When it comes to researching orgasms, amateur scientists across the world will no doubt want to conduct their own investigations at home in order to verify any hypotheses that appear in peer-reviewed journals. So get your safety goggles on because a new paper in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology has just provided us all with a new theory to test the robustness of.
Study author Diana Fleischman proposes that orgasms act as a kind of sexual “currency” that helps to reinforce certain mutually beneficial behaviors and relationships.
In a statement, she explains that the basis of her theory resides in the idea that “orgasm and sexual pleasure are intensely fulfilling and when people experience sexual pleasure with another person they start to be rewarded by that person, their form, their smell, their voice etc. Their partner becomes a reward in their own right and ultimately this gives people leverage in relationships.”
This may be at least partially caused by the fact that orgasms cause a massive rush of oxytocin – also known as the “love hormone” – which has been shown to enhance feelings of affection towards others and facilitate bonding.
When a person becomes a reward in their own right, “withholding the reward, by being curt or delivering the silent treatment will be more painful,” which means that refusing to be intimate with a partner becomes an effective form of manipulation.
By the same token, “when it's in our interest, such as making up after a fight, we are rewarding again.”
Such tactical use of orgasms can therefore help to mitigate fights and arguments, ultimately preventing couples from breaking up. From an evolutionary perspective, this may have been vital to the early success of our species, as our ancestors had a higher chance of surviving infancy when they had the protection of their fathers rather than just their mothers.
This effect may be more important for women than for men, as sexual behavior has much higher reproductive costs for females than for males. The fact that women are able to derive such pleasure from sex must serve a purpose, and Fleischman theorizes that female orgasms may help to reinforce feelings of affection towards their partners, making them more likely to stick with them through thick and thin, thereby improving the survival chances of their children.