Science, that all-knowing amorphous body of research and truth, is revealing more and more about the neurophysiological causes of spontaneous orgasm, specifically in women.

In a recent analysis of this phenomenon, The New York Times science reporter William J. Broad investigates a Rutgers University project where female brains were scanned while thinking about erotic fantasies. 


Broad recognizes that this isn’t a new idea: sexologist Havelock Ellis talks about spontaneous orgasm in his turn-of-the-century studies, and Kinsey Institute namesake Alfred C. Kinsey wrote about it in the 1940s and ‘50s. (William Masters and Virginia Johnson were unable to find subjects who could fantasize to orgasm, but they did get their own Showtime series.)

Even before research was ever conducted, however, there had always been a historic preoccupation with hands-free sexual response—it was called “mysticism.” Broad mentions medieval Indian tantric teachings and the connection between orgasm and spiritual awakening or ecstasy, and this is only one example. Hundreds of religious traditions involve the interaction of spirituality and sexuality as a means of mystic understanding or expression of both human and divine love. Learning more about mental autoeroticism can allow us to deepen our knowledge of the mind-body relationship and perhaps even shed light on religious experience. Cool, my degree in religion has officially been useful.

Thanks to The New York Times. Image by Wesley Allsbrook.

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