BERLIN - Inner tension mounts. Heart rate increases, breathing is faster, small body hairs stand on end. Sudden muscle contractions, spasms, indescribable feelings of pleasure: an orgasm, over relatively quickly for men but sometimes lasting up to 30 seconds for women.
Along with intense feelings of release following an orgasm, come feelings of happiness and blissful exhaustion. Some couples laugh with joy, and this is the moment for whispering, “I love you.”
The main reason this sexual experience is sought over and over again is that it is such fun.
And as far as men go it serves a clear-cut purpose: as American neuro-psychiatrist Louann Brizendine writes in her book The Female Brain, the more often a man sows his seed, the greater the chance of passing down his genes to future generations.
So why is there be such a thing as a female orgasm? Women can after all conceive without one. Gynecologist Johannes Huber, a specialist in reproductive medicine speaking at a conference on sexuality in Salzburg, says that female orgasm is helpful to conception. With researchers at the University of Vienna, he has shown that female orgasms lead to the release of high amounts of the neurotransmitter oxytocin.
Getting these results "wasn’t so easy," he explains. "The molecule has a half life period of only a few minutes. So within a two-minute time frame we needed to take blood from a post-orgasmic female subject and centrifuge and deep-freeze it to get reliable measurement results." In doing so, the researchers were able to establish what role oxytocin plays with regard to orgasm.
For one thing, the neurotransmitter effects muscle contractibility on the pelvic floor. For another, large amounts of oxytocin increase concentration of the luteinizing hormone (LH) that causes ovulation. "When a woman near ovulation has an orgasm it triggers ovulation. So female orgasm is helpful to conception,” Dr. Huber says.
Who needs love when you have oxytocin?
Another main function of the female orgasm is to help "the couple feel a lasting bond.” Today, in our relatively secure world, a woman can raise a child without the presence of a father, Dr. Huber says, but in Stone Age conditions a pregnant single woman or a single mom didn’t stand much chance of survival.
Hence, according to this theory, orgasm causes bonding hormones to be released. One of these is oxytocin, a real multi-talent among hormones and sometimes referred to as the “trust hormone.” It’s considered an anti-stress hormone that makes bonding as a couple easier for both men and women.
"Oxytocin contributes to strong social bonding," confirms Wolfgang Maier, Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Bonn’s University Hospital. He was one of the scientists who took part in a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience confirming the role of the “trust hormone” in male flirtation activity.
But does the orgasm hormone also play a role in creating lasting bonds among partners? Yes, according to the scientists – because another hormone, prolactin, is also released through orgasm. Prolactin is what lies behind feelings of sexual satisfaction. It’s what makes men fall asleep after sex, and women want to cuddle. "Prolactin also stimulates neurogenesis –the process by which neurons are generated," says Dr. Huber.
The fact that emotional conditions can cause neuronal change was demonstrated by Psychologist Louis Cozolino. Dr. Hubser says that, "when two partners are faithful to each other, and regularly experience orgasmic sex, the brain learns to link these pleasant conditions to the specific partner." Hence, good orgasms are the neuroendocrinological prerequisite for a lasting partnership.
In addition to the relevant hormones, anatomy also plays a role in whether or not a woman achieves orgasm. The distance between the clitoris and vagina is crucial – should it be too great, the clitoris may be too little stimulated during sex.
The first scientifically documented operation undertaken to help improve a woman’s ability to achieve orgasm had to do with shortening this distance. The procedure, known as the Halban-Narjan operation, was first performed on Princess Marie Bonaparte, as researchers report in the specialized journal "Hormones and Behavior." Marie Bonaparte is said to have been so happy with the final results she showed her gratefulness to the man who suggested the operation, Sigmund Freud, by helping him flee the Nazis.
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.
Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.
But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."
Criticism of any 'royal project'
The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.
In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release
Freedom of speech at stake
"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."
The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.
The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.
Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.
Shift to social media
While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.
The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.
Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".
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