Monday, January 4, 2010

No G-Spots?! ...Wait, what?

If you have the same taste in blogs that I do (aka you're obsessed with sex), you've probably been inundated with posts about how a new study has proven that G-spots don't exist!
The scientists at King’s College London who carried out the study claim there is no evidence for the existence of the G-spot — supposedly a cluster of internal nerve endings — outside the imagination of women influenced by magazines and sex therapists. They reached their conclusions after a survey of more than 1,800 British women.
Well, I'll be damned. I was fairly certain from personal experience that G-spots do exist, but I can't argue with scientists, can I? They must have carefully inspected all 1,800 of those British women (what a lucky grad student!), right?
In the research, 1,804 British women aged 23-83 answered questionnaires. All were pairs of identical or non-identical twins. Identical twins share all their genes, while non-identical pairs share 50% of theirs. If one identical twin reported having a G-spot, this would make it far more likely that her sister would give the same answer. But no such pattern emerged, suggesting the G-spot is a matter of the woman’s subjective opinion.
And what was that questionnaire? Just a single question:
“Do you believe you have a so called G spot, a small areas the size of a 20p coin on the front wall of your vagina that is sensitive to deep pressure?”
...Alright boys and girls, it's time for a lesson on why this is "Bad Science."

Questionnaires are always a bit subjective and iffy - especially when asking someone about their anatomy. If you ask people how many chambers their heart has, and some say 3, that doesn't mean they're actually missing a chamber. Simply asking people if they have a G-spot doesn't confirm it's existence or lack thereof. I can't believe that this study would rely on opinion rather than medically examining females to see if it is there or not.

The fact that they didn't see any correlation in identical twins just illustrates that personal opinion about the existence of a G-spot is not genetically determined. Their initial logic that genetically identical twins should have identical sexual responses is flawed. Sexual response has a huge environmental component, which the study finds but apparently ignores:
While 56% of women overall claimed to have a G-spot, they tended to be younger and more sexually active.
That makes perfect sense. Finding the G-spot isn't easy. It usually takes a patient partner, sex positions other than missionary, or specialized sex toys - all of which are more likely to be found in younger, sexually active people. What's more likely: that these women are partaking in activities that make them more likely to find their G-spot, or that the majority of women are all delusional about a specific area that causes intense pleasure? I don't know about you, but if I'm going to hallucinate a pleasure button, I'm going to put it somewhere I little easier to reach.

A quote from the researcher also sends up a red flag for me:
Andrea Burri, who led the research, said she was anxious to remove feelings of “inadequacy or underachievement” that might affect women who feared they lacked a G-spot.
Yep, it's always great to go into research with an agenda and preconceived result in mind!

This all may be the result of bad science reporting, which is always a likely cause, since the actual paper is coming out next week. I'll look forward to reading it and seeing if it's also so strident in its claims.

28 comments:

  1. There have been several studies on the physiology of the G-spot, and most of them have turned up nothing. Namely, there's no central collection of nerves in the anterior vaginal wall.

    That doesn't mean there's no G-spot, though! It just means it's not a higher density of nerve endings.

    Chances are, SOMETHING's there. Much like yourself, I, too, speak from personal experience. But. Uh, we have no idea what it is. Which is interesting!

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  2. i thought you might enjoy a C&P'd snippet of an IM convo i had on this earlier...

    me: if a "thing" exists, in a search for it we are de facto discounting anything non physical. period.
    Molly: Ok we KNOW all women have clits right?
    me: do they? i hope so.
    Molly: yes they do
    me: ok. that's good.... See More
    Molly: but you can't just walk a woman into a lab, stimulate her clit, and produce an orgasm.
    me: damn!
    Molly: So why would the G-Spot be any different?
    me: may i try?
    Molly: Yes you may
    me: woot.
    Molly: Let's get you some NSF funding.
    me: some NSFW funding.

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  3. Regarding the preconceived results: It's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you're willing to thoroughly test all possible results. This just sounds like bias.

    And like most things in sex research, I'm sure the job description of that lucky researcher sounds better than the reality.

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  4. Is it bad science or bad science reporting?

    I can see why scientists would send out these questionares.

    It's possible that women might have g-spots that are more pronounced than others. If this is the case, there should be a higher correlation in the identical twin answers (both twins are likely to find it or not, depending on their bodies).

    If not, then finding a g-spot is probably the result of sex-education, and chance with partners. In this case, fraternal and identical twins (having similar educational enviroments) would have similar correlations.

