• Thu, May 12 2011

Scientists Probe The Mysteries Of The Female Orgasm

It’s 2011. Do you know where your orgasms are? It sort of blows my mind that we’ve gone to the moon and back, explored the ocean floor, and even figured out how to clone a sheep, and yet we still understand so little about the female orgasm, aside from the fact that it feels awesome, of course.

That’s slowly changing, though, and a new study (from those sluts in the Netherlands, ‘natch) might bring us closer to understanding how our own parts work than ever before. According to researcher Janniko Georgiadis at the University of Groningen, a part of the brain called the left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) actually “switches off” when a woman is having an orgasm, suggesting what Dr. Ruth has been telling us all along: “letting go” is a key part of the process.

Via New Scientist:

“Georgiadis argues that the OFC may be the basis of sexual control – and perhaps only by letting go, so to speak, can orgasm be achieved. He suggests this deactivation may be the most telling example of an ‘altered state of consciousness’ and one not seen, as yet, during any other type of activity.

‘I don’t think orgasm turns off consciousness but it changes it,’ he says. ‘When you ask people how they perceive their orgasm, they describe a feeling of a loss of control.’ Georgiadis suggests that perhaps orgasm offsets systems that usually dominate attention and behaviour. ‘I’m not sure if this altered state is necessary to achieve more pleasure or is just some side effect,’ he says. It is possible that the inability to let go and reach this altered state may be what prohibits individuals with anorgasmia [inability to orgasm] from reaching climax.”

Could it be that women who have trouble relinquishing control in other aspects of their lives also have trouble doing it when it counts? Or is there no connection whatsoever? This study hasn’t figured that out quite yet. But what they have figured out is that masturbating in an fMRI machine where they can see their brain waves might help women match their brain patterns to the good, sexy kind. This doesn’t sound like the most sensual of settings, but hey, if it works, it works.

The New Scientist article contains much more detailed info about all of this. Read it because it’s interesting, and also because it contains a hilariously academic re-telling of the author herself, um, “participating” in the experiment.

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