions dissolve and con­fidence takes root.

Sadly, the main thing people recall about Homosexuality in Perspective, if they recall anything at all, is that Masters and Johnson spent the second half of the book touting a therapy for helping homosexuals convert to heterosexuality. The team went out of their way to assure readers that they screened clients carefully, accepting only those who had turned to homosexuality after a traumatic experience with heterosexuality (rape or abuse, for instance). They insisted that no gay man or woman who came to them for therapy was ever pressured or encouraged to pursue heterosexual­ity. However, as one critic pointed out, many should prob­ably have been encouraged not to pursue it.

But let’s give Masters and Johnson their due. And while we’re at it, Alfred Kinsey and Robert Latou Dick­inson and Old Dad and everyone else in these pages. The laboratory study of sex has never been an easy, safe, or well- paid undertaking. Study by study, the gains may seem small and occasionally silly, but the aggregation of all that has been learned, the lurching tango of academe and popular culture, has led us to a happier place. Hats and pants off to you all.

Monkey Do

The Secret Sway of Hormones

h

omo sapiens is one of the few species on earth that care if they’re seen having sex. The impala is unconcerned. The dingo roundly flaunts it. A masturbating chimpan­zee will stare straight at you. To any creature other than you and I and 6 billion other privacy-needing H. sapiens, sex is like peeling a mango or scratching your ear. It’s just something you do sometimes. This morning, sitting on an observation platform high above a playground-sized rhesus enclosure at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center with researcher Kim Wallen, I have watched a half-dozen monkey couplings, and I’m fairly certain that the situation has caused me more discomfort than it has them.

Wallen and I are here not because of the differences between the sex lives of humans and monkeys, but because of some surprising similarities. Wallen, whom we met in chapter 3, is a professor of behavioral neuroendocrinology at Emory University He studies sexual desire and the hor­mones that influence it. Wallen’s Female Sexuality Project involves testing different combinations of hormones to see how they effect libido. The hormones are being given to rhesus monkeys, not because monkeys complain about dampened libidos, but because women do—and because monkeys and women have the same hormones, and these hormones affect them in many of the same sorts of ways.

An independent woman may believe herself to be sub­ject to no one and nothing beyond her own volition. And much of the time she is. But there are times, times when certain hormones peak and fertility is at its maximum, that she may find herself behaving in ways that later puzzle her. Hormones can act as the invisible puppet strings behind the discomfiting one-night stand, the shameless flirta­tion with the bellboy, the unexpected and regrettable kiss between friends. Your genes want you to get pregnant, and hormones are their magic wand.

A dozen studies bear this out. One team of researchers, Stanislaw and Rice, asked 4,000 women to write down the first day within their menstrual cycle when they noticed an increase in sexual desire; the dates peaked at mid-cycle. Women who are part of couples will initiate sex more often at mid-cycle than during the rest of the month—provided they’re using a reliable birth-control method (and don’t wish to become pregnant); if they’re not, then they typically avoid mid-cycle sex. Women also masturbate significantly more often around ovulation than at other times. Take the hormones away, as menopause does, and these mid-cycle spikes in libido level out.

Monkeys offer an unadulterated demonstration of the power of hormones, as the females are not concerned about pregnancy or what their friends will think. Mon­keys don’t wait until the weekend, or until they’ve lost two more pounds, or until their roommate is out of town. Here in the rhesus compound, it is much more the case that hor­mones determine who has sex and when. Their hold over a female animal can be impressive. When they are not close to ovulation, female rhesus monkeys have little to do with males. For the most part, they avoid them. But when they are fertile, they pursue the males constantly, initiating about 80 percent of the sexual encounters they will have.

Right now, in the enclosure below us, the puppet mas­ter has control of a shy, skinny monkey whom the research­ers have named Page. Page is in heat for the first time. Since we got here, she’s been hanging around Keystone, the troupe’s boastful, burly alpha male. Alpha males are easy to spot. They are larger by half than the females, and their tails stand in the air like a lion tamer’s whip. Lest you for­get that Keystone is the alpha male, he does a conspicuous display every ten minutes or so, to remind you of it. He may bounce straight up and down, basketball-like, five or six times. Or he may leap up onto the chain-link fence and shake it by the lapels. It is the rhesus monkey equivalent of karate or doing donuts in the parking lot.

Kim Wallen is not an alpha male sort of guy. He has been married for twenty-five years. He says “crapola” when he misses a freeway exit. Today he is dressed in chinos and hiking shoes. His shirt is quietly checkered, and his tie has two small spots on it from the fish soup he ate for lunch. Perhaps because of the photo of him on the Emory Web site, in which he is leaning against a large tree trunk, a woman once wrote to him, “You look like a man who’d like to go for a walk.”

A hawk circles above us, and the monkeys hoot and clamor. It’s the sound that the crowd makes when George Clooney arrives on the red carpet outside the Oscars. We watch as Page gradually, subtly, moves closer to Keystone.

“They do what looks like a random walk, but each time they stop, they’re a little closer. It’s like the teenage dance, where you’re interested in a guy and you kind of hang around in the area, waiting to go get punch until he goes up to get punch.” Wallen says he and his colleagues some­times entertain themselves by going to bars and trying to guess who’ll end up with whom at the end of the evening, based on their behavior early in the evening. “It’s exactly like following these animals.” Page is now four or five feet from Keystone, picking up a rock, as though that rock were the reason she crossed the enclosure just now.

Why the coyness and hesitation? In Page’s case, it has to do with her low rank and the risks that go along with it. If she’s too obvious in her solicitations, she stands a chance of being thwacked by a higher-ranking female. Furthermore, adult male rhesus monkeys—if you’re a female rhesus— are big and intimidating. “Imagine it,” says Wallen. “You’re this little teeny female, you’ve done nothing with the adult males for all of your preadolescent period, and all of a sud­den you wake up one day and say, You know, this guy is really attractive.’ ”

Page just sat down a foot away from Keystone, at the top of a climbing structure. In the world of monkeys, this counts as a come-on. Primate researchers call it “initiat­ing proximity.” I’m actually feeling nervous for her. Wallen leans forward in his chair. “If you watch, sometimes you can actually see their hands shake.”

A higher-ranked female named Gawk just lunged at Page. “If Page didn’t have strong enough motivation”—i. e., the push provided by hormones—“it—sex—would just never happen,” Wallen says. If you take away the compli­cated, anxiety-provoking social structure that exists in the Yerkes compound (or in the wild), hormones cease to mat­ter as much. A lone male and a lone female monkey placed in an enclosure together will get down to business in no time.[85] There’s no risk involved.

Among women too, socially risky sex tends to happen when the hormones hit their peak. In a study by M. A. Bei­lis and R. R. Baker, the sex that cheating women were hav­ing with their lovers closely mirrored their monthly cycle, peaking on the day of maximum fertility. But the sex these women were having with their husbands was randomly dis­tributed throughout the month. The women’s hormones, it appears, were providing the extra impetus needed to take on the risk of getting caught.

“Look!” I shout to Wallen, who has turned away to speak with a graduate student who has joined us, inputting behavior observations on a laptop. Keystone has stepped up onto a female’s back legs as though they were stilts. “They’re doing it!”

“That’s not Page,” says Wallen. “That’s Tequila.” Tequila is the beta female. As a high-ranked female, she gets mounted out of courtesy. Meanwhile, Page is parked at the feeding ledge, seemingly consoling herself with Monkey

Chow. One eye remains on the Keystone scenario. As soon as Tequila moves away, Page sets out again. She stops near Keystone. She slides her hand toward him.

In the social lexicon of the rhesus, this is a subtle come-on, or “present” (short for “presentation”).[86] Less subtle overtures include moving one’s tail out of the way, touching the male, or gently slapping the ground in front of him. Part of the reason it took primatologists—who were, in pre-Jane Goodall days, all men—so long to acknowledge the female rhesus monkey’s role in initiating sex was that the solicitations were so, well, forward. “There was a very strong predisposition not to be looking for that,” Wallen says. The pioneering primatologist C. R. Carpenter first documented the hand slap as a female sex solicitation in the 1940s, but his papers were ignored for years.

*

I

look down at my notepad and when I look up again, I catch Keystone and Page in the act. Despite the protracted buildup, it’s not the least bit arousing to watch. Monkeys have sex the way we pump a keg or fluff a pillow: a brief series of repetitive actions undertaken with no discernible passion or emotion, and not a terrific amount of interest.

Over the next few minutes, Keystone mounts Page repeatedly, but always seems to lose interest after a few desultory thrusts. Wallen explains that rhesus monkeys are “multimount, multi-intromission ejaculators.” He’ll be on her and off her five or ten times before he finishes up. “There goes the mount. That’s an intromission.

Three pelvic thrusts. Now the dismount.” If Yerkes ever loses its funding, Wallen could find work as an Olympics commentator.

This kind of furtive, piecemeal copulation might have evolved as a way of passing on your genes while at the same time avoiding a possibly life-threatening fight with another male. The sneakier you are about it, the less attention you attract and the less jealousy you provoke, and the longer you live.

The other strategy is to be a speedy ejaculator: in and done before the other males notice what you’re up to. Male chimps are tops at this. A research paper on the origins of premature ejaculation (PE) states that chimpanzees ejacu­late within an average of seven seconds after they mount a female.[87] The author speculates that it is perhaps because of this that chimpanzees are known for a lack of aggression among males during mating season. It’s hard to get irritable over a liaison that takes less time to finish than a banana.

This author lists the human male’s average time lapse between penetration and orgasm as two minutes—placing him midway between the chimp and the orangutan (eleven minutes). U. K. sex physiologist Roy Levin puts two min­utes at the fringes of normal; his figure for an average male’s thrusting time is two to five minutes (or, if you pre­fer, 100 to 500 thrusts). In the latest papers on premature ejaculation, two minutes falls a scant half minute outside the category “probable premature ejaculation.”[88] Does our author have a personal premature-ejaculation ax to grind? “If premature ejaculation was normal and advantageous in the past,… why is it labeled dysfunction today? …” he writes tellingly. “If rapid ejaculation is normal, then premature ejaculation by itself should not be of clinical concern unless it is extreme, such as occurring before intromission.” The author advocates placing more emphasis on “the tender touch, the passionate caress, the gentle rub, the titillating probe”—all of the things men do better than orangutans— rather than making men miserable by asking them to try to expand their ejaculatory latency. A point well taken, but still and all, sympathies to the Mrs.

S

exual desire is a state not unlike hunger. You may find yourself getting up for a snack long before you’re aware of a physical sensation. If you are a single woman midway through her cycle, you may find yourself on a barstool or a set of front steps you swore you’d never climb again. In the words of young Page (via the mouthpiece of Kim Wallen), “I don’t know what I’m doing here, but here I am.”

Wallen is leaning back in his chair, with one foot on a rusted railing. “I have no concept at all of what’s attrac­tive in a rhesus,” he is saying. “But I have seen males mate with females that struck me as incredibly tmattractive.” And vice versa. This is what primate sex hormones do: “They make individuals perceive other individuals as more attrac­tive than they’d normally perceive them.” Hormones are nature’s three bottles of beer.

But not if you’re on the Pill. In humans, a hormone – based contraceptive levels out the monthly peaks and troughs of one’s natural hormone levels—and, in conse­quence, those of libido. The Pill supplies a steady daily dose of hormones, enough that your body stops supply­ing its own unsteady, cyclically fluctuating dose. While the Pill’s estrogen levels are high enough to prevent ovulation, they are lower than a natural mid-cycle peak. Says urologist and sex advice author Jennifer Berman, “The Pill basically puts you into a kind of menopausal state.”

The Pill contains estrogen and progesterone, but it also affects testosterone. And it is testosterone, more than any other hormone, that influences a woman’s libido. What the Pill does, specifically, is raise levels of sex-hormone­binding globulin (SHBG), a protein in the blood that binds itself to testosterone, taking the hormone out of commis­sion. And going off the Pill might not restore libido. In a 2006 study, urologist Irwin Goldstein looked at women’s levels of SHBG and of their free (unbound) testosterone while they were on the Pill and after they’d gone off it. Their SHBG didn’t decrease after they stopped taking the Pill, and their testosterone levels—and, presumably, their libido—didn’t recover.

Why hasn’t low libido been listed as a side effect for oral contraceptives? “The FDA doesn’t consider behavior and in particular sexual behavior to be something they’re con­cerned about,” says Wallen. And why don’t doctors men­tion it to women before they pick up the prescription pad? In part because not that many women on the Pill complain about low libido. One in four is the statistic I’ve heard. For many women, the freedom from worrying about preg­nancy cancels out any mid-cycle dip in libido; they’re hav­ing more sex then, not less. The Pill doesn’t make women enjoy sex less, it doesn’t change their responsiveness; it just mutes their drive. A lot of them don’t even notice, and for some, it’s a price worth paying.

Menopause is a natural, more exaggerated version of being on the Pill. Estrogen and testosterone levels fall, tak­ing libido along with them. As a solution to flagging sexual desire in postmenopausal women, Procter & Gamble, in 2004, came up with a testosterone patch, called Intrinsa. When the FDA asked for more safety data, the company dropped their plans—no doubt skittish after the sudden crash-and-burn of postmenopausal hormone-replacement therapy. But in July 2007, the EMEA, Europe’s version of the FDA, went ahead and approved Intrinsa for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (low libido). Ameri­cans who want to try it need look no further than the clos­est Internet pharmacy.

The testosterone patch was the subject of vigorous debate at the 2007 meeting of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (held, to no one’s amusement but my own, at Disney World). An endocri­nologist’s pro-patch presentation was met with vocal con­cerns that researchers and their pharmaceutical company sponsors were, as one attendee put it, “making a normal midlife phenomenon into a disease.” ■

I

f only rhesus monkeys could read some of the human studies they’ve inspired. What would they make, for instance, of sixty-two married American women, for three months running, smearing synthesized rhesus monkey “sex pheromones” onto their chests before getting into bed? The smears did not, it turned out, inspire the husbands to have sex with their wives more often than usual. They did not inspire anything at all, except possibly the idiom “There’s something I need to get off my chest.”