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  5. I wonder how much of the misleading article is bad/lazy reporting (unfortunately very common) or lazy scientists.
    If I make a survey I doubt many people will say they have a spleen since they have no idea how to find it, does that mean that humans have no spleens?

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  6. But isn't it true that there is no other large concentration of nerve endings, like the cluster that is found in the clit?

    I don't believe in G-spots, I think its just a failed theory that tries to explain BIG, HUGE ORGASMS. :)

    And don't tell me I'm just saying this because I haven't experienced some man's mad skills! That's a tired old line ;) I'm more than content ;)

    This is just a shitty vid, but the audacity of those bastards! lol

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh8DUZkhsY4

    'Reverse brain erasing? Now that's just science fiction.'

    'Kind of like the female orgasm.'

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  7. Xuxana,

    It is true that multiple biopsies have shown no large concentration of nerve endings. It's possible that stimulating the G-spot is really just indirectly stimulating the clitoris, which extends far inside the body. If this is true, I still don't think you can say "Aha, there is no G-spot!" To me, it would still define an area that, when stimulated in some women, provides a lot of pleasure.

    There's definitely a lot of debate about the issue of the G-spot...I just think this research and/or the articles about it are doing a spectacularly bad job.

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  8. All you have to do to get to the truth is perform an equally scientific internet poll of your female readers.

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  9. Charity: I'm afraid PZ Myers would still manage to win that poll somehow

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  10. Maybe the G-spot is more a psychological thing then. Because some doctor named very large orgasms as a G-spot, some women picked up on that and thought, yes it must be true!

    I guess there's no harm in believing in a G-spot, if it encourages a bit of fun, eh? ;)

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  11. Re:PZ winning, that is too funny!

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  12. Interesting, http://www.drpetra.co.uk/blog/, who I have a lot of respect for, seems to have much the same analysis with a more tempered opinion.

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  13. NiroZ: Psshhhhh, tempered? What's the fun in that? ;)

    Thanks for the link though - now I have a new blog to read!

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  14. If we are going to have a discussion about the G-spot, we should also throw in female ejaculation. I imagine that Xuxana would like to discount that as well.

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  15. The science in the report may very well be bad, but it is certainly no worse than the statement:

    I was fairly certain from personal experience that G-spots do exist, but I can't argue with scientists, can I?

    Anecdotal evidence based on subjective experience? Really?

    A doctor says the G-spot exists and many women agree based on personal experience - but there's not really any reliable evidence other than anecdotal - and suddenly any time someone suggests the G-spot doesn't exist they must be wrong and the science must be bad (although it looks from my brief research that it doesn't differ in method to many studies done that claim to show the existence of the G-spot), because after all many women have personal experience of what has come to be known as the G-spot. Confirmation bias?

    I'm curious because I genuinely don't know - what was the science behind the 'discovery' of the G-spot - how rigorous and controlled was it?

    Their initial logic that genetically identical twins should have identical sexual responses is flawed.

    Are you sure that is what they meant? I took that to mean that identical twins are more likely to share the physical characteristic of a G-spot if it is a part of the body rather than psychological? That is, genes don't determine sexual response obviously, but do determine eye colour or the physical existence of a G-spot in the body.

    Yep, it's always great to go into research with an agenda and preconceived result in mind!

    And you didn't approach this study with any preconcieved results in mind?

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  16. Jimmy, you make good point about confirmation bias. Let me think about that and go read up on more of the research.

    As for the genetically identical part, what you said is what the researchers were going for. But in order to test that they would have had to done some sort of physiological test - look for anatomical cues, actuallly measure response in a laboratory, ask more than a single question about their experience with the "G-spot," etc. What I'm saying is that they didn't use the right tests to answer their question.

    And as for the last bit, it's one thing to have a prediction in mind. But from what the researcher was quotes as saying, it seemed like she had more of a political agenda, not a view based on science.

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  17. @Jimmy

    I think we might understand anecdotal evidence differently.

    If someone says, "no economics students like sugar in their tea," and I reply with, "I'm a grad student in economics, and I like sugar in my tea," then that seems to be evidence in the normal sense.

    And, in this case, I'm quite comfortable with dismissing any research that claims to strictly disprove the existence of tea-loving economists.

    Anecdotal evidence, to me, applies more to statistical claims. If someone says, "Most economists take their tea plain," and I respond with, "You're wrong, my economist friend likes sugar!" then that's anecdotal evidence.

    The problem is that my sample is likely not representative, and probably not large enough to speak about the population with much certainty.

