After doing a bunch of tests, scientists discovered something a lot of women already knew: we are capable of having mental sex.
Despite the sort of sci-fi sounding description, mental sex is a real thing. It refers to the process of becoming sexual aroused, and experiencing an orgasm, without using any physical stimulation. Even though women have probably been doing this since the dawn of time a researcher from the UK has "uncovered" the phenomenon by "coaching" his female patients into coming inside of an MRI machine. Dr Barry Komisaruk, co-author of the book The Science of Orgasm, discovered that the same parts of the brain that light up during sex can be turned on or off with a little effort—and no physical help. "The pleasure centers of the brain associated with orgasm light up in women who think themselves to orgasm in exactly the same way as in women who orgasm through more conventional means," explains Komisaruk. He reports that most of his patients "thought" themselves to orgasm using a combination of techniques. Some simply used breathing exercises and erotic fantasies, while others (the cheaters) used pelvic floor exercises. And many more women report experiencing mind orgasms during a particularly good dream, though they may not be able to replicate the results while conscious.
Of course, anyone who had seen the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights knew that this was fact. There is simply no other explanation for the sex-via-orchids scene other than mental sex (though I suppose we were supposed to think she just really liked Josh Hartnett). The more interesting piece of information here concerns not the mental orgasm, but the entire process of coming and what it does to the brain:
The scans show that, during sex, the parts of the female brain responsible for processing fear, anxiety and emotion start to relax more and more, reaching a peak at
orgasm, when the female brain's anxiety and emotion are effectively closed down to produce an almost trance-like state.
According to sex therapist Paula Hall, this is because ‘women in particular need to feel relaxed and safe in order to let go and enjoy sex fully'.
Leaving aside the vague stereotypes present in Hall's description, there is something refreshing about the focus on the more mental aspect of the orgasm. Sexual dysfunction can sometimes be physical, but for both men and women, it's often caused by mental blocks, so possessing a greater understanding of our brain's relationship to our clits is probably a positive thing. "There's been a lot of focus on the body and our physical responses, but for many people, and women in particular, the mind plays an even more important role," explains Professor Alan Riley. Obviously, all the physical stuff still matters, but with a little training and practice, masturbation could be all in your head, no touching or vibrating required. Imagine the possibilities.
How Women Can Think Their Way To An Orgasm [Daily Mail]