Ah, the mysterious female orgasm

Research found that when a woman climaxed, "much of her brain went silent."

By Sarah Hepola
May 21, 2008 8:24PM (UTC)
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The female orgasm is one of the great mysteries of the world. It ranks up there with Stonehenge and the popularity of "Dancing With the Stars." Recently, a team of scientists learned a little something more about the female orgasm -- not how to have one, unfortunately, but what happens when you do. According to this lengthy article in Scientific American, "when a woman reached orgasm, something unexpected happened: much of her brain went silent." (Silent and orgasm, not two words you usually hear together.)

This is different from orgasm in men, whose ejaculation induced heightened activity in memory-related imagery and in vision itself. Also, according to one Judd Apatow movie, songs from "Hair." But while women experience all rushes of chemical goodness during the stimulation phase and afterward, at the exact moment of climax, as one scientist said, "women do not have any emotional feelings."


Huh. That runs pretty much counter to everything we think about sex and women. Men are supposed to be less emotional about sex, while women are supposed to be knitting baby booties in their head while they're coming. So what gives? As far as the lab coats can tell, the reason has to do with the female need for comfort in order to climax. To get to that special place -- and God knows it can be a tricky journey requiring lots of backup, special gear and repeated spins of Marvin Gaye -- they have to shut down things like judgment and inhibition. "Fear and anxiety need to be avoided at all costs if a woman wishes to have an orgasm," explained one scientist.

These findings may not hold true for nonclitoral orgasms. But boy, I am not going to start talking about nonclitoral orgasms. Not before you buy me a cup of coffee or something.

Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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