Beatrice Wagner

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.

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Ideas

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

The work of 13th-century poet Rumi still resonsates today

Mihir Chitre

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.


In a world where Islam is a popular villain and lots of terrible acts across the world in the name of the religion have fueled this notion among the West and among people from other religions, it's paramount that we understand the difference between religion as a personal or spiritual concept and religion as an institution, a cage, a set of laws created to control us.

Why do you stop praying?

To begin with, and largely due to the film Rockstar, the most famous Rumi quote known to Indians goes like this: "Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there's a field. I'll meet you there."

Rumi's original Persian verse, however, uses the words kufr (meaning infidelity) and Imaan (meaning religion), which was translated as "wrongdoing" and "rightdoing." To me, the original verse surpasses the translation with a vital, often missed, often deliberately forgotten, interpretation, which is to highlight the fact that there is humanity, love and compassion or a certain kind of mystical quality to life beyond the concept of religion and that is the ultimate place, the place where Rumi invites us to meet him.

It would be incorrect now to read this and think of Rumi as irreligious. In fact, he was quite the opposite. But his interpretation of religion was personal, spiritual and not institutional or communal or exhibitionist.

In one of his poems, translated by Coleman Banks as "Love Dogs" in English, a man who has stopped praying to God because he never got a response meets "Khidr," an angel messenger, in his dream:

Why did you stop praising (or praying)?

Because I've never heard anything back.

This longing you express is the return message.

To me, through this poem, it's clear that Rumi advocates for a personal relationship with God. In fact, he goes on to say that being true to God is to long for his validation or nod, that life is longing.

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevl\u00e2na Museum in Konya, Turkey

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevlâna Museum in Konya, Turkey — Photo: Georges Jansoone/Wikimedia

Don't sweep the history of Islam with the broom of radicalism

For those familiar with the European literature of the 20th century, I could say that this echoes the ideas of Samuel Beckett. But remember: Rumi lived 800 years ago, at the heart of what we call the "Muslim world." To equate Islam on the whole with repressiveness and hostility, as many of us do today, might just be a criminal contradiction then.

It's also interesting to note that after the Quran, Rumi's is probably the most widely read work in the Islamic world, which suggests that Rumi's ideas, which may sound too progressive for anyone remotely associated with Islam in today's world, have, in fact, been accepted and cherished by the Islamic world for centuries. Sweeping the whole history of the Islamic world with the broom of radicalism wouldn't then be the fairest assessment of either the religion or of radicalism.

This physical world has no two things alike.
Every comparison is awkwardly rough.
You can put a lion next to a man,
but the placing is hazardous to both.

(From the poem: "An Awkward Comparison")

It's tragic that the Taliban has ravaged the same place with their own power-hungry, totalitarian interpretation of the religion which once produced a mind that embraces it with wide arms of warmth and peace and refuses to be compared with other followers of the same.

How to cure bad habits?

It is vital for us to separate groupism or communalism, which often escalates to barbarism, from the thought it is based on. It is vital then to read and reread that what Rumi sees as religion is the private association with God. It is also vital to mark the emphasis on individuality in Rumi's thought.

All the Western ideas of liberalism are based on the idea of individuality, which in turn is based on post-renaissance European thought. Asian philosophy is contrasted with its Western counterpart in the fact that it is rooted in mysticism as opposed to individuality.

Islam itself has long had a tradition of mysticism that is known as Sufism. Sufism is a sort of an inward dimension of Islam, a practice that encourages a direct, personal connection with the divine, a spiritual proximity to the omniscient that transcends the physical world and temporarily subverts immediate reality.

Sufism is the quest for the truth of love and knowledge, without necessarily always distinguishing between the two. Rumi was known as the Mevlana (Maulana) and his poetic collection Masnavi meaning "the spiritual couplets" is known as the Persian Quran. He was no doubt a mystic, a Sufi, and one who strongly endorsed the personal, for the most intimately individual is the truly spiritual.

Rumi might remain unparalleled in not just the Islamic world but also in the world of philosophy and poetry across the globe. Another thing that he will remain is dead. The Taliban, on the other hand, at least for now, looks rampant and alive.

It is now up to us, the other people who are alive, and the ones who are going to be born — not just Muslims but everyone else as well — to choose which interpretation of Islam we uphold or react to, how we read history, and what we borrow from it.

How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you.

(From the poem: "My Worst Habit")

I think what we, as a world, need now more than ever is to be sent back to Rumi.

https://thewire.in/culture/re-reading-rumi-in-the-time-of-the-taliban
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