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Electric Instant Gratification
BZZT! BZZT! BZZZZZZT!

Electricity is versatile stuff. While it can burn you, it can also be used to stimulate nerve cells to give feelings of actual pleasure. One common form, especially in Science Fiction, involves using small amounts of current applied directly to the "pleasure centers" of the brain.

The concept of the "pleasure center" was based on research on rats done in the 1950's, and those studies have been partially discredited since, but there is still some Truth in Television here. Scientists developed an orgasm device for women by accident when the doctor inserted a spinal cord electrode he was using to relieve the woman's chronic pain into the wrong place and got an unexpected reaction. Although further tests showed that less than 2% of women would actually get that effect from it.

Although the effect may happen by accident, this is not the same as Too Kinky to Torture. This is about electricity causing actual, physical pleasure, not just pain that someone happens to enjoy.

May be used to try to brainwash someone, as direct brain stimulation can be extremely addictive. In such cases, it's closely related to Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comics 
  • In the Secret Six miniseries, it was revealed that the long-time Batman foe, the Mad Hatter, long known for his mind-control hats, had worked out a way to reverse the mind-control effect. This stimulated his pleasure centers and led to him becoming a "hat addict" (and even crazier than he was originally).
  • In the "Big Wheel" issue of Global Frequency, the rampaging Super Soldier driven Axe Crazy by his extensive cybernetic modifications mentions at one point that, on top of all the other traumatic alterations to his body, his genitals have been removed and replaced with a wire in his brain that simulates sexual pleasure when he kills people.
  • In The Filth, Max Thunderstone mentions that scientists have discovered enlightenment is analagous to an epileptic seizure in a certain area of the brain. Part of his plan to uplift humanity is to show people how to push their own "Buddha Button".
  • The Squadron Supreme Gadgeteer Genius Tom Thumb weaponized this into the Pacifier Pistols, which incapacitate with pleasure, so cops wouldn't need lethal weapons. How he's going to keep them from sitting around shooting themselves in the head all day is not addressed.
  • This is the special power of the titular character in the Hentai series Demi the Demoness. She can fire a bolt that makes the target orgasm so hard they explode.
  • Fuji from Stormwatch is an Energy Being who's kept in a containment suit so that he doesn't dissipate into nothingness. Due to the conditions of his suit and the constant buffeting of his nervous system by his own energy, he has an orgasm every five minutes. No wonder he's so happy.
  • Milo Manara's erotic graphic novel Click! is about a noblewoman fitted with a wireless version of this. She is followed by a voyeur who turns it on at inopportune moments, compelling her to stop whatever she's doing and have sex with anyone nearby. At the end of the story it is seemingly revealed that the device, which the voyeur stole, was a total fake and the woman was simply a closeted sex-crazed slut all along — but the sequel, the imaginatively-titled Click 2, RetCons this by showing beyond doubt that the device does work, and that the revelation was fabricated.

    Film 
  • The orgasmatron from Woody Allen's film Sleeper.
  • A similar device was later used in Demolition Man.
  • Barbarella is put into a machine that does this, and overloads it. Damn.
  • Orgazmo, an early project by Trey Parker, is about a young Mormon boy forced to act in a porno movie where he plays a superhero who wields one of these devices. Then he gets one in real life...
  • Brainstorm features a machine that records a complete sensory experience, and a young man wears it during sex. An older man gets hold of the recording and splices the orgasm into a loop. They find him still hooked up to it a day or two later, and he becomes violent when they switch it off.
  • Strange Days takes the concept and puts it on the black market, complete with snuff experiences called "Blackjack".
  • In the 1994 film about Albert Einstein I, Q, James Moreland is doing the experiment with the mouse. There are two switches the mouse can press: one that gives him food and one that gives him this trope. The mouse hasn't eaten in three days. Moreland asks Einstein how this could possibly be the case, and Albert simply gives him a Look.
  • Discussed in Love Potion No. 9 where a woman told about a male Chimpanzee hooked up to such a device.
    And he kept pressing that button until he died!

