#GirlBoner Science: Highlights From My Orgasm MRI

“Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.” ― Jeffrey Eugenides

When I first learned that a journalist had participated in orgasm research, bringing herself to climax in an MRI scanner, I thought, Awesome! Great for her! I also wondered, Why not me? I got over my envy, but never lost my admiration. I pictured myself on a hospital bed, wires hooking my head to machinery, having a good ol’ time in the name of sexual science—a modern-day Masters of Sex experiment, with extremely scrumptious perks, and the chance to see my most important organ doing some of its most important work. Something vital was missing from that daydream, I would learn: the actual MRI machine, which changed just about everything…

"Uh… You want me to do what?"

“Uh… You want me to do what?”

Last Friday, after emceeing North America’s 2nd Annual World Sexual Health Day celebration in New York City on Thursday (an awesome experience I’ll share more about soon!), my sexuality/research fetishist dream came true! I headed to Rutgers University to participate in the orgasm study I’d read about. Led by brilliant researchers Barry Komasurak, PhD acnd Nan Wise, PhD, the study aims to recognize how different areas of the brain are affected during arousal, sensual and non-sensual thoughts, genital and non-genital touch and—assuming I could get there—orgasm.

In the days leading up to the procedure, I learned that my notions of sexy-play on a bed with movable wires were far off and questioned my ability to contribute fully, IYKWIM. I would be asked to self-stimulate on my back, a position I never use for solo sex, in a cramped space many folks find claustrophobic, lying as still as possible with my head secured down in a custom-made brace that’s so snug, I could barely speak.

Here I am, in all of my human colander glory:

And yes, I got to keep it!

And yes, I got to keep it!

As un-sexy as all of that looks or sounds, I ended up finding the experience enlightening and profoundly beautiful. Cozied into the small space full of loud mechanical noise some have compared to gunshots while a crew of scientists sat opposite a large window, a sense of intimacy, challenge, femininity, excitement and exploration set in. I was part of a team, and there was no pressure to do anything other than my best, given the circumstances. If I felt uncomfortable at any time, in fact, I could hit an emergency button and come shooting back out. (Bizarre pun not intended!)

Whew! No tumors!

Whew! No tumors! #NeuroSelfie

Once in the machine, which was remarkably comfortable, it tracked my brain activity and eye movements, capturing countless images, which will be processed to determine which brain areas ignited and to what extent. For each of my two sessions, the screen above me prompted me to rest, contemplate various scenarios, touch various body parts or stimulate myself to climax.

Every so often, I took moments to relish the fact that I was participating in landmark sexuality research and an experience I’d only dreamed of. And while I surprised myself by climaxing—twice and a little too quickly, apparently—I was even more surprised that those moments weren’t the most luscious of the event.

I gained appreciation for aspects of my body and sexuality I hadn’t much considered, such as the value of intentional, sensual mindfulness as foreplay and how my body reacts to clitoral stimulation alone. Fantasizing, it turns out, may be the most powerful turn-on of all (followed closely by nipple stimulation), non-sexy thoughts, such as pondering the speculum used for vaginal exams, are a major buzzkill, and women, including me, can orgasm without fully realizing it. (What?!?)

Team O!

Team O!

I’m happy to say that the while the marks the mask left lingered only temporarily, the memories and lessons derived from my MRI experience will last a lifetime—assuming my brain remains as healthy as my neuro-selfie suggests.  *knocks on laptop*

For more on my MRI-gasm experience, tune in to:

 Girl Boner Radio: Brain Turn-Ons and Orgasm Myths

The episode also features a chat on orgasms with adult star turned comedian, Alia Janine, and an interview with Dr. Barry R. Komisaruk, the professor and researcher who led the fMRI study. I’m also writing about my experience for an upcoming issue of Indie Chicks magazine.

Would you leap at the chance to have an orgasm in an MRI scanner? What other study would you like to participate in? Any thoughts or questions on my experience? If you listened to my latest show, what did you think of Alia and Dr. Komisaruk’s insight? I love hearing from you! ♥

Leave a comment


  1. Fascinating blog. It would seem some of their research is skewed by you being trussed up and not really being able to be YOU. But it sounds like a helleva experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re a brave women!

  2. Wow! Now I’m more in love with you than I thought I could be. Geezus woman, but you are the bomb diggity. I have an ulnar nerve injury and no way can I move my hand fast enough to have done this. Kudos to you for helping the world understand more about female orgasm, something that not that long ago scientists didn’t even think existed.

  3. Huzzah! Thanks for sharing your experience. While i probably won’t be having orgasms in an MRI tube anytime soon, your description has made me curious about the study and what it will mean for women.

  4. I probably wouldn’t participate but damn you’re cool!!! Will you keep us updated when any conclusions/data are released from the research? 😀

  5. laurie27wsmith

     /  September 10, 2014

    Dare I say it’s good to see you had one for the team? It’s a good job you couldn’t see yourself in the Freddy Krueger mask August, it would have detracted a little from the experience. Remember, don’t ask what your orgasm can do for you, ask what your orgasm can do for science. 🙂
    ps, you’re a brave lady.

  6. I admire your courage, August!! And how you inspire empowerment, I think I will have to think of your post here the next time I get into an MRI. I’ve had 3 and each time I had to use imagery to fight my fear of claustrophobia. I thought of tropical beaches (complete with the resort under construction to help me forget about the knocking of the machine), but now after reading about your experience I think I should’ve been thinking of something else!! 😉

  7. What an incredibly crazy, cool, thought-provoking experience. Your zeal for life always inspires me and I love that you accepted this opportunity given your passion for women’s health – both physically and mentally. Thanks for sharing your learning moments with us.

  8. August, you are a brave woman. I would not be able to relax in that machine enough to do anything..

  9. Raani York

     /  September 12, 2014

    This was quite interesting, August. Since at the moment I’m suffering from stress migraine and considering the fact that my MRI came out completely clean. (no, not BLANK… science has proven – I DO HAVE a brain. LOL), I would never have thought climaxing inside this machine. Not because I’m scared, but fact is, whenever I was having an MRI I mainly slept through… *chuckle* It’s making me sleepy…
    I admire you participating in a study like this!! Thanks for sharing!!

  10. **—twice and a little too quickly, apparently—**

    That made me laugh! Overachieving in the MRI chamber. I’ve heard of suffering for science, but pleasuring for science sounds like so much more fun. =)

    And now you know that, if you’re ever again strapped down on your back with a sensor mask on your head and shoved into a loud tube while people watch – well, you can still climax. That’s the kind of thing that can be really good to know! 😉

    Can’t wait to see what the study reveals, and to read more of your #WSHD-related posts, too.

    And is it wrong that your experience has given me a rather saucy story idea?! =)

  11. Kourtney Heintz

     /  September 18, 2014

    Wow, that’s an amazing thing to do for science. Very cool to share your experiences here. I’d definitely be curious about what parts of your brain were igniting. That sounds fascinating. I hate enclosed spaces so I’d rather not have an MRI ever again.

  12. LOL. No. I would not participate. Not blind, deaf, drunk, stoned, or stupid. But I will be interested in the research results. 🙂

  13. Hm. I believe I would participate. I would not have a few years ago (before my stroke – no pun intended).
    Congrats on participating and answering the call! Awesome.
    Oh, I started your book – enjoying it so far. Intense.

  1. Brain Turn-Ons, Orgasm Myths and August’s Orgasm MRI | August McLaughlin

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