This started as a slightly snarky idea inspired by a post earlier this week by PZ Myers, who reported on the research of Professor Barry Komisaruk of Rutgers University. PZ points us to coverage in an Australian newspaper. It was like this:

In their research they asked 16 women to “self-stimulate” until they achieved orgasm, while lying under a blanket in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Despite the clinical surroundings, all the women were able to achieve their goal, mostly in less than five minutes — although some took up to 20.

I had three quick reactions.

(1) Squee! (I mean, tube girls, right?)

(2) This seems like a research theme we’ve seen before at ErosBlog.

(3) Perhaps I went into the wrong academic field.

Professor Komisaruk went on to find that women have it better than men, maybe.

“In one experiment we asked women to self-stimulate and then raise their hands each time they orgasmed. Some women raised their hands several times each session, often just a few seconds apart,” Professor Komisaruk said. “So the evidence is that woman tend to have longer orgasms and can experience several of them.”

And that’s where the snark set in: “I’m glad we have science to tell us that, Professor.”

Of course, what we have here is a very old theme. We have mythology to tell us this as well. You all do remember Tiresias, yes?


Tiresias, in the course of an adventurous life, managed to be both a man and a woman at various times, and as a consequence of his experiences got drawn into a dispute between the Head God Jupiter and Mrs. Head God Juno about whether males or females get more pleasure out of sex. Ovid recounts the story in Metampohoses III 316-338.

Original Latin text via Perseus.

Dumque ea per terras fatali lege geruntur
tutaque bis geniti sunt incunabula Bacchi,
forte Iovem memorant, diffusum nectare, curas
seposuisse graves vacuumque agitasse remissos
cum Iunone iocos et “maior vestra profecto est,
quam quae contingit maribus” dixisse “voluptas.”

Illa negat. Placuit quae sit sententia docti
quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota.
Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu;
deque viro factus (mirabile) femina septem
egerat autumnos. Octavo rursus eosdem
vidit, et “est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae”
dixit “ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
nunc quoque vos feriam.” Percussis anguibus isdem
forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago.

Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
dicta Iovis firmat. Gravius Saturnia iusto
nec pro materia fertur doluisse, suique
iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte.
At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita cuiquam
facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
scire futura dedit, poenamque levavit honore.

English translation by poet A.S. Kline.

While these things were brought about on earth because of that fatal oath, and while twice-born Bacchus’s cradle remained safe, they say that Jupiter, expansive with wine, set aside his onerous duties, and relaxing, exchanging pleasantries, with Juno, said “You gain more than we do from the pleasures of love.” She denied it. They agreed to ask learned Tiresias for his opinion. He had known Venus in both ways.

Once, with a blow of his stick, he had disturbed two large snakes mating in the green forest, and, marvellous to tell, he was changed from a man to a woman, and lived as such for seven years. In the eighth year he saw the same snakes again and said “Since there is such power in plaguing you that it changes the giver of a blow to the opposite sex, I will strike you again, now.” He struck the snakes and regained his former shape, and returned to the sex he was born with.

As the arbiter of the light-hearted dispute he confirmed Jupiter’s words. Saturnia, it is said, was more deeply upset than was justified and than the dispute warranted, and damned the one who had made the judgement to eternal night. But, since no god has the right to void what another god has done, the all-powerful father of the gods gave Tiresias knowledge of the future, in exchange for his lost sight, and lightened the punishment with honour.

So take that, Science Guy! A mere poet got there first! (I’ll have to leave it to Bacchus to explain how he manages to be born twice.)

But of course, since I’m characterized by Faustian curiosity I had to dig a little deeper into the case of Professor Komisaruk, and found that he actually has a potential technology coming out of his research which is using these fMRI images to learn to think yourself to orgasm. Using images of your own brain to provide feedback, you learn to do what you otherwise would have required actual frictive contact with your own body to do. He discusses the possibility in a short video clip I found online (look here if the video does not embed properly):

Your own brainscan as porn! Aside from being as triumphant a vindication of Rule 34 as I have ever seen, that’s cool beyond belief.

I really did go into the wrong academic field.

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