The new research examines why women orgasm less consistently than men and says they can be used as strong forms of positive reinforcement and reward to motivate and change behaviour.
Dr Diana Fleischman, a psychologist at the university, said evolution has trained us into using orgasm and high sexual arousal as ‘currencies’.
She added: ‘All animals engage in behaviour that has positive consequences and learn to associate reward with the stimuli that go with it, eventually finding those stimuli rewarding in their own right.
‘Orgasm and sexual pleasure are intensely fulfilling and when people experience sexual pleasure with another person they start to be rewarded by that person, their form, their smell, their voice etc.
‘Their partner becomes a reward in their own right and ultimately this gives people leverage in relationships.’
According to the research positive reinforcement is much more likely to shape behaviour than punishment.
Dr Fleischman said: ‘Think about how we often use tasty, high calorie food as a reward.
‘Food, warmth, sleep and sexual pleasure are all examples of physical rewards that give us pleasure, make us feel good and can cause behavioural changes.
‘Sex is incredibly powerful – when it comes to physical pleasure it doesn’t get much better than an orgasm.’
Dr Fleischman’s research, an evolutionary behaviourist perspective on orgasm, is published in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology.