TLC has just released a new clip from its series, “Sex Sent Me to the ER,” which shows a woman experiencing an orgasm for over three hours, panicking, and rushing to the ER before it diminishes.
The bizarre situation may seem unbelievable, especially since TLC is an entertainment station and not a news source. Whether or not Liz and Eric, the couple portrayed in this episode, actually experienced such a condition isn’t entirely certain, but it certainly opens questions as to whether the idea of an “extended orgasm” is a real medical concern for women (or men).
TLC claims the stories they broadcast are true. “We’ve found real-life couples that have experienced everything from continuous orgasms to fractured penises,” TLC writes on its website. “Watch as they retell their astonishing stories while reenactments show how the injury occurred.”
The couple, who live in Seattle, had been having sex before work when Liz’s orgasm, which normally lasts about 15 seconds, did not stop. “I started hopping up and down to see if that would do anything,” Liz says on the show. “I started trying to drink wine to see if that would calm down my system. I tried just about every possible thing I could do to stop having an orgasm.” It was after two hours that they rushed to the ER, where it was another hour before she was relieved of the seemingly endless climax.
So what is an “extended orgasm”? The term was coined by Patricia Taylor, a coach and author, in 1995. Taylor had focused her Ph.D. research on the sensual experiences of 44 different couples, and was interested in finding ways to meld sex with spiritual experiences or revelations by introducing modalities that could help extend pleasure. Thus Taylor’s term “extended orgasm” is associated more with using sexual practices to manually extend the sensation, rather than it being a medical condition that is uncontrollable. So Liz’s condition might not be quite the same as an "extended orgasm."
Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder
However, there is indeed an actual medical condition called persistent genital arousal disorder or PGAD or PSAS, which causes consistent and uncontrollable genital arousal in women without sexual desire. It’s a rare condition where the victim experiences orgasms every few hours or sometimes more frequently, which severely impairs their daily lives and normal functioning, and even prevents them from having intimate relationships. They can have up to fifty or more in a row. PSAS was documented in 2001, so not much research has been done to effectively understand the condition or treat it properly. It is usually associated with extreme sensitivity, and can be aggravated by feelings of pain and discomfort. Eventually, the women who suffer from this condition associate orgasms more with pain than pleasure.
And though TLC’s “Sex Sent Me to the ER” is meant to be comedic, some real stories aren’t as lighthearted.
One woman, Gretchen Molannen, who had suffered from PSAS for 16 years, committed suicide after her inability to find relief from the pain. “The arousal won’t let up,” she said in a hearing, according to CBS News. “It will not subside. It will not relent. One O-R-G will lead you directly into the horrible intense urge, like you’re already next to having another one. … And you’re in so much pain. You’re soaking in sweat. Every inch of your body hurts.”
In a 2012 study, researchers actually found that most women with PSAS had the presence of a Tarlov cyst at their sacral spine — which some doctors believed could have caused vertebrae to press against nerves on the spinal cord and contribute to their condition. However, not enough research has been done on this particular condition, or the three-hour orgasm of Liz in "Sex Sent Me to the ER," for doctors to be certain.
“Think of what it would be like to be like continuously on the verge of sneezing, say, or with a full bladder and nothing to do about it,” Dr. Barry Komisaruk, a psychology professor at Rutgers University and a sexual medicine researcher, told CBS News. “The women are really tormented by it… If there was more general knowledge about it, I think more women would discuss it with their doctor,” he said.