My Experience Having an Orgasm in an MRI Machine. (And the Difference Between Orgasm and Climax)

by [email protected]  Jan 6, 2014

Orgasm is my favorite mystery. What is it really? Do we all experience it the same way? Do we all feel the same familiar sensations? Is it purely an incentive to procreate or is it more? An incentive to connect? A means through which we fully embody the beast within us? Or touch God? Or is it all of the above?

I pay a lot of attention to orgasm. After all, it is central to me as a practitioner and as a coach and trainer of Orgasmic Meditation (OM). And still, with all the attention I pay it, the mysteries of orgasm are still largely unresolved for me. So when I was asked to be a subject in a study on orgasm at Rutgers University I eagerly agreed. I was excited to see how doctors and PhD students at Rutgers were looking at orgasm. What questions were they hoping to answer? What had they already discovered?

I was briefed on how the day would go. We’d custom fit a head stabilization mask, I’d spend some time completing a few exercises on sensory imagery where I imagine sensation-producing experiences, and then finally I’d hop in the MRI to have my brain activity imaged and measured while I experienced what the rest of the world calls “an orgasm”.

It’s actually been a long time since I’ve used the word orgasm to describe that particular event that I now call climax. I hold a broader definition of orgasm in which climax is a part of the whole thing, though not necessarily the most important part, or even the most interesting.

But the doctors at Rutgers call it an orgasm and they want to understand it better. That is why I’m in an MRI looking up at the screen with my partner outside of the machine sitting to my right, standing by to begin stroking my clitoris… and I’m preparing to follow these instructions: 1. Press the button when stimulation has begun. 2. Press the button when your orgasm has begun. 3. Press the button when your orgasm has concluded. Simple enough instructions, right?

I’m there in the MRI and the first one is easy. He begins stroking and I press the button for the first time. As he strokes, I begin to feel some familiar sensations in my body; the heat that starts in my clitoris and spreads throughout my body, the tingling sensation on my skin, a syrupy swirling in my belly. I feel our bodies fall into a rhythm that begins to build and build sensation in my body. In my practice of Orgasmic Meditation, this is all we would do. We’d stroke for resonance with no goal and see what happens. But this is different because we’re stroking for climax. And at some point during all of this I become aware that climax is available. I’ve become familiar with the terrain of this landscape through my practice of OM. At this point I wouldn’t say climax has begun, but I can tell that if the stroke continues on as it is, or if it’s adjusted in just the right way, my body will go over into climax. So I wonder at this point… When do I push this button for the second time to indicate my orgasm has begun? The sensation builds and builds. Up, up, up to a peak. I’m on the edge. Just the right stroke here and I would go over. So do I push the button here? There’s no clear line in the sand. I can feel that familiar sensation coursing through all of me. My body feels suspended weightless, unable to move, pinned in that spot that’s so good I could stay there forever. So this orgasm? Do I push the button now? And just then he pauses the stroke at the top and I feel my body melt and relax again as he begins to stroke me slower and more downward in to a valley. I can breathe again. I feel like I’ve fallen back to earth from great heights. Everything feels clear, vivid. I can think again and I realize I can still feel climax available. And from there he starts an upward stroke and we start to climb back up… up, up, up until I am on a peak again. I’m on the edge. This time he doesn’t pause at the top of the peak and I begin to feel my entire body pulled into the sensation in my pussy. There is the sensation of a slow steady escalation in a way where I know we can’t reverse this peak, like a liftoff that has been set in motion and is now on a trajectory of it’s own no matter what we do next. I’m going over no matter what now. This is what I call climax. Somewhere around this time I press the button signifying my orgasm has begun because I know this is what Rutgers considers orgasm. Shortly after, I press it again to signify that my orgasm has concluded even though my body is still humming and turned on.

It’s clear to me my body had been in a state of orgasm long before I pressed the button to indicate it had begun, and that it would remain in a state of orgasm long after I indicated it was concluded. But if it starts before climax, how far back can we trace it? Did it start on the incline of the last peak? Or perhaps the one before that? Or did it start the moment I was first aware climax was available? Or did it begin when he first put his finger down on my clitoris? Or perhaps it began during the imagery visualization exercises where I imagined stimulation and felt arousal as the erectile tissues in my body began to swell. And when does it end? Does it end when the sensation thins out, or a minute or two after that when the contractions in my pussy stop? Am I still in orgasm when the touch of skin to skin with my partner continues to produce oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone that makes our bodies magnetize to each other?

If it’s up to me, I’ll include all of it. All of it is important. All of it is sensational. By including all of it, I have my attention on a much broader, richer experience of sensation where all of the parts of my experience are equally valid and deserving of attention.

In the follow up interview, the facilitator asked me what I found most challenging about the entire process. I told her it was deciding when to push the button. She smiled and told me women commonly mention having similar challenges in the MRI. Whereas we normally think it’s clear where it begins and ends, what it includes, and how it works, perhaps the more we put our attention on orgasm, the more we realize that it really is quite an unresolved mystery.