“Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.” ― Jeffrey Eugenides
When I first learned that a journalist had participated in orgasm research, bringing herself to climax in an MRI scanner, I thought, Awesome! Great for her! I also wondered, Why not me? I got over my envy, but never lost my admiration. I pictured myself on a hospital bed, wires hooking my head to machinery, having a good ol’ time in the name of sexual science—a modern-day Masters of Sex experiment, with extremely scrumptious perks, and the chance to see my most important organ doing some of its most important work. Something vital was missing from that daydream, I would learn: the actual MRI machine, which changed just about everything…
Last Friday, after emceeing North America’s 2nd Annual World Sexual Health Day celebration in New York City on Thursday (an awesome experience I’ll share more about soon!), my sexuality/research fetishist dream came true! I headed to Rutgers University to participate in the orgasm study I’d read about. Led by brilliant researchers Barry Komasurak, PhD acnd Nan Wise, PhD, the study aims to recognize how different areas of the brain are affected during arousal, sensual and non-sensual thoughts, genital and non-genital touch and—assuming I could get there—orgasm.
In the days leading up to the procedure, I learned that my notions of sexy-play on a bed with movable wires were far off and questioned my ability to contribute fully, IYKWIM. I would be asked to self-stimulate on my back, a position I never use for solo sex, in a cramped space many folks find claustrophobic, lying as still as possible with my head secured down in a custom-made brace that’s so snug, I could barely speak.
Here I am, in all of my human colander glory:
As un-sexy as all of that looks or sounds, I ended up finding the experience enlightening and profoundly beautiful. Cozied into the small space full of loud mechanical noise some have compared to gunshots while a crew of scientists sat opposite a large window, a sense of intimacy, challenge, femininity, excitement and exploration set in. I was part of a team, and there was no pressure to do anything other than my best, given the circumstances. If I felt uncomfortable at any time, in fact, I could hit an emergency button and come shooting back out. (Bizarre pun not intended!)
Once in the machine, which was remarkably comfortable, it tracked my brain activity and eye movements, capturing countless images, which will be processed to determine which brain areas ignited and to what extent. For each of my two sessions, the screen above me prompted me to rest, contemplate various scenarios, touch various body parts or stimulate myself to climax.
Every so often, I took moments to relish the fact that I was participating in landmark sexuality research and an experience I’d only dreamed of. And while I surprised myself by climaxing—twice and a little too quickly, apparently—I was even more surprised that those moments weren’t the most luscious of the event.
I gained appreciation for aspects of my body and sexuality I hadn’t much considered, such as the value of intentional, sensual mindfulness as foreplay and how my body reacts to clitoral stimulation alone. Fantasizing, it turns out, may be the most powerful turn-on of all (followed closely by nipple stimulation), non-sexy thoughts, such as pondering the speculum used for vaginal exams, are a major buzzkill, and women, including me, can orgasm without fully realizing it. (What?!?)
I’m happy to say that the while the marks the mask left lingered only temporarily, the memories and lessons derived from my MRI experience will last a lifetime—assuming my brain remains as healthy as my neuro-selfie suggests. *knocks on laptop*
For more on my MRI-gasm experience, tune in to:
The episode also features a chat on orgasms with adult star turned comedian, Alia Janine, and an interview with Dr. Barry R. Komisaruk, the professor and researcher who led the fMRI study. I’m also writing about my experience for an upcoming issue of Indie Chicks magazine.
Would you leap at the chance to have an orgasm in an MRI scanner? What other study would you like to participate in? Any thoughts or questions on my experience? If you listened to my latest show, what did you think of Alia and Dr. Komisaruk’s insight? I love hearing from you! ♥