Why did sixty-two American women do this? The short answer is that the researchers paid them. (One dollar a day. This was 1977.) The long answer is that monkey-observing scientists used to believe that the reason rhesus monkeys have more sex around the time the females ovulate is not that the female is under the sway of hormones that push her to make a move, but rather that the female has pher­omones—chemical triggers of behavior—that prompt the males to make a move. (Sex pheromones are commonplace in other neighborhoods of the animal kingdom—among insects, for instance, and rodents and swine—but olfactory sex triggers for primates were until this point unknown.)

The rickety notion of rhesus—and, by implication, human—sex pheromones can be traced to a rhesus mon­key research colony in the U. K. and to the behavioral neuroendocrinologist who observed it. In 1971, Richard Michael claimed to have pinpointed compounds in the vaginal secretions of his females that, when sniffed, caused the male monkeys to initiate sex. (But not very many of them. Critics point out that just two males accounted for 50 percent of the data.) Michael called the purported rhe­sus pheromones “copulins,”[89] a word I cannot write with­out picturing a race of small, randy beings taken aboard the starship Enterprise.

Other endocrinologists had doubts about Michael’s claim. D. A. Goldfoot and three colleagues at the Wiscon­sin Regional Primate Research Center made “lavages”—a pretty French word for the liquid they got from washing out the vaginas of rhesus monkeys in heat—and smeared the substance onto the back ends of neutered (i. e., non­hormone-producing) females. The expectation was that if copulins were for real, the males would try to mate with the lavage-anointed, neutered females. The males did not.

Michael’s sex-pheromone work got tremendous media coverage nonetheless, which is unfortunate, as it sent our understanding of female hormones and female sexual behavior way off down the wrong boulevard. It implied that when it came to sex, the female primate was a passive receptacle with no drive or interest of her own.

However, I cannot hold this against Dr. Michael, for his work inspired a highly diverting period of scien­tific inquiry. In 1975, for example, a team of researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadel­phia launched an investigation of changes in the “pleas­antness” of women’s vaginal odors across their monthly cycle. Seventy-eight subjects were asked to sniff tampons that four women had worn during the various phases of their cycle. (For obvious reasons, the women were asked not to eat onions, garlic, or asparagus for the duration of the study. Less obviously, the women were discouraged from eating broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, chili, curry, kale, sauerkraut, and pineapple.) The supposition was that the odors might be more appealing during a woman’s ovulatory phase than at other times during her cycle. And they were: Subjects judged them slightly more pleasant and less intense than at other times. However, the authors reported, the data did not go so far as to “support the notion. . . that vaginal secretion odors are particularly pleasant to human males.”[90]

There was one other nominee for human sex-phero­mone status: A compound called androstenone was found to exist in men’s underarm sweat. Androstenone had long been known as a potent swine sex pheromone; when a pig in heat sniffs it, she becomes receptive to being mounted by a boar. Hence its presence in male bodily secretions sent endocrinologists into frenzies of speculation. Its actual effect on women proved unclear—though not for want of trying. For years, psychologists and endocrinologists took to sneaking around in public spaces spraying furniture and bathroom stall doors with cans of Boarmate, a synthetic, aerosolized version of androstenone.

Occasionally, the studies seemed to turn up an effect. M. D. Kirk-Smith and a colleague at the University of Birmingham in the U. K. sprayed Boarmate on what had been determined to be an unpopular seat among women visitors to a dentist’s waiting room. The aim was to see if more women would now be attracted to this chair. The seat’s popularity was secretly observed by receptionists. The Boarmate appeared to work its charms on the women, who sat in the chair significantly more often than they had before Kirk-Smith and the can of Boarmate hit the scene.

What does the dentist chair project prove about women and men and their interactions with each other? Nothing, says George Preti, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, who was dismissive of the study and critical of its method­ology The bottom line is that men’s armpit secretions are unlikely to serve as an attractant to any species other than the research psychologist.

Despite the washy evidence that androstenone has an effect on human sexual behavior, it wasn’t long before someone patented an androstenone-based human sex attractant. Winnifred Cutler used to work with George Preti. The two parted ways when she began placing ads in the backs of men’s magazines for Athena Pheromone 10X (“Raise the Octane of Your Aftershave”). Cutler published a study stating that men who added 10X to their cologne were having significantly more dates and more sex than a control group. She concluded that her product had made the men more sexually attractive. Preti, in turn, claimed that Cutler had failed to demonstrate solid evidence that this was so. And to this day, no amount of 10X can bring the two together at industry gatherings.

I have a better suggestion for Cutler’s customers. Stop wearing cologne. Women don’t find it attractive. If you don’t believe me, here is a quote from a press release from the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago: “Men’s colognes actually reduced vaginal blood flow.” Foundation director A1 Hirsch hooked women up to a vaginal photoplethysmograph and had them wear surgical masks scented with ten different aromas or com­binations of aromas. (To be sure the women weren’t just getting aroused by dressing up in surgical masks, Hirsch put unscented masks onto a control group.) In addition to the smell of cologne, the women were turned off by the scent of cherry and of “charcoal barbeque meat.” At the top of the women’s turn-on list was, mysteriously, a mix­ture of cucumber and Good ’n’ Plenty candy It was said to increase vaginal blood flow by 13 percent.[91]

Though the existence of human pheromones remains open to debate, sexuality does seem to play a role in how men and women respond to the scent of each other’s hor­mones. Researcher Ivanka Savic of Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute asked straight women and gay men to sniff a par­ticular hormonal component of male sweat. As they did so, their hypothalamus lit up on a PET brain scan, suggesting a sexual response rather than just an olfactory one. The same kind of brain response showed up when Savic had straight men—and, in a second study, lesbians—sniff an estrogen­like compound found in women’s urine. Savic emphasized that the sweat and urine compounds did not—as would a true pheromone—prompt any changes in behavior, except, possibly, refraining from signing up for future Ivanka Savic studies.

Monkey Do

What Would Allah Say?

The Strange, Brave Career of Ahmed Shafik

d

r. Ahmed Shafik wears three-piece suits with gold watch fobs and a diamond stick pin in the lapel. His glasses are the thick, black rectangular style of the Nasser era. He owns a Cairo hospital and lives in a mansion with marble walls. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize.* I don’t care about any of this. Shafik won my heart by pub­lishing a paper in European Urology in which he investigated the effects of polyester on sexual activity. Ahmed Shafik dressed lab rats in polyester pants.

There were seventy-five rats. They wore their pants for one year. Shafik found that over time the ones dressed

^Nominations for a Nobel Prize, I found out when I contacted the Nobel Foundation to try to verify Shafik’s, remain secret for fifty years. You make the claim, and nobody can prove otherwise until after you’re dead. Add one to your resume today!

in polyester or poly-cotton blend had sex significantly less often than the rats whose slacks were cotton or wool. (Shafik thinks the reason is that polyester sets up trouble­some electrostatic fields in and around the genitals. Having seen an illustration of a rat wearing the pants, I would say there’s an equal possibility that it’s simply harder to get a date when you dress funny.)

Подпись: тагу roachDr. Shafik published five studies on the effects of wear­ing polyester, and then moved on to something else. If you print out a list of Shafik’s journal articles—and you will need a roll of butcher paper, because there are 1,016 so far—it is hard to say what his specialty is. He has wandered through urology, andrology, sexology, proctology. If you ask him what he is, what he writes under “Occupation” on his tax form, he will smile broadly and exclaim, “I am Ahmed Shafik!”

It is a full-time job. Though Shafik, now seventy-three, is retired from teaching, he continues a heavy schedule of surgery and research, the former funding the latter. (His surgical specialty, as best I can gather, is despots with col­orectal issues. He says he has worked on Castro’s plumb­ing, though not recently, and that of the late Mobuto Sese Seko.) Self-funding affords Shafik the freedom to indulge his more esoteric interests[82]—research projects with no obvious practical ramifications or corporate appeal. In this way he is, as his office manager Margot Yehia has pointed out, a holdover from the nineteenth century, when science
was undertaken simply for the sake of understanding the world.

Shafik’s work is far-ranging, but it is not random. The common thread that runs through it is reflexes. In the field of sexology alone, Shafik has planted his flag into twenty new reflexes. If you look at sex through the fabulous black spectacles of Ahmed Shafik, you see more than just a couple expressing their love, or perhaps merely their lust, through the actions of their bodies. You see muscles responding reflexively, without the conscious contributions or consent of their owner, in response to physical stimuli that take place during sex. When a penis hits a cervix in a certain way, for instance, this is a stimulus. In response, a woman’s adductor muscles reflexively contract, pulling her thighs together and—in what might be a protective mechanism— limiting the depth of the man’s thrusts.

Here’s another. When the lower third of a woman’s vagina widens—as it does during penetration—several reflexes get triggered. The vaginocavernosus reflex may sound dry or arcane on paper, but it is the basis of what appears to be a remarkable physical synergy between male and female anatomy during sex. When the cavernosus muscles reflexively contract—as they do upon entry—this boosts blood flow to the clitoris. The effect was documented in 1995 by a French team who took Doppler ultrasound images of clitoral blood flow while an inflatable probe was inserted into ten volunteer vaginas.[83] At the same time as the vaginocavernosus reflex is affecting the clitoris, Shafik found, it’s also putting the squeeze on the man’s dorsal vein, helping trap blood in the penis and keeping it firm. If there’s an intelligent designer in the cosmos, he’s got at least one of his priorities straight.

Shafik has published papers on a total of eighty-two ana­tomical reflexes that he has discovered and named. Because other physiologists rarely try to replicate his findings, the reflexive response of the sex research community is to be mildly skeptical. Says Roy Levin, “That man’s got more reflexes than I’ve had hot dinners!” Though Levin concedes that, in general, the study of sexual reflexes has been illumi­nating and worthwhile—at the very least for having “drawn attention to the female reproductive tract as not simply a passive conduit. . . but as a responsive, active canal.”

Since each stimulus prompts unique reflexive responses, each must be studied independent of the rest. To mimic an erect penis expanding the opening of the vagina, for instance, Shafik puts a condom-shaped balloon at the end of a catheter, inserts it, and inflates it. Mock bumping of the cervix is done with a sponge on a rod, the sponge having been carved to resemble the head of a penis. (The reflexive responses to these motions are identified via needle elec­trodes in the muscles of the vagina, cervix, uterus, what have you.)

It is noteworthy that Shafik has managed to find doz­ens of women in a Muslim country who will agree to be, say, penetrated by a balloon penis. How does he manage?

I’ll know soon. Though no relevant studies are planned for this year, Shafik has arranged for me to see a demonstra­tion of the vaginal reflexes of intercourse. How this will work and on whom they’ll demonstrate remains unclear.

O

n my first morning in Cairo, I wander into a museum near my hotel: the Agriculture Museum. I am the only tourist, a lone adult pushing upstream through currents of happy, shrieking schoolchildren. The museum must have been built around the 1930s and remains charmingly unspoiled by modern advances in museum design. Insect specimens are presented not in their natural environmental niche—e. g., boll weevils on a cotton plant—but in anthro­pomorphic slice-of-life tableaus: “The Mole Cricket at Home.” “The Earwig as a Mother.”[84] The staff taxidermist must have quit at some point, or lost his mind, for some of the animal skins appear not stuffed, but inflated. A sort of hyena pool float hangs on the wall along the staircase, torso bloated, legs sticking straight out from its sides.

I go downstairs to the main exhibit hall, with its full – scale scenes of Egyptian village life: plaster mannequins of men in djellabas, sifting grains and guiding plows. A museum attendant falls into step beside me. He speaks no English, but it’s clear he has something to show me. He points to a low wooden door behind a diorama of dusty date-sellers and gestures for me to follow him. He unlocks the door and switches on the lights. We are alone inside a narrow orange-walled hallway that appears to have been, at one time, part of the museum. More village scenes line the sides. Here are women weaving, women telling fortunes, women combing their children’s hair. Then I realize: As in real life, the women have been sequestered from men’s gazes.

If even inanimate Egyptian women are protected and concealed, how on earth has Ahmed Shafik convinced doz­ens of flesh-and-blood women to lift up their robes for science?

I pay the guide his baksheesh and go home to take a nap. Around two, I set out again, on foot, to find the Ahmed Shafik Hospital, which I know to be close by I assumed I could simply ask someone to point me in the right direc­tion, in the same way you can ask anyone in Rochester, Minnesota, how to get to the Mayo Clinic. But hospitals in Cairo are a neighborhood affair, owned by families and small affiliations of doctors and indistinguishable (to the non-Arabic reader) from apartment buildings. I am quickly, deeply lost.

Thankfully, the pay phone (Ringo brand) has not dis­appeared from Cairo, and with the help of Shafik’s faithful factotum Margot, I arrive on time for my first meeting with the man who dressed lab rats in leisure suiting.

A first encounter with Ahmed Shafik is a joyous expe­rience. I am seated on a sofa in his office when he appears in the doorway. He stops in his tracks and stretches out his arms as though in benediction. “Welcome! Welcome to Cairo!” Then he steps up and shakes my hand. It’s a grand, swinging handshake that begins, like a golf swing, up by his shoulder and finishes in a decisive smacking of palms.

The reflex demonstration is scheduled for the follow­ing day, and so we drink coffee and chat. I ask him how he is able to do the sort of work he does in an Islamic coun­try. “First of all,” he begins, “I don’t publish here. I pub­lish outside. Especially nowadays. In all Arab countries, I don’t know why and how, conservative people are coming up greatly. Greatly/” He is referring to the recent electoral sweep by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Shafik gains access to women more or less as one does in the Agriculture Museum: baksheesh. The women are prostitutes, and he pays them to participate. He pays them in cash and in free medical care—for them and for family members.

“I know a lady, and she helps me. But it is with effort.” The research is done in “special flats,” where there are also gambling tables. “I go at one or two in the morning. I work the whole night.” Not without risk. Prostitution is illegal in Egypt. The Ministry of the Interior is sufficiently worked up about it as to have an entire Department for the Preven­tion of Prostitution. While there is nothing on the books about the legality of paying a woman to let you penetrate her with a balloon, it can’t be a simple or pleasant thing to have to explain to an agent of the DPP at two in the morning.

