The Strange Saga of the Butt Plug Turned Research Device

WIRED | 7/11/2019 | Matt Simon
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Take it from sex researcher Nicole Prause: Cobbling together an orgasm detector that works on both men and women ain’t easy. You at least know that it has to go in the **** to detect the muscle contractions that the sexes share, so you begin with a butt plug. Many butt plugs, actually.

“We ordered like 20 of these butt plugs off Amazon, and it messed up my recommendation engine for all time,” Prause says. To the butt plugs Prause added piezoelectric discs, which detect deformation. In the **** device goes, and voilà: You’ve got a way to uniformly measure the physiology of orgasms.

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Alas, a complication: “The device was made for sexual stimulation, so it was sloped both going in and coming out,” Prause says. “Which meant if somebody was masturbating vigorously, it had a tendency to pop out. And it usually popped out at the worst possible time: when the contractions would start.”

Then, salvation! Prause was tweeting her misadventures in tinkering with the device when a stranger in Germany offered his expertise. “I think he does cosplay where sometimes their costumes are very Arduino-intense,” Prause says. “They want their wings to light up or whatever it is. So he had a lot of those hobbyist skills.”

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Most importantly, he was skilled in computer-aided design. So the two emailed and Skyped back and forth, iterating on details like the length of the device and the size of the head. Until they landed on the “anal pneumatic base for psychophysiology research,” plans for which are now available on Thingiverse, if you’re inclined to 3D-print one for yourself.

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You might be thinking a lot of things at this point, hopefully among them: Why, in 2019, did a sex researcher have to go to such lengths to...
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