April 24, 2006
Fetish for the New Millennium: Sex in the MRI
Over at scienceblogs recently, there was a story about researching sex in an MRI tube. (NOTE: It appears this research is actually seven years old, and won the 2000 IgNoble award for Medicine. Which means you’re fully justified in laughing at the research…that is, if you’re not as aroused by it as I am.)
The methodology was a bit weird, and left a bit to be desired:
After a preliminary image for positioning the true pelvis of the woman was taken, the first image was taken with her lying on her back (image 1). Then the male was asked to climb into the tube and begin face to face coitus in the superior position (image 2). After this shot—successful or not—the man was asked to leave the tube and the woman was asked to stimulate her clitoris manually and to inform the researchers by intercom when she had reached the preorgasmic stage. Then she stopped the autostimulation for a third image (image 3). After that image was taken the woman restarted the stimulation to achieve an orgasm. Twenty minutes after the orgasm, the fourth image was taken (image 4). At the end of the experiment, the images were evaluated in the presence of the participants.
Obligatory wisecrack: at least they were realistic about the stages of sex.
In case you’re wondering, they removed the bed–so the participants did have a full 50cm to move about inside the tube. In spite of this freedom of movement–or maybe because they weren’t as confined as anticipated–most of the couples, um, had trouble performing. (As one who’s been through an MRI tube before, I have to say it was a huge turn-on. Or maybe that was the cute nurses.)
Frankly, I’m surprised this kind of research was still getting funded in 2000. I remember, as a child (yes, I was a very naughty child)–and I’m talking, I believe, pre-teen here–watching an episode on PBS where they’d inserted a camera into a woman’s cervix as she was orgasming (and, apparently, so was her partner). I remember this episode because they reran it several times (did I mention I was a very naughty child?).
The point of that program was to demonstrate the role that female orgasms play in human reproduction. I recall finding it both gross and oddly compelling. More important, I recall being struck by the question: how/why did the female orgasm evolve? (Was it was an evolutionary response to widespread rape/forced servitude?)
So if researchers were inserting cameras during intercourse 15-20 years ago, why the need for MRIs of staged/static faux sex?
A better question is: as medicine matures and aging MRI machines are discarded by hospitals, will a new sex industry spring up around hand-me-down MRIs? Why should doctors have the upper-hand in getting past the third date with lines like, “Wanna go back to my office and check out my gargantuan MRI?”