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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Case Reports from the Field

posted by on November 14 at 9:30 AM


You ask:

I think my girlfriend is faking her orgasms. Is there any way, scientifically, to figure out if an orgasm is real or not?

I write:

Sweaty feet are a good place to start. Having an orgasm, at least to your autonomic nervous system, is akin to being chased by a lion or getting into a drunken bar fight. For men and women, the medical school mnemonic (you’d be horrified to find out how most medical students pass their tests) for sex is “point and shoot,” because it’s the parasympathetic nervous system—the feed-and-breed regulator—that handles arousal, getting all hot and bothered, erect and wet. Only at the moment of orgasm does the sympathetic nervous system—the fight-or-flight, adrenaline-rush regulator—take over and end the show. If you want an objective measure of an orgasm that doesn’t require specialized equipment, graduate students to operate it, and a multiple-Tesla magnet, Science suggests you look for sympathetic nervous system signs: a jump in heart rate, a sudden dilation of the pupils, or sweaty palms and feet.

You Reply:

my girlfriend pointed out to me a long time ago that our tongues are cold right after the event? (we’re dykes). this has always been the case, but it’s always the case i.e. there isn’t a warm tongue to compare it to… i mean sometimes there could be but we don’t check.

keep up the good work. i love your column and the stranger even though you guys are all popular and don’t write back and shit.

hugs and nipple pinches

I have been under the impression that goosebumps are a necessary consequence/indicator of authentic orgasms in men or women. My extensive research has yet to prove otherwise.

From one of my friends at a bar: “As a dyke, I’m telling you behind-the-knees sweat is the best sign.”

And my all time favorite, from one of my ex-girlfriends: “How in the hell would you know?” Ha! Ouch.

Three observations:
1. All are sympathetic nervous system signs. Hurray for science!

2. Lesbians appear to be the population for female orgasms, with both the largest prevalence as well as the most high risk behaviors.

3. More please.

RSS icon Comments


Vaginal contractions can be done consciously, though it would take a pretty skilled woman to be able to mimic those of an orgasm convincingly.

Posted by Greg | November 14, 2007 9:53 AM

The cold tongue thing is how I always tell.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | November 14, 2007 9:59 AM

Thanks again, Science!

Posted by kid icarus | November 14, 2007 10:07 AM

Have to agree on behind the knees sweat.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 14, 2007 10:10 AM

"Lesbians appear to be the population for female orgasms, with both the largest prevalence as well as the most high risk behaviors." Um, what? Did someone steal some of the words out of that sentence?

Posted by Emma Leigh | November 14, 2007 10:24 AM

If you need a scientist to figure out if your girlfriend is having an orgasm maybe an honest open talk is long over due!

Women can fake orgasm and unless you’re checking her heart rate after sex which would be really weird you’re not going to know. Actually her heart can really get going and you still don’t know if she did or not ,maybe she just got excited but did not orgasm.
Sweat behind the knees, cold tongues and vaginal contractions DO NOT happen after every orgasm and every orgasm can be very different. It's all a bunch of baloney.
Just ask and if she says no that is her problem for not being honest.
The bummer is that for some bizarre reason women can feel guilty for not having an orgasm so it's easier to lie than to tell the truth.

Posted by mj | November 14, 2007 11:08 AM

I can tell by the way she says "God, you are a fucking FREAK, get away from me, I'm calling the cops".

Posted by Fnarf | November 14, 2007 11:18 AM

"sex flush," the chest turning red, although not for everyone.

toes wrinkling up, although that's pretty easy to fake

Posted by in my experience | November 14, 2007 11:19 AM

Fnarf, don't you know anything about women? Haven't you read ANY Louie Lamour books? When a women says " Get the Fuck away from me" she is really saying " Baby, come get me I'm all yours!!
I suggest the next time a woman says that to you just grab her real close to you and hold her real tight. Maybe she will just fall into your arms.
Of course you could always get arrested too but I will help with the bail if need be!

Posted by mj | November 14, 2007 11:37 AM

Oh, great, I'm already in trouble for all these dead puppies, and now you want me up on rape charges too?

Posted by Fnarf | November 14, 2007 11:54 AM

My college roommate's boyfriend always checked her chest to see if it turned red after they had sex.

Posted by anonn | November 14, 2007 1:05 PM

@8, 11 - yes, that is also a sign.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 14, 2007 1:36 PM

The best sign is this...

That was great with a big smile on her face!
Otherwise you just don't know!
Come on guys we used to joke about curling toes in high school and if you are that interested in the mysterious signs why don't you just ask her? You don't ask because you're afraid of the answer so you look for all these silly signs and sit back and think " I'm Good"
It kind of cracks me up that all these guys are letting us know what all telling signs are too.

Oh God... I'm late for church... gotta run!

Posted by mj | November 14, 2007 1:55 PM

Last weekend I was in bed with a friend and her ex (completely innocent - we were taking a nap), and the ex started telling stories about when they were together and this night they had sex in a friend's house, and realized afterwards that the door has been open and the friend's young brothers were "asleep" across the hall. He kept referring to her "three o's," as if it was the crowning achievement of his life. He said it enough times that I finally whispered to her, "Three? Really?" and she made a face and shook her head no. Years later, he's still totally psyched about something that never happened.

I'm noisy during sex, and sometimes people may think it happened when it didn't, but I will never "fake" it or lie if asked. If a person needs to be lied to about something like that, are they really someone you should be sleeping with?

Posted by Aislinn | November 14, 2007 3:01 PM

Goosebumps are irrelevant: Here's why.

You posit that goosebumps are perhaps necessary. I don't get goosebumps, so therefore it's not necessary.

Are they sufficient? My gf gets goosebumps sometimes, but it's not always at the moment of importance; furthermore, a draft of cold air can easily induce goosebumps, which do not then lead to orgasm.

Therefore they are not sufficient.

From this we can deduce that goosebumps are not strongly linked to orgasm in the general case.

Posted by Jason Petersen | November 14, 2007 5:56 PM

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