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Sexual (and romantic) synesthesia


Few studies have been made of this phenomenon and it is not clear whether or not it should be considered a type of synesthesia, as it does not meet all the requirements to do so, but it is likely that it will be understood better in the fairly near future. At present it is generally considered to be a type of synesthesia and apart from the designation of “sexual synesthesia” it usually receives the name “orgasm-colour”, although it is actually a much wider phenomenon. Its inducers can be either orgasm itself or sexual activity in general, and also caressing, general touch and hugging and kissing with one’s partner, and I therefore believe that it would be much better described as “sexual and romantic synesthesia”.

During the sexual trance, orgasm, and affectionate moments with their significant other, some people perceive colours, shapes, patterns, objects and whole scenes involving places and people. Sometimes the images are complex and/or figurative, so rather than being synesthesia they are actually more similar to the hallucinatory processes typical of the hypnagogic state (the state of profound relaxation that marks the transition from wakefulness to sleep). In a few cases these colours and images show consistency, the same colour or picture always corresponding to the same inducing concept, although it appears to be much more common for them to be random, with no link to a specific triggering aspect and never repeating. In the cases where the photisms are consistent, they tend to correspond to a particular "category" of sexual or romantic experience (different types of kisses, for example, as shown in the second-to-last example below) and therefore better meet the requirements to be considered a type of synesthesia and not a separate phenomenon, as they could be classified as a type of coloured sequence synesthesia. In any case, all experiences of this kind can probably be related to a special state of extreme relaxation and focus.


As already mentioned, these colours and images are not only perceived during sex and definitely not only during orgasm. They are perceived when there is physical contact, sexual or non-sexual, with one's partner during moments of relaxation, and normally in the case of a stable relationship and not with occasional partners. The phenomenon thus occurs not only during the sexual trance but also in response to hugging, caressing and kissing, but only with a person with whom there is a romantic relationship, so it would not happen on hugging or kissing parents, friends, siblings etc. Some people say they have only ever experienced it with one particular partner and never with others. Some say they also experience it during sexual activity without a partner being present. It seems that both men and women can have these visualisations but that it is much more common in women (no figures available yet though).


The subject is still understudied and it is not yet known what percentage of the general population or what percentage of synesthetes might experience it. One of the few studies that exists, Synaesthesia and sexuality: the influence of synaesthetic perceptions on sexual experience (J. Nielsen et al, 2013) suggests that although it can happen to both synesthetes and non-synesthetes, the former have the most intense visual experiences.


What kind of colours and images are perceived?

I have read many accounts of these visualisations, and they seem to be a phenomenon similar to hypnagogic hallucinations or other entoptic phenomena. This kind of benign visual hallucinations can appear in special states of relaxation (during meditation, for example). As with hypnagogic images, the visualisations consist of abstract colours and shapes, complex patterns and sometimes images of objects, people and places. The figurative images are characterised by their random and trivial nature, and they very rarely have a sexual theme. Natural elements like trees, flowers and the countryside are frequently seen, and the characters and places can be known but are more often strangers and locations they have never visited. Sometimes they are not exclusively visual and sounds or music are also heard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (Parrot image: freepik website) 


Here are some examples I have found of different specific manifestations of sexual (and romantic) synesthesia:


Colours

A wave of colour, one colour or two, one colour that morphs into another or darkens. Colours with texture, location and movement. They tend to be random and not consistent, although some people say there is consistency between a specific colour and some aspect of their experience (with certain colours corresponding to a better or less satisfactory sexual experience or to certain sex positions, for example).


Combinations of colours, patterns and shapes

Different colours, changing or following on from each other, explosions of colour, fireworks, flashing or changing lights, laser-type lights, clouds of colour, kaleidoscopic patterns, complex patterns, fractals, shapes, changing graphic forms or "Kandinsky-like figures".


Objects

Flowers, flowers opening their petals, precious stones, fruit, other natural elements like trees and waterfalls. Letters and numbers.


Scenes, locations and characters

The scenes are very random and do not normally have a sexual theme. People often figure and they sometimes speak, saying words or phrases. Occasionally familiar places are seen, but the locations and people are not usually known to the person who sees them. Some examples reported: a boat on the sea, an amusement park (a roller coaster, for example), natural landscapes, a forest (particularly common), childhood memories, walking down the street, being in a kitchen or other rooms in a house, writing in a diary, at a shop buying wrapping paper, standing in front of a hollow tree with a light shining out of it, in a dark castle. Several people have mentioned finding themselves in a video game. Sometimes the images have a cartoonish aspect, and they can be comical or even ridiculous.


