Barbie Not Built for Sexual Pleasure

barbieIf female anatomy has any role to play in a woman’s ability to get sexual satisfaction, the Barbie stereotype of tall slim and big-breasted “spells bad news for men.”

Luckily – as author Mary Roach – relates in Bonk, The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (WW Norton & Company, New York) researchers are still arguing about how much difference female anatomy, in this case the distance between the clitoris and vagina – makes in a woman’s ability to enjoy sex.

It’s a line of inquiry begun by a dissatisfied Princess, the great-grand niece of Napoleon. For a passionate woman with a commanding libido, Princess Marie Bonaparte had a disappointing introduction to marriage. As she wrote in her diary, her husband Prince George of Greece consummated their wedding night relations in “a short brutal; gesture, as if forcing (himself) and apologised. “I hate it as much as you do. But we must do it if we want children.”

Princess Marie was not satisfied – sexually or any other way – and set about a very thorough – you might say obsessive, life long investigation into female sexual pleasure.

She became convinced the reason she could never manage orgasm during intercourse was because her clitoris was three centimetres away from her vagina. The far off placement, she decided, left her frigid, and she went as far as having it surgically moved – with disappointing results.

Rule of Thumb

The scientific paper she published in 1924 catalogued 243 women, measuring them with a ruler and questioning them on their sex lives. The women (21%) with the lengthiest span (longer than 2.5cm or 1 inch) were incapable of “normal voluptuous reactions.” The luckier group – some 69% of the Princess’s sample, had clitorises less than an inch distant and were almost guaranteed a voluptuous reaction from the in-and-out thrust of sex.

The rest – 10% – fell at the 1 inch cut off point and were on the “threshold” – able to enjoy “normal voluptuous reactions” depending on their mood, their husband’s skills etc.

“If the distance is less than your thumb, you are likely to come.”  As Mary Roach says, this catchy anatomical ditty was penned not by Princess Marie, but by Kim Wallen, Emory University professor of behavioural neuroendocrinology, where he researches the physiology of intercourse.  He was sceptical of the Princess’s statistics, but they turned out “to perfectly predict which women would have orgasms in intercourse and which wouldn’t.”

Barbie Bad News

Further research has indicated that shorter women with smaller breasts may have shorter distances – a statistic which “spells bad news for the stereotypical American male. The stereotypical ideal female – Barbie tall with Barbie breasts – is the one least likely to respond to a manly hammering.”

Advises Roach: If you want to measure yourself, remember it is the distance from the clitoris to the urethra and “you can’t even see the real estate without a hand mirror. . . I recommend you do when no one is home.”

Although the stat was originally thought to distinguish the women who were capable of vaginal orgasm, master sex researcher Alfred Kinsey had a more sensible “take” on the topic, says Roach.  While position and stimulation might make a difference, what really mattered was “one’s level of engagement with proceedings” and was not a mere matter of “anatomical relations.”

Kinsey observed that younger women understood “active participation may contribute not only to the satisfaction which the husbands receive, but to their own satisfaction.”

Kim Wallen agrees. His research shows “women who routinely have orgasm in intercourse without clitoral stimulation all say that it makes little difference what the guy does, as long as he doesn’t come too soon. In fact it is sometimes preferred that he just lie there and anchor the woman’s pelvis to his.”

Apparently Princess Marie just never did get it.

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