According to Elisabeth Lloyd’s comprehensive analysis of 80 years of female orgasm studies, only a quarter of women consistently have orgasms during vaginal intercourse, while 20% will never have orgasm during vaginal intercourse at all. So what if you don’t have orgasms during sex (or you’re part of the 5% that has never orgasmed, period) and you’re looking to change it? Would you take a (supposedly painless) injection of your own blood into your clitoris if a doctor said it would help you come?
Depending on who you ask, Dr. Charles Runels—a.k.a “Dr. Orgasm”—is either a genius or a quack. Working out of a clinic in his own home, in Fairhope, Alabama, he has developed and trademarked the “O-Shot,” a supposed miracle injection that’s said to cure incontinence and improve women’s sex lives by injecting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) from a patient’s blood and injecting it into her clitoris. It boasts a high success rate (with many doctors credit the placebo effect), though the procedure is not supported by the FDA and has found critics in OB/GYNs and bioethicists alike.
The O-Shot, writer Kathleen Hale explains in a profile of Runels published in The Guardian, has ethically questionable beginnings:
Seven years ago, Dr Charles Runels’ lover surprised him at his office, demanding that he inject blood into her clitoris as a Valentine’s Day present. She hiked up her dress, hopped on to the exam table and motioned for Runels to put on his headlamp. She explained that she’d been watching him inject his own penis with blood for about a year, and that while his bigger and stronger erections had been fun, she’d grown tired of the one-sided sexual enhancement. It was her turn. So Runels bowed between her legs, numbed her clitoris with an ice cube and shot her up.
“I don’t know how graphic you can be with this thing,” he said over the phone, pausing mid-story to ask me about the Guardian’s policy on discussing orgasms. “But the next afternoon, she came to see me, and her orgasms came more quickly – very strong, ejaculatory orgasms. The passion, the thunder, the sounds that she was making …”
He sighed at the memory.
To say that most doctors look down on testing medical experiments on one’s own loved ones is putting it lightly.
“You don’t do procedures on partners! I want to vomit,” Dr Jennifer Gunter, an OB/GYN, tells Hale. “You’re not supposed to practice medicine on your family and friends…Oh my God. Talk about a power differential.”
Gunter isn’t alone in her feelings of disgust. Throughout the profile, Dr. Runels—with his (as Hale suggests) savior complex and near obsessiveness with sexual abuse victims—comes off as unsettling:
In general, O-Shot providers I spoke with estimated an 85% success rate for their patients. “But on Lacey [Jezebel note: Hale changed the patients’ names for the article], it worked dramatically,” Runels said, “and even if that’s one in 100, it’s worth pursuing.” He desperately needed me to understand the importance of her turnaround. “That’s my revenge [against rapists] – to say ‘Eff you’ and give women their flower back.”
I spoke to his patients, employees and former lovers, many of whom also happened to be targets of sexual assault. I couldn’t help thinking Runels seemed to gravitate toward victims of trauma. “I don’t really know why I’m surrounded by people who have pain,” he admitted. “I do, absolutely, make a conscious effort [to find them]. I think my real usefulness evolves out of … it’s not even compassion, it’s more like obsession.”
But, as Hale points out, Runels’ results are not to be scoffed at, with 20,000 women having undergone the procedure and 500 practitioners—all trained by Runels himself—working worldwide. A patient who talked to Hale “felt healed by her newfound ability to orgasm; before the shot, climaxing, if it happened at all, had taken about half an hour of ‘jackhammering friction.’ After the shot, she switched to a gentle (and illegal–remember, this is Alabama) finger vibrator, and came within seconds.”
While it’s hard to take Runels at his word that the O-Shot is scientifically effective, it’s also worth pushing the medical community to fund more research on it. The female orgasm deserves its time in the sun and if that takes a shot of blood to the clit, then so be it.