La petite mort

La petite mort

"La petite mort", French for "the little death", is a reference for sexual orgasm. The term has generally been interpreted to describe the post-orgasmic fainting spells [The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 21, 1952, No. 2. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 34:353] or unconsciousness some lovers experience.

It is mentioned briefly in Jean Rhys's "Wide Sargasso Sea" as Rochester talks of his sexual relationship with his new wife:quote
"Then try, try, say die and watch me die."
"Die then! Die! I watched her die many times."

More widely, it can refer to the spiritual release that comes with orgasm, or a short period of melancholy or transcendence, as a result of the expenditure of the "life force". Literary critic Roland Barthes spoke of "la petite mort" as the chief objective of reading literature. He metaphorically used the concept to describe the feeling one should get when experiencing any great literature.

A recent study of brain activation patterns using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) give some support to the experience of a small death:quote|To some degree, the present results seem to be in accordance with this notion, because female orgasm is associated with decreased blood flow in the orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is crucial for behavioural control. [cite journal |author=Georgiadis J, Kortekaas R, Kuipers R, Nieuwenburg A, Pruim J, Reinders A, Holstege G |title=Regional cerebral blood flow changes associated with clitorally induced orgasm in healthy women |journal=Eur J Neurosci |volume=24 |issue=11 |pages=3305–16 |year=2006 |pmid=17156391 |doi=10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.05206.x]

See also

*Beautiful Agony


Further reading

* Psychobiology of altered states of consciousness, Psychological Bulletin 2005, Vol. 131, No. 1, 98-127
* Orgasmic aura originates from the right hemisphere, Neurology 2002;58:302-304
*"Electroencephalographic laterality changes during human sexual orgasm", Archives of Sexual Behavior, Springer Netherlands, Vol. 5, #3, May 1976. Abstract: "Left and right parietal EEGs were recorded while seven subjects experienced sexual climax through self-stimulation. " []
*EEG during masturbation and ejaculation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Springer Netherlands, Vol. 14,#6,December 1985. Abstract: "...Examination of the literature shows little agreement among reported results of studies of EEG changes during orgasm."

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