"Electric flesh-arrows...traversing the body. A rainbow of color strikes the eyelids. A foam of music falls over the ears. It is the gong of the orgasm."
Where the story starts
Before beginning this article, I searched and searched for when thought-gasms entered my life. Unfortunately I could not find the source, but I distinctly remember a Goldie Hawn movie where she is standing somewhere and thinks herself off. She is not faking, but actually thinks herself to an orgasm. Well, actually, only in the sense of movie reality. At any rate, this is where I had an “aha” moment and figured that there was no way this could not be possible. Note the double negative; I was convinced thinking off was real and I could achieve it.
The closest I could get to media representations in my research for this article after failing with Goldie Hawn was Meg Ryan’s faked orgasm in the restaurant in “When Harry Met Sally,” but of course I am not talking about faking. Fast-forward to modern day and we have “Strange Sex” on TLC, Rutgers University (Dr. Barry Komisaruk) did a study with the woman from the Strange Sex episode as well as other women who claim to experience thought-induced-orgasms, and Lady Gaga telling a New York Magazine interviewer that she can do it too.
14-year-old sheltered Me
Convinced that I could achieve a thought-induced-orgasm, I examined the little that I knew about how to gather information on a topic that was not discussed or even allowed to be thought about in my house, which was sex. My greatest advantage was that I always loved to read and I knew that there must be a way to find things out discreetly. I reasoned that there had to be more than just the cheesy paperback romance novels with Fabio on the cover, which my aunt kept hidden away and so I turned to the internet, which I knew how to traverse better than anyone in my house. Early on I discovered Literotica. For those of you who are erotica enthusiasts, you may be aware of this website. I searched through the content, not really sure what in particular to look for beyond stories that were well written, with a thoughtful plot, and juicy yet tasteful erotic scenes.
I soon discovered a strange, somewhat scary, but awesome thing. As I read these stories, I became inexplicably aroused. I had a very strong urge to do something about that arousal, but because I was warring with religious convictions I would do nothing about it. As a matter of fact, it became a sort of game to see how long I could manage not doing anything about my discomfort. Later, I would seek to bring up a fantasy at will without literature and videos in order to at least make myself aroused. I figured if I did that, perhaps I could reach a point where I would not have to help myself along digitally (fingers of course) and I could climax at will. I am sorry to say I did not figure out how for a number of years until I finally escaped to my single dorm room for undergraduate study.
With that said, Barbara Carrellas, the woman who was featured in Strange Sex, participated in the Rutgers study. She runs her own practice for teaching people how to bring themselves to an orgasm. Ms. Carrellas does not like the term “thinking-off.” In her words, it is too “limiting.” She prefers the term Energy Orgasm and details that she believes people rarely use thought alone to bring themselves to orgasm. She describes that she teaches people in her workshop to achieve these kinds of orgasms via a “combination of breath, imagining (either by visualization or sensory feelings), sound, and squeezing the muscles of the pelvic floor.”
Essentially, Ms. Carrellas is pointing to the fact that we do not have to be limited to believing that it is only our brains doing the work, but I would at the same time highlight that our brains can be solely responsible. The imagination component can be most essential in itself for some people. As I posit this, the first thing I think about are wet dreams. However, I believe some people might counteract that as we become aroused, our breathing changes automatically and therefore, breath cannot be removed from the picture...especially in dreams.
For me, breathing was a sure-fire way of achieving a very powerful orgasm, probably akin to the one that Ms. Carrellas tries to teach to those who attend her workshop. I do not know her technique so I will not say that it is the same, but in my own practice and before finding out about Ms. Carrellas, I found my breath to be a lovely orgasmic weapon. At the time that I discovered the use of my breath, I had taken up study of mindfulness in courses in my undergraduate study in hopes of dealing with my painful migraines. As I became more practiced in different kinds of meditation activities (breathing, body-scans, concentration, walking and eating meditation), I read more about the Kama Sutra and techniques for tantric sex. Mind you, I was still struggling with my convictions and so it was important for me to find a way to satisfy myself without feeling guilty. I am sure the critical reader would realize that that the only way to achieve that would be to do nothing, but I have long since fought that war.
Digression aside, I discovered that on the “in-breath” (inhaling) as we say in meditation, if I closed my eyes and pictured sending the breath to the core of my vagina and filling it, I could feel a very pleasurable sensation on the “out-breath” (exhaling). As I moved on with experimenting with my breaths, I found that if I took short in-breaths and out-breaths, I could increase the intensity of the feeling. Finally, if I held my breath, the building of an orgasm would begin to subside, which I believe is useful information for those who forget to breathe during intercourse. I later found that the best way to reach an orgasm doing this was lying down on my back or side (but it will not be the same for everyone). I later added use of my pelvic muscles, which would hasten the coming of my climax, but the orgasms were not always as powerful. All-in-all, if I added a fantasy to start with in combination with one of the aforementioned techniques, then the result would be a pretty nice ride with very little mess.
The Medical Standpoint
Dr. Barry Komisaruk, whom I name-dropped earlier, started his research on the female orgasm after his wife painfully lost her battle with breast cancer. Why the female orgasm? As a Neuroscientist and professor of Psychology, he discovered that orgasms produce pain-blocking peptides, yet also activate the part of the brain that registers pain. If you are interested, you can look up the technicalities, which I do understand but will not address here. At any rate, in trying to figure out this puzzling phenomenon Dr. Komisaruk stumbled across a participant who said she could “think-off.” It led him to ask some philosophical questions about the difference between pleasure and pain as well as thoughts about the nature of consciousness. From a more practical standpoint, Dr. Komisaruk began to do research with women who suffered some medical problem such as spinal cord injuries, and found that they were still able to orgasm by bypassing certain neuronal pathways. He has hypothesized that thinking-off functions in a similar manner as well. Imagine the implications for one who has some medical concern that not only affects his/her sex-life, but specifically one’s ability to orgasm! I would go so far as to make conjectures about women who have been the victims of female circumcision or men who have prostate troubles. Remember, although I am a woman, and Dr. Komisaruk himself is studying women, men are fully capable of the thinking-off as well in my opinion. I suppose some of the implications may be far greater for women, but anyone can debate me on that point. I currently will stay off that road and just shed light on the facts.
The Clinical (as in Psychology) Standpoint
As I mentioned, Dr. Komisaruk is also a psychologist who practices as a couple’s psychotherapist. I will briefly say that he has not specifically mentioned implications for his practice. Many couples come in with difficulties surrounding their romance life which often manifests as other problems, so I would wonder how as the more we find out the more we might be able to help couples struggling in this way. Based on my own experiences, Dr. Komisaruk’s, and Ms. Carrellas’, there is a lot to offer that does not have to be limited. If people struggle with their visual imagination, maybe they can seek out concrete visual representations as a couple or on their on. If they have a vivid imagination but high anxiety, perhaps their breathing can be helped.
In all things, we can continue to push the recesses of the human mind which is vast and unused in many locations, holding more connections than some galaxies. Imagine if you can, all the ways in which we can enrich our sexual experiences, ease our pain, and soothe our fantasies. The implications are just as fantastic as the power of our minds and it is now up to you what to do about it.