8-13 Hz fluctuations in rectal pressure are an objective marker of clitorally-induced orgasm in women

Arch Sex Behav. 2008 Apr;37(2):279-85. doi: 10.1007/s10508-006-9112-9.


Orgasm is a subjective experience accompanied by involuntary muscle contractions. We hypothesized that orgasm in women would be distinguishable by frequency analysis of a perineal muscle-derived signal. Rectal pressure, an index of perineal muscle activity, was measured continuously in 23 healthy women during different sexual tasks: receiving clitoral stimulation, imitation of orgasm, and attempt to reach orgasm, in which case the women were asked to report whether orgasm had been reached ("orgasm") or not ("failed orgasm attempt"). We performed spectral analysis on the rectal pressure data and calculated the spectral power in the frequency bands delta (0.5-4 Hz), theta (4-8 Hz), alpha (8-13 Hz), and beta (13-25 Hz). The most significant and most important difference in spectral power between orgasm and both control motor tasks (imitation of orgasm and failed orgasm attempt) was found in the alpha band. An objective rule based on spectral power in the alpha band recognized 94% (29/31) of orgasms and correctly labeled 69% (44/64) of all orgasm attempts as either successful or failed. Because outbursts of alpha fluctuations in rectal pressure only occurred during orgasm and not during voluntary imitation of orgasm or failed attempts, we propose that they represent involuntary contractions of muscles in the rectal vicinity. This is the first objective and quantitative measure that has a strong correspondence with the subjective experience of orgasm.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Clitoris / innervation
  • Clitoris / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Orgasm / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Pressure
  • Rectum / physiology*
  • Reference Values