Impact Factor
This article is part of the Research Topic Synaesthesia

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 16 October 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00751

Synaesthesia and sexuality: the influence of synaesthetic perceptions on sexual experience

Janina Nielsen1, Tillmann H. C. Kruger1, Uwe Hartmann1, Torsten Passie1,2, Thorsten Fehr3 and Markus Zedler1*
  • 1Department of Clinical Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry, and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA
  • 3Department of Neuropsychology, Center for Advanced Imaging Bremen/Magdeburg, Center for Cognitive Sciences, University Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Introduction: Synaesthesia is a phenomenon in which a certain stimulus induces a concurrent sensory perception; it has an estimated prevalence of 4%. Sexual arousal as an inducer for synaesthetic perceptions is rarely mentioned in the literature but can be found sometimes in case reports about subjective orgasmic experiences.

Aims: To examine whether synaesthetic perceptions during sexual intercourse have an impact on the sexual experience and the extent of sexual trance compared to non-synaesthetes.

Methods: In total, 19 synaesthetes with sexual forms of synaesthesia (17 female; 2 male) were included as well as corresponding control data of 36 non-synaesthetic subjects (n = 55). Two questionnaires were used to assess relevant aspects of sexual function and dysfunction (a German adaption of the Brief Index of Sexual Functioning, KFSP) as well as the occurrence and extent of sexual trance (German version of the Altered States of Consciousness Questionnaire, OAVAV). Additionally qualitative interviews were conducted in some subjects to further explore the nature of sexual experiences in synaesthetes.

Main Outcome Measures: Sexual experience and extent of sexual trance during intercourse.

Results: Synaesthetes depicted significantly better overall sexual function on the KFSP with increased scores for the subscale “sexual appetence” but coevally significant lower subscale scores for “sexual satisfaction.” Sexual dysfunction was not detected in this sample. Synaesthetes depicted significantly higher levels of the subscales “oceanic boundlessness” and “visionary restructuralization” than controls using the OAVAV. Qualitative interviews revealed varying synaesthetic perceptions during the different states of arousal. Furthermore, synaesthetes reported an unsatisfactory feeling of isolation caused by the idiosyncratic perceptions.

Conclusions: Synaesthetes with sexual forms of synaesthesia seem to experience a deeper state of sexual trance without, however, enhanced satisfaction during sexual intercourse.

Keywords: synaesthesia, sexuality, sexual satisfaction, sexual appetence, oceanic boundlessness, visionary restructuralization, sexual trance, OAVAV

Citation: Nielsen J, Kruger THC, Hartmann U, Passie T, Fehr T and Zedler M (2013) Synaesthesia and sexuality: the influence of synaesthetic perceptions on sexual experience. Front. Psychol. 4:751. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00751

Received: 28 May 2013; Accepted: 26 September 2013;
Published online: 16 October 2013.

Edited by:

Clare Jonas, University of East London, UK

Reviewed by:

Noam Sagiv, Brunel University, London, UK
Danko Nikolic, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Germany

Copyright © 2013 Nielsen, Kruger, Hartmann, Passie, Fehr and Zedler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Markus Zedler, Department Clinical Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry, and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1 (OE 7110), 30625 Hannover, Germany e-mail: mailto:zedler.markus@mh-hannover.de