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  18. This is not BAD science as it is only a starting point. As stated questionaires should always be suspect. The real test should be to get a woman sexually aroused while cat scanning. Then do the cat scan while exploring various areas to see where the biggest 'hit' occurs.... G SPOT!!
    Ya! I'm a dirty old man but I will not add the slimey suggestion this experiment suggests.

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  19. Jen:

    I take your point that the researchers should have done a physical exam - it's a flaw in their methodology certainly - my wider point however is that people seem happy to accept other people's words and not a physical exam when they say it does exist, but not when they say it doesn't. Suddenly when someone says the G-Spot doesn't exist they need to do a physical exam first.

    I have written a more detailed response to your post on my blog, if you're interested - I hate Blogger's comment limit.

    Richard H:

    I am using the term 'anecdotal evidence' in this sense.

    Your examples are not really comparing like with like from my point of view, and that makes them appear more dissimilar than they are - but they are both examples of anecdotal evidence in the strictest sense.

    To me, your saying that you like sugar in your tea is no different to you saying you have a friend who likes sugar - neither can be used as evidence that there are economists who like sugar in their tea until I can test it for myself or see it tested. Internally your preference is evidence for yourself - but it is anecdotal for everyone else.

    Here, people claiming the G-Spot exists based on their own experience of what they have been told is the G-Spot is definitely anecdotal evidence - it does not show one way or another that the G-Spot exists but is being used to support the claim that it does. People's experience is merely the starting point.

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  20. @Jimmy:

    Then I think you misunderstand the problem with anecdotal evidence. A case study can be sufficient to establish the existence of a thing.

    Internally, my preference goes beyond evidence. It is an absolute proof. Externally, my claims about my preference are evidence. The only way that they aren't going to be sufficient evidence to prove my claim (I am an economics student who likes sugared tea) is if people question my honesty, or my competence at evaluating private information.

    In this case, I'd have no reason to lie, and have knowledge of my own tastes. So, someone arguing that NO economist likes sugared tea is probably wrong. (And, from my perspective, I can say that they're wrong, with absolute certainty)

    If the person were arguing, "Most economists dislike sugared tea," then mentioning my personal experience starts to become an irrelevant anecdote. I'm qualified to know my own preference. I'm not necessarily aware of the preferences of most people in my field.

    ---
    As to your blog post, it all comes down to the ease of disproving a negative. I only need to establish a single example. If /my/ private knowledge does that, then /I/ can be certain that anyone claiming the negative is wrong.

    Since I'm some random person on the internet, I might not be able to convince you of anything.

    However, you saying that /Jen/ is irrational for believing in the existence of something for which /Jen/ (presumably) has direct physical evidence. This is silly.

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  21. It really depends what one means by a g-spot I imagine. If one means a physiological organism, then this study doesn't really possess the ability to disprove it. Its method to do so would be to claim a genetic link, but as the op says, these twins may not have the same beliefs. Sadly the paper is not pubically available, even on university access, as far as I can tell.

    If its purely psychological, then what does it matter? If 56% of women believe they possess a g-spot, and some of them at least, report the ability to experience orgasm from a consistent spot, does it matter if that has a true physiological link or not? It seems rich to claim that the g-spot does not exist at all with even one anecdote of a woman enjoying such an orgasm, let alone 56%!

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  22. Sorry Richard, but you missed my point completely.

    A case study can be sufficient to establish the existence of a thing.

    No, it is sufficient to establish the possible existence of something in science - it is the starting point.

    Internally, my preference goes beyond evidence. It is an absolute proof.

    To you and only you - to everyone else your stated preference is anecdotal evidence.

    Externally, my claims about my preference are evidence.

    Yes, anecdotal evidence.

    The only way that they aren't going to be sufficient evidence to prove my claim (I am an economics student who likes sugared tea) is if people question my honesty, or my competence at evaluating private information.

    And these are the exact reasons that anecdotal evidence are not accepted in science as supporting evidence - you might by lying, you might be mistaken, you might be delusional, you might not know what sugar is - there are a great many possibilities that mean your stated preference should only be taken as the starting point.

    In this case, I'd have no reason to lie, and have knowledge of my own tastes.

    Maybe, maybe not. You are ignoring basic science principles - science is set up to rule out such subjective elements - which is why anecdotal evidence is not sufficient supporting evidence in science.

    So, someone arguing that NO economist likes sugared tea is probably wrong.

    Probably, but taking your word for it is not good enough in science.

    I'm qualified to know my own preference. I'm not necessarily aware of the preferences of most people in my field.

    Yes you are, but I and everyone else are not - so your stated preference is anecdotal evidence to us for the claim that no economist likes sugar in their tea.

    If /my/ private knowledge does that, then /I/ can be certain that anyone claiming the negative is wrong.

