Sex Ed

Do “Nipple Orgasms” Really Exist?

November 12, 2012 by Justin Lehmiller

Sexual scientists have long known that women have different routes to orgasm. Nearly a century ago, even Freud argued that women can either have clitoral or vaginal orgasms. Although some of those early scientists got a lot wrong (e.g., Freud actually argued that clitoral orgasms were a sign of “immaturity”), they at least correctly recognized that there is variability in how women reach and experience orgasm. Indeed, modern research has confirmed that women report orgasms originating at different sites in their bodies and that women’s subjective experience of orgasm is not necessarily consistent across time [1]. However, perhaps the most surprising thing to emerge from all of this research on the female orgasm is that some women appear able to reach orgasm without any genital stimulation at all.

A small percentage of women report that they can reach orgasm simply by having their breasts and nipples stimulated [2]. You might be wondering how this could be possible, but a recent brain imaging (fMRI) study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine sheds some light on the underlying reason [3]. In this study, scientists looked at which areas of the female brain “light up” (i.e., become active) when different parts of the body are stimulated, including the clitoris, vagina, nipple, and (for comparison purposes) the big toe. Their results indicated that nipple stimulation activated the same areas of the brain as stimulation of the clitoris and vagina, a region known as the genital sensory cortex. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising that some women find nipple stimulation to be highly pleasurable and can potentially climax from it. For more details on this study, check out this article.

As you can see, there are indeed many different types to female orgasm, and we can now officially add “nipplegasms” to the list.

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[1] Sholty, M. J., Ephross, P. H., Plaut, S. M., Fischman, S. H., Charnas, J. F., & Cody, C. A. (1984). Female orgasmic experience: A subjective study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 13, 155-164.

[2] Levin, R. J. (2006). The breast/nipple/areola complex and human sexuality. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 21, 237-249.

[3] Komisaruk, B. R., Wise, N., Frangos, E., Liu, W. C., Allen, K., & Brody, S. (2011). Women’s clitoris, vagina, and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 2822-2830.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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