The nipple orgasm— or ”nipplegasm” as I like to call it—is a bit of sex urban legend. But speaking as a neuroscientist, I can confirm, they’re very much real.
Welcome back to the Ask Dr. Nan column. For our newest readers, I'm Dr. Nan, a psychotherapist, certified sex therapist, and neuroscientist, here to address your pressing questions about sex, love and pleasure. My philosphy—informed by three decades of practice as a psychotherapist coupled with a dozen years of conducting research on the neuroscience of sex and pleasure—is that pleasure is a necessity for our health and wellbeing. It’s somthing I talk about a lot in my new book Why Good Sex Matters and here in my new Glamour column.
So let’s get to the nipple orgasms already! In the lexicon of sexual pleasure, nipples tend to get treated like the forgotten ex wives—neglected in conversations about flashier erogenous zones like the clitoris or g-spot.
The truth is that nipples (or the “breast/nipple/areola complex” as we scientists refer to it) are packed with nerve endings that make them ripe for pleasure. (A fun fact: Your breasts can increase in size by as much as 25% during sexual arousal, which is the easiest and most pleasurable way to have an, albeit temporary, breast augmentation.)
There is little doubt that stimulation of the nipple can be erotic if you go by anecdotal reports. However, it wasn't until 2006 that the first scientific survey questioning men and women about their experience of nipple stimulation was conducted. Results indicated that nipple stimulation was reported to enhance sexual arousal in 82% of women and 52% of men.
These gaps in our understanding of sex science are one big reason I get out of bed everyday. In 2011, my team published a study exploring the sensory wiring of the nipples to the brain. Turns out stimulation of the nipples activates the same pleasure hot spot in the brain—which we now call the "genital sensory cortex"—as stimulation of the clitoris or vagina. (Same goes for men, by the way.)
What is a nipple orgasm and how is it possible?
Given that nipples are wired to the same place in the brain that inputs sensation from clitoris and vagina, it’s no wonder nipple orgasms are a thing.
When your nipples are stimulated, these feel good vibes also find their way to a key brain structure called the hypothalamus, which among its many important functions, regulates the brain chemicals that make us exhilarated, furious, horny, or happy. Stimulation of the nipples causes the hypothalamus to release oxytocin—a potent neurohormone that can enhance feelings of bonding and helps trigger the pleasurable contractions experienced during orgasm itself.
What does a nipple orgasm feel like?
From most reports, nipplegasms feel quite good and can range in intensity from the small sigh-like kind of orgasm to the bigger toe-curling variety.
If you factor in the fact that nipple stimulation targets ground zero of the "genital sensory cortex" and can also cause pleasurable contractions down below, it isn't surprising that the nipplegasm can resemble orgasms from stimulation of the clitoris and vagina.
Can anyone have a nipple orgasm?
I wish I knew. Reports based on non-scientific surveys estimate the percentage of women experiencing orgasm from nipple stimulation alone ranges anywhere from 1% to 15.5%. This is far from scientifically conclusive but I would speculate that the more orgasmic a woman is in general, the more likely she will be able to enjoy the delights of an orgasm induced by nipple stimulation alone.
How to have a nipplegasm
For starters, the advice I give women, in general, applies equally well here: don't strive for the orgasm, but rather enjoy the sensations along the way. Nonetheless, here are some suggestions for having more fun with your nipples.
1. Do kegels while stimulating your nipples.
In addition to the sexual health benefits of strengthening the pelvic floor through a regular practice of kegels, pulling up on the floor of the pelvis (using a similar action to that used to stop the flow of urine midstream) and rhythmically contracting the PC muscles during nipple stimulation can enhance sexual pleasure and increase the probability of enjoying an nipplegasm. Or any other kind of "gasm" for that matter.
2. Get your head in the game.
I published a study showing that simply imagining pleasurable genital stimulation without any actual physical touch lit up the pleasure places in the brain very much like the real thing. Take advantage of your powerful mind and use it to connect the sensations you experience during nipple stimulation with thinking about/fantasizing/imagining pleasurable genital touch.
3. Stimulate various parts of your body.
To prime your body for pleasure, alternate between genital touch and nipple touch, taking advantage of the neuroscience adage “neurons that fire together wire together.” The more both regions get stimulated in tandem, the stronger the connections between them will become.
4. Prioritize pleasure.
And finally, don't forget to devote more time to pleasure. Period. The more you play, the more likely you are to find your way to to nipplegasm-land.
Nan Wise, Ph.D., is AASECT certified sex therapist, neuroscientist, certified relationship expert, and author of Why Good Sex Matters: Understanding the Neuroscience of Pleasure for a Smarter, Happier, and More Purpose-Filled Life. Follow her @AskDoctorNan.
Originally Appeared on Glamour