Shafik agrees to put me in touch, via email, with one of his subjects. I contact her several weeks after I get home, with Shafik serving as go-between, sending my questions to her and her answers back to me. The woman refers to the “special flat” as the Home for Prostitutes. The name, as well as the ages of Shafik’s subjects (most are in their late thirties), makes it sound like a sort of retirement home for the trade. It’s not. Prostitutes in Egypt are older than they are in the States; many are middle – and even upper-class women who have been divorced and left with no child sup­port. Raised in an era when women received no education, they turn to prostitution as one of the few options to keep themselves afloat and fund their children’s educations.

This is not, however, the case with the divorced woman with whom I’ve been emailing. She does it “simply for having sex.” It had never occurred to me that under a religion that forbids sex outside of marriage, prostitution might attract the occasional widow or divorcee. But this is not the reason she lay down with Dr. Shafik’s condom balloon. She says she had seen Dr. Shafik on TV and felt that her participation might help women in some way: “I
felt very happy when I thought of my participation as my little achievement for science. The peak was when Prof Shafik showed me the results of the experiments printed in a journal.” She clearly holds Shafik in high regard— referring to him as a “world famous surgeon and scien­tist” and “world-wide well-known Egyptian doctor and researcher”—so much so that at one point I began to pic­ture him, and not her, sitting at a keyboard tapping out the replies.

Подпись: тагу roachWhen I ask this woman to describe the experience, she writes that she was “pretty scared with the sight of the elec­tric apparatuses. . . and with the idea of the needles that were to be inserted into my genital organs and the balloons that were to be placed and inflated in the vagina.” As for the test itself, she says simply: “I was not comfortable.”

Both religious prohibitions and the law force medical researchers in Muslim countries to take extreme measures. “Even more difficult,” says Shafik, “is when you want to do research on a cadaver.” Shafik uses a French pronuncia­tion, the accent on the first syllable—CAD-averre. From his mouth, the word sounds foreign and vaguely classy, like a name made up for a car. The Toyota Cadaverre. Because of Islamic edicts, there is no tradition of body donation in Muslim countries. Occasionally, Shafik lays hands on an unclaimed corpse, that of a person who has died with no known kin, but more often he has bribed graveyard employ­ees. He is careful to point out that he puts the body back in his trunk and returns it for burial when he is finished.

The conversation trails off, and in that moment I have a realization. I realize that Dr. Shafik’s shiny, luxe, peacock – blue suit trousers are synthetic. I can’t help myself I lean forward and pinch a pant leg between my fingers. “Polyester!”

“Yes, yes.” Shafik admits it. I am hooting unprofession­
ally. “Yes, but I tell you…” He raises his index finger. “I tell you! Inside is not polyester! Underwear, never!” *

I

tell you, there is more functioning technology in one Ahmed Shafik study than in all of Cairo. The ATM machines spit out my bank card like it’s gristle. Phone calls from my hotel room must be placed by the desk clerk, who copies down the number and then puts through the call as though I were Claude Rains in Casablanca, arranging night passage. The one pedestrian crosswalk I saw in Cairo fea­tures a perpetually blinking green man, whom you glimpse in the synapses between speeding cars.

As I walk to my appointment with Dr. Shafik the fol­lowing afternoon, I try to imagine the scene at the Home for Prostitutes. I picture men lounging on cushions, smok­ing water pipes, and glossy-haired women with harem pants low on their hips. It is difficult to find a place in this scene for Dr. Shafik and his 12F condom-ended catheter.

We are meeting at his office. The mood is oddly sub­dued when I arrive. “Mary, I am sorry,” says Dr. Shafik in the tone he must use to tell families when operations have not gone as planned. “I asked the house where I gо ” Asked is rendered in two syllables: ASK-ed. This seems to be a regional treatment of the English k sound. Sphinx comes out SPHINK-us. “To bring you there. I called them last night. They refused! Even the prostitutes, they are very afraid nowadays. I tell you, the religious people are rising up. Up and up! Sex, now, in this country is very secret. The women and the vagina—it’s something very criminal.”

I got a whiff of this yesterday. A crew from Cairo’s English-language TV station came to film a segment about Dr. Shafik. They interviewed me about why I had come to see him but cautioned me not to use the word sex. “Say ‘sexual intercourse,’” the reporter advised. “Make it sound scientific.”

Instead of going to the Home for Prostitutes, we are going one floor down, where someone on the hospital staff has apparently agreed to be a demonstration subject. Dr. Shafik has me wait in the corridor outside an empty ward. Behind the door, voices volley in agitated Arabic. The dis­cussion stops, and Dr. Shafik opens the door. A woman in blue surgical scrubs stands in the corner with her arms crossed.

Dr. Shafik takes me aside. “I am very sorry, but our patient for the reflexes of the vagina. . . She refused!” I am at once dismayed and relieved. No one should have to endure balloon catheters on my account. In place of the woman in blue, Dr. Shafik has recruited a young man, also dressed in scrubs. The man sits on the edge of a hospital bed, looking bored. I cast my mind to the teetering pile of Ahmed Shafik sexology papers on the desk in my hotel room and try to recall which ones pertain to men.

I have a fond hope that Dr. Shafik does not plan to demonstrate the penomotor reflex. When the tip of a penis is stimulated—by bumping against a cervix, say, or the opening to a vagina (or any other orifice, for that matter)— several muscles contract reflexively. Among them are an anal and a urethral sphincter. The closing of the latter pre­vents urine from mixing with semen in the urethra dur­ing ejaculation. The closing of the two together—let’s let Dr. Shafik say it—“prevents leak of urine or stools” during sex. Thanking you kindly, penomotor reflex. In his study, Dr. Shafik used a “steel rod. . . covered with a sponge” to stimulate a subject’s glans. At the moment, he is hold­ing a telescoping silver pointer. As queasy as this prospect makes me, it would be less awkward than a demonstration of either of the two ejaculation-related reflexes Shafik has published papers on.

One of Shafik’s best-known contributions to ejacula­tory knowledge was an extraordinary experiment under­taken in 1998 to help determine what it is, precisely, that triggers it. One theory held that ejaculation takes place when the buildup of semen in the prostatic sector of the urethra pushes against its walls with a requisite amount of pressure. (This preorgasm buildup of semen, a sort of massing of the troops from testes, seminal vesicles, and prostate, is called emission; it is emission that creates the sensation of can’t – stop-now “ejaculatory inevitability.”) Shafik’s study cast heavy doubt on the pressure-trigger theory. He inserted a tiny, expandable bulb into his subjects’ urethras and found that an expansion of the urethra comparable to what typi­cally happens during emission failed to trigger the telltale muscular contractions of ejaculation. (Roy Levin’s guess is that the trigger for ejaculation is the moment when “the summation of all the positive arousing stimuli becomes greater than the negative inhibitor ones.”)

Happily, Shafik has in mind something nonejacula­tory, something called the cremasteric reflex. He explains how the cremaster muscle automatically raises and lowers the testicles to cool or warm them, depending on the tem­perature. (The ideal for developing sperm is 95° F.) Shafik did not discover this reflex. It is well known and not the sort of thing one flies all the way to Cairo for. My guess is that he is showing it to me simply to have something to show me.

Shafik addresses the man on the bed, who stands and pulls down his pants. He holds his shirt up out of the way, his hand held flat against his torso. His head is turned to the side, and he gazes stoically into the distance. Despite the circumstances, there is something noble, almost Napo­leonic, about his pose. The demonstration is over in a moment, and the man leaves the room. Later, in the lobby cafe, he will pass by my table and we will pretend not to recognize each other.

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exually, Egypt today sounds like the United States in the forties and fifties. After the demonstration, I spent some time talking with Saffa El-Kholy, the Egyptian jour­nalist who had come to interview Shafik. The previous year, she told me, she had produced a four-part series on sex that included an invitation to email the program with ques­tions. Although the narration had made it clear that ques­tions would be used anonymously, viewers would often open up a Hotmail account just to pose their questions. El-Kholy heard from women who’ve “had two orgasms in eight years and aren’t sure what the fuss is about.” Men who blame their impotence on their wives or, worse, try to keep their wives from having orgasms, so that in the event they (the men) ever become impotent, the wife won’t care. El-Kholy: “If you never eat a kiwi, you never want a kiwi.” Though Shafik’s research is written up for academic journals, he is comfortable speaking in layman’s terms— and does so often for TV I asked him whether people who hear about his work shun him or find him strange or immoral. “Yes, yes, of course,” he replied. “It doesn’t dis­courage me. It’s a challenge.”

Shafik is similarly untroubled by his low profile in the global community of sex research. Several researchers that I spoke with had not heard of him. In part, this has come about because Shafik does not attend sex-research con­ferences. And because he only intermittently responds to email. “He’s not a team player,” says Roy Levin, who long ago gave up attempts at correspondence. The exchange of ideas and the constructive critiques that lie at the heart of Western science make Shafik antsy. He satisfies his own curiosity on a given subject, and then he moves on. As he puts it: “I always never want to go back.”

Though Shafik’s isolation may compromise his sci­ence—or at the very least, his international standing—he is to be commended. As one of the few people in Egypt talking publicly about sex, Shafik performs an even more important role than that of the rogue scientist. If no one on Egyptian TV talks about sex, then no one will talk about it in the cafe or the bedroom or the doctor’s office. Mis­understanding and ignorance will spread. If five hundred unsatisfied women watch Dr. Shafik on television, maybe ten will be encouraged to talk to their husbands. And maybe one or two will eat more kiwis.

What Would Allah Say?

Mind over Vagina

Women Are Complicated

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he human vagina is accustomed to visitors. Even the language of anatomy imbues the organ with an innlike hospitality, the entrance to the structure being named the “vaginal vestibule.” Take off your coat and stay awhile. Gyne­cologist Robert Latou Dickinson, circa 1910, documented its wondrously accommodating nature, using his fingers as a measuring tool. The volume of the virgin vagina is “one finger”; the married woman rates “two full fingers.” Once the babies start coming, it’s “three fingers” and up, all the way to Subject No. 163, whose vestibule (and parlor) appear in a pen-and-ink rendering in Dickinson’s Atlas of Human Sex Anatomy with the doctor’s entire hand submerged.

There is no reason why a visit from the acrylic probe of a vaginal photoplethysmograph should be cause for alarm. It’s small. It has no sharp edges. It doesn’t do anything in there except beam a ray of light onto the walls of the vagina. (It does this to measure arousal. The amount reflected back tells you how much blood is in the capillaries; the more light reflected, the more arousal.) There is no reason to say no to an invitation to participate in a photoplethysmograph study at the Female Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory And so I have said yes. (Observing someone else who said yes was not an option, because of human subjects review board rules.)

The Female Sexual Psychophysiology Lab is part of the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin. Its goal is simple but complicated: to untangle the complex, quixotic interplay of body and mind as they per­tain to female sexuality. You have no idea what a perplex­ing mess is female arousal. When a woman is turned on by something or someone, her brain sends a signal to open up more of the capillaries in her womanly recesses. This ups the amount of blood in her vaginal walls, and some of the clear portion of it seeps through the capillaries and coats the vagina. Hello, lubrication. This much we know. But just because a woman is a little moist, that doesn’t mean she’s going to report feeling aroused. Unlike a man. If a man has an erection, or even half of one, as part of a sex study, he will almost always report that he’s aroused. Partly, this is because a boner is easier for its owner to detect than is a damp vestibule. It may also have to do with men’s greater skill at detecting subtle physical changes. A 1992 study showed that men were more accurate than women at picking up changes in their heart rate and blood pressure.

Conversely, when a woman isn’t damp, it needn’t mean she’s unaroused. To quote Dickinson on the topic of vagi­nal lubrication,* “Unwise stress has been laid on mucous flow as an adequate gauge of. . . readiness for the entry of ■^Dickinson’s descriptions of the female secretions read, in places, like a WD-40 advert: “It is clear as glass, tenacious and persistent, without being sticky. No other lubricant can compare with it in efficiency for a certain smooth and slippery quality. …”
the male. . . . For it must not be overlooked that there are women of strong passion, capable of vigorous orgasm, who show little or no mucous flow” In other words, there can be a puzzling disconnect between mind and body.

Подпись: bonkIn women, the correlation between photoplethysmo – graphic measures of genital engorgement and their own assessment of how aroused they are is so low that some researchers have questioned whether the physical changes alone can be taken to mean anything at all about a woman’s state of arousal. Female sexual arousal disorder is rarely diagnosed by photoplethysmograph; it’s a conclusion typi­cally reached solely on the basis of a woman having voiced a complaint. The equipment is used mainly for research.

The Female Sexual Psychophysiological Laboratory is run by Cindy Meston. For the past seventeen years, Meston has made a career out of figuring women out—and figur­ing out how to help them. Possibly longer, if you count the prepsychology era spent traveling rural Canada as a sewing machine sales rep.[79] “I’d come to town and do sewing dem­onstrations and advice programs on the local radio stations. Ladies would call in and say, ‘Well, I’m sewing with Ultra­suede, and my stitches are skipping, what should I do?’ And I’d go, Well you need a Schmetz size-eight stretch needle with a leather tip. . . .’” Meston tried to tell me the name
of one of the programs, but was laughing so helplessly that it took a while. Finally, she came up for air: “Sewing and Serging with Cindy”

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he Female Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory is on the third floor of the even more time-consumingly named Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Building. So enthusiastic is the university about its new structure that at one point during construction they set up a Seay Building Web cam, allowing interested parties to log on twenty-four hours a day and watch, literally, the paint dry.

The combination of the Seays’ generosity and Meston’s flair for interior decor has yielded a science lab not unlike the lobby of the W Hotel. Participant Room 1 (volunteers here are called participants, not subjects) is a small, serenely lit room with modish carpeting and a purple leather recliner. The walls hold framed prints of Modigliani nudes and a flat-screen TV for viewing the inevitable erotic video clips.

It was not always this nice. In the old lab, the erotic films were shown on an ancient TV set whose volume con­trol was on the fritz. It occasionally happened that while Meston or one of her students was running an arousal study subject, department psychologists would be hold­ing a parent-child session in the office next door. “The TV would just be blaring,” says Meston. “There’d be all this moaning and panting coming through the wall, and we couldn’t turn it down!”

