Do What Feels Good 

In search of: orgasmic nipples.

Carol,
Back when I was in college I had a girlfriend who had orgasmic nipples--she could come just by having her nipples stimulated. Since then I've only met one other woman who is lucky enough to have this ability. How common is it for people to have orgasmic nipples? Is it limited to women or are there men who can come from having their nipples stimulated? Why is it that some people can do this and not others? My nipples are quite sensitive, and I can get incredible pleasure from having them stimulated, but definitely not to the extent of having an orgasm. Ever since I went out with that woman back in college I've always felt kind of ripped off that I can't do that. Is there any way one can teach oneself to come with just nipple stimulation? --Gotta Know

Dear GK,
Maybe. Orgasm is popularly associated with a scant few areas on the human body, like the penis and the clit, but there are folks who can come from stimulation of many other areas--not just genital contact, but nipple, ear, mouth, toe stimulation, to name a few. Of these, orgasm from nipple stimulation is perhaps the most common. (Orgasm achieved through kissing is right up there, too.) There is even a fortunate minority--of women, at least--who can come by "thinking themselves off": that's through fantasy or concentration alone. Well, there's muscle contraction involved too, most likely. (Beverly Whipple, who helped research and popularize the g-spot, has been studying these women lately.) I've seen this phenomenon in two males as well, but I don't believe stats exist on the frequency of this ability among men.

But back to nipples. It's documented that people rediscovering their sexual abilities after spinal cord injury can become orgasmic through nipple or other upper-body stimulation, even if they've lost sensation below the waist. This is not a truly comparable situation to the person who wants to keep all the genital sensation s/he usually experiences, yet also add sensation above; still, it's a reminder that folks are not hard-wired one way and unable to change. Here's where the wiring makes a difference: Orgasm is brought to you (and me, and everyone who experiences it) usually through physical sensation somewhere on the body conveyed up the nerve pathways to the brain, and always by the brain itself. That's right: Your most important sexual organ really is between your ears. What most people call orgasm for men--ejaculation--is a low lumbar reflex, which can be separated from the brain component and the evocation of sensations of voluptuous pleasure. (If you're lucky, guys, you're having the latter along with the former; but if you've ever wondered, "Is that all there is?" the answer is probably No.)

Getting to the place where you can orgasm via a new kind of stimulation is best done, sex therapists think, by mating the desired stimulation with something that already works. Many people find nipple stimulation practically crucial for orgasm--for them, the task might be easier than it would be for those who can take it or leave it. The trick is to so associate nipple play with coming--that is, combine nipple stimulation with whatever usually works to get you off--that you can gradually shift the balance of the two kinds of stimulation, giving more and more weight to the nipple play.

Eventually you may be able to get there through the nipple play alone. You can't simply do this from a clinical, experimental mind-set--you have to get really turned on. And it might take some time to accomplish this transfer of sensate ability. Whenever we learn a new motor skill or body response, we're utilizing the nerve paths that already exist, and our bodies are simultaneously growing additional nerve roots. When you're masturbating with more and more nipple play involved, you're actually increasing the importance of your nipples to your overall sexual response, and you're growing neural tissue as well. You're also engaging in a little Pavlovian conditioned response--in general, anything you're doing when you have an orgasm will become a little more interesting, since you just gave yourself a powerful reward that was associated with it. (This is probably one puzzle piece that helps explain certain people's fetishistic interests--early arousal and orgasm may have been associated with the resulting fetish, so that it "sticks"--but I digress.)

Generally speaking, with any kind of sexual stimulation it helps to wake the body up to achieve arousal. (Insufficient arousal is a simple reason why many women don't orgasm during partner sex, for example, but it can be a problem for men as well, especially guys whose sexual response cycle is so short that they don't work up to orgasms as big as they might have if they kept at it a long time.) Arousal mixes chemical changes in the body with increased blood flow, which in turn allows increased sensation, and more nerve activity allows for more nerve growth. In other words: You won't achieve orgasmic nipples overnight, if you achieve them at all. But you're sure to experience a lot of wonderful sensation while you try to get there, and will probably increase your nipple sensitivity even more as well. One more note: Some people who get their nipples pierced have reported heightened sensation (although I have heard the reverse effect reported a few times, too); also, some S/M players like to wake up their nipples in pretty intense ways. Either of these might--or might not--add to the success of your experiments, should you choose to undertake them. But remember, use your head to further arousal, not to micromanage your body's responses. The former will make orgasm more likely. The latter will work against full arousal and release--no matter what body part is leading the way.

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