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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pleasure hotspots

"Sex is becoming more important to women because they’re now more open to enjoying pleasure, according to a sexual health researcher."

SEX, sex, and more sex. And still we can’t get enough of it.

It has been a zillion years since the First Sexual Encounter, 58 years since the discovery of the G spot and 26 years since it was named so (not to mention the many books written on the subject), yet sex remains one of mankind’s biggest preoccupations.

Until last February, scientists were still disputing the existence of the G spot! Findings revealed that the elusive spot did exist but not all women had it. Small comfort in that.

“Our studies, including autopsies, show that all women have the G spot, which is also known as the paraurethral gland or Skene’s gland, or female prostrate,” said Dr Beverly Whipple, who was responsible for naming the G spot (or Grafenberg spot), together with former collaborator, psychologist John D. Perry. This was in tribute to Dr Ernst Grafenberg who reported in 1950 that women have an erotic zone that causes orgasm.

“Finding it is hard. And not everyone enjoys the sensation,” she continued.

Whipple, together with American actress/writer/director Angela Shelton was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the launch of Instead Softcup, the latest product in menstrual care and protection. She has two grown children and five grandchildren, and is based in New Jersey. Her husband Jim, is a retired rocket scientist.

Dr Beverly Whipple demonstrates how to use the Instead Softcup with a plastic model of the female anatomy.

Whipple’s résumé is impressive. She has appeared on countless radio and TV programmes, magazines, delivered talks and keynote speeches, and published over 160 research articles and book chapters. A professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Whipple has a masters in nursing and counselling, and a PhD in psychobiology. Whipple is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Hugo Beigel Research Award for research excellence and the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors and Therapists. She has sat on numerous boards, and is currently secretary general of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS). She was named one of the world’s 50 most influential living scientists by New Scientist magazine in 2006.

Since The G Spot was published 26 years ago, the soft-spoken researcher has come up with a number of other books including The Science of Orgasm released in 2006. This book proved the existence of other “hotspots” in the body by exploring how the brain produces orgasms and the biological processes involved. This is based on her belief that there are many ways women can have sexual pleasure, the biggest sexual organ being the brain.

In The Science of Orgasm, Whipple combines her research with those of other researchers to document ground breaking findings: contrary to what doctors say, some women with spinal chord injuries can still climax. She reports that women can climax after stimulation to a number of body areas or from mental imagery alone, and writes on the health benefits of sex. She also touches on how ageing, medication, diseases and hormone changes affect orgasm in both men and women. The book also discusses how orgasms or pressure to the G spot can reduce pain.

“One woman had six orgasms in 24 minutes after not having any for the last two years after her injury. I was crying (tears of joy for her),” she recalled.

It appears that Whipple is intent on ensuring that people, especially women, are able to experience the penultimate gratification. She is currently working on a new book with two other co-authors (one’s Muslim and the other, Jewish; Whipple is Christian), entitled The Orgasm Answer Guide, which gives a fair overview of the subject in a religious context. Have cultures changed and has the world become more open-minded about sex and sexuality? Dr Whipple’s response is surprising.

“In the West, we aren’t really talking about sexuality. There are no sexuality educators in our schools in the United States; you guys are doing a better job here than we are,” she revealed.

How ironic. In fact, simple matters pertaining to sexuality such as menstruation is also rarely mentioned in many parts of the world.

Overcoming inhibition

“A person or community’s view of menstruation is still based on religious, cultural and personal values. In some countries, people are still very inhibited.”

Nonetheless, people are exploring their sexuality at a younger age. “Sex is getting more important to women now because they’re more in touch with themselves and more open. Women are more aware that there are many more ways to sensual pleasure,” Whipple commented. The availability of newfangled surgical procedures such as the Laser Vaginal Lubrica­tion (LVR), Designer Laser Vaginoplasty (DLV) and the patent-pending G-Shot or G-spot amplification pioneered by Dr David Matlock from the United States, are indication of an increase in sexual inclination and awareness. Conversely, Whipple, a firm advocate of sexual gratification, is totally against some of these procedures.

“The G-Shot is atrocious. There have been no double-blind placebo tests done. I do not advocate the procedure until they do proper research on it. The DLV isn’t really necessary, as I believe that each woman’s body is beautiful but if it helps to enhance their sex life, then by all means,” she quipped.

At present, Whipple is collating bio-feedback on women experiencing chronic pain during sexual intercourse, as well as those afflicted with persistent genital arousal disorder. “We’re looking at what’s happening in the brains of these women to see what’s wrong. We’ve just started and the project should conclude in a couple of years,” she said excitedly.

To date, Whipple has visited more than 90 countries just to talk about sex. As interesting and gratifying (pun intended) as her job is, her family hasn’t been supportive from the start.

“I remember my mother telling me, ‘Could you please do something that I can tell my friends about?’ ” she chuckled. “Every time we made some new discovery, I’d share it with my family at the dining table. So much so that my son one day asked if we could talk about anything else but sex!”

Gratifying vocation

Whipple’s interest in sexuality was kindled when a nursing student in the 1970s asked her what a man could do sexually after a heart attack. She realised then that nursing schools didn’t cover sexuality. She eventually quit her job as a nursing school instructor when the board of trustees disallowed her from incorporating sexuality into the nursing school curriculum.

While it is interesting why she switched courses to concentrate on researching human sexuality in the 70s, it is heartwarming to know why she’s continued conducting studies to help women learn more about themselves as sexual and sensual beings – especially since the 66-year-old has been retired since 2001!

“I’ve stayed on because I keep hearing from these women about how I’ve helped them learn and feel better about themselves,” she replied with a smile. “I don’t get any salary for it but I am happy doing it.”

But it’s time to slow down, she admitted.

“I was in Rome and Mexico, and will be going from here to Brussels. I spend about half a year travelling and it’s getting too much,” she said.

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