Triple O?

I missed Oprah last week when Dr. Laura Berman was on but I was alerted to it when someone asked me a question about the show. I'm very much aware of Dr. Berman. She has a background in social work, health education, sex therapy and psychiatry. She definitely does have knowledge and experience in sexual health, sex counselling and sexual pleasure.

I am little leary of some of the things Laura Berman does though because she's so very much in the media. She got famous through Oprah, who had her on the show many times several years ago, and she has been on countless TV shows, and in many magazines since then. The trouble with that is that talk shows and magazines are usually looking for the simple answers, the boiled down sound bites, the stuff that is easy to understand and easy to digest. Laura Berman is quite happy to provide that. I think it leads to a belief that sexuality is less complex than it really is. Whether she intends to or not, she does end up giving some over-simplified and stereotypical information. This was the case here.

The question I was asked was about Dr. Berman's explanation of the 3 different types of orgasm, and how exactly one can tell the difference between a G-spot and clitoral orgasm. I looked at Oprah's website and read the summary of the show to catch up. Again, I can see the truth in what she's saying but it so over-simplified that it becomes a problem.

The idea of three different types of female orgasm goes back to Sigmund Freud. He claimed there were only two though, because he didn't know about the G-spot. Later, when Grafenberg put forth the idea of the G-spot, we started hearing that there were three different types. Later still, we started hearing that a G-spot orgasm is accompanied by ejaculation.

There are two points that I think are very important for women to understand about this idea of three different orgasms. First, is that it is rooted in Freud's theories and when he came up with the idea, it was very thinly veiled misogyny. His idea was that woman can have an orgasm by clitoral stimulation alone, but this is a less mature, less valid type of orgasm than the vaginal orgasm - which can only be obtained through penetrative sex with a man. The second thing to understand is that this idea is not based on real scientific research but rather on surveys and on opinion. We don't actually know exactly what it is that causes a woman to have an orgasm. It's a complex set of factors including different types of physical and mental stimulation and emotion and environment. Women themselves have a very hard time being accurate about exactly what it was that made them have an orgasm - they might know the activity or the position but they usually cannot tell if they had an orgasm because the clitoris was being stimulated or because the G-spot was or because everything was. Separating it out like that is not really valid, and, I believe, not particularly helpful.

My concern with the idea of three different types of orgasm is that we are saying that one is better than the other. It sets women up to be unhappy with their sex lives and always wondering what they are missing out on, or if they are not good enough because they haven't experienced this or that type of orgasm.

My belief is that there are many different ways to have an orgasm and pretty much every one feels different, but there is no actual delineation of three distinct types. Bear in mind that this is my opinion. This is based on personal experience, years of talking to women about their experiences, and lots of research and study on sexuality.

The clitoris is an amazing organ. We used to believe that it consisted essentially only of the parts we can see externally. Medical study has shown that the clitoris actually has very deep nerve roots that extend from the glans all the way down either side of the labia, ending close to the perineum. It appears also that the clitoral tissue covers a much larger area than what we can see and extends down into the vaginal wall - this is new information that we don't have conclusive evidence of yet. So, based on that information, my belief is that the vast majority of physical sexual pleasure for women comes from either direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoral tissue. It may seem like an orgasm happened just from vaginal penetration but that action was creating stimulation of clitoral tissue. The same with the G-spot. I'm not at all saying that penetration and G-spot stimulation are not pleasurable on their own, I'm just proposing that the clitoris is often involved.

One last point I want to make on this - about ejaculation. It has come to the point now where the idea of female ejaculation has been accepted as a fact but the truth is that we still have no solid understanding of what this actually is. Again, my concern is that women are being told that if they have a G-spot orgasm, they will ejaculate and that this is the ultimate in sexual pleasure. It's just not true. Everyone is different. some women don't even enjoy G-spot stimulation. And ejaculation is not a common experience. Some women report that this has happened to them, and that's valid. But any of the theories on what female ejaculate actually is and where it comes from are exactly that, theories. I prefer a more open view of sexuality that says that there is no one thing to strive for, but rather to explore and enjoy what you find along the way. If you ejaculate, then that's what your body does, and that's wonderful. If you don't, then that's what your body does, and that's wonderful too.

I am also leary of Laura Berman because she has given California Exotics, one of the biggest sex toy manufacturers in the world (possibly the biggest), the right to use her name on a line of toys. While the toys are not the worst in the world, they are certainly not the best. Some of them, like the pelvic exercises and the clitoral pump are things that she endorsed in one of her books (before her toy line came out), so I can see the point behind those. But now the line also includes all kinds of generic sex toys that look the same as other, poor quality Cal Exotics toys, except that they have Laura Berman's name on them.

And here's my other concern about Dr. Laura Berman, she has given her name to a line of toys produced by California Exotic - one of the largest toy makers in the world and notorious for very cheap toys, often knock-offs of better quality toys. I know that I'm a toy snob, but I think that if you actually care about putting a product on the market that supports your belief of what toys should do, and supports your commitment to healthy sexuality, you should do it wholeheartedly and either go to a toy company that produces the best toys, or start your own manufacturing division. My suspicion is that she simply sold her name to Cal Exotics because they asked her to or vice versa.