Sounds or music

Tones or frequencies, or other sounds. One person says: “Sometimes I’ll hear music. I don’t physically hear it, but occasionally I feel it blaring and feel the vibrations.” Another says she always hears the same sound: something like “ei-non-stronna-nonna-ei-non-stronna…”



The painter April Zanne Johnson represents her experiencies with this type of synesthesia in her works. "Periaqueductal Gray Constructing Magenta Wall", oil paint on plexiglass, 2016. Source: the Inside Warren and Saatchi Art websites.


Here are some descriptions written by people who experience this phenomenon:


“When I hug him or kiss him, I see strange, vivid images in my mind. Sometimes they are beautiful - e.g. a pulsating mandala of balls of light, or an intricate, sprawling lichen on a mossy rock in a misty forest, or an iridescent frog. Other times they are bizarre and intense - e.g. a multi-limbed, dancing, boldly coloured cave painting of a woman. Yet other times they are mundane, ridiculous and often hilarious - a jar of mayonnaise, or a derpy dog running into a wall, or a cake decorated with raw green beans.”

(Source: This post on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2020.)


For me, less intense orgasms are cerulean waves and my most intense orgasms are bright goldenrod bursts of light. Sometimes they fall in between intensities and appear as a deep purple glitter.”

(Source: This comment on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2019.)


I’m sure I’ve seen colours at some point, but I’ve definitely seen visions before! They’re never sexual, and always out of place.

The first time it happened was also the most vivid. Eyes closed, hyper-focused, I was transported into this small all-white, minimalist room with a few plants. I remember thinking, “Ah yes, IKEA.”

It was such a strong vision that even now, years later, it’s burned into my memory. I can picture every detail.

When I brought it up afterwards, my partner thought I was trying to coerce him into redecorating the apartment and promptly pretended to be asleep.”

(Source: This comment on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2020.)


"My favorite thing is that I get real vivid imagery per sexual position. Like one's a big building full of empty rooms. Ones a trainyard at dusk. Another, barrels floating down a river. I have no idea why--it's very mysterious. 😂

(Source: This comment on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2020.)


"Today I was kissing my boyfriend and I realized that I was seeing different things in my head depending on how the kiss felt to me. For example, the soft and slow are lavender fields, the frantic and almost rough have Halloween/autumn vibes, and for some reason, the in-between is a house literally made out of blue flowers."

(Source: This post on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2022.)


I had an entire movie in what seemed like 5-10 seconds. (...) I was transported to another time, looked like the 1920's. I was inside in what seemed like a castle with beautiful vintage furniture and I was seeing a lot of chairs and people that were speaking to me as we were relatives... I was walking from one room to another as if I knew the place but was revisiting it again?! with people welcoming me back. At some point I told myself this isn't my life and I zoomed out of it. (...) I am so creeped out but yet so intrigued.”

(Source: This post on the Synesthesia subReddit. 2019.)


Related phenomena and synesthesia types:

Tactile-visual synesthesia

Images seen in creative/musical trance

Figurative images as a synesthetic concurrent


This page last updated: 02 December 2023

This page first created/published: 27 February 2021

This page is about sexual synaesthesia and orgasm-colour synaesthesia

This page is about sexual synesthesia and orgasm-color synesthesia

21 comments:

  1. Omg I have the exact same experiences and I can’t even process this it’s so so so strange. I also have other forms of synesthesia. I never knew this happened to other people, I wish there were more studies on this.

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  2. I have this experience when I orgasm too!!!! My partner loves hearing me try to explain the colour or sensation after we have been intimate. Sometimes it is just colour/s other times it could be in the shapes/forms of waves or fireworks or little wiggly lines. I had no idea there was a name for it and others who experienced sex that way.

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    1. Same with mine. I had never experienced it before with anyone but my current fiancé . I didn’t know what to make of it. It was like a soft color firework show with my eyes closed

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  3. Amazing! I have this too! What I see is never the same. Most often glowing colors and shapes, shifting and moving when I orgasm or am getting deeply massaged. It can be like fireworks, lightsabers, or glowing clouds of sunset-colored cotton candy, glowing on a dark background. Once, when being kissed I saw vines with glowing orange and red leaves moving up from where his fingers touched into my hair. Another time, it was pink blossoms. Once, I even had a person speak to me in the vision. I had it happen maybe a half dozen times earlier in life, but 99% of these have happened with my now husband.

    I also have number form synesthesia, but I didn’t realize these visions were akin to synesthesia too! I love this and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Feels like a tiny bit of a magical power.

