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Anne’s Essays

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« Fairy Tale by Karl Lagerfeld | Nothing Personal by Matt Black | Main | Elsa Hosk | Yu Tsai | Marie Claire Spain May 2011 »
Wednesday
May112011

Orgasmic Female Brain In 'La Petite Mort' | Images Nicola Vallotto

Italian photographer Nicola Vallotto shares an editorial ‘La Petite Mort’ posted on the excellent blog The Ones2Watch.

“The title is a French circumlocution, a metaphor for orgasm but more widely, it can refer to a spiritual release.” says Nicola.

The Orgasmic Brain

I’ve previously written about the health benefits of sexual activity alone in masturbation or together with a loving partner.

I say ‘loving partner’ or even ‘good friend’, knowing that some women truly do enjoy drop-over, no strings attached sexual activity.

Research does suggest that among women, the greatest levels of sexual dysfunction (that nebulous term undergoing medical redefinition) occur — not among older, menopausal women — but among single, younger women with multiple sex partners.

Hence my focus on orgasms alone or with people a woman truly enjoys sensually and emotionally.

One of the greatest benefits of orgasms is stress reduction. Few challenge the medical research confirming:

Oxytocin released during orgasm definitely reduces stress, by lowering cortisol levels.  Women stress about money more than men and tend to take To Do lists to bed with them. Sexual intimacy can be a richly-rewarding, free experience. Properly planned and with both parties being “present” and engaged during sex, many more stress-reducing health benefits of sex are outlined in research. AOC Health

Rutgers researchers Barry R Komisaruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores and Beverly Whipple have studied female orgasms in depth. Using brain scan techniques, the team studied the brains of eight women who masturbated themselves to multiple orgasms while lying under a blanket in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner.

Despite the clinical surroundings, all the women were able to experience orgasm, mostly in less than five minutes — although some took up to 20.

Komisaruk said about the 2010 research: “The analysis of the self-stimulation data shows how the genital sensory cortex, thalamus and motor areas are activated earliest.”

A cascade spreads across the brain to areas such as the cingulate cortex, insula and amygdala, and finally peaks in the hypothalamus, nucleus accumbens and caudate.

The Sexually Silent Brain

Female orgasms (and male also) can only be triggered when the amygdala — the brain’s fear and anxiety center—is turned off.  This medical reality is another reason why foreplay is important as part of sexual activity.

Neurobiologists have observed similar deactivation in the amygdala in brains when people who are deeply in love see photos of their loved ones. Trust is a key factor in deactivating the brain’s fear center, so that orgasm can proceed.

Similarly, the prefrontal or orbito-frontal cortex of the brain — the region lying just above your eyes — also becomes deactivated during orgasm. This part of the brain is involved in controlling basic emotions. It is true to say that at the moment of orgasm, we abandon our emotions.

One study at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands showed “extraordinary activation of the ventral tegmental area”, another part of the brain’s reward circuitry. The early evidence suggests that this effect, while similar in nature in men, is shorter lived and not as strong as the sensation experienced by most women.

Scientific American confirms, writing:

Achieving orgasm, brain-imaging studies show, involves more than heightened arousal. It requires a release of inhibitions and control in which the brain’s center of vigilance shuts down in males; in females, various areas of the brain involved in controlling thoughts and emotions become silent. The brain’s pleasure centers tend to light up brightly in the brain scans of both sexes, especially in those of males. The reward system creates an incentive to seek more sexual encounters, with clear benefits for the survival of the species.

This 2008 quote shouldn’t be understood to say that women experience less pleasure during sex, based on light bulbs exploding in the brain during the moment of orgasm. Women’s orgasms are considerably longer than men’s, as are the pleasant after-affects.

Orgasm As A Unique Pleasure

Orgasm is a unique process, one which takes which takes over the whole brain and can be felt all over the body, say researchers. That never happens with other female pleasures, not even when eating chocolate — in spite of women who swear eating chocolate delivers more pleasure than sex.

They are wrong when the sex is good.

In truth, the female orgasm is a moment of ‘la petite mort’ when we consider the neuroscience behind the event. Given women’s tendency to not shut down at any time of day — which isn’t all neurotic behavior but perhaps also part of her evolutionary role as protectress — it’s important that women understand their own sexuality and how to best achieve orgasms on their terms. Anne

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Photography by Nicola Vallotto
Styling by Luca Termine
Hair & Makeup by Sissy Belloglio @ Glow Management using Mac Cosmetics
Model(s) Annie Claude @ Joy Models, Bara & Elsa @ IMG Milano, Solveig @ MP Management, Sharina & Yaara @ Ice2

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