Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes! In search of the G-spot

The Germans first stumbled on it; the Italians fervently tried to explain it; this month, the Brits poured cold water on it... now, the hot-blooded French have revived it, as only they can. Katy Guest examines the quest for the ultimate erogenous zone

Sacre bleu – as they're all apparently panting over the Channel. Just when you thought it was safe to go back between the sheets, a group of researchers claim that they have found the G-spot – in France.

At last week's gynaecologists' conference in Paris (what is the collective noun for a group of gynaecologists?), organiser Sylvain Mimoun declared that 60 per cent of women have one, and that proper "interaction" with it can make it increasingly "functional". The doctors then couldn't resist thumbing their noses at the British scientists who recently claimed to have proved the non-existence of the G-spot after they studied 1,800 exceptionally patient identical twins.

"The King's College study shows a lack of respect for what women say," sneered a "leading French surgeon", Pierre Foldes.

"The conclusions were completely erroneous because they were based solely on genetic observations. It is clear that in female sexuality there is a variability. It cannot be reduced to a yes or no or an on or off."

Gynaecologist Odile Buisson added: "I don't want to stigmatise at all," before going on to stigmatise the British researchers. "I think the Protestant, liberal, Anglo-Saxon character means you are very pragmatic. There has to be a cause for everything, a gene for everything. It's totalitarian." Ouch.

Recent research at this elusive front line of human knowledge has proved inconclusive, to say the least. In 2008, an Italian researcher, Professor Emmanuele Jannini, claimed to have located the G-spot with ultrasound. His study, involving only 20 women (presumably he couldn't persuade any more to keep still for long enough), suggested that women who claimed to experience vaginal orgasms had a small area of thicker tissue on the front wall of their vaginas, while those who said they didn't, did not. This tissue, he decided, must be the spot.

This would appear to be typical of the geographical whimsy with which the mystical G-spot appears to operate (or not). It was "discovered" in 1944 in Germany by a gynaecologist, Ernst Gräfenberg (not to be confused with the physicist Robert J Van de Graaff, who made his research assistants' hair stand on end in a very different way). In the manner of many great scientific discoveries, nobody knows what Gräfenberg was actually looking for when he happened upon the G-spot, but it turned out to be the thing that made him famous and he gave his name (or at least his initial) to it.

It then got lost for several decades, before turning up again in 1982 in a book by the American sexologist Beverly Whipple: The G-Spot and Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality. Following a lot of argy-bargy in the Sixties and Seventies, which made urology a feminist issue, the Italian research appeared to be conclusive; until it was contradicted by the British research, which was in turn disputed by the French. Women who believe that they have a G-spot often report that it seems to move around a lot. This time, it must have moved to France.

Some British women find it dispiriting to be told about the non-existence of the G-spot; but still more are disappointed to hear all these French women bragging about having them while we, instead, have fluoridisation and proper tea. "Weeth zees long 'olidays we 'ave plenty of time for ze looking," they seem to be saying. "We 'ave it, ze G-spot. It ees 'ere!" Yet others are murmuring that it seems a peculiar preoccupation of (mostly male) research scientists to want to find something that many rational people are certain isn't there. South Americans have El Dorado. The French have their G-spot. We have the Loch Ness monster. Each to his (or her) own.

Even among those fortunate devils who are certain that the G-spot exists, opinion varies wildly on where it is, what it does and how exactly one is supposed to find it. The clinical opinion has it located on the anterior wall of the vagina, between a third and a half of the way up, and about the size of a pea, or a 20p piece, depending on how competitive you are. As a literal stab in the dark, others recommend checking a couple of inches below the belly button. (For those of you who are about to pass this section on to your partner, it will be about two minutes and 20 seconds before she starts measuring two inches from her belly button with her fingers.)

Recent hopes that Apple was about to unveil an electronic device that could do absolutely anything were dashed when it became obvious that the iPad cannot in fact locate the G-spot. Nor can it fit in your handbag, which is another reason why women are disappointed by it. And no, sadly it is not worth entering "G-spot" into your satnav. You will only get a cold, angry voice repeating: "Stop. Turn around. Go back to the beginning. Recalculating ..." And it won't be the satnav. Perhaps the former Cosmopolitan editor Marcelle D'Argy Smith put it best when she wrote: "It was rather like the Barbican in London. You knew people who said they'd found their way there, but you never had." (If you are reading this after your partner has passed it on to you, now you know why he has just boasted that he knows his way to the Barbican.)

Perhaps unexpectedly, given that proponents of the G-spot claim that it gives them explosive orgasms with a certain extra ooh-la-la, not everyone is a fan of the Great Spot. Most of them blame Sigmund Freud (and why not?) for his "groundbreaking" theories regarding "the dark continent" of women's sexuality: clitoral orgasms are "infantile", he argued, whereas the only form of orgasm available to ladies should come from within. This was very easily ridiculed using some basic research on smutty lesbian stump-tail macaques (The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, Elisabeth Lloyd) and the experiences of almost all actual women, but the credence given to Freud's pronouncements was so profound that generations of women despaired they were doing it All Wrong.

Freud's most famous critic must be Shere Hite, whose 1976 Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality aimed to dispel the "myth" of the vaginal orgasm. She criticised Masters and Johnson's ideas that "thrusting" alone should provide enough stimulation for the selfish woman. She pooh-poohed Kinsey's entreaties for ladies to find pleasure in the "plateau". Seventy per cent of women who did not have orgasms through intercourse, she discovered, were able to achieve orgasm easily by masturbation or other direct stimulation of the clitoris. Amazingly, this came as a surprise to women in 1976, and apparently still needs to reiterated today. She recently declared: "Female orgasm is a metaphor for political change. Changing our idea of coitus and 'how it should be performed' is key to changing the larger society." (If your partner now turns to you and whispers seductively, "Hey baby, come over here and let's make a change in larger society," you'll know by now what she's up to.)

Paradoxically, some of the most convincing arguments against the importance of the G-spot are those advanced by true G-spot evangelists, who insist that anybody who hasn't found theirs is a loser who can't really be having proper fun. Such as the biologist Desmond Morris, whose 2004 book The Naked Woman (oh, please!) identified not one but four spots with which we should all be getting to grips: the A, C, G and U-spots. Or the folk behind the Pelvic Toner, who surveyed more than 2,000 women for 2008's "National Orgasm Day".

"The G-spot is not a myth," declared their report, somewhat grandly. "Seventy-five per cent of women claim to have one. And women who don't think they have a G-spot rarely orgasm." Well don't those 25 per cent suckers feel bad now? The report then goes on to admit that "72 per cent of women say they are aware of their G-spot but its location varies significantly... 50 per cent place the G-spot just inside their vagina, while 35 per cent say it's deep inside. The remaining 15 per cent locate it elsewhere!" Where, exactly? The back of the neck? The armpit? The fridge?

Perhaps, given the controversy of the subject and the elusiveness of conclusive answers, the French and the British, the Freudians and the feminists could agree on one thing: it's probably quite good fun looking. G doesn't have to be for groaning, therefore. G could be for go.

The G-spot by numbers

60 percentage of women said to have a G-spot.

1 the number of times women think about sex each day.

90 percentage of women who say they cannot find the G-spot.

£700 cost of "G-spot amplification" treatment. During the process, collagen is injected into the G-spot area to double its size. It only lasts three or four months though.

1-2 apparent size in inches of the errant pleasure centre. Apparently "spot" is a misnomer and it is actually an area on the front wall of the vagina. Fortunately, it is said to increase in size with stimulation.

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