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    1. I feel the same. What a lovely way to describe it, and thanks for sharing. It’s so powerful 😍

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  4. I have this! First time it happened was with my now husband. Also my first time having multiple orgasms. I felt like I was in another world. I can still see the exact image I saw then. Moving shapes, lots of colors, just floating in space. It's happened several times over the years but only during sex, not kissing or cuddling. A lot of times I see/smell/ taste fruit. Most recently it was apples. I'm so glad I finally know what this is.

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  5. I had my first real notable experience of this last night to the point it scared me a little afterwards once I’d taken it in. At first I could just see green when I was closing my eyes. I felt so calm and happy. The green was swirling around. I then started getting full pictures AND sounds! Not like I could hear it but I felt it. I felt like I was in an African tribe or something, they were looking at me and smiling but in a nice way. I could see faces and I felt drumming. It was beautiful but kind of scary!

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  6. I’ve experienced bright red soft flashes of color while orgasming with my fiancée the brighter the bursts the more intense. My eyes are always closed during this. I’ve never experienced it with any other before or ever.

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  7. I just experienced this again with my husband! I saw like a hexagonal purple shapes coming at me in different sizes. I wonder if the relaxing massage he gave me helped trigger this amazing and vivid synesthesia moment!

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  8. During sex, I am always in a different setting. A Roman bath, the desert at night, an Old West saloon, a porch looking over the prairie. It’s always peaceful, relaxing, and dream-like. I also have calendar synesthesia.

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  9. Glad I'm not alone! I get colours or images during sex, and they're so weird. Sometimes things will feel a colour, and sometimes I will visualise random images and scenarios without even realising; and the visuals change as it continues. Some examples include a badger, a museum with an antique vase, and visualising a map of different country invasions. They also change based on the sensation, for example if the person moves position the country might as well, or if they move their hand it might feel like someone walking upstairs. I often don't even realise its happening. Its like I'm sort of dreaming throughout the whole thing.

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  10. I used to experience amazing elements of color and beauty as my pleasure grew during sex. Often I was in an incredibly beautiful store looking at colorful and dazzlingly gorgeous items and artwork. Sometimes it was just bursts of bright colors and patterns. I definitely felt out of body, deeply peaceful, and grateful to be in such a beautiful state of being. Once I passed through menopause, the synesthesia stopped. I miss it!

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  11. That's interesting. I've found it intensified after menopause, but possibly because I started doing pelvic floor exercises daily! I can have colours or letters of the alphabet. I have an unpartnered disabled friend who uses a vibrator to orgasm, and she says it makes her feel very close to God and understand his love for her.

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  12. Mad how close the 'kandinsky-like figures' bit.. that's what I had just google to try and understand my own experience. It felt like I was no longer a body or could feel our bodies connected but instead we were both graphic shapes moving around, not even human shaped. Just graphic lines moving around.

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  13. I’m glad I’m not crazy I’ve always wondered what this was called. If there was even a name for it. When I was younger I would see colors, shapes, feel vibrations and sounds. Now i get those and at times I could be laying in a bed of wildflowers or the hillside with the wild fall flowers growing and I’m running through it. A scenic view of a hillside the sky so blue and im in the center spinning in a circle wild and free. I tell my husband “ Take me to Paradise “ because it seems like that’s where I get to go. I feel like im dreaming sweet dreams while im awake. Felt guilty at first but goodness it’s beyond beautiful.

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  14. All of this time I thought I was weird and turned on by architecture. I also assumed that everyone saw fractals and fireworks during orgasm

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  15. I get this too. It's wonderful. For me, it notice it immediately after sex. I am in a trace like state and see beautiful vivid colours like a kaleidoscope show. The Kadinsky reference also covers it. I feel totally relaxed and almost as if floating. I have to focus though because if I change mind mode to do something else, it can go away. If I'm lucky I can refocus and get it back. After sex I prefer to say nothing, just lie there and enjoy my beautiful trance trip. Post menopausal woman here, 30 years married. Only been happening in the last few years. I wonder if I've just got better at engaging in the zone and totally relaxing.

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  16. I found this thread because this happened to me last night for the first time. I’ve always lost myself during sex but last night I saw the entire galaxy! It was amazing like I was going home! It started with little glimpses of blue and pink flashes like the northern lights then I saw stars and the closer I got to orgasm it was like I was getting further into space and then I saw the full galaxy!

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  17. “sexual synesthesia” is that a fancy term for paraphilia? For those that dont know A paraphilia is an experience of recurring or intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, places, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or individuals. While I dont think Paraphila is a form of synesthesia its worth pointing out that both are linking things together that normally shouldnt be linked.

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