Thursday, February 05, 2009

Anxiety, Neurosis, Noctural Female Orgasm, and Sabbatical

In rereading some of the old literature on black and white dreaming I came across this:

Perhaps the most striking finding in the present study, however, is that of the high incidence of nocturnal orgasms reported by female neurotics (47 per cent) as opposed to the incidence reported by female controls (8 per cent) (Tapia, Werboff, and Winokur 1958, p. 122).
In clarifying what they mean by "noctural orgasms" Tapia et al. say "A positive response was counted when a subject reported experiencing 'wet dreams', climaxes, or orgasms in his [sic] sleep or dreams" (p. 121). By "neurotic" of course they mean... well, who knows?

Eight vs. 47? Six times higher? Presumably it's not as fun to be a waking "neurotic" as a waking non-neurotic, but it sounds like in sleep the situation is reversed! Or are neurotic women just more likely to report nocturnal orgasms? Well, why would that be?

Winokur, Guze, and Pfeiffer (1959) extend the Tapia et al. results to include "psychotic" women too (perhaps a better-defined group than neurotic), reporting nocturnal orgasm rates of 42% in that group, 46% in neurotics, and 6% in psychologically healthy women. Henton (1976) also reports a positive relationship between high levels of reported anxiety and high levels of reported "sexual excitement during sleep" (though, um, unless I'm reading things very wrong, the numbers on his key table seem to run the other direction; this is what I get for reading crappy journals). Finally (the last report on this topic I can find) Wells (1986) finds anxiety to be predictive of reported nocturnal orgasm in a complex multiple regression taking into account "age, marital status, race, religious affiliation, religiosity, liberal or conservative political views, and hometown population" (p. 428) and 71 other variables including even views about the normality of noctural orgasm, sexual satifaction, and frequency of awakening with non-orgasmic sexual excitement. (I'm not sure I'd have wanted to "control" for those last variables in determining influence on orgasm, since they seem likely to cohere with rather than to confound the factor under study, but what the heck -- even so, Wells got her result.)

This is what you get when you let professors take sabbatical. It turns out they have nothing better to do all day than chase down weird literature on female orgasm.

(I'm not entirely without excuse: Lisa Lloyd was my dissertation chair, and I thought it might make a good footnote.)


PukeSkywalker said...

Interesting post. Maybe the issue is that neurotic women are less likely to have orgasms while awake, due to a difficultly in maintaining long-term relationships or because their anxiety will dull their libido.
...or perhaps during sex they are unable to relax sufficiently in order to achieve orgasm

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

That's possible, but I don't know if it's the case with women, as it may be with men, that the need for orgasmic release builds up so that going without for a while increases the likelihood over the next period. I have to confess I'm not an expert on the subject!

Multiple Orgasm Male said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eric Schwitzgebel said...

M.O.M. -- I'm happy to repost your comment if you remove the spammy elements.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I have SRFOs and have done for the last 10 years. (I am 53 now and post menopause - no hysterectomy)

I figured I enjoy SRFOs because I was highly sexed and haven't had a physical relationship in 10 years.

I don't masturbate or use sex toys. But I'm tuned into my body's needs and realise that a real body rockin orgasm releases all the pent up tension :) It's like a pressure valve.

Anonymous said...

When I was pregnant, I frequently had dreams that I was in a high-anxiety situation (e.g. taking a college exam and about to run out of time to finish it, or one that I forgot to study for), which would result in an orgasm that would wake me up.

Anonymous said...

I have crazy anxiety and rarely orgasm while having sex and yes I do experience nocturnal orgasms! This makes so much sense to me hahaha

Anonymous said...

Um yes, the need for orgasmic release builds up with women as it does with men.

Anonymous said...

I have orgasms in my sleep almost as if to save me from a very stressful or high anxiety non scary dream. I wish there were more recent studies on this. Thanks for this article.