Wired News: What have we learned about orgasms in the past five to 10 years?
Beverly Whipple: With new technology and women being more open, we’re able to document that women can experience orgasms from many different forms of stimulation. There’s more than one nerve pathway involved: Orgasm is not just a reflex.
Barry Komisaruk: We recognize four different nerve pathways that carry sensory signals from the vagina, cervix, clitoris and uterus, and they all can contribute to orgasms. That’s a new recognition.
WN: You’ve discovered that women can have orgasms when a variety of parts of their bodies are stimulated, right?
Komisaruk: Orgasms have been described as being elicitable from any part of the body — the mouth, the nipples, the anus, the hand. It leads us to think that there is a general orgasmic principle of building up excitation from different parts of the body leading to a climax and a resolution — not necessarily ending in ejaculation, but a feeling of an orgasmic experience.
Whipple: We have documented in our laboratory that women can have orgasms from imagery alone without touching their body. The point is that women can experience orgasms and sexual pleasure from many forms of stimuli. It does have not have to be through genital stimulation.
WN: What are we learning about these non-genital orgasms?
Whipple: That they’re real. We may have to reconsider what people define as orgasms, and not just have it defined in the genitals. We find that certain of the same brain areas are activated during orgasms experienced by imagery only (as during genital orgasms).
Komisaruk: It broadens our perspective on the potentialities of the body and brain. If we understand better how we can generate such pleasure from all different parts of our bodies, that increases our potential for sensory experience.
WN: Do you think there might come a time when orgasms really get detached from the genitals?
Komisaruk: It’s happening right now. People have described orgasms through imagery, nose orgasms, knee orgasms. Although it sounds strange, the reports are believable. Now, people can show our book to someone who doubts it, and it can serve as a validation. Time will tell how prevalent non-genital orgasms are.