NEW DELHI -- About 500 self-described sexologists from far corners of the globe, including many from the United States, have gathered in a hotel here this week to attend what organizers call the world's first international conference on the orgasm.
Prakash Kothari, an Indian sex therapist who is the chief sponsor of the meeting, explained its purpose and tenor by saying he was "not just organizing a conference on orgasm. It's also a celebration of orgasm." Kothari said he felt compelled to organize the meeting because "even on the international level, there's a lot of ignorance prevailing about this particular area of orgasm."
As they mingled beneath fluorescent lights at an exhibit of ancient erotic art and 16th-century sex toys, the scientific celebrants wore decidedly serious expressions. There was virtually no giggling. Instead, there was considerable talk about tension, and a few exhibitions of it. "Hold on! Stop that! Would you mind waiting?" Kothari shouted at a colleague who was attempting to lead a tour of Mogul-era sex accessories while Kothari was giving an interview nearby. After security guards ushered the offending sexologists from the room, Kothari continued, "We need to understand that orgasm is pleasure."
A little later, John Money, professor of medical psychology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, took the podium to denounce what he called the regression in America into "a new age of anti-sexuality, a counter reformation stage which wishes to restore the status quo that prevailed." Warming to his theme, Money observed pointedly, "It has been found that societies that are most at ease with themselves and sexuality are least war like." He stopped there, allowing the audience to draw its own topical conclusions.
Leonard Rosenblum, from the Department of Psychiatry at the State University of New York, said he hoped the conference would relieve some of the world's tension about the orgasm. "Every time an item appears in the popular press that such an event has taken place, it makes a singular statement to everyone who reads it -- that such topics can be discussed," he said. "Every great journey begins with a single step."
There were whispers among some attending sexologists that India, despite having contributed the 4th-century Kamasutra to world erotic literature, was perhaps not yet ready to begin such a great journey. After news of the conference's opening was splashed in the New Delhi press, they said, the hotel was inundated with obscene and threatening phone calls suggesting, in effect, that the sexologists should return to whatever planet they had arrived from.
At a press briefing, Kothari complained about some of the media coverage of the conference, noting that on its nightly news broadcast, India's state-owned television network "deliberately avoided focusing their cameras on the word orgasm." This reflected a belief that if you see pictures about sex, "you may catch it," he said.
Dozens of scientific papers and abstracts are being presented at the conference, asking and answering questions such as the one posed by Barry Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple of the United States: "The G spot, orgasm and the female ejaculation, are they related?" Another quandary was raised by Rajesh Arora, also of the United States, whose presentation asked, "Male multiple orgasm -- does it exist?" The answer, if you were wondering, is yes, but only in two scientifically proven cases.
Some other discoveries about the orgasm offered by various scientists attending the conference: College professors who concentrate too much of their research on the orgasm tend to lose their jobs; hormones are an important component of orgasmic experience; the ability to experience orgasm in humans is innate, but how not to have an orgasm is learned; many women do not experience orgasm because of "an insufficient capacity for self-abandonment in the event of role conflicts or in the fear of ego loss."
A question arose at the conference as to why now was the time for the world's first conference on the orgasm. Money of Johns Hopkins answered forthrightly: "Because this is the moment that the clock has hit the orgasm time."