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The Anatomy and Physiology of Sex, a Eulogy and other matters

by Allan Rudolf(more info)

listed in anatomy and physiology, originally published in issue 21 - August 1997

What do sex and pain have in common? Each person can answer this in their own way; there are lots of possibilities. For me, they are both subjects on which so much has been written and so little known. I deal with people in physical pain almost every working day and so many of my clients have gone from one practitioner to another seeking help. Too often these people get either no help, temporary help or only partial relief. Most of the practitioners they turn to are competent, sincere therapists but the brutal fact is that our knowledge of pain relief is rudimentary and poor. This is true whether we are talking about allopathic or complementary medicine.

I am currently seeing a client who has been suffering from systemic pain throughout her whole body for the past four years. She has seen at least twenty therapists of every persuasion. Only one person has been able to help her so far – a bonesetter in Ireland. And from him she gets only three or four days of partial relief. She is now looking into the possibility that the pain stems from a bacterial infection in one of her root canals, which can only be tested by removing the possibly offending tooth!

Surprisingly, even today many questions remain about the basic mechanics of sexual intercourse. For example – is the female orgasm a vaginal orgasm or a clitoral one? Freud put forth the idea that for the healthy woman, who can have orgasm during intercourse, the orgasm must be vaginal. Along came Alfred Kinsey who performed experiments. 879 women were gently stroked, by gynaecologists, all over the sexual area with glass, metal or cotton-tipped probes. Most of the women could not even feel the probes inside the vagina and just about all the excitement came from the clitoral stimulation. Master and Johnson reaffirmed that the clitoris is the organ of orgasm. They used prostitutes and an electrically-powered glass phallus. They logged 7,500 orgasms and concluded, as Kinsey did, that all orgasms are clitoral. However, in 1989 a paper was published by an anthropologist who interviewed 300 women in the Sudan who were subjected to clitoridectomy and it turned out that about 90% of them experienced orgasms. To make a long, inconclusive story short, subsequently a place in the vagina was discovered, called (for short) the G spot which was claimed to be the orgasm centre, and the Kinsey, Masters and Johnson experiments were flawed because their probes/glass phallus did not reach the G spot.

Not every researcher believes the G spot exists. I cited the search for the source of the female orgasm as one particular example of our lack of basic knowledge when it comes to the anatomy and physiology of sex. When we add on to this the psychology of sex, the picture is even more muddled.

Bookstores are filled with, so it seems, ions of books telling us how to get rid of every type of pain and how to have a most exquisite, Nirvana-like super sex life. The reality is that this plethora of books is a reflection of our ignorance. If little is known, authors can create fairy-tales. However, there is at least one simple, straight-forward book, unfortunately out of print, which does contain valuable, accurate information about improving the quality of sexual intercourse and is of particular value to body therapists. So I am about to deliver a very brief "eulogy" for another out-of-print book. (See my Column Eulogy For a Book, Positive Health Issue 20).

The book is The Key to Feminine Response in Marriage by Ronald Deutsch (Ballantine Books, New York, 1969). The book details with utmost clarity the pioneering work of Dr Arnold H. Kegel, a leading professor of gynaecology. Dr Kegel showed, or more aptly proved, that the tonus of the muscles of the pelvic floor play a major role in the ability to have an orgasm and also affected the quality of orgasm. He also developed an exercise to strengthen and balance the pelvic floor. There is much more in this book including, but not limited to, superb diagrams of well-functioning and poor-functioning pelvic floors and how the pelvic floor affects women's orgasms. On a more general level, following in the footsteps of Wilhelm Reich but taking a very different pathway, Dr Kegel's work as detailed in the book is a major contribution to how the physical mechanisms of the body intermingle with the psychological.

The book also sheds light on the issue of the vaginal versus the clitoral orgasm. What Kinsey and Masters and Johnson showed with their experiments is that there are no nerve-endings inside the vagina to produce orgasms. What they failed to note and Dr Kegel and his followers proved is that the muscles surrounding the vagina, that is the pelvic floor, contain proprioceptive nerve-endings which can result in a "vaginal" orgasm.

Subsequently, there have been numerous books which discuss the "Kegel Exercises" but none of them go into the simple but exquisite details or have the wonderful set of diagrams that characterised the book of Deutsch.

For the body therapist this book will enrich their understanding of the relationship between the exterior musculature surrounding the pelvis, the interior of the pelvis and appropriate functioning. The therapist will gain a new appreciation of the importance of freeing a frozen pelvis.

And to my mind, everyone has a frozen pelvis, that is, there is always room to free further and balance a pelvis, no matter how free it already is. Personally, I have found that lengthening, softening and balancing the adductor muscles enhances the quality of orgasms in both males and females.

The Key to Feminine Response in Marriage is out of print. It is a book that Dr Ida Rolf considered to be required reading for her students and fortunately Dr Rolf, in her classic book Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures, has reproduced some of the diagrams of Deutsch's book and also has a brief discussion of seminal aspects of the book which are of relevance to body therapists.

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About Allan Rudolf

Allan is a Rolfer and Feldenkrais practitioner and trained with both Dr Rolf and Dr Feldenkrais. He now lives in China and is not contactable.

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