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 (1,389 Responses)
  1. Kareem Handerson

    Excellent write-up. I certainly love this site. Keep it up!

    June 12, 2021 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. cabela's near me


    June 12, 2021 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. steakhouse near me


    June 12, 2021 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. gun stores near me

    This page definitely has all the info I wanted about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 12, 2021 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. used furniture near me


    June 12, 2021 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. music store near me


    June 13, 2021 at 02:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. nintendo switch near me


    June 13, 2021 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. massages near me


    June 13, 2021 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. shopping near me


    June 13, 2021 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. escape rooms near me


    June 13, 2021 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. paintball near me


    June 13, 2021 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. oreillys near me


    June 13, 2021 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. medical supply store near me

    Great info. Lucky me I ran across your website by accident (stumbleupon). I've book-marked it for later!


    June 13, 2021 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. lumber yards near me

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the finest websites online. I most certainly will recommend this web site!


    June 13, 2021 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. zoo near me


    June 13, 2021 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. house for rent near me

    When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. Is there an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks!


    June 13, 2021 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. ymca near me


    June 14, 2021 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. cvs near me


    June 14, 2021 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. panda express near me


    June 14, 2021 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. podiatrist near me

    I was very pleased to discover this site. I need to to thank you for your time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it and i also have you saved as a favorite to see new things in your web site.


    June 14, 2021 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. krispy kreme near me

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Thanks!


    June 14, 2021 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. printer near me

    Hello there! I simply would like to offer you a big thumbs up for your great information you have right here on this post. I'll be returning to your site for more soon.


    June 14, 2021 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. boats for sale near me

    I was able to find good advice from your blog posts.


    June 14, 2021 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Repair Nearby


    June 15, 2021 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair Santa Ana

    I must thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this website. I really hope to view the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal website now 😉


    June 15, 2021 at 06:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Garden Grove


    June 15, 2021 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Camper Repairs Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repair

    I couldnít refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    June 15, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Camper Repair Places Near Me

    Can I simply just say what a relief to discover someone who truly understands what they are discussing over the internet. You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people should read this and understand this side of the story. I can't believe you aren't more popular since you certainly have the gift.


    June 15, 2021 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Shop

    Right here is the right website for everyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want toÖHaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject which has been written about for years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!


    June 15, 2021 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repair San Clemente California


    June 15, 2021 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair


    June 15, 2021 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Repair Around Me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to revisit yet again since i have saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.


    June 15, 2021 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 16, 2021 at 01:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that produce the most important changes. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 16, 2021 at 03:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Camper Repair Shops Near Me

    I used to be able to find good information from your blog posts.


    June 16, 2021 at 06:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe this site needs much more attention. Iíll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the information!


    June 16, 2021 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Camper Repair Shop Near Me


    June 16, 2021 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Repair Huntington Beach

    Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    June 16, 2021 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Repair Around Me

    You're so cool! I don't believe I have read through a single thing like this before. So great to discover someone with original thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that's needed on the web, someone with a little originality!


    June 16, 2021 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Repair Around Me


    June 16, 2021 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Repair Garden Grove

    This page really has all the info I wanted about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 16, 2021 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. ups store near me


    June 16, 2021 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. ford dealer near me


    June 16, 2021 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. strip clubs near me

    This is a topic that's near to my heart... Take care! Where are your contact details though?


    June 16, 2021 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. vape stores near me


    June 16, 2021 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    June 17, 2021 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Camper Repairs Near Me

    This excellent website really has all of the info I wanted about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 17, 2021 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Nearby RV Repair


    June 17, 2021 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repairs Nearby

    Howdy! I could have sworn Iíve been to this site before but after going through a few of the articles I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím certainly happy I found it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!


    June 17, 2021 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

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.