A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

What's the deal with the Grafenberg spot?

October 2, 1981

Editor's note: The following column has been updated. See the updated column here.

Dear Cecil:

When I first saw it in print it was being hailed as "an important new discovery." In practice it seems like the same old feature of earlier, less enlightened days. I definitely have the need to get it straight, Cecil: what is a Grafenberg spot and what's in it for me?

Dear A.:

Lotsa fun is in it for you--maybe. Boosters say the G-spot is the key to the ultimate orgasm, but skeptics say it doesn't exist. Cecil, being the dispassionate scientific observer that he is, will merely present the claims of both sides, after which you can decide for yourself.

According to supporters, the Grafenberg spot is a long-neglected, recently rediscovered piece of feminine sexual equipment located in the upper front vaginal wall, near where the urethra meets the bladder. Stimulation of the spot has been shown to cause orgasm in many women, and these orgasms are often described as "deeper" or "more intense" than the old run-of-the-mill variety.

In a small percentage of the women tested--about a tenth, according to one estimate--orgasm is accompanied by ejaculation through the urethra. For years this ejaculation has been interpreted by women, and their mostly male doctors, as urination, but in fact, G-spot buffs claim, the fluid is clear and strikingly similar to the ejaculate of males who have undergone vasectomy. Women, in other words, supposedly have something quite like the male prostate gland, and it offers the promise of mucho jollies for those who can get past the physical and psychic hangups associated with wetting their pants.

In a way, the Grafenberg spot is a throwback to "earlier, less enlightened days," although some think the less enlightened days may have been more enlightened than our current age of upfront sexuality. Sigmund Freud, as you no doubt recall, postulated the existence of two different types of female orgasm, the "immature" clitoral orgasm and the "mature" (and, presumably, more satisfying) vaginal kind.

Masters and Johnson killed off Freud's idea when they declared all female orgasms to be clitoral, but the execution may have been a bit hasty. As early as 1950, a German physician named Ernest Grafenberg--who decades before had developed the "Grafenberg ring," a primitive type of IUD--took notice of the urethra and its role in orgasm, but no one paid any attention. Only in the last few years have a determined band of researchers invaded the medical and popular literature with their new discovery of this old phenomenon.

Three of the leaders in this research--nurse Beverly Whipple and psychologists John Perry and Alice Kahn Ladas--published a book in 1982 called The G-Spot, and Other Recent Discoveries about Human Sexuality, which tells you, among other things, how to find the Grafenberg spot and what to do with it. Because the spot is so hard to find while you're lying on your back, and because it's so closely associated with the urinary function, they suggest you conduct your initial explorations while seated on a toilet. (This may seem unromantic, but you'll only get out of this what you put into it, so to speak.)

After voiding your bladder, poke around the upper front wall of the vagina, from the cervix to the back side of the pubic bone, applying firm pressure in the direction of the navel. Eventually you should find an unusually sensitive spot and feel as though you need to urinate again. Go ahead and try. If you were successful in emptying your bladder completely, you won't be able to, but in any case press on.

The spot will probably swell and harden, feeling something like a small almond or a lima bean beneath the wall surface, and the sensations you feel may progress from the eliminative to the sexual. Paydirt. You can now experiment with your new toy in much the same way you did when you discovered your clitoris. These instructions are necessarily rudimentary; you can find a more detailed discussion in the aforementioned book.

Now for the bad news. Most other researchers say the G-spot is a myth. Sexual anatomy expert Dr. Kermit Krantz of the University of Kansas Medical Center has been quoted as saying, "I am not a woman and have not read the book, but in all the tissue specimens I have studied, I never found any specific nerve endings in the vagina that can be associated with sexual satisfaction."

Other investigators say the vagina is more sensitive than is commonly supposed, but deny that there is any specific love button in there just waiting to be pushed. Perry responds by suggesting that the G-spot nerves are farther below the surface than Dr. Krantz and his colleagues have yet searched.

Cecil, for his part, has been experimenting in this vital area with several persons interested in scientific progress, and he must report that there does seem to be an unusually sensitive spot on the front wall of the vagina that swells up when manipulated. I can also assure you that female ejaculation is no myth, although the ejaculate bears a marked resemblance to, well, pee. Pending further study, I suggest the women of this nation incorporate the G-spot into their sexual repertoire if they want to, but let's not get hung up if it doesn't produce explosive results. No sense making sex more of a performance contest than it already is.

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A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
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A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
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