How to Do It

I Get Intense Pleasure From a Strange Place

Is this common for young women?

A woman sleeping with throbbing circles coming out from her head.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Wiphop Sathawirawong/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a woman in my 20s, and I have a question about an incredible and strange source of pleasure I experience.

I often have very intense sex dreams where I sometimes have multiple orgasms. This is not a problem. I’m just curious why I have more intense arousal and orgasms in my dreams than I ever do in real life. In my waking life, I experience arousal and great orgasms, but never as intense as in my dreams. Is it because I feel completely uninhibited in my dreams? And where does all that pleasure come from since I’m dead asleep? Is this common, especially among other women?

—Dream Lover

Stoya: We get a lot of questions about dreams and, like this person, they want to understand their dreams. There’s a whole field of understanding dreams and it’s not super scientific, but it can definitely be food for thought in the same way that, like, pulling a tarot card can be.

Rich: Yeah, obviously Freud did a lot with dream interpretations, but his interpretation of dreams was like really, really strict, saying this symbol means that, and I don’t think that you can say that for everybody. What’s the cliché when, like, all your teeth fall out—you’re gonna get married, somebody is talking about you? I mean, like, obviously not; you could have a dream where all your teeth fall out because you’re afraid that when you walk down subway stairs, you’re going to fall and break your teeth. Or you’re just generally concerned with your dental health.

Stoya: Or you’re grinding your teeth all night and they hurt, and your subconscious is transmuting that into the teeth actually falling out.

Rich: Exactly, there’s a weird sort of like wishy-washy middle ground here with dreams where they could mean everything and nothing. I don’t necessarily think they’re predictors of the future, but I do think often your brain is kind of taking stock of your life subconsciously.

Also, I’ve gotten quite a few questions about sleep and parasomnias, which are broadly sleep disorders, especially as they apply to sex. There’s a sexsomnia, which is spontaneous sex that occurs during sleep, which is, you know, a highly kind of debated phenomenon. It is an observed phenomenon, but there are people who have used it as an excuse for assault too. So there’s that aspect to it as well.

But these nocturnal orgasms specifically in women—because obviously in assigned males, wet dreams have long been a thing that’s discussed—nocturnal orgasms in assigned females are a relatively new and really still uncharted field of discovery. I did read a case study of a 57-year-old woman—it was published in 2018; I cited this in a past column earlier this year in September—who was experiencing nocturnal orgasms sometimes weekly, every six months depending. And she qualified them as systemic kind of orgasms, feeling like the whole uterus is involved. That sounds to me like a very intense orgasm?

Stoya: Yes. Annie Sprinkle in her book, The Explorer’s Guide to Planet Orgasm: For Every Body, talks about all of these different kinds of orgasms and the way that we, when I was growing up and presumably still do, talk about orgasms for people who are assigned female at birth. It was always very like, “Oh you’ll know, if you had an orgasm,” like it’ll be “so intense.” But some orgasms are very small and there’s not much tension, or there’s not much release of tension. But when the uterus feels like it’s involved, that’s a pretty intense orgasm, in my experience.

Rich: The thing about this is that study that I read was basically just a case study. And if there was any objective there, it wasn’t to quite understand why this woman was having these intense orgasms—it was actually to treat her for them because she was religious and had a problem with this happening. And so she was given clonazepam, and it actually helped.

I’m glad that our writer doesn’t have the problem with these, and to get more information, you’d probably want to go to a sleep specialist. It’s a growing field of research, specifically nocturnal orgasms, despite them being pretty common. I think Kinsey studied them, but also there was this 1986 study that found 37 percent of the 245 women college students said that they’d experienced a nocturnal orgasm and 30 percent said that they had in the past year. So, I mean, that’s a really, really high number, but there’s just a lot of stuff where we don’t know why and your why might be different than the letter writer’s why.

Stoya: Yeah, she seems fine, but curious. And if she gets hooked up with a sleep specialist, especially someone studying nocturnal orgasms, she might be able to help add to the understanding, which could then get her the answers to her questions.

Rich: Each one, teach one.