Can a person orgasm during rape?

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Dear Dr. Myrtle,

I have this friend who recently was coming home from cheerleader practice with a carload of girls. This guy’s girlfriend told him that at the last stop, this guy jumped into the back seat of the car where she was riding, and this guy raped her with his finger and she had an orgasm. Do people orgasm during rape? Is that possible?


Yes, people can have orgasms during non-consensual sexual violence. The type of arousal that leads to sexual pleasure and the type of arousal your body experiences during fearful and stressful times are working with the same neurological system.

The fear of violence can cause an intense arousal, even though that arousal is not sexual because her brain said NO. Your friend was unwilling to be sexual, yet her arousal system was on high alert. Bodies can react to being non-consentually touched, and many sexual violence survivors report that their bodies can react (nipples and penis become erect, vulva’s flush and swell) because this is the "automatic" part of the autonomic nervous system which runs arousal responses.

Orgasms are reflexes, the result of a combination of physical stimulation and arousal. When this guy touched her non-consensually (physical stimulation), her body responded to the high arousal of fear, and she had an orgasm. It does not mean she consented to the experience, enjoyed it, or was asking for it. This type of experience can be quite confusing to abuse survivors, because under certain stressful circumstances, the body can have automatic responses that we cannot control.

People rarely lie about being forced to have non-consensual sex. If that’s what your friend reports, then believe her. You can help her by being supportive of her, and encouraging her to tell her story to appropriate authorities if she needs to do so. Help her get the health care screening that she needs after this assault. She may not be interested in pressing charges, but she should be supported and believed.

Take care.

Dr. Myrtle