ORGASM DURING SLEEP
It has always been well known that human beings are capable of experiencing sexual responses while they are asleep. In certain cultures and historical periods, however, people ascribed this capacity only to males. For example, the Bible tells us that, among the ancient Hebrews, a man who had an orgasm in his sleep was required to take a ritual bath for purification. His involuntary ejaculation of semen was called a "pollution" which made him "unclean" (Leviticus 15; Deuteronomy 23). There was no comparable requirement for women. Since women do not ejaculate anything, nobody paid any attention to their spontaneous orgasms. Indeed, until fairly recently the religious and medical authorities in our Judeo-Christian culture were used to discussing the entire matter only under the heading of "nocturnal pollution" or "nocturnal emission". It was not until around the middle of our century that Kinsey and his associates presented some reliable statistics as to the frequency of this type of sexual outlet. The figures showed that not only males, but also many females, have orgasms in their sleep (although the percentage of females is smaller). As a consequence, Kinsey no longer spoke of "nocturnal emissions", but of "nocturnal sex dreams". This was a term that could be applied to both sexes. However, it also covered cases where no orgasm was reached. In order to be more precise, other sex researchers therefore replaced Kinsey's term with "nocturnal orgasm" (i.e., orgasm during the night). Unfortunately, this now popular expression is very misleading, because in our culture most orgasms occur at night, including those reached by coitus. Sexual dreams, on the other hand, may very well occur during an afternoon nap, in which case they would have to be called "diurnal sex dreams" (i.e., sex dreams during the day). It seems then that "orgasm during sleep" is the simplest and most accurate term available.
Involuntary orgasms are almost always accompanied by sexual dreams, especially in males. These dreams may depict unusual and forbidden behavior, such as sexual intercourse with close relatives, children or animals, group sex, exhibitionism, and many other activities that the individual would never contemplate in his waking hours. However, during sleep our normal inhibitions and learned controls are much less effective, and many of our unconscious wishes may thus be acted out in a harmless, symbolic fashion. The lack of conscious restraints also accounts for another phenomenon: Many people (particularly women) reach orgasm much faster in their sleep than while they are awake.
Today, the religious and medical attitudes toward such experiences are generally very lenient. Some Christian churches have stopped being concerned about them at all, and the Catholic church considers them sinful only if they are somehow consciously planned, welcomed, or enjoyed. Certain psychiatrists once used to regard involuntary orgasms in women as symptoms of some neurotic disorder, but, in the meantime, this curious opinion has been completely discarded. Instead, there is now a widespread belief that orgasms during sleep are necessary and healthy, and that they can even provide a "natural" compensation for sexual abstinence. In other words, it is assumed that persons who do not engage in any conscious sexual activity will instead find sexual relief while asleep. This popular assumption seems to be false, however. For instance, according to Kinsey's findings, women who suddenly lost the opportunity for several coital orgasms per week had only a few more orgasms in their sleep per year. As a matter of fact, for some women the number of involuntary orgasms increased only when they also had more voluntary orgasms. In short, an orgasm during sleep is a possible natural function of the human body, but it is no substitute for conscious sexual activity.