Yvonne Roberts: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes! Oh, please

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The Independent Online

So, yet again, it comes down to having the right tool for the job. Or does it? I'm talking about the woman who has had a gadget implanted in her back which gives orgasms at the touch of a button. The 48-year-old American, who calls herself "Stimulation Sally", reports that, unusually, she experienced seven orgasms, including her first multiple orgasm, while on holiday with her husband. She explains, "I don't usually start sex but this made me really want it. My husband loved it." (It's unclear why his participation was necessary. Perhaps he was in charge of the button.)

Dr Stuart Meloy, the inventor of the Orgasmatron, made his discovery attempting to control a patient's pain by inserting a wire in her back. The woman cried out ecstatically, "I wish you'd teach my husband to do that." The doctor needs eight volunteers for further tests but so far women have proved reluctant.

So they should. Sex is becoming increasingly disembodied. For women a watershed moment came 12 years ago, when Company magazine produced a "rogues' gallery" of 36 penises, each given a name - String Bean, Joy Stick - but none attached to a face. An atomisation of the physical form that once was only the male prerogative.

Since then, popular culture has become increasingly saturated with a particularly mechanistic attitude to intercourse. I want, I get; next one up, please. Left out of this one-theme narrative is that sex isn't just a physical activity. It's influenced most by what is inside a person's head. An electrical charge can never replace the power of erotic interplay between two people. Passion, love, anger, desire, artificial stimulants, fun, boredom, an interest in procreation, pleasure, foreplay and all the emotional baggage each individual drags into the bedroom, means there is not one but many ways of having sex - some beyond Meccano man, no matter how many tools he has.

Nevertheless, it is the cartoonish version that is portrayed in the media, used to flog records to pre-pubescents, and wrapped around every product except nappies (only a matter of time). The Orgasmatron fits into the world of instant gratification. Of course for the woman who rarely or never has an orgasm, the idea may appeal. But she would do herself more good (while avoiding surgery) by unravelling why it doesn't come easy. In the Sanskrit texts, in tantric literature, in ancient Chinese philosophies, female enjoyment of sex was seen as positive and natural, a gift to be celebrated. "A woman talks to one man, looks at a second and thinks of a third," says Buddhist scripture.

In the West, however, by the 19th century, the male professional establishment had taken the opposite view. "The majority of women, happily for society, are not much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind," said Dr William Acton in 1857. It followed that those who were, "nymphomaniacs", required treatment. A number had their clitorises removed by Sigmund Freud. In spite of the strenuous efforts of the ladettes, "slag" remains a female epithet.

In the 1990s, Ohio researchers found that people are driven by 15 fundamental desires and values. These include social goals such as honour and human contact. For some, sex was high on the list - for many, it came very low. As we struggle to surf a tidal wave of soft porn, it's easy to forget that many people are content with a modest engagement with their libido or none at all. That's normal - getting wired for sex isn't.