The vaginal photoplethysmograph probe that I will be—holding? containing? wearing?—is, for the moment, hygienically sequestered in a Ziploc bag on a table beside the purple chair. The graduate student who is running today’s study explains how to insert the probe and directs my attention to a pretty ceramic bowl that in another lifetime might have held sugar packets but now holds little foil packets of “personal lubricant.” She doesn’t divulge the specifics of her study, because study subjects are always kept in the dark, lest their expectations taint their results. My assignment is simply to sit still and watch a series of video clips—the first batch neutral, the remainder, erotic—while the plethysmograph beams its light beam and measures my physical response to what I’m viewing. (I later learn that I was a control subject in a study about the impact of anxiety disorders upon sexual responsiveness.)

“Okay,” says the student. “See you in a bit.”

She leaves the room and shuts the door. I take the probe out of the bag. An LED and some wiring are encased in a round-tipped, bullet-shaped piece of clear acrylic. “Cin­derella’s tampon,” I write in my notebook, a notation that I will, weeks later, stare at dumbly for several moments, having no clue what it means. Where the string would be, there is a stiff, plastic-coated cable that leads to a computer. I follow the instructions I was given, and now the cable is curling down the front of my chair. I feel like a bike lock.

On the table is a console similar to the shifter on an automatic transmission. When the video clips begin, I’m to move the indicator up and down according to how I feel. The device is called the arousometer, and Cindy Meston invented it. When the Viagra data started coming in and it appeared that the little blue pill wasn’t making women feel more aroused, Meston decided to rethink the meth­odology. A photoplethysmograph probe collects data sixty times a second. But the psychological data—the woman’s own assessment of how aroused she is—was taken only once per subject, at the end of the film footage. “You’d get a questionnaire after the fact, asking, How aroused were you? Did you detect this or this or that? But what, really, is a woman saying when she says, ‘I was a four’? Is she telling you what her highest level was? Or did she somehow com­pute an average of how she was feeling over the whole five minutes?” Meston devised the arousometer as a way for subjects to deliver an ongoing report as the footage rolls.

Using the new device, Meston discovered that there are indeed women who show a nice correlation between body and mind. She is finishing up a study of three groups of women: one with arousal disorder, one with orgasm disorder, and controls. While all three groups’ photople – thysmograph responses to the erotic clips were similar, the dysfunctional women differed in that they didn’t seem to be taking note of the physical changes taking place. And this occurred independent of the level of physical arousal. “Among the functional women, some had a very small change to the erotic film, but they were detecting it, they were paying attention to it. So with these women, if you could amplify the signal with a drug like Viagra, that could be a good thing. But for a woman who has a normal physi­cal response but she’s not attending to it—and really for her the only thing that is arousing is when she feels emotionally bonded or loved or is doing a very specific sexual act—then Viagra is just not going to help.” Meston says that although Viagra has not been approved for use by women, doctors often prescribe it anyway—mainly because they don’t have anything else to prescribe.

Viagra isn’t the only drug being prescribed off-label for women with arousal problems. Los Angeles urologist Jennifer Berman told me some doctors are prescribing low doses of Ritalin. Drugs like Ritalin improve a person’s focus, so it stands to reason that it would make it easier to stay attuned to subtle changes taking place in one’s body. “It enables a woman to focus on the task at hand,” said Ber­man, managing, though surely not intending, to make sex sound like homework.

In the same category of anecdotal evidence regarding drugs that improve one’s focus and make sex more pleasur­able and intense, there is pot. As Barry Komisaruk writes in The Science of Orgasm, “a substantial proportion of persons claim that marijuana enhances and enriches their sexual experience.” For obvious reasons, no one has done a con­trolled clinical trial of marijuana’s effects on arousal and overall sexual satisfaction. Too bad.

The importance of focus fits well with something that Masters and Johnson wrote about back in the 1970s. The team coined the term “spectatoring,” which refers to a tendency to observe oneself during sex. Not in an erotic, mirror-on-the-ceiling sort of way, but in a judgmental, critical way. Rather than focusing on the sensations of foreplay and sex, all the feel-good things happening in her body, a spectatoring woman worries about her perfor­mance or her appearance. A study by Natalie Dove and Michael Wiederman found that women who were more distracted during sex were—relative to less distracted, more sensation-focused women—less sexually satisfied. They had less consistent orgasms and more often faked them. The questionnaire alone was heartbreaking. Women had to rate how closely a set of statements was characteristic of themselves. Statements such as: “During sexual activity, I worry the whole time that my partner will get turned off by seeing my body without clothes.” “While engaged in sexual activity with a partner, I think too much about the way I am moving.”

One needn’t suffer these particular anxieties to be dis­tracted during sex. A thousand things can play on a wom­an’s mind: work, kids, problems with Ultrasuede. One nonpharmaceutical solution is to teach women to redirect their focus and pay more attention to physical sensations—a practice called mindfulness. A pilot study—meaning it’s a preliminary investigation with no control group—by Lori Brotto and two colleagues at the University of British Columbia had promising results. Eighteen women with complaints about their ability to become aroused partici­pated in mindfulness training. Afterward, there was a sig­nificant jump in their ratings of how aroused they’d been feeling during sexual encounters.

If it’s any solace, even female rats have trouble focus­ing. I give you a sentence, my favorite sentence in the entire oeuvre of Alfred Kinsey, from Sexual Behavior in the Human Female: “Cheese crumbs spread in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female, but not the male.”

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he largest city of Russia’s Pacific coast is Vladivostock, and though it lies in Siberia, the southern location of the city allows it to enjoy ice-free waters year-round.” I’m spectatoring the neutral video clips now. There are those ice-free waters. Here’s a shot of a statue in the harbor. If the Seay Building Web cam continues to operate, and if one of the cameras is in this room, then someone, somewhere, is very confused. Looks like she’s watching the History Channel with no pants on.

Abruptly, the neutral footage ends. A snare drum has replaced the oboe and harpsichord music. A man with blonde highlights and a rub-on tan is standing by a desk, dressed in a uniform and a captain’s hat. On the desk is a large envelope. The camera, possibly out of habit, zooms in for a full-screen close-up. top secret, says the envelope. Now here comes more tacky hair and bottled skin, this time of the female variety. It would appear she’s going to seduce the captain and steal the envelope.

It is hard to imagine that I will be physically affected

by anything this pair might choose to do to each other. But science has its money on it. A series of studies by Mer­edith Chivers and colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto showed that men are more discriminating than women when it comes to how they respond to pornographic images. Women, both gay and straight, will show immediate genital arousal (as measured by a photoplethysmograph) in response to films of sexual activity, regardless of who is engaging in it—male, female, gay, straight, good hair or bad. Men, contrary to stereotype, tend to respond in a limited manner; they are aroused only by footage that fits their sexual orientation and interests. (Male arousal is usually measured with a “phallometric” device, which employs a strain gauge to detect changes in the circumference of the penis.) While straight women— and gay men—become physically aroused by footage of two men having sex, straight men generally do not. (A straight man will, however, respond to footage of women having sex, partly because he’s looking at two naked women.)

Chivers was struck by what seemed to be “fundamen­tally different processes” underlying the sexual arousal systems of women and men. To test the limits of the phe­nomenon, Chivers gamely ran a follow-up study in which men and women viewed, in addition to the usual gamut of human sexual scenarios, footage of bonobos mating.[80] Here again, the women’s genitals responded—though not
as strongly as they did to images of human beings—and the men’s did not.

Подпись: тагу roachAnd it happens remarkably fast. “Automatic,” is how one researcher put it. Or, in Masters and Johnson’s cringe-wor­thy telling, “In a matter of seconds the sexually respond­ing woman may develop sufficient lubrication for coital readiness.” The team actually witnessed this happening, using their penis-camera. They describe it in Human Sex­ual Response as “a sweating phenomenon. . . akin to that of a perspiration-beaded forehead.” Oddly, the illustration shows a cross-section of a vagina with tear-shaped droplets not beading up on the walls but appearing to rain down into the interior space, as though a summer shower were passing through.[81]

Women’s genitals may respond indiscriminately to images of sex, but the women themselves will often report being totally unaffected by what they’ve viewed. Based upon how they feel, women are quite picky about pornog­raphy. Ever since a study by Dutch researcher Ellen Laan showed that women reported significantly higher levels of (subjective) arousal during women-centered porn, arousal researchers started going out of their way to use films made specifically for women.! The one I’ve been watching is an
example. As unappealing as the captain may be, he cer­tainly is attentive. There was a full minute-long close-up of his tongue doing its thing while due south, his index finger moved in and out—albeit in an unerotic, Shmetz – like manner. The actress, for her part, did her best to seem transported, although every few seconds you’d see her half­open her eyes, like someone cheating at hide-and-seek.

True to Chivers’s discoveries, the photoplethys – mograph readings for the women in Laan’s study were essentially the same during both types of film. Her sub­jects may have preferred the women-centered clips and perceived them as more stimulating, but their bodies told a different tale.

Be all that as it may, it is the mind that speaks a woman’s heart, not the vaginal walls. (Chivers is careful to point out that just because “women demonstrated a genital response to a nonhuman sexual stimulus does not suggest women have a latent preference for sex with animals.”) Rape offers a plangent illustration of this fact. I learned in a paper by Roy Levin that rape victims occasionally report having responded physically, even though their emotional state was a mixture of fear, anger, and revulsion. This harkens back to the last chapter, and what Marcalee Sipski learned about arousal from studying women with spinal cord injuries. Lubrication from “reflex arousal” (physical stimulation of the genitals) can occur with absolutely no subjective emotional arousal. Levin also points out that fear causes the release of adrena­line, and adrenaline increases blood flow to the genitals. Which, in turn, enhances lubrication (or erection in men).

Regardless of the mechanisms that may or may not explain a rape victim’s physical state, a rapist’s defense based upon evidence of arousal has, to quote Levin, “no intrinsic validity and should be disregarded.”

the Fruit Machine is a fine example of the perils of trying to make sexual conclusions about folks based solely on measurements of their bodily responses. In the 1950s and ’60s, in a laboratory in Canada’s National Defence Medi­cal Centre, the government commenced a secret project to pinpoint a simple, trustworthy physical indicator of a man’s sexual preferences. John Sawatsky, author of Men in the Shadows: The RCMP Security Service, says the goal was to rout homosexuals from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other civil service positions—but to do it scien­tifically, so that no one was dismissed solely on the basis of hearsay. A bowl of poison with a cherry on top.

Подпись: тагу roachWhat they came up with was pupil response—and an elaborate chair-mounted contraption, nicknamed the Fruit Machine, to measure it. Experiments had shown that peo­ple’s pupils enlarge when they’re interested in what they’re looking at. The technique had been used in the past by food marketers to test the appeal of different types of packaging. Canada’s Security Service had heard about this and decided to apply it to sexual preferences. If a man’s pupils widen while he looks at a naked man, they figured, then that must indicate a preference for the male package.

Trouble set in almost immediately. The team couldn’t test the thing because the Department of Defence claimed it had no gays, and because Mounties were reluctant to vol­unteer as control subjects. Wisely enough, as it turned out: The scientists had forgotten to take into account differ­ences in the brightness of the images on the screen. When the screen got darker, the viewer’s pupil would, naturally, enlarge to let more light in—regardless of who or what the image was. Meaning that if an RCMP recruit looked at an image of a dark brown horse, the Fruit Machine operator would have had to assume that the Mountie and his mount were engaging in something other than national security.

Years after the Fruit Machine project had been shelved, someone got the bright idea of measuring changes in the circumference of a man’s penis—rather than of his pupils— while he looked at naked people. Even phallometrics, as this technique is sometimes called, is not a reliable indica­tor of sexual preference. A strongly motivated man—for instance, an accused pedophile—can learn to control his genital response to an image that he finds erotic.

He can also, with a little training, develop a brand-new one. In 1968, researchers S. Rachman and R. J. Hodgson used classical, Pavlovian conditioning to create a fetish for women’s boots. Five men were outfitted with phallo – metric devices. Over and over, the team showed the men images of nude or provocatively dressed women, followed by images of a pair of knee-high, fur-lined boots. Eventu­ally it worked: In three subjects, the boots by themselves plumped the men’s penises as much as the images of the women originally had. Two of the men were also aroused by high-heeled black shoes and by “golden sandals,” though no conditioning had been done to these images.

No man got an erection from looking at “brown string sandals.”

Many years ago, Cindy Meston, one of Rachman’s former students, decided to see if it would be possible to replicate the effect in female subjects. (The incidence of fetishism is far higher in men than in women.) This time the object of the fetish was the voice of the chairman of the psychology department at the University of British Colum­bia, one Tony Phillips. Meston had taken a snippet from a voiceover of an old student orientation film, and played it over and over as the women looked at erotic images: Wel­come to the department of psychology. . . . Sadly, for Dr. Phillips anyway, the attempt was unsuccessful.

If you want to unlock the mysteries of female arousal— the kind the females actually notice and appreciate—the brain is probably the place to turn. After the costly failure of Viagra for women, pharmaceutical companies shifted their attention from drugs that affect genital blood flow to drugs that act directly on the brain. The showiest hope­ful to date is bremelanotide, nicknamed “the Barbie drug” because it (a) stimulates the cells that make skin tan, (b) suppresses the appetite, and (c) ups libido. Like Viagra, bremelanotide’s sexual properties were discovered by accident—in this case, while the drug was being tested as a sunless tanning agent (under the name Melanotan). The tanning application didn’t pan out—“blotchy freckling” and “scrotal moles” are complaints posted by the trial sub­jects on www. melanotan. org—but some of the women in the study reported feeling randier than usual. And a drug that can make a woman with “black dots on face” feel sexy is a drug to look into further.

Подпись: тагу roachMichael Perelman, director of the Human Sexuality Program at New York’s Weill Medical College of Cor­nell University, ran the most recent bremelanotide trial. Twenty-seven postmenopausal volunteers with female sexual arousal disorder went in for treatment: once with a placebo, the other time with a nasal spritz of bremel­anotide. Each time, not knowing what they’d been given, they filled out questionnaires—one shortly after the treat­ment, another a day later. The drug prompted statisti­cally significant increases in the women’s perceptions of how aroused they were after receiving the drug, as well as increases in sexual activity and desire in the twenty-four hours that followed. Bremelanotide is expected to be in Phase III clinical trials (the final stage in the FDA approval process) by late 2008.

