alt.sex.column: The new Pluto

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By Andrea Nemerson. Email your questions to andrea@mail.altsexcolumn.com. Read more of Andrea's columns here.

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Dear Readers:

Last week, after being besieged by poorly-reported announcements of the G-spot's sudden demotion from anatomical feature to "whatever," I had "The G-spot is not the new Pluto!" as my status update for a while, prompting my friend Wednesday to come back right smart with, "It ain't Uranus either." Pass it on.

And yes, we did cover this last time, but given the space constraints I ended up giving what is in there and what you can do with it shorter shrift than deserved. So I expected questions, which you were all apparently either too lazy or too stunned with grief over the loss of your G-spots to ask, so I'm going to do it for you.

Q: So what did you mean, "We don't know what we're referring to?" Is it or is it not an area of sensitivity on the upper wall of the vagina, probably responsible for the shy and easily frightened cryptozoological entity called the vaginal orgasm?

A: Yes and no! Each of those terms I reeled off — G-spot, paraurethral sponge, orgasmic platform, et cetera — comes with some researcher or writer or activist's personal and political baggage. Ernst Grafenberg*, the original "G" in G-spot, never named it himself. He was a urethra man; his big paper on the subject was called "The Role Of Urethra in Female Orgasm." He was looking at the area where the urethra runs closest to the vaginal wall, and the erectile tissues surrounding it, as the possible locus of vaginal responsiveness and even female ejaculation.

The Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers, in the early 1990s classic A New View of Woman's Body, coined or popularized "paraurethral sponge" for the same area. And while the use of "sponge" in this context does conjure up distracting images of Seinfeld's Elaine and her "sponge-worthy" dates, it's probably less confusing than G-spot. A "spot," after all, could be anywhere. "G-spot" itself was coined by Beverly Whipple et al. in 1982, and immediately entered popular parlance and was just as immediately misunderstood (as well as dismissed by gynecologists and other experts). If only they'd gone for something like "area" instead of "spot," a lot of this confusion could have been avoided.