    If you are of the opinion that you are not susceptible to any of a large number of cognitive or psychological fallacies and flaws - the ones the scientific method is set up to rule out. You're basically arguing that scientific evidence is relative to the observer.

    However, you saying that /Jen/ is irrational for believing in the existence of something for which /Jen/ (presumably) has direct physical evidence. This is silly.

    I said nothing of the sort - I said Jen's reasons for dismissing this study were not good examples of critical thinking - I do not think Jen is irrational at all and never said so. However, I do accept that the human mind is fallible and in science we take all possible steps to reduce the effects of this.

    The human mind can be tricked, fooled, suggested to, decieved and manipulated - Jen's own personal experience proves nothing other than that she may have had some kind of experience which people attribute to the G-Spot. If you can't understand this and the necessity for ruling out purely subjective experiences then we are not going to agree on anything - in particular because Jen herself pointed out the problem with subjective experience but then discounts this when using her own subjective experience as evidence.

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  23. Speaking of which:

    http://xkcd.com/685/

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  24. I missed this yesterday:

    Mr K:

    It seems rich to claim that the g-spot does not exist at all with even one anecdote of a woman enjoying such an orgasm, let alone 56%!

    Presumably you feel the same way about faith healing? Qi? The efficacy of acupuncture, homeopathy and Reiki? I could go on if you want me to?

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  25. Its not really the same though- those claim medical benefits which can be attributed to regression to the mean or the placebo effect. The latter is a real thing, and useful for certain conditions. We are talking about a woman claiming to reach orgasm by having a certain area stimulated. I don't see how easily that can be fooled- I suppose some might only think that area is being stimulated, while the sexual activity is also stimulating some other area? Even if the g-spot is utterly psychological and created by cultural belief, if people are able to experience intense orgasm by stimulation of that area then it might as well be real for them. It does nothing, as I say, to prove it physically, and I don't claim that.

    The difference between the g-spot and homeopathic remedies for illnesses is that its easily replicatable. If a woman can consistently get orgasms from stimulating the area where the g-spot would be, thats an effect. A lot of the conditions supposedly cured by alternative remedies do not recur in the same individual. That said, if someone consistently defeats back pain by having acupuncture then I would argue that treatment works for them, even if there is no sensible physical effect.

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  26. Don't worry! As usual religion can help you!

    http://www.wulffmorgenthaler.com/default.aspx?id=174b6e38-b87e-4e90-b005-97980afb94ec

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  27. No g-spot yea its all a myth.I can't believe how stupid people are that actually believed it.But its not there fault really. They were brainwashed by the magazines like cosmo and book internet articles that are not factual.In reality the g-spot weather it be female or male is only a theory and it DOES NOT have sceintific basis.It was invented by a foolish sexologist Beverly Whipple in 1981. Masters and Johnson were the only scientists to ever prove what are sexual anatomy actually does.They used a device that measured the sexual response in women and men and proved that all orgasms are caused by the penis and clitoris which are the erectile organs.This is the scientific basis for human orgasm. The penis and clitoris are after all made of thousands of nerve endings. The stuctures are basically the SAME!Read Masters and Johnsons textbooks its real science.

    http://www.answers.com/topic/masters-and-johnson

    Grafenberg suggests no evidence for a g-spot in his article
    http://doctorg.com/Grafenberg.htm.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/NewSexology

    Blag hag read the entire article word for word its not sceintific at all. Grafenbergs article is supposed to be evidence for a g-spot where it all started? lol Thats what they claim. Grafenberg doesn't report an orgasm of the vagina or internal glands (skene glands) in his article.Which are supposed to be the G-spot claims Beverly Whipple.He mentions various erotic zones his female patients had like the breasts,anus,even ears. Beverly Whipple took one erotic zone he mentions the upper vaginal wall near the skenes glands and ignored the rest of his article. Bad Bad Bad.
    Sexuality is just as much in the mind as it is in the body so the g-spot is more of a mental thing because there is no anatomical or scientific evidence for it You like what you like some women like vaginal sex some like anal sex some only like oral sex it all depends on what turns you on we all different.Don't let them tell you where your spots are!I ignore it. Sexuality is not a mystery from an anatomical and scientific point of view the penis and clitoris are where all the activity is. But mentally its very diverse.
    Sexuality would be so much better if sexologists just let the g-spot theory die and move on.

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  28. Strikes me that both sides of this debate are talking clean past one another.

    I suspect there is a G-spot, but it isn't an anatomic feature.

    Its a bit like Jesus: http://irrco.org/?p=38

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