Jill McDevitt explores why something as natural and necessary as sex is so taboo
LAST week, scientists at Rutgers created the world’s first movie of the female brain during orgasm. The research led me to thinking about how, when it comes to sex, being a lab rat is not all bad. Here are a few examples of people who got paid to climax in the name of science.
Study # 1: Human Sexual Response
Published: 1966 in a text book completely dedicated to the outcome of the study.
What research subjects had to do: Vaginally masturbate in the laboratory using a plastic penis with a camera on the end of it to see where vaginal lubrication originates. Turns out, it doesn’t come from the cervix or a gland as previously thought, but rather is blood plasma that seeps through capillary walls in the vagina. The research was so groundbreaking on many levels, and much of what we know about female sexuality and orgasm today stems from this piece of research.
Study #2: Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Male and Female Genitals During Coitus and Female Sexual Arousal
Published: 1999 in BMJ journal
What research subjects had to do: The subjects would have intercourse in an MRI scanner, stopping periodically for scans. The layman rationale for the study was to understand the mechanics of sex. The researchers’ explanation was understanding “the caudal position of the male pelvis during intercourse, the potential size of the bulb of the corpus spongiosum, and the capacity of the penis in erection to make an angle of around 120° to the root of the penis, enabled penetration along the bottom of the symphysis up to the woman’s promontorium”. The primary conclusion of the study was that academia can even make sex sound really unsexy. (Fun Fact: In this study, the participants were real couples. A similar study used random pairs so participants had MRI scans while they had sex with a stranger.)
Study #3: The Effects of a Subjective Monitoring Task in the Physiological Measure of Genital Response to Erotic Stimulation
Published: 1980 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior journal.
What research subjects had to do: Watch pornography with instruments on their genitals measuring arousal while also making notes on how turned on they felt in order to determine how often physiological arousal matched up with mental or emotional arousal.
Jill McDevitt holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality and is currently completing her PhD, which will make her the only person in the world with three degrees in the field. She is the proprietor of Feminique Boutique on Church Street. Her book, Fighting the Crusade Against Sex: Being Sex-Positive in a Sex-Negative World, is available now.