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Discovery’s ‘Curiosity’ Asks: ‘Why Is Sex Fun [For Women]?’

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
August 19, 2011

Discovery’s Curiosity series, which debuted on August 7, kicked off with a special in which Stephen Hawking explored the question of whether there is a God. It then had actress Michelle Rodriguez host an hour about the possibility of alien invasions.

Now that we’ve covered God and aliens, the series moves on to the female orgasm.

The special, hosted by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal and airing this Sunday night, is technically called “Why Is Sex Fun?” But the actual question it answers is, “Why Do Women Have Orgasms?” As it explains, the biological function of the male orgasm is easily understood as a part of reproduction, but it’s not as clear why women necessarily need to have them at all, and women certainly don’t need them to become pregnant. (Please hold your “I’ll say that again!” jokes, as you will have plenty of opportunities to make them.)

Several theories are floated. Is it an incentive to mate with more attractive and genetically desirable men? Is it a bonding mechanism to create family structure? Does it, in fact, help women get pregnant? Different scientists, it turns out, still have different views.

What’s good about the special, I think, is that it does a pretty good job of walking the line between interesting science (of which it has quite a bit) and an acknowledgment that people get a little goofy talking about sex with scientists. Or as scientists. There’s a sort of funny sequence in which a woman volunteers to have The Experience (we’ll just say that so I don’t get too high in Google searches in which I don’t wish to appear) in a lab, with all kinds of monitors hooked up to her.

That’s an interesting mood-setter.

There’s a visit to the Museum of Sex, there’s plenty of historical discussion of how female sexuality was perceived, and Maggie Gyllenhaal does a lot of sly, sexy cooing about muscles and nerve endings. It’s kind of corny, but it makes a reasonably good example of popular television doing popular science in a way that’s both accessible and relevant. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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