Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. Discover a new female erogenous zone, write a book, and the world will beat a path to bookstores to shell out $11.95 so they can find it, too. That’s the discovery of psychologists John Perry and Alice Kahn Ladas and nurse Beverly Whipple, whose new book, The G Spot, proclaims the glory of a heretofore unheralded female pleasure point. The book has landed the trio on the best-seller list, on just about every talk show, and in the middle of an indelicate controversy about a delicate subject. The problem, say critics, is that the G spot simply doesn’t exist.
Perry, of course, disagrees. He claims that physicians and nurses trained by Whipple and himself found the spot in 400 women they examined in their research, done in Florida, Vermont and New Jersey from 1979 to 1981. “They found it in all women—an identifiable spot in the anterior [front] wall of the vagina which, when pressed firmly, led to arousal,” says Perry, 42, who later named the pleasure zone the G spot, after a German researcher, Dr. Ernst Gräfenberg, who first wrote about it in the 1940s. “The G spot really isn’t all that controversial,” Perry maintains. “Many people accept the spot, but what makes it of major importance is that Kinsey and Masters and Johnson have all denied any significant vaginal sensitivity. However, the spot has been independently confirmed by Zwi Hoch, a well-known Israeli gynecologist. He wrote of it in a scientific journal in 1980.”
Oops—that’s not quite right, says Hoch himself. “The G spot simply does not exist,” he says. “I was totally misinterpreted.” Like some researchers, he believes there is vaginal sensitivity, but not limited to one particular spot.
Other researchers also have trouble finding the spot. “All I know is that the anatomical work done in this area has produced nothing,” says Dr. John O’Connor, founder of the sex therapy program at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Domeena Renshaw, a Loyola University psychiatry professor, says she is keeping an “open mind on the subject” but that 700 couples counseled in her sexual dysfunction clinic have failed to report a G spot. “Maybe we have a retarded group,” she speculates. Says sexual anatomy expert Dr. Kermit Krantz of the University of Kansas Medical Center, “I am not a woman and have not read the book, but in all the tissue specimens I have studied, I never found any specific nerve endings in the vagina that can be associated with sexual satisfaction.”
Perry, while acknowledging Krantz as a leader in the field, suggests that the G spot nerves may lie farther below the surface than the anatomist has searched. And, says Perry, “Krantz is an anatomist and as such he studies cadavers. He can never ask one of his patients what it is like to have the G spot lovingly palpated.”
Perry came to sexual research when, as a Protestant chaplain at the University of Vermont from 1965 to 1973 and author of a book on “coffeehouse ministries,” he found that “sexual problems were what the students wanted to discuss.” He enrolled in part-time graduate studies in psychology and eventually earned a Ph.D. and practiced in Vermont, “but didn’t specialize in sex therapy. In Vermont there aren’t enough people to specialize in anything.” He met Whipple, a 41-year-old nurse from Marlton, N.J., at a sex educators’ meeting in 1979, and the two began to work together on G spot research. New York psychologist Alice Kahn Ladas, 50ish, met the pair at a Society for the Scientific Study of Sex meeting 18 months later and was instrumental in planning and writing the book. It has so far sold 210,000 copies.
Despite the controversy, and despite his research with sexual mechanics, the bookish, pipe-smoking Perry maintains a romantic streak. On a visit from his Kensington, Conn, home to Portland, Maine last summer, he phoned a high school sweetheart he hadn’t seen in 20 years, health educator Carrie Hecht. “I had never forgotten Carrie,” says Perry. “I called and asked her to have lunch. Well, the lunch lasted 12 hours.”
They’ll be married on Christmas Eve.