Men's Health

INSIDE THE ORGASM LAB

Source: In the world of orgasm research, scientists are in a race to decode the secrets of the female climax. What they’ve found just might help improve her sex life— and yours.

Oh god, I'am going to come.

I KNOW IT WHEN I FEEL IT. I KNOW WHAT WORKS WHEN I TAKE

my pleasure into my own hands. Still, I’d been told to expect performance anxiety— after all, I’m in a strange room far from home, with someone just outside the cracked door. You’d have to be an exhibitionist not to feel weird. (I’m not an exhibitionist.)

But that familiar, wondrous feeling arrives not long after I settle in, close my eyes, and put my mind and fingers to work. A tingling between my legs, warmth in my feet. Then, pure pleasure washes over me and a pulsing sensation sends shivers throughout my body. For a brief while—21 seconds, I’d later learn—I check out. When I open my eyes and will myself back to reality, a flatscreen deadpans: “You’re done. Get dressed.” I straighten my dress, cast off the blanket covering my bare legs, and try to regain my composure. “Okay,” I say, “you can come in.”

Nicole Prause, Ph.D., enters the room. She’s tall, lean, pretty in a no-bullshit kind of way—face makeup-free, blond hair in an untidy bun. At 39, she stands out in her field because (a) she’s a woman, and (b) she runs her own lab, called Liberos. After leaving UCLA last year and securing grant money, Prause became her own boss, unfettered by university politics.

Her focus: sex as a way to promote general health—as a treatment for depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, even arthritis. Someday, Prause says, doctors could prescribe masturbation. “Natural, free, accessible—what more do you want from your health care?” she asks me.

Researchers have been studying sex for more than half a century. I watched Masters of Sex on Showtime and figured that by now we’ve learned all there is to learn about this fundamental act. Boy, was I wrong. There remains a remarkable amount of uncertainty about the supposed best part—that intensely pleasurable climax.

That’s finally changing. In fact, Prause () is at the forefront of a race to decode the complex cascade of signals and inputs underlying the female orgasm. It’s a pursuit fraught with complexity: Scientists can’t be in the room while a volunteer is sexually aroused; grant money is limited and tends to be weighted toward

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