Pinpointing the G-spot, or not

Experts greet claim of finding female sexual pleasure center with skepticism

Despite what’s written in sex advice books, the scientific search for the female erogenous zone known as the G-spot has proved surprisingly elusive. But now one physician claims to have found the first anatomical evidence of the fabled structure.

Gynecologist Adam Ostrzenski of the Institute of Gynecology Inc. in St. Petersburg, Fla., reports online April 25 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that a surgical dissection revealed a sac of erectile tissue in the front wall of a woman’s vagina that Ostrzenski believes is the G-spot. If he’s correct, the discovery might help pave the way for therapies to treat female sexual dysfunction, Ostrzenski says.

Yet several respected sex researchers, including one who helped name the G-spot, are skeptical of the claim. The new work comes on the heels of a report concluding that the G-spot is probably not a discrete structure.

In the new study, Ostrzenski dissected the vaginal wall of an 83-year-old woman who had died of a head injury less than 24 hours earlier. Previous research suggested that he’d need to search for the G-spot deep in the vaginal wall. He found the structure that he claims is the G-spot resting on a membrane in the front vaginal wall about a dime’s-width below the opening where urine leaves the body.

“The entire spot is very tiny,” Ostrzenski says. Within a sac of connective tissue, he found bluish, grapelike clusters of tissue connected at the lower end to a ropelike structure. This, the putative G-spot, measures 8.1 millimeters long and tilts at a 35 degree angle to the urethra — the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.

When he saw the grapelike clusters, “immediately I knew this was an erectile type of tissue,” he says. That is important because stimulation of the G-spot has been reported to cause swelling of the vaginal wall.

But Beverly Whipple, one of the researchers who gave the G-spot its moniker in 1982, isn’t so sure that what Ostrzenski found is the G-spot. “I have no idea what this thing is that he found,” says Whipple, a sex researcher and professor emerita at Rutgers University. “We don’t even know if this tissue is normal.”

Since the study was conducted on only one woman, the structure could be unique to her. Although Ostrzenski calls the structure erectile tissue, he performed no other analysis to show that the tissue really does what he claims. He also presented no evidence that nerves run to or from the structure to carry stimulatory signals.

Whipple and others doubt that the G-spot is one structure. “We never said it was a distinct anatomical entity,” she says. Instead, many different structures stimulated by different types of nerves converge in the area. “It’s a region that is highly sensitive … a zone of great erotic complexity.”

Along with Whipple, Emmanuele Jannini of the University of L’Aquila in Italy and sex researcher Barry Komisaruk of Rutgers University have submitted a commentary to the Journal of Sexual Medicine protesting the publication of Ostrzenski’s study. “We submit that the author’s claim to have discovered ‘the’ G-spot does not fulfill the most fundamental scientific criteria,” the researchers write.

Amichai Kilchevsky, a urologist at Yale University, agrees with the dissenters. “It’s a pretty problematic paper,” he says. Kilchevsky and colleagues published a study in the March issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine concluding that the G-spot is not a discrete anatomical entity.

Finding erectile tissue in the vaginal wall isn’t surprising, but to claim that any anatomical structure is what it seems, Ostrzenski would need to locate the structure in more women and show that stimulation of that structure produces sexual excitement, the critics say.

Ostrzenski admits that he needs to gather more evidence and plans to conduct further studies. 

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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