Mystery of the G spot explored

It was 1950 when man first stumbled upon the G spot. The discovery was made not in a Hollywood lothario's bedroom – in fact, not between the sheets at all – but in the laboratories of a rather eccentric German scientist.

When Ernst Gräfenberg claimed to have discovered a place in a woman's body that, if reached, could bring untold sexual pleasure, the science world laughed. It was long before the raised hem lines and free-living spirit of the swinging Sixties, and his report fell largely on deaf ears.

Described as "an erotic zone located on the anterior wall of the vagina along the course of the urethra that would swell during sexual stimulation," Gräfenberg said he had found the most important in a series of "erotogenic spots" located all over the body.

The doctor, after whom the G spot is named, was ridiculed for claiming there was an area that could hold the key to the most powerful female orgasm. But now it seems that Gräfenberg's theory may have hit the spot after all. For the first time in history, a group of Italian scientists claim to have found compelling evidence that the G spot exists.

Just as Gräfenberg predicted, researchers at the University of L'Aquila in Italy have located the G spot in the tissue between the urethra and vagina. But there is, they believe, a slight catch.

The Italians found that in some women the area is simply not anatomically equipped for the pinnacle of female pleasure. In short: some women have a G spot. And some women don't.

Using ultrasound, res-earchers scanned nine women who said they could experience vaginal orgasm, and 11 who could not.

They found that those who could had a thicker wall of tissue between the urethra and the vagina: the point where they say the G spot is located.

Dr Emmanuele Jannini, the Italian scientist behind the study, claims that for the first time it is possible to determine by a simple, rapid and inexpensive method if a woman has a G spot.

His study, which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, says that women without this thickened wall of tissue will never be able to orgasm without clitoral stimulation.

The news has caused uproar in the world of gynaecology, where experts have long debated whether it even existed.

According to Dr Tim Spector at St Thomas' Hospital, this nerve-rich area may simply be the internal part of the clitoris, and not distinct from it at all.

"The authors found a thicker vaginal wall near the urethra and hypothesise this may be related to the presence of the controversial G spot", he said.

"However, many other explanations are possible – such as the actual size of the clitoris, which, although not measured in this study – appears highly variable."

Dr Spector is not the first G-spot sceptic. Much of the early research – including Gräfenberg's – was discounted as being too reliant on women's anecdotal accounts. One study in the 1980s was widely criticised for being based entirely on the experience of one woman, who claimed to experience a "deeper" orgasm when that area was stimulated.

It is still unclear how Gräfenberg himself conducted his original research, but judging by the descriptions of his "experiments" they were a little on the haphazard side.

"Even when there was a good response in the entire vagina, this particular area was more easily stimulated by the finger than the other areas of the vagina," wrote the gynaecologist. "Women tested this way always knew when the finger slipped from the urethra by the impairment of their sexual stimulation."

Whatever their methods, it seemed that the followers of the holy grail of female pleasure were having trouble proving this fabled pleasure spot existed.

By 1981, Dr J Jones Stewart said he had categorically proved the G spot was a myth. The gynaecologist said that all evidence pointed to it being a myth, after women who had the supposed G spot area removed reported no loss of sensation.

And now the same contentions regarding the rigour of research methods have returned. When Dr Gräfenberg wrote in 1950 that "although female orgasm has been discussed for many centuries or even thousands of years, the problems of female satisfaction are not yet solved", he could not have predicted that this statement would remain true for so long.

Despite Dr Jannini's latest findings, we are still not much closer to definitive knowledge of female sexual pleasure.

"The solution of the problem would be better furthered, if the sexologists know exactly what they are talking about," said Gräfenberg, but even now, a lack of comprehensive studies of female orgasm mean it is a topic scientists still don't fully understand.

Dr Jannini admits that the numbers surveyed for his study were too small to be comprehensive, and it is not yet clear even what proportion of women have a G spot.

But previous questionnaire-based research suggests it might be a very small proportion, as a recent survey of women revealed that fewer than a third believed they had experienced orgasm during intercourse.

Yet, while many couples across the country will breathe a sigh of relief that the G spot does indeed exist, what does this mean for the women who, according to Dr Jannini, will never be able to experience such heights of sexual pleasure?

Colin Holt, a psychosexual therapist, said that couples should not become too preoccupied with the G spot as the only route to satisfaction. "People could get hung up on the idea they're lacking it, but most women still orgasm through clitoral stimulation," said Mr Holt. "I think people should stop fussing about reaching all these different spots, relax and enjoy sex."

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