The other contender trotted out at the most recent
meeting of the International Society for the Study ofWom – en’s Sexual Health is a central nervous system drug called flibanserin. This one was originally being tested as an anti­depressant. Because diminished libido is a common side effect of antidepressants, researchers were keeping an eye on subjects’ sexual feelings. They were surprised to find that flibanserin enhanced, rather than dampened, women’s libido. As of 2007, flibanserin is also in Phase III trials.

The FDA tends to be cautious with drugs that affect the brain—especially when they’re being used for what some in the medical community view as a lifestyle change. Because of this, and because no one yet understands the mechanism by which flibanserin works, approval may prove thorny.

The drugs come and go: pilot studies, high hopes, fan­fare, silence. Apomorphine was the star a couple of con­ferences back; now you barely hear of it. I asked Cindy Meston whatever happened to it. She laughed. “It made you nauseous.”

Mind over Vagina

 

The Immaculate Orgasm

Who Needs Genitals?

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arcalee Sipski is an expert in a field with few experts.

When I tell you what the field is, you will understand why the experts are scarce. Sipski, a professor at the Uni­versity of Alabama School of Medicine, is an authority on sexuality among people with spinal cord injuries and dis­eases. Most people, even most M. D.s, are uncomfortable sitting down with a paraplegic and having a talk about, say, how to have intercourse with a catheter in your penis. Sip­ski is fine having that talk,* and she is fine with my coming to her lab while a subject is there.

Very little fazes Dr. Sipski. For her video Sexuality Reborn: Sexuality Following Spinal Cord Injury, she managed to recruit four couples to talk frankly (“. . . and there’s the *“The catheter can be folded back over the penis and both the penis and catheter covered with a condom.” stuffing method”) about how they have sex and even to demonstrate on-camera. They participated because they, like Sipski, were aware of the potentially ruinous effects of a spinal cord injury on a couple’s sex life and how hard it can be to find doctors willing to address the issue in a con­structive, nuts-and-bolts manner.

Sex research is a relatively recent development in Sip – ski’s career. For years, she maintained a private practice in rehabilitation medicine. (Christopher Reeve was one of Sipski’s patients, as was Ben Vereen.)[75] Over time, she grew curious about the surprisingly high percentage of patients who said they were still able to have orgasms. For decades, the medical community—being for the most part able – bodied—had assumed that people with para – and quad – riplegias couldn’t have them. It was a logical assumption: If a person’s spinal cord is broken at a point higher than the point at which nerves from the genitals feed into the spine, then there should be no way for the nerve impulses to make their way past the injury and up to the brain. And thus, it was further assumed, no way for the person to reach orgasm.

Yet 40 to 50 percent of these men and women, accord­ing to several large surveys, do. Sipski decided to inves­tigate. She recruited people with all different degrees and levels of spinal cord injuries for a series of studies, to see if she could find any patterns.

People with spinal cord injuries provide a unique win­dow onto the workings of human orgasm. If you examine lots of people—some whose injuries are high on the spine, some down low, some in between—you can eventually iso­late the segments of the nervous system that are crucial to orgasm. You can begin to define what exactly an orgasm is. (A recent review of the topic listed more than twenty com­peting definitions.) Once you have an accurate definition of what orgasm is and how it happens, then you will, hope­fully, have some insight into why it sometimes doesn’t. Studying people with spinal cord injuries might benefit the able-bodied as well.

I

t is a testament to Sipski’s reputation in the disabled com­munity that more than a hundred men and women with spinal cord injuries have traveled to her lab to be part of a study. Unless you are extremely comfortable with your sexuality, masturbating to orgasm in a lab while hooked up to a heart-rate and blood-pressure monitor is, at best, an awkward proposition. It’s even more daunting when you have a spinal cord injury: Among those who can reach orgasm, it takes on average about twice as long to get there. Though Sipski’s subjects are alone behind a closed door, they can hear voices and sounds on the other side of the wall. They can tell that people are out there, timing them, monitoring them, waiting for them to finish.

The people out there this morning are uncommonly disruptive. This is because one of them is me, and because Sipski’s colleague Paula Spath said that by climbing up onto her desk and pressing my nose up to the one-way glass, I could get a peek at the experimental setup. I have on a skirt that does not lend itself to scaling office furniture. I lost my balance and crashed into Paula’s monitor, which slid across the computer it was standing on, knocking off a row of knickknacks and causing Paula to leap back and let out the sort of high-pitched exclamation that might more appropriately be heard on the yonder side of the wall. It’s a wonder anyone invites me anywhere.

A woman I’ll call Gwen is under the covers inside the lab. Aside from a caddy in the corner that holds the physiological-monitoring equipment, the lab resembles a scaled-down hotel room: there is a bed with a tasteful bedspread and extraneous throw pillows, a chair, a bedside table, a framed art print, and a TV for viewing erotic vid­eos. Helping Gwen with her assignment is an Eroscillator 2 Plus, a vibrator endorsed by Dr. Ruth Westheimer and developed by Dr. Philippe Woog, the inventor of the first electric toothbrush.[76]

While Gwen eroscillates, Sipski explains what trans­pired before I arrived. All her subjects are given a physical examination to determine the extent and effects of their injury and its precise location in the spinal cord. One the­ory held that the people who could still have orgasms were those whose injuries were incomplete—meaning the spinal cord wasn’t completely severed and that some of the nerve impulses from the genitals were squeaking through and reaching the brain. Another possibility was that the orgas­mic ones were those whose breaks were below the point where the genital nerves feed into the spinal cord.

It turned out that while both these things can make a difference, neither was an ironclad deciding factor for orgasmicity. People with high spinal cord injuries could have them, and so could some with complete spinal cord injuries. Based on Sipski’s data, only one thing definitively precludes orgasm: a complete injury to the sacral nerve roots at the base of the spine. Injuries here interfere with some­thing called the sacral reflex arc, best known for its starring role in bowel and bladder function. The sacral reflex arc is part of the autonomic nervous system, the system that controls the workings of our internal organs. “Autonomic” means involuntary, beyond conscious control. The speed at which the heart beats, the peristaltic movements of the digestive system, breathing, and, to a certain extent, sexual responses, are all under autonomic control.

Sipski explains that when you damage your spinal cord, you primarily block the pathways of the somatic, not the autonomic, nervous system. Somatic nerves transmit skin sensations and willful movements of the muscles, and they travel in the spinal cord. But the nerves of the autonomic nervous system are more complicated, and not all of them run exclusively through the spinal column. The vagus nerve, for example, feeds directly from the viscera into the brain; Rutgers University researchers Barry Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple have posited that the vagus actually reaches as far down as the cervix, and that that may explain how people with spinal cord injuries feel orgasm. Either way, autonomic nerves seem to be the answer to why quadri – and paraplegics can often feel internal sensations— menstrual cramps, bowel activity, the pain of appendicitis. And orgasm.

“Think about it,” Sipski is saying. “Orgasm is a not a surface sensation, it’s an internal sensation.” Sipski rou­tinely asks her spinal-cord-injured subjects where they stimulated themselves and where they felt the orgasm. Of nineteen women who stimulated themselves clitorally, only one reported that she’d felt the orgasm just in her clitoris. The rest ran an anatomical gamut: “bottom of stomach to toes,” “head,” “through vagina and legs,” “all over,” “from waist down,” “stomach first, breast tingle, then vaginally.”

It is strange to think of orgasm as a reflex, something dependably triggered, like a knee jerk. Sipski assures me that psychological factors also hold sway. Just as emotions affect heart rate and digestion, they also influence sexual response. Sipski defines orgasm as a reflex of the autonomic nervous system that can be either facilitated or inhibited by cerebral input (thoughts and feelings).

The sacral reflex definition fits nicely with something I stumbled upon in the United States Patent Office Web site: Patent 3,941,136, a method for “artificially inducing uri­nation, defecation, or sexual excitation” by applying elec­trodes to “the sacral region on opposite sides of the spine.” The patent holder intended the method to help not only people with spinal cord injuries but those with erectile dys­function or constipation.

Best be careful, though. The nervous system can’t always be trusted to keep things straight. BJU International tells the tale of a man who visited his doctor seeking advice about “defecation-induced orgasm.” For the first ten years, the paper explains, he had enjoyed his secret neurologi­cal quirk, but he was seventy now, and it was wearing him out. Horridly, the inverse condition also exists. Orgasm – induced defecation was noted by Alfred Kinsey to afflict “an occasional individual.”

The electronics term for circuitry mix-ups is crosstalk: a signal traveling along one circuit strays from its appointed route and creates an unexpected effect along a neighboring circuit. Crosstalk explains the faint voices from someone else’s conversation in the background of a telephone call. Crosstalk in the human nervous system explains not only the man who enjoyed his toilette, but also why heart attack pain is sometimes felt in the arm, and why the sensations of childbirth have been known to include orgasmic feel­ings or, rarely, an urge to defecate. Orgasms from nursing (or nipple foreplay) are another example of crosstalk. The same group of neurons in the brain receive sensory input both from the nipples and the genitals. They’re the feel­good neurons: the ones involved in the secretion of oxy­tocin, the “joy hormone.” (Oxytocin is involved in both orgasm and the milk-letdown reflex in nursing mothers.)

h

ere is something eerie about spinal reflexes: You don’t need a brain. For proof of this, you need look no fur­ther than the chicken that sprints across the barnyard after its head is lopped off. Eerier still, you don’t even need to be alive. The spinal reflex known as the Lazarus sign has been spooking doctors for centuries. If you trigger the right spot on the spinal cord of a freshly dead body or a beating-heart cadaver—meaning someone brain-dead but breathing via a respirator, pending the removal of organs for transplant—it will stretch out its arms and then raise them up and cross them over its chest.

How often do the dead move? A research team in Turkey, experimenting on brain-dead patients at Akdeniz University Hospital over a span of three years, were able to trigger spinal movement reflexes in 13 percent of them. (In a Korean study two years later, the figure was 19 percent.) Most of the time, the dead just jerk their fingers and toes or stretch their arms or feet, but two of the Turkish cadavers were inspired to perform the Lazarus sign.

Reflexive movements can be extremely disquieting to the medical professionals in the OR during organ pro­curement surgery—so much so that there was a push in England, around 2000, to require that anesthesia be given to beating-heart cadavers. New York lawyer-physician Stephanie Mann, who publishes frequently on the ethics of brain death and vegetative states, told me that although beating-heart cadavers may appear to be in pain, they are not. “Certainly not in the way you and I perceive pain. I think the anesthesia is administered more for the doctors’ discomfort than for the cadaver’s.”

Mann said—because I asked her—that it might be pos­sible for a beating-heart cadaver to have an orgasm. “If the spinal cord is being oxygenated, the sacral nerves are get­ting oxygen, and you apply a stimulus appropriately, is it conceivable? Yes. Though they wouldn’t feel it.”

I tell Sipski she should do a study.

“You get the human subjects committee approval for that one.”

O

kay!” It’s Gwen’s voice over the intercom. “I’m fin­ished.” She has a soft, swaying Alabama accent, “okay” pronounced UH-KAI. Paula tells Gwen to lie quietly for a few minutes and watches the monitor. She is looking for the abrupt drop-off in heart rate and blood pressure that signals that an orgasm has come and gone.

Gwen has agreed to talk with us for a few minutes before she leaves. She sits in a chair and looks at us calmly. If you did not know what she had been doing, you would not guess. Her hair is neat and her clothes are unrumpled.

Only her heart rate as the experiment began (117 beats per minute) betrayed her unease.

Gwen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. (Sipski began collecting orgasm and arousal data on MS patients earlier this year.) Her beauty and poise belie the seriousness of her condition. She says she is tired all the time, and her joints hurt. Her hands and feet sometimes tingle, sometimes go numb. She has trouble telling hot from cold and must have her husband check her baby’s bathwater. People with MS develop lesions along their spinal cord that affect their mobility and their skin sensa­tions. Lesions also affect the pathways of their autonomic nervous system. Gwen’s illness has affected her bowel and bladder functions as well as her sexual responsiveness: the sacral triumvirate.

“I can’t feel inside,” she explains. “I can’t tell that I’m being penetrated I guess is what you’d say. And sometimes I can’t feel stimulation on my clitoris.”

Yet only six minutes had passed when she pressed the intercom button. The power of vibration to trigger orgas­mic reflexes is a mystery and, as we have seen in chapter 10, an occasional boon. Sometimes you don’t even have to use it on the usual location. People with spinal cord injuries may develop a compensatory erogenous zone above the level of their injury. (Researchers call it “the hypersensitive area”—or, infrequently, “the oversensitive area.”) Applying a vibrator to these spots can have dramatic effects, as docu­mented by Sipski, Barry Komisaruk, and Beverly Whipple, at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Miami, where all three used to work. “My whole body feels like it’s in my vagina,” said the subject, a quadriplegic woman who had just had an orgasm—evinced by changes in blood pressure and heart rate—while applying a vibrator to her neck and chest. Komisaruk and Whipple’s book The Science of Orgasm includes a description of a “knee orgasm” experienced by a young (able-bodied) man with a vibrator pressed to his leg. “The quadriceps muscle of the thigh increased in ten­sion. … At the reported orgasmic moment, the leg gave an extensor kick. . . and a forceful grunt was emitted.” (In the interest of full disclosure, the young man was stoned.)

I ask Gwen how she made the decision to be part of Sipski’s study. “When I first heard about it from my neu­rologist,” she begins, “I thought, Yes, I want to do this. And then I started thinking what the situation was going to be like. And I thought, Well, I don’t know if I want to or not. But me and my husband talked it over, and we thought у’all could probably help me.” Gwen gets to take a vibra­tor home with her. The study for which she is a subject includes a treatment component comparing the two stars of the last chapter: the FertiCare (modified with a Woog head) and the Eros. The hope is that vibration (or suction/vibra – tion) therapy can help retrain the sacral reflex arc so that women with spinal issues can reach orgasm more easily.

Gwen retrieves her purse. She asks if we have any other questions for her.

I have one. “Did you hear a loud crash while you were in there?”

