Annals of Junk Science: G-Spotting
On April 25, the online edition of the Journal of Sexual Medicine ran an article by cosmetic gynecologist Adam Ostrzenski, MD, who reported that he had teased a “blue grape-like” sac out of a dead woman’s vagina. This was proof, he claimed, of the “anatomic existence” of the G-spot, the elusive (but much-heralded) erotogenic area that can be stimulated through the vaginal wall.
Naturally, Ostrzenski’s finding sparked a firestorm of media coverage. “Breaking News: G-spot Finally Discovered,” announced MensHealth.com; “Yes, You Have a G-spot,” crowed Cosmo. In the wake of his discovery, Ostrzenski has appeared on The View, Geraldo, and so many other programs that he’s now lost count.
“It is a very small, tiny structure, but it made a tremendous amount of noise,” remarked Ostrzenski.
But amid the noise, there was very little actual information. Sadly, more than 60 years after German gynecologist Ernst Gräfenberg spoke of a periurethral structure that could be the source of erotic pleasure for women, we still don’t know a whole lot about it.
“It feels like every few months a new study comes out saying the G-spot exists, it doesn’t exist, it does exist…and none of them are very good studies,” says Tristan Taormino, sex educator and author of The Secrets of Great G-spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation. “Overmedicalization doesn’t help women figure out what they like, how to [orgasm], or how their bodies work.”
Other sexuality experts are equally unimpressed with Ostrzenski’s find. Beverly Whipple, PhD, coauthor of the now-classic The G-Spot, says the G-spot is not a single structure—making Ostrzenski’s claim categorically false. “When [coauthor] Dr. [John D.] Perry and I rediscovered and named the G-spot, we stated that it was not just one anatomical area,” she said. “It says to me that Ostrzenski doesn’t read the literature and doesn’t know what the G-spot is.”
Furthermore, Whipple and others point out that whatever Ostrzenski did find, he found it in only one woman and did no histological testing to determine what type of tissue he had found—or even whether it was normal tissue, rather than evidence of disease or injury.
Another serious but amusing flaw in Ostrzenski’s research is his misunderstanding of the very science he uses to back up his claim. In discussing his findings, he notes the “G-spot gene” has been identified. Except, as pointed out by geneticist Ricki Lewis, PhD, author of the recently published book The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It, “A gene doesn’t specify body parts—it’s pretty basic genetics.” In a guest post for Scientific American’s blog, Lewis further explained that the “G-spot gene” Ostrzenski referred to in his paper had nothing at all to do with female anatomy or tsunami-strength orgasms, but rather was the focus of a technical paper about gene sequencing and, specifically, chains of dna with four guanines in a row—shorthanded by geneticists as G-G-G-G, or “G-spot.” This seems to be the only part of the paper that Ostrzenski read when his literature search pulled it up. “The alternate definition was right there in the article’s abstract. Ostrzenski clearly read only the title,” Lewis said. Apparently the Journal of Sexual Medicine’s editor and peer reviewers also didn’t bother to dig any deeper.
Despite the criticism of his work—which he deems unconstructive—Ostrzenski is sparing no expense and no effort to find further anatomical evidence of the G-spot. Though he would not disclose details of his unpublished findings, he did suggest that he was able to fish the structure out of more cadavers and perform the histological analyses to support his belief that the tissue was not just an anatomical anomaly but the real deal.
Whatever the final word on Ostrzenski’s findings, he revealed something much more profound than whether the G-spot exists as a discrete anatomical structure: He proved that probing corpses in an effort to define the structure and anatomy of female pleasure is no more fruitful than linguists parsing a punch line to quantify humor.
Taormino voices the prevailing opinion of feminists and sexuality educators looking on in dismay: “Why are we not listening to women’s own experiences?” she asks. “There are so many men involved in debating the G-spot—I just want to tell them to shut the fuck up. A study of one cadaver does nothing to educate women about how their bodies work and what feels good to them.”
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