This essay first appeared in Notes from the Second Year (1970). Anne Koedt deplored the false distinction, originating with psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, between vaginal and clitoral orgasms. W. H. Masters and Virginia Johnson’s Human Sexual Response (1966) verified that the clitoris is the only area of women’s sexual climax. For social reasons, this knowledge was not popularized; men still defined women sexually in terms of what pleases men—the vagina. Women acquiesced, suffering silent self-blame and faking orgasms. Koedt advocated new sexual techniques mutually conducive to orgasm and urged women to insist on their own sexual satisfaction. A contemporary group called The Feminists also disavowed the vaginal orgasm but saw heterosexual sex itself as a social act reinforcing male domination.
As late as 1979, some psychoanalysts kept the debate alive. Around 1981, it was heightened by the discovery of the Grafenberg spot (G-spot), a region of the vaginal canal that supposedly produced orgasm when stimulated. Through the 1980’s, medical and sex research journals published articles, and the popular press spawned books and videos, studying whether the G-spot exists and how it can be stimulated. Perhaps sensitized by earlier feminist debate, academics struggled with terminology. One psychoanalyst proposed “coital” and “noncoital” orgasms, rather than “vaginal” and “clitoral”; one sex researcher suggested simply “genital orgasm.”