I don’t search, I find,” the painter Pablo Picasso once said in another context. In the context of this article—the mysterious G-spot—many can say the opposite: “I search, but I don’t find.” Ever since the German gynecologist Ernst Grafenberg first reported, “an erotic zone…on the anterior wall of the vagina along the course of the urethra” that can be stimulated to produce powerful orgasms, dozens of scientific studies, and countless curious lovers, have attempted to verify its existence and discern its secrets.Grafenberg’s original 1950 article (he was writing in New York where he had traveled to escape the Nazis) dealt in part with the findings—still true today—that most women do not reach orgasm from intercourse alone. Many researchers at the time, including Alfred Kinsey, claimed the vagina does not play a crucial role in orgasm, because it is not particularly sensitive to sexual stimulation. Grafenberg, however, contended that all women have a distinct area inside the vagina that can be reliably stimulated to produce orgasm. He reported that when stimulated digitally, that area swells into the vaginal cavity, “as if the erotogenic part of the anterior vaginal wall tried to bring itself in closest contact with the finger.” The brand name ‘G-spot’ was assigned to that area only in the 1980s, long after Grafenberg’s death, in a book called, The G Spot: And Other Discoveries about Human Sexuality, which became an international bestseller and ignited in earnest the ongoing G-spot frenzy.
Grafenberg, vagina visionary
In recent years, a consensus has emerged that, at least in terms of the internal anatomy of the vagina, the G-spot probably does not exist. Anatomical and physiological tests have failed to find any location on the upper wall of the vagina with clear and specific anatomical boundaries and neurological features, such as high concentration of nerve endings. Attempts to find a genetic basis for this phenomenon have also proved unsuccessful. Recently, British researchers analyzing a large survey of twins on the issue concluded that, “there is no physiological or physical basis for the G-spot.”
In January, a team of researchers led by Amichai Kilchevsky from Yale University and Yoram Vardi from Rambam Hospital in Israel published a careful examination of 29 studies, dating back to the fifties, on the topic of the G-spot. Their conclusion: “Objective measures have failed to provide strong and consistent evidence for the existence of an anatomical site that could be related to the famed G-spot.”
Such conclusions raise the possibility that the G-spot is at heart a psychosocial construct. The British researchers have found that women who reported having a G-spot tended to be more extroverted, sexually open, excitable, and active. Perhaps sexually open, excitable and orgasmic women are prone to mislabel their general, overall heightened sexual responsiveness as a specific G-spot reaction.
These conclusions also raise the possibility that the G-spot is essentially a placebo effect. It is by now well established that emotional expectation (especially if it is grounded in a broad social consciousness) can produce physiological responses. The body and mind are one integrated system, and human beings have a spectacular ability to transform ghost into matter. Writ small, thoughts of tomorrow’s meeting with your foul boss can give you diarrhea. Writ large, those who believe in God may experience real physiological distress upon breaking one of His laws, sometimes resulting in actual death, as shown by Walter Cannon early studies of ‘Voodoo death.’ The placebo effect is real, and its effects on human experience can be far-reaching. Maybe the G-spot is located in women’s heads.
You find mine and I’ll find yours
Maybe. But probably not. With all due respect to sex researchers, even British ones, the living human matter is as complex as the living human mind, and it does not always lend itself easily to precise scientific mapping. Therefore, it is not advisable for scientists—or for thoughtful people in general—to dismiss the accounts and experiences of ordinary women in their everyday sexual lives. Many otherwise sane, sound, and savvy women, it turns out, have been reporting over the years about the existence of a concrete intra-vaginal location, the stimulation of which produces experientially distinctive orgasms. Kilchevsky and his colleagues are aware of this point, and note in their conclusions: “However, reliable reports and anecdotal testimonials of the existence of a highly sensitive area in the distal anterior vaginal wall raise the question of whether enough investigative modalities have been implemented in the search of the G-spot.” In other words, we may not have been looking hard enough.
Moreover, by searching solely inside the vagina, and the mind, we may have been looking in the wrong places. While accessed from within the vagina, the actual G-spot may be located outside of it, and related to extra-vaginal structures. One possible culprit in this context is the urethra itself, which appears to be surrounded by erectile, touch- sensitive tissue. Grafenberg aluded to this possibility noting that, when stimulated by hand, women, “always knew when the finger slipped from the urethra by the impairment of their sexual stimulation.”
Another possible source of G-spot sensitivity are Skene’s glands—a pair of nodes whose existence was known in the seventeenth century, located beside the female urethral opening. Many women, for example, report that the G-orgasms are often accompanied by ejaculation—the emission of fluid from the urethra. Grafenberg himself recognized the phenomenon of female ejaculation, found that the liquid was not urine, and speculated that it was a product of the intraurethral (Skene’s) glands, attached to the urethra. Recent studies appear to support the hypothesis. It turns out there is probably a link between Skene’s glands and female ejaculation. Skene’s glands drain into the urethra a few inches in, right above the area of the G-spot. In terms of tissue structure, they are probably the female equivalent of the male prostate gland, and are now thought to elicit the emission of female ejaculate, a fluid that resembles that of the male prostate fluid. Skene’s glands vary dramatically in size from woman to woman, and may not exist at all in some women. If they are responsible for the G-area sensitivity and female ejaculation, this variation may help explain why many women do not experience the G-spot orgasm.
“Yes, yes, I’m coming hither…”
In addition, recent revelations about the clitoris suggest that this unique organ (the only organ in our anatomy with no known function other than to please), which is known to factor heavily in female arousal and orgasm, is actually like an iceberg, visible only at the tip. The whole clitoris actually equals the penis in size, and its tributaries—the clitoral bulbs and roots—surround the vagina and the urethra. A plausible theory is that the clitoris, enveloping the urethra with erectile, stimulation-sensitive tissue, is responsible for the erotic sensitivity of the G-area. G-spot stimulation–usually performed by inserting a finger into the vagina and making the ‘come hither’ gesture scraping against the upper vaginal wall–apparently stimulates the hidden parts of the clitoris.
The anatomy and neurology of the complex area between the upper wall of the vagina and the urethra have not yet been fully mapped, and are, understandably, not easy to study in action. The region hosts a complex intermingling of different nerves related to the urethra, clitoris, and Skene’s glands. These nerv es are wired into different places in the brain. Orgasm due to G-spot stimulation is described frequently by women who have experienced it as different from an orgasm achieved by direct stimulation of the visible clitoris. G-spot stimulation may be different from direct stimulation of the clitoris in that it activates different nerve bundles linked to different brain regions.
The journey is its own reward
Either way, at the end of the day, even if the G-spot does not exist as a concrete physical entity inside the vagina, it exists as a concrete sexual experience in the lives of many women. Such an existence should not be undervalued. After all, God exists in the same way. Perhaps the G-spot is better thought of as process rather than mere content, signifying the journey of sexual discovery, inviting you and your lover(s) to a quest for sensual pleasure; to explore each other using various gestures, and find out what delights you. In the course of such exploration you may find a secret sensitive spot on the vaginal wall—and perhaps, with some patience and luck, also inside the ear, or behind the knee, or in a certain isle at your local grocery store. If so, everybody wins. Rejoice and enjoy. If not, the search itself is likely to enhance your sense of comfort, closeness and intimacy with yourself and your lover(s). Your sex life will most likely benefit in the process. And everybody wins again.
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