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Originally published Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 8:08 PM

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French hit back as G-spot snub touches nerve

A student of European culture might conclude that the international G-spot debate of 2010 could be condensed to: Ooh la la versus Close your eyes and think of England.

The Washington Post

The what?

Beverley Whipple, the American sexologist who coined the term G-spot in the late-1970s, named it after Ernst Grafenberg, a German gynecologist who researched women's erogenous zones. Some think it is a mass of tissue that is held to exist on the anterior vaginal wall and to be highly erogenous.

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A student of European culture might conclude that the international G-spot debate of 2010 could be condensed to: Ooh la la versus Close your eyes and think of England.

Namely: This month, British researchers decided the spot was either completely fictitious or completely subjective.

Last week, some 1,000 French gynecologists at a conference about the G-spot decided the English needed to keep looking.

"I don't want to stigmatize at all," French gynecologist and researcher Odile Buisson told a British newspaper, "but I think the Protestant, liberal, Anglo-Saxon character means you are very pragmatic. There has to be a cause for everything, a gene for everything."

Buisson was referring to the premise of a King's College study of more than 900 sets of twins, the largest survey ever completed on the G-spot. Researchers assumed that if the G-spot physically existed, both twins would say either they had one or didn't.

Instead, researchers discovered very little correlation between genetics and the sensations typically equated with the G-spot.

Reached by telephone, Buisson was concerned that her remarks had set off a culture war. "I very much love England," she said fervently. "I love the Windsors; I love Shakespeare." She insisted that the French concerns were scientific and that she believed the study's approach was flawed.

"I was astonished the way that they don't trust women," Buisson said. "When women say they have something, it seems a little disrespectful not to consider that." If a woman says something feels good right there, she said, scientists should give there more attention, not less.

The trouble is that the study of female sexuality is notoriously underdeveloped and notoriously complex, especially compared with the instantly gratifying little-blue-pill industry dedicated to helping men tick. History is littered with examples of women being labeled nymphomaniacs for enjoying sex or frigid for not.

"My goal in naming (the G-spot) was to help validate women who had experienced pleasure in this area," said Beverley Whipple, the U.S. sexologist who coined the term G-spot in the late-1970s. "If you enjoy it, enjoy it. If you don't, don't." She sides with the French.

Thirty years and about 200 Amazon.com how-to guides later, the G-spot remains an elusive Snuffleupagus of sex studies: utterly real to some women, a baffling shame-inducing fantasy to others.

Every few years, another study comes out saying that it's been found or it hasn't, and either way some portion of the female population is left feeling, somehow, wrong. (Question: Why is every news article about these studies accompanied by a photo of Meg Ryan's fauxgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally"?)

In 2008, Italy offered its own entry into the debate when researchers at the University of L'Aquila performed ultrasounds on a small sample of women and concluded the spot did exist.

"It's unusual that there's any part of the body where there's no consensus over whether it's actually even there or not," said Tim Spector, a researcher on the King's College study. "The last debates like this were several hundred years ago, looking for something like the human soul."

Spector said his team of researchers has received a wide variety of responses regarding the study.

Many scientists supported the findings, but there was also "lots of backlash from European continental sexologists. ... The farther south in Europe, the more surprised and anti- they were."

Anything else?

"We also got lots of e-mails from men claiming that they were very skilled," Spector said, "and that they could easily find a G-spot in any woman."

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