Human Female Orgasm as Evolved Signal: A Test of Two Hypotheses

Abstract

We present the results of a study designed to empirically test predictions derived from two hypotheses regarding human female orgasm behavior as an evolved communicative trait or signal. One hypothesis tested was the female fidelity hypothesis, which posits that human female orgasm signals a woman’s sexual satisfaction and therefore her likelihood of future fidelity to a partner. The other was sire choice hypothesis, which posits that women’s orgasm behavior signals increased chances of fertilization. To test the two hypotheses of human female orgasm, we administered a questionnaire to 138 females and 121 males who reported that they were currently in a romantic relationship. Key predictions of the female fidelity hypothesis were not supported. In particular, orgasm was not associated with female sexual fidelity nor was orgasm associated with male perceptions of partner sexual fidelity. However, faked orgasm was associated with female sexual infidelity and lower male relationship satisfaction. Overall, results were in greater support of the sire choice signaling hypothesis than the female fidelity hypothesis. Results also suggest that male satisfaction with, investment in, and sexual fidelity to a mate are benefits that favored the selection of orgasmic signaling in ancestral females.

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Correspondence to Ryan M. Ellsworth.

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Ellsworth, R.M., Bailey, D.H. Human Female Orgasm as Evolved Signal: A Test of Two Hypotheses. Arch Sex Behav 42, 1545–1554 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-013-0152-7

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Keywords

  • Female orgasm
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Infidelity