Reaching sexual nirvana could be as easy as turning on the TV
News of a spinal implant that triggers orgasms with the push of a button made international headlines last week. But the problem is there was nothing new about it.
The confusion began after New Scientist updated an article published in 2001 to include a source’s first name and affiliation. That’s when news outlets like The Daily Mail, Time and ninemsn picked up the story about the so-called orgasm machine and reported it as a recent invention.
The discovery really occurred more than a decade ago. When treating a woman’s chronic pain with a spinal cord stimulator, Dr. Stuart Meloy, a surgeon at Piedmont Anesthesia and Pain Consultants in North Carolina, was startled by the patient’s emphatic response.
“She kind of let out a moan, between a shriek and a yell, and started hyperventilating. So we turned the device off,” Meloy said on the American talk show Unscrewed.
He asked the patient what was wrong. After catching her breath she replied, “You’re going to have to teach my husband how to do that.”
The implant has since been used to help women with sexual dysfunction reach orgasm and is patented in the United States.
How Well Does It Work?
Results of a clinical trial on 11 women ages 32 to 60 were published in 2006 in the journal Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface. Five of the women had never had an orgasm, and the remaining six had experienced a drop in their ability to climax over time.
To test the device, Meloy placed electrodes in the epidural space of their spinal canals near the L1 and L2 vertebrae. They were then repositioned higher or lower depending on which area best stimulated the patients’ genitals.
Later, the women were sent home with hand-held remotes that could transmit signals to their implants. With them, they were able to control when and how long they were activated as well as the level of intensity. After nine days the implants were removed.
While ten of the 11 women reported a higher rate of sexual activity and overall satisfaction, only four of the women had an orgasm during the period. All in this group had been able to climax prior to the trial.
You Be the Judge
A sample of 11 women is obviously quite small. More clinical trials would have to be performed to determine whether this implant is as revolutionary as the latest headlines would like readers to think.
For the four women who did climax during the trial, other factors might also be responsible. Perhaps one of the women met an exciting new partner. Or maybe the idea alone of having the implant allowed them to mentally let go and experience more pleasure. If a participant was a technophile, she might simply be aroused because she is a part of this new medical technology.
The study does not explore other potential causes, so we do not know for sure. Still, the existence of an orgasm implant is a thrilling concept — one that could open up many possibilities for sex in the future.
For example, Meloy said the device could also work in men, because the spine is the same in both sexes. And if the remote’s function were extended past its current operating range of six feet, imagine the fun lovers far away from each other could have.
Image source: WillVision Photography
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