“Uh-huh. And talking.”

“Sorry about that.”

S

ipski and I are eating at a suburban Birmingham res­taurant where couples drink wine at lunch and seem to have nothing to say to each other. Or maybe they’re eaves­dropping. I would be.

The lunch conversation has drifted to the topic of non­genital orgasms. The ones that wake you up from dreams.

The ones some epileptics[77] experience just before a seizure (and that occasionally motivate them to go off their meds). The “thought-orgasms” that ten women had in Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk’s Rutgers lab. The indi­viduals Alfred Kinsey interviewed who “have been brought to orgasm by having their eyebrows stroked, or by having the hairs on some other part of their bodies gently blown, or by having pressure applied on the teeth alone.” Though in the Kinsey cases, presumably other body parts had been stroked or blown just prior, and the eyebrow and tooth ministerings merely, as Kinsey put it, “provided the addi­tional impetus which is necessary to carry the individual on to orgasm.”

I brought along a copy of a letter to the editors of the British Journal of Psychiatry entitled “Spontaneous Orgasms—Any Explanation?” The author was inquiring on behalf of a patient, a widowed forty-five-year-old Saudi mother of three, who had “complained bitterly of repeated uncontrolled orgasms.” They happened anywhere, at any time, up to thirty times a day, “without any sort of sex­ual contact.” Her social life had been ruined, and she had,
understandably, “stopped practicing her regular religious rituals and visiting the holy shrines.”

Подпись: тагу roachWhen I look up from the page, the waiter is standing with my gumbo, waiting for me to move my papers. Earlier he came over with the iced teas while Sipski was describ­ing the bulbocavernosus reflex, which tells you whether the sacral reflex arc is intact. The test entails slipping a fin­ger into the patient’s rectum and using the other hand to either squeeze the end of the penis or touch the clitoris. If the rectum finger gets squeezed, the reflex is working. The waiters are different in Birmingham than they are in San Francisco, where I eat out. This one said simply, “Who had the unsweetened?”

Sipski’s explanation for nongenital orgasms is this: You are triggering the same reflex, just doing it via different pathways. “There’s no reason why the impulses couldn’t travel down from the brain, rather than up from the geni­tals.” The input would be neurophysiological in the case of epilepsy patients and the Saudi woman, psychological in the case of the Kinsey folks.

Sexual arousal, not just orgasm, reflects this bidirec­tional split. Here again, spinal cord injuries have helped researchers tease apart the two systems: There is “reflex arousal” and there is “psychogenic arousal.” If you show erotic films to someone with a complete injury high up on the spinal cord, the person may say they find the images arousing, but that psychogenic input will be blocked from traveling down the spine, and thus no lubrication (or erec­tion) will ensue. These people can, however, get erections or lubrication from physical, or “reflex,” stimulation of their genitals.

Very low spinal cord injuries create the opposite dichotomy: the person can only become lubricated from seeing (or reading or listening to) something
erotic. Physical “reflex” arousal is blocked by the injury. Able-bodied men and women respond to both kinds of input (though in women, as we’ll see in the next chap­ter, the head and the genitals are often at odds). Their orgasms can be triggered by a single type of input, or a combination. Barry Komisaruk calls the latter “blended orgasms.” This might explain why the single-malt orgasms—vaginal, clitoral, nongenital—all feel some­what different.

There’s one more varietal orgasm I want to ask Sip – ski about: the kind some kids have climbing the ropes in gym class. Sipski wasn’t one of those kids. “I have never heard of this.” We both look at each other like we’re nuts. I explain that it isn’t from contact with the rope, but more from the lifting of your body. Sipski replies that this makes sense, as orgasms from squeezing the pelvic and/or but­tock muscles are not unheard of. Kinsey mentions hav­ing interviewed some men and “not a few” women who use this technique to arouse themselves and who “may occasionally reach orgasm without the genitalia being touched.”

Sipski suspects that this might be how the hands­free orgasm women in the Rutgers lab were managing it. She doesn’t know that three weeks before I had lunch with her, I went out for sushi with one of those women. Kim Airs, whose contact information I got from Barry Komisaruk, happened to be in my city visiting friends and agreed to meet to talk about her unique skill set. Airs is a tall, ebullient woman in her forties whose past employ­ers include porn production companies, an escort service, and Harvard University, where she worked with then president Lawrence Summers. Airs learned the “hands­free” technique in 1995, in a breath-and-energy orgasm workshop taught by sex-worker-turned-sex-educator

Annie Sprinkle A It took her two years to master the craft. Now she can do it easily and upon request, which she does in workshops and talks and, occasionally, on side­walk benches outside sushi bars.

Подпись: тагу roachIt was nothing like the When Harry Met Sally scene. The people walking past had no idea. She closed her eyes and took some long, slow breaths and after maybe a minute of this, her face flushed pink and she shuddered. If you weren’t watching closely, you’d think she was a runner who’d stopped on a bench to catch her wind.

Like the orgasms of Sipski’s subjects, those of Airs and Komisaruk’s other volunteers were verified by monitoring heart rate and blood pressure. Definitively verifying some­one’s claim to an orgasm is more difficult than Masters and Johnson would have you believe. The duo described telltale muscle contractions, but Sipski found that not all women have these. t The steep rise and abrupt postorgasm [78]
drop-off in heart rate and systolic blood pressure are the closest there is to a reliable physiological marker. Airs made the grade.

Sipski is right that at least some of the thought orgasms were helped along by internal muscle flexing. At the end of their paper, Whipple and Komisaruk state that some of the women were making “vigorous muscular movements,” and concede that the others may have been doing so more subtly. A how-to Web article under Annie Sprinkle’s byline includes directions to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles in order to “stimulate the clitoris and G spot.” (Arnold Kegel years ago found that diligent Kegelers tend to have an easier time of orgasm.)

Airs herself, however, described a process involving chakras and waves of energy, but no interior calisthen­ics. She appeared to be taking herself into an altered state, which makes sense, because that seems to be where people go during an orgasm. Scans show that the brain’s higher faculties quiet down, and more primitive structures light up. As in most altered states, people tend to lose their grip on time. In 1985, sex physiologist Roy Levin brought twenty-eight women into his lab and timed their orgasms. After they’d finished, he asked them to estimate how long the orgasm had lasted. With only three exceptions, the esti­mates were well under the real duration—by an average of thirteen seconds. Orgasm appears to be a state not unlike that of the alien abductees one always hears about, coming to with messy hair and a chunk of time unaccounted for.

What is life like for someone who can discreetly trig­ger an orgasm with a few moments of mental effort? Airs insists she rarely undertakes it in public. “Sometimes on long plane flights,” she said. The last time was while riding the Disneyland tram.

Nor is it, in the privacy of her home, a nightly occur­rence. “Usually when I get home I’m too tired.”

The Immaculate Orgasm

GEAR SYSTEM THAT’S ROTATING A PIECE WITH BEADS ON IT, TO HIT THE FRENULUM[70]

Подпись: bonkMarty talks about his goods frankly and technically, as though they were car parts or kitchen appliances. He said later, “It’s just product. Everybody who works here is immune to it. It’s not sexual anymore, it’s like a key chain or a wallet. It’s nothing.”

Now we have paused to watch a team of women, wear­ing latex gloves, whose job is to rub a light film of red paint into the testicles and glans of large fleshtone dildos, to pinken them, “to give them the realism.” Realism strikes me as an odd choice for this product. These are huge phal – luses, comically huge, with veins like jungle vines. The women are chatting and laughing while they work. Their movements are inadvertently erotic; the hand-staining of a dildo tip could be the efficient caress of a sex worker. The women are Latinas in their thirties and forties, as are many of Tucker’s employees here. If you went out to the park­ing lot, you would find rosaries and Virgin Marys hang­ing from the rearview mirrors. I ask Marty if the women’s families know what they do for a living.

Marty quiets his voice. “My experience is that they really don’t talk about it—the fact that they’re working with a ten-inch penis. There’s one area in here where the girls are sewing hair onto the vaginas for pubic hair. I asked a girl one day, ‘Do your parents know what you do?’ She says, ‘No, I just tell them I work in plastics.’”

Marty steers us to a small conference room, where it’s quieter and we can talk. The walls are bare except for six 8-by-10 aerial photographs of the Topco building, a squat,
anonymous-looking 12,000-square-foot chunk of Chats – worth, California, business park. Tucker himself looks very much like what he is: the chairman of a successful multi­national manufacturing firm. His cuffs are monogrammed so ornately as to be unreadable. He wears an unsubtle dia­mond ring on each of his ring fingers, a navy blue suit, and a tie with a travel motif of foreign flags. A New York accent grabs hold of his words.

Подпись: тагу roach“So what can I do for you?”

I had sent Marty a detailed email asking about the relative merits of clitoral suction and vibration and about whether both of these, regularly practiced, could improve a woman’s responsiveness. Yet somehow I have given him the impression that I have come to write about him. And possibly I should have.

I repeat my intended mission. Marty listens. “Okay. Suction will pull more blood and make the clitoris more sensitive. That’s what suction does.” He refers to the sex toy whose patent I mentioned, which turns out to be very simple: a ring that encircles either a real penis or a phallic sex toy and, attached to it, a suction cup. “So the ring can be worn by the guy, and when he’s inside of his partner, the suction cup is against the clitoris.” Marty pronounces it cli – TOR-is, rhymes with Lavoris.[71] The item is no longer sold.

I ask Marty if he has any reason to believe that reg­
ularly bringing more blood to the crotchal area—with suction, with vibration, with any sort of masturbation— would improve a woman’s responsiveness or—Word of the Hour—orgasmicity. It’s a fine opportunity for him to pro­mote sex toys as therapeutic devices, but he doesn’t take the bait. He says he hasn’t heard anything to that effect.

On the way back to the lobby, we stop on the factory floor again, in the baking area, where the molds in their plaster casts go in and out of ovens. The countertop is Pol – lacked with drips and spills of liquid plastic. The noise is deafening: clankings, thrummings, pneumatic exhalations.

“HERE YOU HAVE AN ANUS.” Marty says it’s a model of porno actor. Porn stars come in to Topco, to a special room, where the staff make plaster casts of their penetratable regions. This includes their faces, which can be purchased separately or put on a doll body. The top stars get a royalty for each orifice sold.

Marty’s hand rests on a model that is cooling in its mold, buttocks-down. ‘YOU CAN FEEL THAT THE MATERIAL IS STILL WARM RIGHT NOW, IT’S STILL SOFT.” From the back, it looks innocent, edible, like a chocolate dessert product. It’s all I can do not to take a bite.

m

asturbation therapy for women is not altogether new.

It is, in fact, altogether old. Genital massage was a common medical treatment for sexually frustrated women as far back as Hippocrates’ day. The Hippocratic physician, of course, lacking batteries and Topco catalogues, had to make do with his fingers (or, often, those of a midwife).

For centuries, medical texts included long discussions of a condition called hysteria, a sort of vaguely defined sex­ual dysfunction based on spectacular misrepresentations of female anatomy and sexuality, and treated by, among other things, manual manipulations. The ancient Greeks, as we’ve learned, thought that women produced their own semen, released at the climax of intercourse, and that the mingling of male and female seed formed the basis of con­ception. Young widows, with no sexual outlet and a conse­quent logjam of womanly seed, were said to be especially prone to hysteria—or “womb fury.” (The widower was spared because he regularly jettisoned some during noctur­nal emissions.) The notion persisted for centuries. Audrey Eccles quotes a physician in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Tudor and Stuart England: “It is most commonly the wid – owes disease;. . . when the seed is thus retained it corrupts, and sends up filthy vapours to the brain.” A typographi­cally deranged colleague named Maubray concurred: “By a long Detention there, [the seed] may be converted into VENOM, or a Poysonous Humour. …”

The cure, logically enough, was to contrive a climax. Though no one came right out and said that that’s what he was up to. Chapter LXVIII of Aetios of Amida: The Gynaecol­ogy and Obstetrics of the Vlth Century, ad. outlines tactics for triggering the release of she-semen. “The midwife having taken [various oils] with her fingers, she should. . . rub the part gently and for a long time. …” Eventually, “much thick and viscid sperm [was] expelled, and the woman was freed without delay from her distressing affliction.” Presumably, Aetios was mistaking vaginal lubrication for semen. Gynecology was but a sideline interest for Aetios (best known for his eye, ear, and nose texts), and it showed. Women who came to him for contraceptive advice were told to wear a piece of cat liver in an ivory tube attached to their left foot. Though I suppose this might well keep you from getting pregnant, in the same way that wearing Birkenstocks might.

While awkward to be sure, genital manipulation was preferable to hysteria’s other treatment: the evil smell. This line of attack was based on the belief that hysteria was associated with a retracted uterus; foul odors were inhaled to repel the uterus, in the hope that it would retreat back down the body cavity into its rightful position. For ten – plus centuries, the womb was considered less an organ than an independent creature, able to move about the woman’s body like a badger in its den. Aetios of Amida prescribed the following: “Place at the nostrils a pot of stale urine.” Soranus’ Gynecology describes anointing the patient’s nose with “squashed bed bugs.” From the Tudor era, we hear that “also highly esteemed was a fume made of ‘the warts which grow upon Horses Legs. . . .’” Overall, it was hard to escape the suspicion that the early gynecologist was not the caring and supportive creature that she is today.

Подпись: bonkEvil odors came and went, but “pelvic massage” for hysteria persisted all the way through the Victorian era to the first half of the twentieth century. The earliest vibra­tors weren’t being sold to women; they were being sold to physicians to make their job easier. Depending on the practitioner’s skills and the woman’s inhibitions, manually instigating climax in a doctor’s office could take upward of half an hour. The vibrator was a godsend, reducing the chore to a few minutes.

Rachel R Maines, the sort of historian the world needs more of, wrote a book on this topic. The Technology of Orgasm is packed with amazing information, but none more so than this: “There is no evidence that male physicians enjoyed providing pelvic massage treatments. . . .” It was, she said (and sort of still often is) “the job nobody wanted.” I had imagined doctors getting caught up in, and turned on by, their patients’ reactions. But Maines found no evidence of this. She states that most of these physicians did not even
understand that the climax of the treatment they were pro­viding was an orgasm.

