Sexual response to self-stimulation in women with complete spinal cord injury

Beverly Whipple, Carolyn A. Gerdes, Barry R. Komisaruk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


In the scant reports that are available about sexual response and orgasm in women with complete spinal cord injury (SCI), some researchers state that these women cannot achieve orgasm; others label the orgasms of women with SCI as 'phantom orgasms.' However, subjective reports of women do not support these contentions. The purpose of this study was to obtain objective correlates of the subjective reports of women with complete SCI during self- stimulation. The volunteer study participants consisted of 5 women without SCI (control group) and 16 women diagnosed with complete SCI. Systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and self-report of level of sexual arousal were determined during self-stimulation of the vagina, the cervix, and a 'hypersensitive' area. Blood pressure and heart rate increased significantly in response to vaginal or cervical self-stimulation in the control group. Blood pressure increased significantly in response to vaginal and cervical self-stimulation only in the group with complete SCI below T-10, whereas heart rate showed no significant change in the SCI groups. Three women with SCI, one as high as T-7, and one without SCI self-reported orgasms during the laboratory study. The current findings support anecdotal reports from women with complete SCI of sexual arousal and orgasm from genital and non-genital self-stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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