Why I orgasmed in an MRI scanner
January 27th, 2012
07:10 AM ET

Why I orgasmed in an MRI scanner

Kayt Sukel is a passionate science writer and the author of "Dirty Minds: How our brains influence love, sex and relationships" - an edgy, irreverent book that examines all the ways our neurons can wreak havoc with our hearts.

Let me just get this out of the way upfront: I had an orgasm in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.

That is, as background research for my book, "Dirty Minds: How our brains influence love, sex and relationships," I participated in a study at Rutgers University where scientists measured the activity in my brain as I self-stimulated to an orgasm.

I wasn’t the first woman to participate in one of these studies - and I won’t be the last.

I know, it’s controversial and perhaps even a bit shocking. And, because of that, I expected readers and commenters to make a few jokes at my expense (and perhaps even question my character) when I wrote about the experience.

But what I didn’t expect was so much outrage about sex research in general.

Time and time again, regardless of the publication discussing my fMRI orgasm, commenters wrote things like, “If only researchers were as interested in finding a cure for cancer,” and “I can’t believe my tax dollars are going to pay for such useless research.”

How can the study of human sexuality be considered useless? This is something that is prevalent in each and every one of our lives. When we’re not having sex, we’re talking about it. When we’re not talking about it, we’re thinking about it. And when we’re not thinking about it, we worry that something is wrong with us.

Sex is a primary source of human motivation and can change the way we act and the way we feel in quite dramatic ways. And this isn’t something that occurs solely in the privacy of our bedrooms: You see sex at play in advertising and marketing, in problems in the work place, in self-esteem and identity, in pleasure and reward, and also in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Human sexuality has direct influence over so many aspects of day-to-day life. Understanding such a universal phenomenon is never useless. Yet, many want to discount its importance - and its study.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Alfred Kinsey, esteemed biologist and founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, pioneered the study of sexual behavior with the publication of the Kinsey Reports. That work was the first of its kind: a systematic, scientific approach to understanding variation in normal sexual behavior. And, thankfully, his work has inspired countless brave scientists in the decades since to buck the status quo and study human sexuality.

Yet, while we’ve come a long way in our understanding the biology of sex, there is still plenty left to discover. We now have a good deal of data on the mechanics of sexual behavior.

But as anyone who has ever been involved in a sexual relationship knows, there’s a lot more to sex than pure mechanics - a heck of a lot more. The blossoming field of neuroscience, including neuro-imaging studies like the orgasm one I participated in as well as cellular and molecular research, is now offering us a new window of understanding into age-old questions about sex and related behaviors by focusing on all the ways our brains influence our behaviors.

During the course of my research for "Dirty Minds," I asked neuroscientific researchers about the greatest challenges involved in studying human sexuality. I expected to hear concerns about finding study participants willing to be honest about their sex lives or if what was learned in the laboratory could really be applied to real-world behaviors.

But unanimously, the scientists I talked to said their greatest challenge was finding research grants and financial support for their work. Because so many of us are peevish about the study of sex, funding agencies can be, too. But none of us should be. Human sexuality is important - and its study is something we should all get behind. Because we can’t begin to have discussions about how to best deal with problems concerning sexual behavior, sexual function and sexual intimacy until we have a better handle on what’s normal.

Time and time again, I’m asked how I managed to have an orgasm in an fMRI scanner. But that’s not the right question. The important question is why I had an orgasm in an fMRI scanner. And that’s to help further our understanding of orgasm and human sexuality. When I say I came for the science - I mean it. And it’s my hope that more people will do the same in the future.

Post by:
Filed under: Sex

soundoff (1,212 Responses)
  1. mobile camper repair near me

    Excellent article. I definitely love this website. Thanks!


    May 14, 2021 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Maserati Granturismo Black


    May 14, 2021 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. rv window repair near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this web site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the info!


    May 14, 2021 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. camera shop california

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me dinner simply because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this matter here on your web page.


    May 14, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Most Expensive Maserati

    I truly love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own personal blog and want to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Thank you!


    May 14, 2021 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. house for sale coeur d alene idaho


    May 14, 2021 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Walk In Eye Exam Near Me


    May 14, 2021 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Eye Exam Phoenix Az

    It’s hard to find experienced people for this topic, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 15, 2021 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Maserati Of Bakersfield


    May 15, 2021 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. home for sale spokane river

    There's definately a lot to find out about this topic. I like all of the points you made.


    May 15, 2021 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sclera Contacts


    May 15, 2021 at 04:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. rv washing near me

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering troubles with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I can't join it. Is there anybody getting similar RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 15, 2021 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. houses for sale kellogg idaho


    May 15, 2021 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Eye Surgeon Near Me

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this site needs far more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the info!


    May 15, 2021 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Free Contact Lens Exam


    May 15, 2021 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Oakley Prescription

    I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this blog. I'm hoping to view the same high-grade content from you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own site now 😉


    May 15, 2021 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. nearby realtor


    May 15, 2021 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Cost Of Maserati


    May 15, 2021 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Seo Marketing Consultants


    May 15, 2021 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Internet Marketing Experts


    May 15, 2021 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Digital Marketing Firm

    I seriously love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my own personal site and would like to know where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Many thanks!


    May 16, 2021 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. game aika online


    May 16, 2021 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. instagram takipçi satın al

    Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren't loading properly.
    I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I've tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

    May 16, 2021 at 04:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Content Marketing Idea


    May 16, 2021 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Social Media Marketing Company Irvine

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I do think that you need to write more about this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but generally people don't talk about these topics. To the next! Cheers!!


    May 16, 2021 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Egr Def Repair Mercedes Sprinter


    May 16, 2021 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sprinter Heater Valve Repair

    I like it when people get together and share opinions. Great blog, keep it up!


    May 16, 2021 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. 08 Sprinter Intake PRT Repair

    It’s hard to come by well-informed people about this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 16, 2021 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sprinter Van Repair Near Me

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this blog.


    May 16, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Maserati 2015 Prices

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me as much as this particular one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I really believed you would have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    May 16, 2021 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Southern California Sprinter Repair

    Great web site you have got here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 16, 2021 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Ram Van Frame Repair

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to generate a top notch article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never seem to get anything done.


    May 16, 2021 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sprinter Side Door Repair


    May 16, 2021 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Van Door Repair


    May 16, 2021 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Maserati Ghibli Top Speed

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this website before but after going through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!


    May 17, 2021 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sprinter Service Near Me

    I blog quite often and I really appreciate your content. This great article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to book mark your website and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.


    May 17, 2021 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Gran Turismo Maserati


    May 17, 2021 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Sprinter Heater Valve Repair

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Very well written!


    May 17, 2021 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa


    May 17, 2021 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Repair Fuel Pump Mercedes Sprinter Dodge 3500 2010

    Good blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find high quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 17, 2021 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Dodge Sprinter Step Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Sprinter Door Rust Repair

    That is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise info… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!


    May 17, 2021 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Leak California

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    May 17, 2021 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Maserati 4 Door

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to come back yet again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    May 17, 2021 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Maserati Ghibli S Q4 0-60


    May 17, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Interior Designer Los Angeles


    May 17, 2021 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Cheap Dental Surgeon

    This is a topic that's close to my heart... Thank you! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    May 18, 2021 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Affordable Oral Surgeon Near Me

    I could not refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    May 18, 2021 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Walk In Dentist Office


    May 18, 2021 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. energy pills review


    May 18, 2021 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.