For the past 30 years, science has told us that women definitely have a G-spot. Glossy magazines the world over have published reams of articles about how best to stimulate the area, defined as a mass of tissue one-third of the way up the front wall in the vagina that can result in powerful orgasms. But now a team of U.K. scientists says the G-spot might not exist, and many publications (like the New York Post, which used the headline “Sexy G-spot a myth“) are accepting this new research as fact. The truth is that scientists have been going back and forth about the G-spot’s existence since the 17th century, arguing about whether some women do have an extra-sensitive area in the vagina and if so, what that area might be be. To date, there is still no definitive proof about any of it.
The new “no G-spot” study was published earlier this month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The data came from 1,804 British women ages 22-83 (average age: 55) who participated in a postal survey. The questionnaire asked them about their sex lives, including frequency and enjoyment of masturbation, intercourse, kissing, and petting. Women were also asked, “Do you believe you have a so-called G-spot, a small area the size of a 20p coin on the front wall of your vagina that is sensitive to deep pressure?” Analysis revealed around half the women reporting orgasms through intercourse did not necessarily report the presence of a G-spot, and those who reported having a G-spot were not necessarily likely to report orgasm via intercourse, though they did report orgasm through other forms of stimulation.
The earliest evidence in favor of the G-spot came in the year 1672, when physician Regnier de Graaf described female ejaculation related to a sensitive area within the vagina, which he compared to the male prostate gland. This view held until the 1950s, when obstetrician Ernst Grafenberg claimed to have identified a specific spot within the vagina that gave intense orgasms when stimulated. Other theories suggested female orgasm came from stimulation of the urethral sponge or Skene’s glands.
In the 1980s, a number of sexologists revisited the G-spot in research, recommending it as a major source of pleasure, with several taking the credit for naming it after Grafenberg. In 1982, sex researcher Beverley Whipple and colleagues produced a best-selling book on the topic, The G-Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality, which prompted a hugely popular self-help market promoting the G-spot and penetrative sex.
Not all scientists agreed, however. Some, like professor Roy Levin at the University of Sheffield, claimed there was simply no physiological evidence for the G-spot’s existence. New discoveries suggested the clitoris is larger than we previously were aware and it might be this that is stimulated, via penetration, to give pleasurable sensations. Many sex educators, like Betty Dodson, expressed concern that all the fixation on the G-spot drew attention away from the clitoris and other erogenous zones.
Since the 1950s, G-spot research has been consistently criticized for relying on small numbers of participants or self-reported surveys with vague measurements. Lesbian and bisexual women were usually excluded, as were women not currently in relationships. These days, advances in ultrasound and thermal imaging mean we are better able to explore the female sex organs. But it’s still difficult to get participants who are generally representative of women to sign up. Funding is also a problem.
The criticism of the latest G-spot study focuses on the researchers’ method. A postal survey is not the most effective means of measuring whether a G-spot exists, particularly given that more than 4,000 women were asked to discuss their sex lives but only 1,084 responded. Sexologists have argued the way the scientists described the G-spot was potentially confusing to participants who may be unfamiliar with terminology about their genitals. The study actually measured whether women thought they had a G-spot based on the researchers’ definition, not whether women truly did have a G-spot.
The criticism of both the studies affirming and refuting the existence of the G-spot has merit. But for women, how much does it matter whether the G-spot exists? While I’m usually keen to advocate that we follow what science has to tell us, in this case the presence or absence of a G-spot has caused confusion and anxiety, and perhaps we might be better served by exploring what feels good.
It’s generally accepted that some women enjoy vaginal stimulation by finger, penis, or sex toy. Just as it’s understood that some women are turned on by clitoral, anal, breast, or other stimulation. We’re often encouraged by women’s magazines and self-help markets to focus on specific areas (G-spots, clitoris, or anal penetration), so we miss the excitement that can be experienced from exploring the whole body and combinations of erogenous zones—for example, enjoying vaginal penetration alongside clitoral stimulation. Rather than arguing over G-spots, perhaps the best thing science can responsibly do is remind women to explore all opportunities for pleasure.
Part of this article originally appeared in a blog post on the author’s Web site.