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 (1,184 Responses)
  1. homes for sale wallace

    Good post! We are linking to this great content on our website. Keep up the good writing.


    April 27, 2021 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. hydroxychloroquine bnf

    chloroquine amazon https://aralenchloroquinex.com/# chloroquin side effects

    May 2, 2021 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. auto truck repair

    You need to take part in a contest for one of the finest websites online. I am going to recommend this site!


    May 4, 2021 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. aika private server english

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the highest quality sites on the net. I will highly recommend this blog!


    May 4, 2021 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Solar Panels Systems California


    May 4, 2021 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. road service truck repair

    Having read this I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this short article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 4, 2021 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. personal group


    May 4, 2021 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. personal coach

    I blog often and I really thank you for your content. This great article has really peaked my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.


    May 5, 2021 at 04:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. aika online private servers

    It’s hard to find educated people on this subject, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 5, 2021 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. instagram takipçi satın al

    Hello it's me, I am also visiting this web page regularly, this
    web page is really nice and the visitors are genuinely sharing fastidious thoughts.

    May 5, 2021 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. truck service shop near me


    May 5, 2021 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. chevrolet express 2500

    Right here is the perfect blog for everyone who really wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject which has been written about for decades. Great stuff, just excellent!


    May 5, 2021 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. health coach near me

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday. It's always exciting to read content from other writers and practice something from other web sites.


    May 6, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. success membership

    Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I am going to send this post to him. Pretty sure he'll have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!


    May 6, 2021 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. vietnamese food near me

    Hi, There's no doubt that your website could possibly be having browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that, excellent blog!


    May 6, 2021 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. truck windshield repair near me


    May 6, 2021 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Flooring Orange County

    There is definately a lot to know about this issue. I like all the points you've made.


    May 6, 2021 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. toilet paper near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. paint repair near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Forklift Service Shop Los Angeles

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be interesting to read through articles from other writers and use a little something from their sites.


    May 6, 2021 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Party Source Kegs


    May 6, 2021 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Forklift Rental


    May 6, 2021 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. outlet mall near me


    May 7, 2021 at 04:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rv slide out repair

    That is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 7, 2021 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Used Forklift Repair Shop California

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    May 7, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Crafted Wine


    May 7, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. poke near me


    May 7, 2021 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Forklift Extensions Los Angeles


    May 7, 2021 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. mobile rv generator repair near me


    May 7, 2021 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Google Marketing Service


    May 7, 2021 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. ambulance companies in orange county

    This website truly has all of the info I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 7, 2021 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Video Marketing Jobs


    May 7, 2021 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Social Media Marketing Job


    May 8, 2021 at 00:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Social Media Marketing Near Me


    May 8, 2021 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Social Media Marketing Help

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I will forward this information to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a great read. Thanks for sharing!


    May 8, 2021 at 05:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Social Media Marketing Orange County


    May 8, 2021 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. trailer repair near me now

    I truly love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my very own blog and would like to know where you got this from or what the theme is named. Appreciate it!


    May 8, 2021 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Local Marketing Services

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 8, 2021 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Video Marketing Company


    May 8, 2021 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Internet Marketing Companies Irvine


    May 8, 2021 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Digital Marketing Quote

    Hi there! This article could not be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!


    May 8, 2021 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Mattresses Riverside


    May 8, 2021 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Sound System California

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


    May 8, 2021 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Video Marketing Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Social Media Marketing Agency Anaheim

    Hi there! I simply would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you have right here on this post. I will be coming back to your website for more soon.


    May 9, 2021 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Internet Marketing Events


    May 9, 2021 at 04:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Internet Marketing Mentors

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after going through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly pleased I came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!


    May 9, 2021 at 07:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Google Marketing Company


    May 9, 2021 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Internet Marketing Quote


    May 9, 2021 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Interior Remodeling Near Me

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!


    May 9, 2021 at 14:09 | 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.