Have you ever had a seriously powerful sex dream? One where you wake feeling like you're literally either about to come or have just come? Just the other night, I found myself in the thick of a steamy tryst with my man, only to wake up right before orgasm.
Obviously, I rolled over to finish the job IRL, but this got me thinking.
We talk a whole lot about morning wood as it pertains to people assigned male at birth. Even the name is masculine-leaning: you have a penis, the penis gets hard like wood. Morning wood. Got it. Check.
As many things do this in this patriarchal world in which we live, the vulva-owning among us are left confused and bewildered. Women totally have sex dreams. Plenty of them. All the time. This morning wood, mostly-men-only club is over. It's canceled.
Women can wake up, post-sleep-orgasm, wet and ready for morning sex and another orgasm. Morning wood is totally a thing for women. I'd suggest a more inclusive name change, but morning wood is so cheeky and appealing, in my humble opinion.
A study found that 37 percent of women have experienced an orgasm during sleep, while over 70 percent have experienced a highly sexual and arousing dream at some point in their lives. Obviously, am I right?
According to a study from the Kinsey Institute, where researchers measured and observed female genitals while people slept, they found blood flow increases to the clitoris in the same manner that it flows to the penis during REM sleep, our deepest form of sleep. This happens because during sleep, norepinephrine decreases, which contributes to many things in the body, including blood pressure and your fight or flight response. When you're in REM sleep, blood flow isn't as regulated and you're more relaxed.
"This increase of blood flow in the genital area can sexually arouse the body even during sleep. This is why some women wake up from sleep with intense warmth or sensation in the genital area after experiencing a sleep orgasm," says Dr. Kristie Overstreet, PhD, clinical sexologist and psychotherapist. This explains why I'm always down to go for an in real life romp after a hot and heavy sex dream.
The penis and clitoris are not so different
The penis and clitoris are made from the same erectile tissue. They are homologous to each other and experience pleasure and arousal in very similar ways. In fact, in the first few weeks in utero, the penis and clitoris are identical to each other.
It makes sense that both sex organs would have the ability to become aroused and engorged and even produce orgasm during sleep in similar ways as well.
Lord knows the clitoris is engorged like wood, too. Anyone else excited to go to sleep tonight? Anyone?
You can even have multiple orgasms!
Another amazing thing you probably didn't know about: you can have multiple orgasms while you're asleep. Now, not every woman is multiorgasmic, but many of us are. So, if you're able to have multiple orgasms in a day/single sex session, the same is possible while you're off in dreamland.
"[The REM] cycle of sleep allows the body to react as it would if it was awake. Some women are able to remember an erotic or sexually arousing dream they had. Just as women can have multiple orgasms when they are awake, they can also have them during their sleep," says Dr. Overstreet.
There is no "emission" though, usually
Wet dreams, or nocturnal emissions, are when a penis-having person ejaculates during sleep, hence the "wet" part in "wet dream."
Most women don't experience emissions in this same way. "Women should not expect that they would have a nocturnal emission when they have an orgasm during sleep," Dr. Overstreet tells us. "They will experience an enlargement in the clitoral area and experience sensitivity in the area, as well as there is an increase in lubrication."
A female "emission" is often referred to as female ejaculation or "squirting." While many a sex coach will tell you that all women have the ability to squirt, this is actually untrue. Biologically, all women could have the ability to squirt, but not all do. It's unclear why some women squirt and others don't, but it doesn't affect your ability to experience pleasure.
Even for those who do possess the ability to squirt, it's unlikely it will occur during sleep, as squirting requires stimulation of the Skene's gland, which is located inside the vagina near the G-spot and urethra.
But, seriously, why aren't we talking about this?
To circle back to my original questions in the introduction of this article: Why are we still calling this "morning wood" when it can happen to all people assigned female at birth too, and why aren't we even aware that women (and all people assigned female at birth) are able to get aroused and orgasm during sleep?
Dr. Overstreet says it's because of the differing ways in which we view female vs. male sexuality. "This isn't being talked about because it's more acceptable in our society to talk about men and morning wood. Women aren't thought of as sexual beings compared to men. Women are told to remain quiet about all things related to sex, and if they discuss their bodies or sex, then they will be thought of in a negative light."
Snaps, girl. I hear you.
Another thing that contributes to this confusion and lack of understanding is the negation of "emission." Women don't wake up with wet, sticky sheets after a sleep orgasm. Without the clear evidence in front of us, this leads us to believe that the orgasm didn't take place or isn't possible.
"This can be confusing for women and create doubt that they had the experience," Dr. Overstreet says.
The only way to fix this silliness? Education and discussion. The more widespread conversation we have around sex, pleasure, and how our bodies work, the more people will understand how their bodies function and experience pleasure.