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Are we the only species with females that experience orgasm? ©iStock

Are we the only species with females that experience orgasm?

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If you thought it was taboo talking about orgasms, just imagine how difficult it is to ask an animal...

Asked by: Andrea R, Dublin

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All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing whether sexual pleasure ever actually tips over into orgasm is hard.

Female chimps, macaque monkeys and cows have all been stimulated in the lab to the point of experiencing vaginal and uterine contractions, which does suggest that other female animals are at least capable of orgasm. Whether they regularly have them during normal copulation is much less certain; most animal sex is very brief and often quite violent.

Beyond mammals, the case for a female orgasm is more tenuous. Reptiles have penetrative sex and presumably would benefit from orgasms just as much as mammals, but I don't think anyone has ever tried to detect the female orgasm in a crocodile or a snake. Most other vertebrates use external fertilisation; the female deposits her eggs and the male squirts them with sperm. It's hard to see how this would trigger an orgasm in even the most excitable female. Those invertebrates that practise internal fertilisation don't have enough of a nervous system for pleasure and orgasm to be meaningful labels.

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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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