Sara Bramlett achieved her first lucid dream-orgasm last year. She wrote about it on the subreddit devoted to lucid dreaming, where she described the experience as "earth-shattering." She had been dreaming about Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, and then suddenly, they were fucking and she was coming—as real as in her waking life, but with all the fantasy of a dream.
This wasn't just a regular sleep-orgasm, though. Bramlett had manufactured the scenario through a lucid dream: an awareness that you're dreaming while the dream is taking place, where you can exert some control over what happens in the dream. Although many focus on achieving the impossible during their lucid dreams—telekinesis, flying, shapeshifting—Bramlett is not the only woman interested in lucid dream orgasms.
The first officially recorded lucid dream orgasm came from a woman named Beverly D'Urso. Her ability to effectively reach lucidity in her dreams made her the perfect muse for Stephen LaBerge, who was studying lucid dreams at Stanford. Throughout the 80s, camera crew after camera crew would travel to the Stanford sleep lab to watch D'Urso—hooked up with about 50 wires to brainwave monitors, which ensured she was actually dreaming—as she performed tasks in her sleep. The body is largely paralyzed during deep sleep, but D'Urso could move her eyes, which she used to signal that she had started or completed a task in her sleep.
In 1983, working with LaBerge and another scientist, she was hooked up to a vaginal probe and signaled with her eyes that she was going to attempt to have an in-dream orgasm. In her dream, she later said, she floated over the Stanford campus, saw a man wearing a blue suit, tapped him on the shoulders, and they had sex right there in the walkway.
D'Urso has largely moved beyond lucid dream sex now—she's in a seminary program, where she's focusing on the belief that life, itself, is a dream—but other women have picked up where her research left off.
Beverly D'Urso once described having sex with The Earth in a dream, as she "flew at its edge, one leg dragging into the dirt."
Krista Blackwell, a 27-year-old in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been lucid dreaming for about a decade. She's developed techniques like staring intensely at her dream hands to improve lucidity during a dream, and she's recorded her experiences (both sexual and non-sexual) on Dream Views, a forum for lucid dreamers.
"As soon as I stepped into the door and things went black, I felt this warmth overlaying my body, like a soft, comfy, warm blanket being draped over me," she wrote describing a dream in 2012. "I've felt that when meditating before, but never in dreams. I was then in a room that looked similar to my grandparents' old, old house, with this tall chair in the middle of it. I sat on the chair, and for some reason, started to grind on it? I then had an intense orgasm, and woke up."
Most of the time, she said, the orgasms are a result of something sexual—but sometimes they come out of the blue. D'Urso once described having sex with The Earth in a dream, as she "flew at its edge, one leg dragging into the dirt."
Sometimes Blackwell has sex with an imaginary dream partner; sometimes it's with someone she knows from her waking life. She says the situations are rarely abnormal, but the orgasm itself feels different.
"[It feels] more internal and deeper, I guess, than it would in like, a physical sexual encounter," she said. "I don't know how else to describe it other than that because it just feels deeper."
On Broadly: What Are Sleep Orgasms, and How Can I Have One?
"In interviewing women, and certainly I know from my own experience, sleep-related orgasms for women are typically very physical, very strong," said Dr. Franceen King, a clinical sexologist in Florida who coined the term "sleep-related female orgasm," referring to those that occur in lucid dreams, non-lucid dreams, or even unrelated to dreams at all.
King theorizes that the intensity of the dream orgasm, which many others confirmed, may be in part due to the fact that it's easier, in sleep, for women to let go.
"I have worked with some women for whom sleep was their only orgasm and who gradually, through relaxation and training were able to begin to experience orgasms while awake," she said. "Part of this relates to a much bigger issue when we talk about female sexuality."
Alfred Kinsey, who was the first scientist to address the phenomenon, found that 22 percent of the more than 7,000 women he surveyed reported "sex dreams with orgasm" (and women tended to experience them more commonly as they got older). Yet, to King's chagrin, sleep orgasms go largely undiscussed.
"I've had a number of male therapists say to me, in shock, 'Wow, I've never heard of this. I never realized this.' This is groundbreaking for them," King said. "I've even had clients tell me that their physicians were not aware that women experience these, because it is not a topic that has been addressed in the public. In fact, it has been avoided in the public because it has historically been a highly-charged topic."
On Motherboard: How Lucid Dreaming Lets Dreamers Rehearse for Real Life
A number of the women King interviewed for her research into sleep orgasms told her they actively avoid having orgasms in their sleep. Some of them, she said, feel sexual inhibitions, while others "know that the sexuality, especially orgasm, is going to wake them up, is going to take them out of the dream state, out of that lucidity."
On the lucid dream forums, this is a common complaint. Save for lucid dream experts, lucid dream orgasms act like alarm clocks, jolting women out of their sleep.
"I think there are a lot of people—a lot of women in particular—who think, 'Oh this is a waste of my lucid dream. I'm going to go fly,'" said Patti Taylor, a lucid dreamer. "In fact, I like to fly a lot since I have a lot of orgasms in real life. A lot of people are like, 'The last thing I want to do is have sex.'"
Taylor is adept at maintaining sleep and lucidity through her orgasms and she fears that attitude—if I have an orgasm, I will wake up—is a self-fulfilling prophecy for a lot of women.
"I don't necessarily remember the details of the lucid dreams," she said. "It's more, I remember the sensations that I felt because [of] stories. Maybe I met somebody under an octopus, or at a temple on another planet... It really doesn't matter, does it? It's what you felt."
Follow Dave Simpson on Twitter.