Pleasure-inducing implants can induce orgasms at the push of a button, but as Frank Swain discovers, there’s a curious history behind this technology.
This month, news outlets worldwide issued breathless reports of a wondrous implant that causes orgasms at the touch of a button. The Orgasmatron, patented by Dr Stuart Meloy, is a small box wired to the spine that can send out waves of pleasure signals whenever the user desires. Dig a little deeper though, and it turns out this technology has a strange and fascinating backstory.
“You’re about the sixth or seventh reporter to call, and I’m wondering what is going on,” a perplexed Meloy told me. His confusion is justifiable. Recent news reports about the device are based exclusively on a 13-year-old story in New Scientist magazine which recently appeared on web powerhouse Reddit, a user-curated repository of interesting things. In the long interim, Meloy has been trying to attract interest and funding for his device, without success.
Meloy is a physician and co-founder of Advanced Interventional Pain Management, a clinic that treats patients suffering from chronic pain. Through this centre, he began working with electronic implants. Attached to nerves in the spine, these devices send out continuous, low pulses to dull chronic pain. But following an operation to install an implant, one patient reported an unusual but not undesirable side effect: the device emitted intensely pleasurable sensations. Meloy realised that he had a powerful technology in his hands, one that he thought might be used to treat men and women suffering sexual dysfunction.
That was over a decade ago, and while Meloy has enjoyed a successful career as a physician, progress on the Orgasmatron has stalled. One stumbling block is the generators used, which cost around $25,000. Meloy is confident that an Orgasmatron could get by on a much smaller power source, sufficient for about an hour’s use per day. “Pulsing constantly for days at a time is not, in my humble opinion, all that necessary to treat sexual dysfunction,” he says. “Some of us have to go to work.” Unfortunately, no suitable alternative exists, and he hasn’t been able to convince any medical manufacturers to design one.