When vibrator manufacturers finally came out with home models, the ads were predictably opaque. Wdiile some made oblique references to the devices’ true charms (“makes you fairly tingle with the joy of living”), most dis­persed a smoke screen of vague health claims. Others ven­tured deep into the ludicrous. Maines’s book includes an ad from 1916 showing a woman with a vibrator held up to her cheek, the caption claiming that the device would “bring social and business success.” A pair of Star Vibrators were advertised in 1922 as “Such Delightful Companions! . . . Perfect for weekend trips,” as though they could serve up witty repartee and spell you at the wheel.

Even today, vibrators are sold as “massagers” to women who are uncomfortable buying sex toys. The small appli­ance company Wahl, for instance, sells a trio of massagers on its Web site with no explanation of what they’re for. (The fact that nitetimetoys. com is the first listing that comes up when you Google “Wahl massagers” provides a hint.)

The company bio of the late John Wahl notes that he served not only as Wahl president but also in a leadership capacity at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. And that his brother Raymond Wahl is a monsignor. I’m not saying there’s a link between Catholicism and sex toys. I’m just saying I’ve got a brand-new interpretation of Isaiah 49:2 (“The Lord. . . hath made me a polished shaft”).

W

hy weren’t hysteria sufferers simply told to go home and masturbate twice a week? Because, as you will recall from chapter 6, masturbation has a long history as a shameful, dangerous, and much-discouraged act.

But now that we all know better, should gynecolo­gists be recommending masturbation as a treatment for sexual dysfunction? Are orgasms the ticket to sexual health? I called Cindy Meston, whose laboratory we are headed for shortly Her answer was yes. Her graduate student Lisa Dawn Hamilton recently completed a study that tracked the testosterone levels of women in long­distance relationships. (Testosterone is the hormone most closely linked to sexual desire, and is sometimes prescribed to women who complain of a low libido.) Testosterone levels were significantly higher when the women were having sex, as compared to the days when their partners weren’t there. (The participants promised not to masturbate for the duration of the study.) “It’s looking like sex in and of itself can be therapeutic,” says Meston. “It makes you enjoy sex more and want to have sex more. I think the whole use-it-or-lose-it thing defi­nitely applies to women.”

Meston agreed that a $25 Micro Tingler from Marty Tucker’s warehouse probably affords much the same ben­efits as a $400 Eros Therapy Device. However, she made the point that there are women out there who would be uncomfortable with a treatment that consists of masturba­tion, with or without a sex toy—not to mention doctors who are uncomfortable prescribing it. For them, as Meston says, “the guise of it being an FDA-approved medical device takes some of the taboo out of it.”

The taboo issue might also explain the impressive sales records of some of the quack powders and oils sold online as arousal boosters for women. While they sometimes con­tain spices or chile extracts that create a mild tingling sensa­tion, the key ingredient, Meston says, is more often one’s own hand. “They come with these instructions like, Apply

to clitoris and labia and rub really well for an extended period of time. Make sure you rub really, really well. . . ” ■

I

n 1999, somewhere in the state of Israel, a man began hiccuping and could not stop. He tried the silly things his friends suggested. He pulled on his tongue and rubbed the roof of his mouth with a Q-tip. He tried chlorpromazine, metoclopramide, defoaming antiflatulents even. Nothing worked. The man grew increasingly anxious. He could not sleep or concentrate on his work. On the fourth day, still hiccuping, the man had sex with his wife. His condi­tion persisted all the way through the act, and then, once he ejaculated, the hiccups stopped. Canadian Family Physi­cian published a case report about the man, under the title “Sexual Intercourse as a Potential Treatment for Intractable Hiccups.” Unattached hiccuppers were advised that “mas­turbation might be tried.”[72]

Are there other nonsexual health benefits to be derived from orgasm? Affirmative, say Rutgers University sex researchers Barry Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple. Their readable and comprehensive The Science of Orgasm says that people who have regular orgasms seem to have less stress and enjoy lower rates of heart disease, breast cancer, pros­tate cancer, and endometriosis.

They also appear to live longer. British researcher G. Davey Smith and two colleagues calculated that over a span of ten years the risk of death among men who had two or more orgasms a week was 50 percent lower than among those who had them less than once a month. (Obviously, the researchers had to control for factors like social class, smoking, and age.) Catholic priests, as compared with their noncelibate Protestant counterparts, have higher rates of early death. This last bit was reported—though without a source—in a 1990 Sports Medicine article entitled “The Sex­ual Response as Exercise.” The author, a psychologist named Dorcus Butt,[73] then at the University of British Columbia, states that the muscle tone, strength, and straining involved in orgasm are similar to that of “jumping, gymnastics, ten­nis, football. . . .” Yet one more reason the Catholic Church should condone sex, or jumping, among its clergy.

Orgasm may be, as Butt says, “the most basic form of physical exercise,” but that doesn’t mean sex is a particu­larly good workout. In 1984, psychiatrist Joseph Bohlen brought ten married couples into a laboratory at South­ern Illinois University School of Medicine and measured the men’s heart rate, metabolic expenditure, and oxygen uptake during five different sexual activities: foreplay, intercourse (once in the missionary position, once with the wife on top), fellatio, and masturbation. Bohlen concluded that sex was, at best, “light to moderate” exercise of short duration. However, given that “the mask used to collect the husband’s expired air kept him from kissing. . . , and the ECG electrodes and blood pressure cuff hoses restricted body movement,” it is possible that the sex being had in Dr. Bohlen’s lab was less exuberant than usual.

People with spinal cord injuries may derive a unique benefit from orgasm. If you are paralyzed, say, or you have
multiple sclerosis, you may find that orgasm relieves you of the leg stiffness and muscle spasms collectively known as spasticity Alfred Kinsey noticed this during his attic obser­vations of men with cerebral palsy Apparently, the benefit lingers for some time afterward. Researchers have found that a session with a rectal probe electroejaculator dampens leg spasticity for, on average, eight hours.

Подпись: тагу roachYou may be curious as to who got the idea to look into this. The rectal electroejaculator'[74]’ is, after all, a device intended for use on livestock. Artificial inseminators elec­troejaculate bulls and stallions to obtain the semen used to artificially impregnate cows and mares. Men with spinal cord injuries—who often can’t ejaculate in the usual man­ner—have themselves electroejaculated, in fact, for simi­lar reasons. It all began in 1948. A team of doctors at the Cushing Veterans Administration Hospital in Massachu­setts, hoping to obtain sperm that could be used to impreg­nate the wives of paralyzed veterans, revved up a McIntosh No. 5005 portable, wall-mounted electrophysiotherapy machine. (Electricity was a fad health treatment popular from the late 1800s to mid 1940s. Rachel Maines describes

an advertisement for one such device, showing “electrodes for every conceivable bodily orifice.” Presumably, the Cushing team was aware that ejaculation was a common side effect of rectally administered electrotherapy.)

Alas, though the Cushing doctors obtained* semen from all eighteen men, only two of the wives became preg­nant. (Partly because when the cremaster muscle is para­lyzed, the testes can’t be lowered away from the body to cool, and the sperm overheat.)

In 1981, British sex researcher Giles Brindley set out to hone the craft of electroejaculation for fertility purposes. To figure out which nerve fibers were most expeditious, he first experimented on baboons and rhesus monkeys. As the electrotherapy fad had long ago faded, Brindley devised a homemade ejaculator, consisting of an electrode mounted on the tip of his gloved finger. Presently the baboons were excused and Brindley attempted some “experiments on myself ”t Because Brindley’s spinal cord is intact, he could
feel pain that paralyzed men could not, and he had to stop at less than a quarter of the voltage that would trigger ejacula­tion.* Brindley made 256 attempts at electroejaculating 84 men with spinal cord injuries. Fourteen wives were insem­inated, but, owing to the inferior quality of the sperm, only one conceived. Some of the wives soldiered on anyway. In Brindley’s paper, under the evocative heading “Domestic Electroejaculation,” he recounts that ten women had been taught to administer the voltage at home.

Подпись: тагу roachIn the course of Brindley’s study, some of the subjects reported that for several hours afterward, their leg spasms had quieted. This information found its way to veterinar­ian and livestock electroejaculator designer Steve Seager. Not one to pass up an opportunity for lateral marketing, Seager got a grant to do a formal study of the efficacy of one of his Electrostimulation Units for reducing leg spas­ticity—in both men and women. It worked. And that is the

BJU International in 2005. “He paused, seeming to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with grav­ity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence.’ With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs. … As he approached [the audience], erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air. . . and screamed. . . . The screams seemed to shock Profes­sor Brindley, who rapidly pulled up his trousers. . . and terminated the lecture.”

*Which perhaps explains the dearth of ejaculator references on alterna­tive-sex Web sites. I found just one, a reference to the Bailey Ejaculator, in the Yahoo Mechanical Sex newsgroup. “It sounds rather captivating,” says the posting. “It sounds awesome moreover. Has anyone got any info?” Ed Lehigh, assistant vice president at Western Instruments, where they make the Bailey, told me he was unaware of a recreational side mar­ket for his product, though he recently got an order for three livestock ejaculators from an L. A. porn producer, perhaps seeking to boost pro­ductivity among the cast.

story of how rectal probe electrostimulation came into use as a therapy for muscle spasticity in people with spinal cord injuries.

Подпись: bonkThese days there is a cheaper, less intimidating alter­native. The technique is called Transcutaneous Mechani­cal Nerve Stimulation, a. k.a. pressing a vibrator to the underside of your penis. Not just any vibrator, but a high – amplitude one made by FertiCare,* called the Personal Penile Vibrator—or, should you happen to select the Span­ish version of FertiCare’s Web site, El Vibrador del Репе.

Attentive readers may be thinking: If paraplegics can’t feel anything down there, how do they get aroused and have an orgasm? That is one of many mysteries being solved at the University of Alabama School of Medicine’s sexual physiology lab. The others are more universal: What exactly is an orgasm? Where in the body do you feel it? Can dead people have them too?

*“High-amplitude” meaning that the part that vibrates back and forth travels a longer distance in each direction. The FertiCare surpassed both an Oster and a Sunbeam vibrator in “An Analysis of 653 Trials of Penile Vibratory Stimulation in Men With Spinal Cord Injury.” It was news to me that either of the aforementioned wholesome small appliance com­panies made vibrators. They surely do not flaunt them. It is easier to track down an Oster animal nail grinder or an Oster arepa maker than an Oster vibrator.

GEAR SYSTEM THAT’S ROTATING A PIECE WITH BEADS ON IT, TO HIT THE FRENULUM[70]

The Prescription-Strength Vibrator

Masturbating for Health

*

I

f you call the offices of NuGyn, in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, there is a good chance you will get Curt Olson on the phone. Olson is not a receptionist. He is the coin­ventor of the Eros Clitoral Therapy Device. He answers the phone because it’s a small company and because he enjoys chatting with folks. While Curt was chatting with me, he told me stories about some of the odder phone calls he’s gotten. At the end of each story, he’d pause, and then he’d say, Tn’ that something?” Every now and then, he said, women call to ask where their clitoris is.* “They’re pump­ing on something else. It’s like, holy smokes, people!” ^Research suggests that these women are rare. In a study of genital self­assessment, fifty women were asked to estimate the size of their clitoris. One of the options was “I cannot locate my clitoris.” Happily, no one checked that box.

I asked Curt a question that, surprisingly, he had not been asked before: What made him think that a female penis pump was something the world needed?

“Well,” said Curt. “One day my boss and I were mak­ing a list of what we could do for our next product.” Uro – Metrics—which owns NuGyn—makes diagnostic devices for male erectile dysfunction. The Eros is their first excur­sion into female sexual dysfunction, and it appeared at first blush that they were not fully appreciating the difference. “We just saw the void: The penis pump was for the men and there wasn’t anything for the women.”

“But Curt,” I said, “women don’t need erections to have sex. So why would they need this?”

Curt replied that it wasn’t about erections. “It’s increased blood flow that brings about the orgasm, so what better to do than pump it? Increase that blood flow.” So was this something you’d use to prime yourself before intercourse, much as you might use a vibrator? Or was this something whose regular use would somehow alter your physiology and render you permanently more primed—something that would make it easier for you to become aroused even when the Eros was tucked away in its little satin pouch? In other words, a cure for FSAD. Presumably, that is what they’re shooting for.

Curt said that yes, they were after “more of a physical change rather than just a stimulation.” He suggested that routinely pulling more blood to the area might help clear up fibrosis in the erectile tissue, which does contribute to erectile dysfunction in men. Jennifer Berman, a Los Ange­les urologist and TV sex expert who was involved in some of the Eros clinical trials, also had the impression that it was functioning more as a long-term therapy. “It’s something you’d use independent of sex,” she said. “Like doing your push-ups and your jumping jacks, you would use your Eros device as well.”

I asked Curt if I could borrow an Eros to see what it does. “You want to borrow one?” He seemed unenchanted. “How about if we don’t want it back? How about if you just keep it.”

The directions tell you to use the Eros for one min­ute, rest for a minute, and then use it for another minute. And to repeat this cycle three to five times. The Eros is a big, fat tease. I am here to tell you that anyone who makes it through one or two start-stop cycles very quickly loses interest in watching the secondhand and keeping track of which cycle she’s on and when to rest. The Eros will turn you into a masturbatory layabout. But does it improve the sex you have with parties other than your Eros device?

In a 2002 paper, women’s scores on the Female Sexual Function Index improved significantly after three months of Eros therapy. This was true for women with FSD and for controls with no sexual complaints. However, the Female Sexual Function Index includes a lot of ques­tions along the lines of: Over the past four weeks, how often did you feel sexually aroused during sexual activ­ity or intercourse? How often did you become lubricated during sexual activity or intercourse? When you had sex­ual stimulation or intercourse, how often did you reach orgasm? Well, if the woman includes her Eros encounters as part of that sexual activity, and she’s using the thing four times a week, as the therapy calls for, of course her score is going to be higher.

Despite the shortcomings of the studies, given that there are no side effects, that the “therapy” amounts to near-daily doses of self-pleasure, it is hard to make a case against giving it a try.

Though there’s that pesky $400 price tag. Why do women need to spend $400 for suction?

