HotAIR - Ida Sabelis -- Ig Nobel Medicine Prize Acceptance Speech

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To Make Love as a Testee

The story of Ida Sabelis, the first woman who had sex in a MRI-tube

by Ida Sabelis, organizational anthropologist, Heemstede The Netherlands.
(translation by Truus Pinkster, Feerwerd, The Netherlands)


MRI images produced by Sabelis and her colleagues

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ida Sabelis is a co-winner of the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine. The prize was awarded to "Willibrord Weijmar Schultz, Pek van Andel, and Eduard Mooyaart of Groningen, The Netherlands, and Ida Sabelis of Amsterdam, for their illuminating report, 'Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Male and Female Genitals During Coitus and Female Sexual Arousal.'[Published in British Medical Journal, vol. 319, 1999, pp 1596-1600.]."

Although one of her co-authors (Pek Van Andel) did attend the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, Ida Sabelis was unable to come. She instead sent this acceptance speech to be presented on her behalf. It was read at the Ig Medical Lectures at Harvard Medical School.

In the autumn of 1991 Pek (M.V. van Andel) phoned my partner Jupp. Whenever he does that, he mostly has something special on his mind. The point was to visualize with a modern scan how it really shows when a man and a woman are making love.

As far as known it never has been done before and who knows which not foreseen, never thought images should emerge.

Apart from that it would be very beautiful to image this act. Pek suggested it should be just something for us, we are slim, and because of our background as acrobats.

In the spring of 1992 we were sitting in the train to Groningen, each with a pad on the knees to write down our conditions. We wouldn’t be only testees but should have participation in what should happen with any shots.

My background in womens movement doesn’t give me much reason to trust in advance in the humane feeling of medical men, aspecially medical specialists. And as everybody knows, shots of love acts can be used for goals for which I wouldn’t be available..

After the first conversations with Weymar Schultz and the other ‘medical gentlemen‘ very quick there is a good atmosphere Part of my being armed disappeares through the down-to-earthness and the humorous undertone of the conversation. We rather like ach other, I believe, and that’s the first condition for further cooperation really.

From the control room you have a sight through a window on the big white space where the MRI machine is arranged.In the centre of the enormous cake-tin is a tube in which people can be slide in and out by a sledge-bed. The tube is circa 60 centimetres and the height on the highest point nearly 35 centimetres. Embarred through the spectacle I withhold my thought that we probably never can embark that machine. We agree that anyhow we will try.

After some shifting with dates, 24 of October was fixed as the day. I was worried, now it was really going to happen, about the consequences. What should colleagues say? And neighbours, friends, family? An approving ‘Just something for you’ or yet: ‘How do you get this in your head to be available for such a thing‘?

But the most and most important thoughts preceding the happening yet were on ourself: how shall it be in such a sterile white tube? Would we able to switch off the surrounding and just have a good time? To have to go in such a tube needs a very great trust in what and how you do things with each other.What shall we do when one of us shall get not any sexual arrousal in ‘ that thing’? How can we help each other to do that for which we have come? Should there be some switch or such a thing with which one could connect with the closed control room? Anyway, should we nearly be stucked in that tube or still have any ‘play-room‘?

Willebrord (Weymar Schultz) was waiting for us in the hall. The MRI-building was accessible only for us. It was conspiratorial in a pleasant way, as we were walking through the empty spaces. Eduard (Mooyaart) has tuned the machinery. The window between cake-tin and control-panel is covered with large blue pieces.

But how can someone starts such a thing? Again, as in the first conversation with Willebrord, with a talk about the weather. Pek asks questions and is telling about an article he’s going to write about the things w’re doing now. Another cup of coffee and then I say "Jupp, shall we do something..." Everyone comes into action: we look at, match and pee. Suddenly I become conscious that I have a strange position: the only woman between four men, on the verge of becoming intimate with my lover in that machine, while the other three gentlemen in the next room, are operating all sorts of machinery to take a shot of our inner side.

We undress ourselves, lying down on the sledge-bed and are slided in by Eduard: We are lying on our side and facing each other.. That’s the position unto which we decided and which comes the nearest to the expectation: of the photographers gentry: on top of each other, male on top, female under. In every way we reject the idea to ly on top of each other and packed together, much too heavy and moreover a postion which for me produces hardly any arrousal.

It’s narrow in the tube -- there’s nothing other to expectate -- but it goes...I can manoevre my left hand just to the place where I wish him and above us the pitching of the magnets starts.

Than nothing for a little while. Confined by the space we make the best of it and that’s just not so uncosy. On a certain moment there’s sounding through the microphone "the erection is fully visible, including the root." Again nothing for a little while. We report the control room that their microphone has to be open as we don’t know what’s going on. The first shots are taken: "now lay down very still and holding your breath during the shot.!" Forty rythmic little bangs of the magnets above us and then one may exhale.

We are giggling a lot, because excitement, let alone of which nature, and an erection as the most visble, simply sinks down like an arrow when you have to hold your breathe during many seconds... and then going on.

Its becoming pleasantly warm in the tube and we truly succeed in enjoying each other from time to time in a familiar way. When the microphone is telling us that we may come- insofar possible- and that only we have to inform them in connection to the photo, we burst out into a roar of laughter and some moments later we do what is the purpose.

Sniggering we lay down a while before we announce that we just now like to go out. Like buns which are pushed out from the oven we are coming outside.

Enthusiasm everywhere, it works and. we get dressed quickly to look at the shots in the control room. Of course some are blurred because of movement. But some other are of an amazing beauty: that we are ! Not so much a passport photo for daily use but surely a shot that shows so much that it makes me speechless.

There, it’s my womb and surely, on that place is Jupp, naturally in a way as I know from my own sensation: below the cervix. Very clear all details of our both innersides are visible up to and including the common boundary between our both bellies.

Only two days later I’m feeling a kind of pride: we tried and succeeded!

© Copyright 2001 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

This HotAIR feature first appeared in Volume 7 Issue 1 of the print magazine. For a complete list of web site featured articles, see What's New.