Sex Visions (not an R&B album)
March 21, 2014 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for information about visions or visuals experienced during sex. Not anecdotes, but 1. rigorous scientific work that contextualizes who gets them and why, and 2. artists, writers, or poets who have used them as inspiration in any way.

This forum has a good set of examples to flesh out what I refer to. It's not a deliberate "close your eyes and picture Brad Pitt" thing, or a "squeezing your eyes closed too tight" thing. I get these, and they're always surprisingly poetic, sensory, and inspiring, as well as delicately personal, and so I'm curious about the history and basis of the phenomenon. I imagine other women (are there men ?) have incorporated them into spiritual or artistic expression.

Looking for leads on that and on the science of sex/brain/sensual hallucination phenomenon.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

In The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk, the male protagonist, at times, has the same visions that you speak of.
posted by sevenofspades at 12:11 PM on March 21, 2014

A few weeks ago on his podcast, Dan Savage fielded a call from someone who had really specific but mundane visions whenever she climaxed. (I believe that they were images of Russia?) The next week, a bunch of other people called in with their own mundane visions. I can't find any info on his site about which episode this was, but I'm pretty sure it was in the last couple of months, in one of the shorter free episodes.

Sorry that this is just more anecdotes, which you said you didn't want. But Dan seemed to have never heard of this phenomenon, and no one stepped up with any sciencey info. Given that he has a pretty broad listenership, this is at least a bit of evidence that there isn't much research there.
posted by painquale at 4:20 PM on March 21, 2014

Sounds like you'd love the ending of Vox by Nicholson Baker!
posted by 168 at 6:06 PM on March 21, 2014

Allen Ginsberg had a vision of William Blake while masturbating and reading Blake one day in 1948:
In the late 1960s, Allen Ginsberg set Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience to music. His enthusiasm for Blake dated back 20 years to a summer's day in Harlem when, lying on his bed reading Blake and absent-mindedly masturbating, he heard a "deep, ancient voice" and had a vision of William Blake.
--- Beautiful Noise by John Woolrich, The Guardian (2003)

The description of the Blake vision at Wikipedia rather circumspectly leaves out the masturbation, but other research will turn up more about it.
posted by wdenton at 8:11 PM on March 21, 2014

In Lessing's The Four-Gated City, the main character Matty/Martha has visionary sex with her friend Jack in post-war London, and in one of the visions, which seems to be a turning point in her life, sees herself as a child on the veldt and then in the future as a middle-aged woman in a house full of despairing children.

One of my partners had these kinds of visions during sex, and after she told me what was going on, it was easy to recognize the point at which she was no longer in the room. It gave sex a numinous quality I had never experienced before, though I did sometimes feel a bit Left Behind.

She first had such visions after smoking pot, but after the first few times the pot was no longer necessary.

Because she didn't need cannabis after awhile, and because cannabis can be hallucinogenic, I thought the visions might have something to do with endocannabinoids, which have established connections with sex and orgasms; and because the pineal gland apparently has numerous cannabinoid receptors and is a known source of DMT, the only identified endogenous hallucinogen, I thought endocannabinoids produced during sex could be causing the pineal to produce DMT which in turn gave rise to the visions.
posted by jamjam at 1:08 AM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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