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Orgasm implants for nonclinical use

By Annalee Newitz

We stood outside the office while she smoked a cigarette and I talked about having sex with cyborgs. One of our co-workers walked by and raised his eyebrows when he heard me saying, "I just love books where the girl gets to fuck a cyborg, because they're always so much better in bed."

She exhaled a plume of smoke and replied with a jaded shrug, "Well, of course. That goes without saying."

We were talking about one of Marge Piercy's SF books, which I'd recommended to her after she told me she was a consummate fan of "erotic science fiction"--a genre I'd never heard of before, but which I immediately recognized as one of my favorites too. In fact, the very first SF book I ever read (way back in 1979) was an anthology called Mutants, which almost certainly introduced me to the idea that sex was all about alien bodies, machines and a cyberpunk future. And ever since then, I've collected books and movies about cyborgs and humans in the sack: I even tracked down that whacked snippet of anime porn called (in the English version) Sexorcist.

Lucky for me, everyday life in the techno-fetish age keeps getting more and more like pornography. Just in time for Valentine's Day, all the daily news nipples like CNN.com were shooting off stories about some pain specialist in North Carolina named Stuart Meloy who "serendipitously" discovered a nerve in the spinal column which is responsible for orgasm. He had some woman's spine opened up on his operating table and was plucking her nerves with an "electro-stimulator"--a common practice in cases of chronic pain, where the hope is that you can interrupt the flow of pain if you can find the nerve responsible for it. The woman was awake during this procedure, which is also typical.

When our intrepid Dr. Meloy used his stimulator on one particular spot in the woman's spine, she "cried out" and told the doctor, "You'll have to teach my husband to do that." Although nobody has come out and said, "The chick had an orgasm right there on the operating table, all because of a little piece of technology that was stimulating her exposed nerves," I'm guessing that she did. Or maybe she just got really hot. Either way, apparently, this kind of thing has happened before, thus leading Dr. Meloy to file a patent for a device which will feed "electro-stimulation" into women's spines and make them come. Of course, this would only be for "clinical" use in women who have "orgasmic disorders." Our special buddy Dr. Meloy is looking for volunteers right now for his clinical trials. Sign me up! I want a cybernetic implant that gives me orgasms!

In an interview with SFGate.com, Meloy described how the device would work in reality, as opposed to my masturbatory cyborg fantasy. A small probe would be attached to the woman's back and she would "have sex as usual," then the electrode would fire and hopefully induce orgasm. "This would train them into the behavior over time," Meloy said, sounding intensely creepy.

I liked everything up to the "training them into the behavior" part. I mean, I'm as kinky as the next geek and have read my fair share of sexy "training" scenarios on those naughty bdsm websites. But this ain't no bdsm scene, it's medicine. What exactly does it mean when a doctor says he'll use an orgasm inducer to train women into having orgasms while engaging in "sex as usual"?

But let's assume that, with her electro-stimulation orgasmo-implant, she's now going to be "trained" to have an orgasm during whatever activities she thinks of as sex. If that's the point, I'm just not sure why she has to have a so-called orgasmic disorder in order to need this device. Let's just call it a sex toy, or a recreational implant, and leave it at that.

Why must a woman be sick to want orgasms at the push of a, uh, probe? Is it really medicine if a woman induces orgasms through direct neural stimulation rather than through genital manipulation or whatever? That seems to be what Dr. Meloy is claiming, and the whole thing sounds to me like the clit pump furor I raged about last year, when the government officially recommended these expensive, unwieldy pumps to treat "arousal disorders" in women. Dr. Meloy's technogasm probe is yet another example of the biotech establishment trying, quite literally, to define what gives us pleasure.

When I get my orgasm implant, I want my own finger to be on the button, thank you very much. Nobody is going to train me when to come. And hey, we live in a high-tech world now--it's not a disorder if you don't get off in the old-fashioned way. Why keep using the clunky 386 chip when you could be running something faster, ya know what I mean?

Annalee Newitz ([email protected]) is a surly media nerd who wants direct neural stimulation and she wants it now.

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From the February 15-21, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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