Can I add “Published Authority on the Female Orgasm” to my CV now?

Our rebuttal to claims about the adaptive significance of the female orgasm has been published, as Zietsch & Santtila's study is not evidence against the by-product theory of female orgasm. I blogged about this a while back, and also dealt with some counter-arguments, and Elisabeth Lloyd thought my arguments were strong enough to be incorporated into a letter, so there you go…now I just need a badge or a t-shirt with a proclamation about my expertise on it.

Wallen K, Myers PZ, Lloyd EA (2012) Zietsch & Santtila’s study is not evidence against the by-product theory of female orgasm. Animal Behaviour


  1. smhll says

    Somehow, I think we should make button(s) that say “Ask me what I know about female orgasm!” for wearing on social occasions (like conferences).

  2. eigenperson says

    Can I just mention how ridiculously stupid it is that I have to pay $31.50 to read your letter? (More precisely, I would have had to pay $31.50, if it weren’t for my affiliation with a subscribing university, who undoubtedly had to pay a ridiculous subscription fee and passed the costs on to me.)

    I understand that you didn’t get to choose the journal in which this letter was published, since it had to be in the same journal as the original paper, but seriously, fuck Elsevier.

  3. says

    Please stop writing for Elsevier publications. They seriously are a net drain on science and need to be actively discouraged. The $31.50 to read a frickin’ letter is just the icing on the cake – they’re a bad, bad problem just being themselves.

  4. says

    I know, I despise Elsevier myself. But this was a reply to an article published in Animal Behaviour — the only appropriate place to respond was in the same journal.

  5. coralline says

    Last year, a friend and colleague went missing in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The local rag, the L.A. Monitor, had an online headline about the missing man, but — get this — one had to pay the online subscription fees to see a picture of him. Fuck the L.A. Monitor for that. I’m sure if Elsevier had a “missing persons” section, they’d charge limbs to see it: fuck Elsevier too!

  6. ksen says

    So . . . would these female orgasm t-shirts be handed out along with the “Don’t you dare hug me” buttons?

  7. says

    Look at the fine print of the contract you signed. At the very least, you should be able to post your copy as submitted to your institutional homepage. Finished publishers’ copy and repositories make things more hairy, but there’s usually quite a bit of slack with authors’ versions and/or personal homepages.

  8. scott1328 says

    >Can I add “Published Authority on the Female Orgasm” to my CV now?

    Shouldn’t you ask your wife that?

  9. says

    By all means add it to your CV, PZ. But the only person quaified to judge your actual expertise is The Trophy Wife, whose smile would speak more than a thousand t-shirts.

  10. Ichthyic says


    meh, a letter is good enough with the competition for journal space these days, so sure.


    egads. Please don’t even suggest it; it takes away from the entire concept.

  11. jose says

    You made good counter arguments. The male-centered perspective that ejaculation is the end of it thus limiting the time for female orgasm is absolutely there, and if I had to guess, I’d say it comes from the pornographic depiction of sex biasing his view in that direction, because everybody knows true sex doesn’t usually work as he said.

    I’d like to know more about this though:
    “there had been selection for multiple genetic processes keying on a strong environmental cue, the presence of testosterone … selection has done its job and given us guys a remarkably reliable physiology in that regard.”

    Specifically, about how we know the male orgasm is an adaptation.

  12. callitrichid says

    I’m curious about the process in which they became aware that you would publish your letter, so that their rebuttal to your letter was published in the same issue?

  13. Ichthyic says

    usually, original authors are notified by the journal if the journal is considering publishing a rebuttal to the original article.

    they will give the original authors time to respond before publishing the rebuttal.

  14. ChasCPeterson says

    how we know the male orgasm is an adaptation.

    Too bad we can’t poll your male ancestors.

  15. David Marjanović says

    “orgasmic properties”, heh.
    “a reliable orgasm-generating machine”

    …The response is interesting. However:

    “Participants were asked the following questions regarding orgasm likelihood and time to orgasm.

    Orgasm Likelihood

    (1) How often do you experience orgasm during sexual intercourse with clitoral stimulation (i.e. you or your partner intentionally stimulate your clitoris)?
    (2) How often do you experience orgasm during sexual intercourse without clitoral stimulation (i.e. without intentional stimulation of your clitoris)?”

    How common is unintentional stimulation? I guess this depends on the anatomy?

    “When an analogy is drawn between female orgasm and male nipples, the phenotype of interest shifts from female orgasm (function) to male nipples (structure).”

    Wow, what a misunderstanding. They quoted you correctly just two paragraphs before (boldface mine): “So, we paraphrase: under their operative assumption, namely that shared physiology means shared function, male and female nipple function should be correlated in DZ twins.”

    And then they turn back (italics theirs):

    “Contrary to Wallen et al., selection on female nipple function (i.e. milk delivery) obviously does not maintain this function in male nipples since men’s nipples do not deliver milk (rare exceptions notwithstanding); as such, it is illogical to say (as Wallen et al. do) that we should expect a cross-sex correlation in nipple function.”

    Maybe it does, in precisely those rare exceptions?

    Their quote from Zietsch et al. 2011 (brackets and italics theirs):

    “[Mate choice] explanations do not suggest that female orgasm rate should necessarily be high, but rather that it should reflect the quality of the sexual partner. Thus, the female orgasm is seen as a discriminatory mechanism that encourages repeated intercourse (or increases fertility) with high-value mates and discourages further intercourse (or decreases fertility) with low-value mates. To function optimally as a discriminator, the ‘baseline’ orgasm rate should be moderate (e.g., roughly 50%), shifting higher with high-quality mates and lower with low-quality mates. For single women reflecting on numerous past sexual partners, we would expect to see a roughly normal frequency distribution with a peak somewhere in the middle (e.g., orgasming 40–60% of the time), and very few women never or always having orgasm during sex. Our data for single women with more than five partners show the opposite, with the peaks being near the edges of the distribution and the trough being in the 40–60% cell (see Figure 1A,B) … Overall … our data appear inconsistent with a mate selection function for the female orgasm.

    Doesn’t this assume a circular definition of “high-value mates” being those that are able to trigger orgasm? And why should the baseline be anywhere in particular, “e.g, roughly 50%”? Why should the average mate be of intermediate quality?

  16. David Marjanović says

    …The response is interesting. However:

    Uh, in the quote that follows, my boldface represents a headline in the original.