“Curt?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Подпись: тагу roach“Could you just use a small vacuum cleaner?” Curt sur­mised that that would likely cause some bruising. Possibly, it would cause more than that. For the Florida man who was found slumped on his dining room table after neigh­bors reported hearing “a vacuum cleaner running contin­uously for a long time,” it caused a fatal heart attack and thermal burns on “areas in direct contact with the beater bar.” The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology case report[69] “Vacuum Cleaner Use in Autoerotic Death” includes a photograph of the deceased slumped over his vacuum, a seventies-era upright, with one arm encircling the canister in the manner of a lover’s embrace. (It was not their first encounter. The man’s wife “had surprised him masturbating with a vacuum cleaner” once before, though surely not as much as he had surprised her.)

Any kind of arousal will draw more blood to the area. What if sexually dysfunctional women were to use a garden – variety vibrator four times a week? Or how about just their finger? Are we sitting on (whee!) a cheap, simple, safe, uni­versally available, highly pleasurable treatment for female
sexual dysfunction? I called Jennifer Berman. “Hm,” she said. “I mean, technically I guess you could say that. Whether the Eros device is any better than masturbating, that I can’t answer.”

I emailed Arno Mundt, a University of Chicago pro­fessor of gynecologic oncology whose name is on a dif­ferent Eros therapy study. “Dear Dr. Mundt,” I wrote. “If bringing blood to the clitoris/vulva more often (with the Eros) helps with arousal, lubrication, orgasm, etc., then would simply masturbating, with a vibrator or manually, four times a week also help?” (In retrospect, a line or two of introductory chitchat was in order.)

“Good question,” came the reply. “I will defer this to Maryann.”

Maryann Schroder, a licensed sexologist at the Univer­sity of Chicago Hospitals, is the principal investigator on the study.

“You have posed a very interesting question,” she said. “It hasn’t been studied, if you can believe.” She reminded me of what happened to the last person who got involved with masturbation as a beneficial activity: Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. Former President Bill Clinton dismissed Elders after she suggested, in a World AIDS Day speech, that masturbation was something that “should perhaps be taught.”

“Can you imagine if I tried to get funding for a study that had masturbation in the title?” And then, quite uninten­tionally, Dr. Schroder delivered the ultimate masturbation – research sound bite. “Masturbation,” she said, “is a touchy area.”

Not everyone who deals with masturbation on a pro­fessional level has to concern themselves with what the government thinks. Not everyone gets their funding from research grants. Some masturbation professionals get their funding from the sales of Vibrating Port-A-Pussies and Mr. Fred Jelly Dongs. I have made an appointment to visit Marty Tucker, chairman and founder of the world’s sec­ond-largest sex-toy manufacturer. I came across Marty’s name on U. S. Patent 5,693,002: Sexual Appliance Having a Suction Device Which Provides Stimulation. Maybe Marty can answer my question about the medical benefits of reg­ular self-stimulation, suction-based or otherwise.

t

here are images that stay with you your whole life, whether you want them to or not. Here is one that I imagine will make the cut. A man in a blue smock and a hairnet walks across a factory floor with an armload of enormous chocolate-brown dildos. He is loaded down to the point of absurdity. He is Audrey Hepburn leaving Bergdorf’s in some 1960s romantic comedy, her arms piled so high with packages that she can barely see over the top. I want to trip him, not out of meanness, but just to see the penises fly through the air and rain down around us.

Marty Tucker is showing me around the Topco manu­facturing floor. It is the size of a football field and as loud as a Super Bowl. Marty is yelling over the noise.

“THESE ARE VAGINAS.” He makes a sweeping motion with one arm, drawing my gaze to a long, narrow surface heaped with objects that do not suggest any facet of human anatomy.

“VAGINAS?”

“IT’S A VAGINAL PRODUCT. A MASTURBA­TION TOY.” He picks one up. “THIS IS A TUBE THAT YOU WOULD ENTER FROM THIS SIDE AND YOU WOULD BE INSIDE OF THIS HERE.” He is using “you” in the sense of your penis, were you the sort of person who (a) had a penis and (b) shopped at places like Topco. “THERE’S A

The Lady’s Boner

Is the Clitoris a Tiny Penis?

a

woman in an MRI tube has few secrets. The man at the control console knows the size of her heart and the contents of her womb. He knows if she’s had her breasts enlarged or her stomach stapled. He can see into her blad­der and knows whether she’s wishing she’d stopped by the restroom before climbing onto the exam table.

Ken Maravilla, a University of Washington radiology professor, knows all these things about Meg Cole[62] (bladder contents: half a cup). Very soon, he will also know how stimu­lating she finds the X-rated video that he has arranged for her to watch while she gets an MRI. Before you too arrange to have your next MRI done at UW you should know that not everyone gets the Maravilla treatment. Only study subjects.

Maravilla has a side interest in sex research. His work has shown that MRI can provide an unambiguous measure of how much blood is in the tissues of a woman’s clito­ris. As it does with men, sexual excitement ushers more blood to a woman’s genitals. Clitoral blood volume, then, should yield a simple, dramatic portrait of what Masters and Johnson oh-so-appealingly called “mounting readi­ness.” Maravilla has found that, on average, women’s cli­torises hold twice as much blood while they are watching porn than when they are watching, say, footage of a Space Shuttle launch.

“Mary, we don’t use the term ‘porn,’” Maravilla says quietly. “We say ‘erotic videos.’” (Or, when we’re feeling especially defensive, “VES,” for visual erotic stimulation.) Maravilla, sixty, is a slim, gracious man. His hair is cleanly cut and contoured. He speaks easily about sex, but is sen­sitive about the porn thing. This is understandable: His proposal was originally turned down by the university’s human subjects review board. Maravilla had to sit down with them, convince them that “it was above-board, that there was nothing voyeuristic going on.”

Of the many ways to quantify a woman’s sexual fires, MRI is the least intrusive, in that nothing need be inserted, suction-cupped, or otherwise affixed. This is sexological measurement at its most demure. Cole lies on her back with a radio frequency coil laid lightly, like a heating pad, over her hips. She is given a pillow and a blanket, and the lights are turned down. It’s like first class on a British Air­ways flight to Europe: downright comfortable under the circumstances.

Cole has what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Men­tal Disorders calls female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD): She is regularly in the mood for sex, but her body doesn’t respond to the preliminaries. To be more precise, it doesn’t respond the way she’d like it to. If it wasn’t a problem in Cole’s eyes, it wouldn’t be a problem in the eyes of the DSM. Part of the diagnosis is that the condition causes “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.”

FSAD is the ladies’ edition of ED (erectile dysfunc­tion). It is distinct from FOD (female orgasmic disorder) and HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or low libido).[63] Confusingly, there is also female sexual dysfunc­tion, or FSD, but this is simply the catch-all term for any­one who has one—or a combination—of these conditions. Lack of desire (HSDD) is the most common of women’s sexual complaints, and we will get to this later. (Monkeys will be involved. Do not change the channel.)

Female sexual arousal disorder is the least common. Women with FSAD and nothing but FSAD are difficult to find. The coordinator of tonight’s study, Joanna Haug, had to interview 140 women to find the volunteers who com­prise the study’s subject group. Unexpectedly, Haug finds many of her subjects by running ads in the sports section of the Seattle Times. “I used to run them in the food section,” she says, “but I kept hearing women tell me they heard about the study from their husband.” Men are often more troubled by their wife’s sexual responses, or lack thereof, than are the women themselves.

Cole is not a stereotypical “nonresponder.” She is not conservative or inhibited. She is the opposite of these things. When I came in, she was chatting with Haug about the best Seattle sex shops. A friend of hers teaches a bondage safety class sponsored by a local police department. “People kept getting hurt,” she is saying. “I guess it was monopolizing too much of the officers’ time.” If a woman like Cole is having trouble getting aroused, it seems reasonable to look for a physiological explanation.

Haug sits beside Maravilla in the MRI control room, which is actually labeled “Control Room,” just like in a James Bond movie. She is a likable, no-nonsense English­woman in pinstripe pants and a ponytail. At Maravilla’s signal, she presses a button to activate a conveyor that will move Cole into the MRI machine. The conveyor carries her toward the magnet feet-first and cinematically slowly.[64] James Bond inching toward the spinning saw blade.

Haug selected the sexually explicit clips for the study. I ask her where she got them, thinking, I don’t know, that there’s a supply catalog of explicit video clips produced spe­cially for sex researchers. Haug blinks at me. “Sex shop.” Joanna Haug has more interesting business receipts than the rest of us.

Maravilla centers an image of Cole’s clitoris on the screen. The image bears no resemblance to the vague nub one generally pictures. This is because we’re looking at the whole organ, not just the one-tenth of it that is visible to the eye. Maravilla takes me on an underground tour. “Here

are the crura,” he says, pointing to a pair of matched arms that branch away from the tip like halves of a wishbone. “And this is the glans,” he says, as though Cole has a penis. In a sense, she has. Time out for a short primer.

I

can recall, many years ago, being told that a clitoris[65] is a vestigial penis. The feminist in me, who is small and sleeps a lot but can be scrappy when provoked, took umbrage at this description. I resented the implication that men have the real deal, while women make do with a sort of miniaturized, wannabe rendition.

But it is true. Male and female fetuses both begin life with something closer to a clitoris. The male’s expands into a penis, while the female’s remains more or less as is.

Even in their adult forms, the two organs have much in common. The clitoris, like the penis, ends in a sensi­tive, nerve-dense, pleasure-yielding bulb of tissue called a glans. Like the penis, the clitoris has a shaft, and that shaft contains a pair of expandable chambers called corpora cav­ernosa. It also has a prepuce, or foreskin, just like the penis does, and if you draw it back you may, just as with the penis, discover a wee cache of smegma. Robert Latou Dickinson, a pioneer in the field of female smegma, described it in his Atlas of Human Sex Anatomy as “tiny, hard pellets, white and glistening.” The text includes a thumbnail illustration of three such pellets, placed alongside a clitoris, for scale. The drawing is dated 1928 and labeled, in Dickinson’s neat, boyish calligraphy, “Smegma.”

And yes, a clitoris expands when its owner is aroused— though not as quickly or extravagantly as does a penis. Mas­ters and Johnson filmed dozens upon dozens of clitoral erections: Responses to vibrators, to fingertips, to “stimula­tive literature,” to intercourse. (Filming the clitoris during a missionary position coupling was of course problematic, as the male missionary is in the way. In this case, the artifi­cial coition machine was called in to pinch-hit.)

Masters and Johnson focused on the glans—the touchy little bean that is the visible portion of the clitoris. The pair found that although the glans occasionally gets much big­ger, expanding to as much as twice its normal size, fewer than half the clitorises enlarged to a degree that could be detected by the unaided eye.

MRI tells a different story. Maravilla’s work has shown that when you factor in the blood volume of its hidden portions, the aroused clitoris routinely doubles in size.[66]

Given the anatomical parallels between penises and cli­torises, it might seem reasonable to think of women’s arousal problems, like men’s, as a blood-flow issue. Indeed, if you look in the sexual medicine journals, you will find papers on clitoral priapism, nocturnal clitoral erections,[67] and, yes, “clitoral erectile insufficiency” The team of researchers who coined this term are, unsurprisingly, urologists. They theorized that when older women have trouble getting aroused, the culprit might be—as it sometimes is in older men—clogged arteries. To test their theory, they induced atherosclerosis in a small group of female rabbits and then compared their vaginal and clitoral blood flow before and afterward. As theorized, the animals with the atherosclero­sis had a lukewarm response when the researchers stimu­lated their bunny rabbit genitals.

Подпись: bonkAlong these same lines, exercise has been shown to

Chemical analyses of female “ejaculate” have differed. Two labs con­cluded the samples were the same as urine; four found significant dif­ferences. At least one reported the presence of PAP, an enzyme found in the prostatic component of semen. It is true that women have a vestigial prostate, a scattering of ducts and glandular material surrounding the urethra, in the G-spot vicinity on the vagina’s front wall. It’s possible some women expel urine, others a prostatic fluid, and some a mixture. The debate drags on.

improve a woman’s ability to get aroused. Which makes sense: Exercise makes the body more efficient at pump­ing blood. “So when you get into a sexual situation,” says Cindy Meston, who ran the study, “the response is both quicker and more intense.” (Though it’s also possible, Meston allows, that women in better shape simply feel less self-conscious. With less attention devoted to worrying about what their body looks like, there’s more to apply to the sensations of arousal.)

If clitoral erectile insufficiency is for real, then you might imagine that the same remedies that work for erec­tile dysfunction in men might work for women (and, heck, rabbits). And you would not be alone. In the wake of Viagra’s monster success in treating ED, Pfizer turned its gaze to women. Partnering with urologists and sex research­ers around the country, the pharmaceutical behemoth com­menced a massive research venture to see whether genital blood flow was as critical to women’s sexual well-being as it is to men’s. Or, on a cruder level, to see ifViagra could be marketed to the other half of the planet.

Eight years and 3,000 subjects later, the answer appeared to be no. Viagra did in fact increase blood volume in the nethers, but most women seemed not to notice it. The researchers confirmed what most of them suspected all along: that women’s arousal, much more so than men’s, rests in the psychological as well as the physiological. And that is why a visit to Cindy Meston’s Female Sexual Psy­chophysiology Laboratory will be coming up.

Before we get there, I feel I must address the female penis pump: as of this writing, the only Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for female sexual arousal disorder.

The Eros Clitoral Therapy Device is its formal name. Available by prescription, it consists of a small motor inside a plastic housing the size of a bar of soap. Attached to this is a clear flexible cup that fits over the clitoris. Switch on the motor, and you have a handheld suction device. The idea behind a male penis pump is, of course, to pull blood into a limp penis (and keep it there by means of a stretch­able band placed around the organ’s base). You are making it stiff enough for sex. To get inside a lubricated vagina, a penis needs to be hard enough to push against the opening with one to two pounds of force.[68] That is approximately the amount of force required to open a swinging kitchen door. A woman does not need to penetrate anything with her cli­toris, any more than a man needs to open kitchen doors with his penis. So why would she use a clitoris pump?

My apologies in advance, but this was something that begged checking into.

The Lady’s Boner