Physiological correlates of imagery-induced orgasm in women

Abstract

Orgasm has been reported to occur in response to imagery in the absence of any physical stimulation. This study was undertaken to ascertain whether the subjective report of imagery-induced orgasm is accompanied by physiological and perceptual events that are characteristic of genitally stimulated orgasm. Subjects were women who claimed that they could experience orgasm from imagery alone. Orgasm from self-induced imagery or genital self-stimulation generated significant increases in systolic blood pressure, heart rate, pupil diameter, pain detection threshold, and pain tolerance threshold over resting control conditions. These findings provide evidence that orgasm from self-induced imagery and genital self-stimulation can each produce significant and substantial net sympathetic activation and concomitant significant increases in pain thresholds. The increases in the self-induced imagery orgasm condition were comparable in magnitude to those in the genital self-stimulation-produced orgasm condition. On this basis we state that physical genital stimulation is evidently not necessary to produce a state that is reported to be an orgasm and that a reassessment of the nature of orgasm is warranted.

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Supported in part by a University Grant Award from the Research Council, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (B.W.).

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Whipple, B., Ogden, G. & Komisaruk, B.R. Physiological correlates of imagery-induced orgasm in women. Arch Sex Behav 21, 121–133 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01542589

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Key words

  • orgasm
  • imagery
  • genital self-stimulation
  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • pupil diameter
  • pain thresholds
  • women