    Literature 
  • This was done in the radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as a reward for a student learning about the Shoe Event Horizon. Also sort-of done by Ford to a security robot in Mostly Harmless. He captured the robot and disabled the chip that controls access to its "happy module", so the robot was happy doing anything at all. Including intervening between Ford and a missile.
  • Semirhage in The Wheel of Time finds that stimulating the pleasure centers of a subject's brain works better than stimulating the pain centers for torture. But it bores her.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space books, such as Ringworld and the Gil the Arm stories, feature the droud, which trickles current through a wire implanted in the pleasure center of the brain, and the tasp, which does this from a distance, and is seen to be an extremely dangerous weapon (since the victim can get addicted). In Ringworld, the Pierson's Puppeteer Nessus, in charge of the Lying Bastard mission, has two tasps, one implanted in each of his hand-mouths: one for Kzinti (to control Speaker-to-Animals) and one for humans (for Louis Wu and Teela Brown).
  • A similar device is central to the Spider Robinson story "God Is an Iron", later expanded into the novel Mindkiller.
  • Norman Spinrad wrote a story where there are booths that do this in a New York subway station, 200 years in the future. There are skeletons in them—they stayed in them so long they starved to death.
  • Bernard Werber's novel The Ultimate Secret turns out to revolve around it.
  • Used by Taylor the Crazy Yeerk in the Animorphs. Presumably it was put into an otherwise-standard Electric Torture rig just 'cause they could, but it turned out to be useful for breaking Tobias (whose hawk-form mind was incredibly resistant to torture) through sheer Mood Whiplash.
    • A milder form of it was used in The Escape, where the yeerks were trying to use sharks as aquatic soldiers. Through the use of electronic chips in the sharks' brains, they replicated the sensation of having just caught prey to encourage them.
  • Used in the works of Cordwainer Smith as a recreational device and painkiller.
  • In The Terminal Man, Harry Benson receives a brain implant to control his psychomotor epilepsy, which caused him to severely beat two people during seizures. The implant induces euphoric feelings by running a current across a grid of electrodes on his brainstem. His doctors then realize that Benson might be psychotic. Before too long his subconscious mind learns he can induce seizures by assaulting people, triggering the "pleasure" shock originally meant to halt the seizures. Things go downhill from there.
  • Used in a truly horrific fashion in the novel Neuropath. The book's villain, who aims to prove that free will is an illusion created to cover up the mass of cognitive processes that take us through the day, abducts a porn star and uses direct nerve stimulation to put her in the throes of pleasure. Then he switches the pathways that register pain and pleasure, and gives her a shard of glass...
  • The fury-crafted collars from Codex Alera also qualify as this; when the victim does what the controller wants them to they get pleasured. If they refuse, things get bad.
  • In Daniel Keys Moran's The Last Dancer, David Castanaveras (brother to Denise, and a fairly powerful telepath) is addicted to "electric ecstasy", by which he is (at least semi-)controlled by Sedon. Sedon later uses Electric Torture on Dvan, who is somehow able to ignore it and obey the commands of Denise.
  • Used with thematic significance in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, where one character describes the example of the starving rats, then mentions that when a laboratory wanted to do human testing, with it being well known that it could turn the subjects into drooling automatons who live for nothing but the next fix, they were overwhelmed with volunteers. The character considers that to say something very frightening about humans.
  • "The Euphio Question", one of the short stories in Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome To The Monkey House, was about a group of people who had a machine that instantly saturated people in its proximity with an overwhelming sense of euphoria. The problem was that this caused everyone to be mellow, calm, and relaxed to the point of inactivity, making the machine very hard to turn off. The even worse problem is the short-sighted fellow who intends to mass-produce the devices... and who is ignorant of the likely outcome (whether willfully or not isn't clear, though he doesn't seem to actually want to destroy humanity).
  • Philip Jose Farmer calls this device a "fornixator" in his amazing Riders Of The Purple Wage. They drill a small hole in your skull and you have a box with a needle. It delivers a series of tiny electrical jolts to the fornix area of your brain. The pleasure of this activity is supposed to be even better than sex, or anything else.
  • Discussed and averted in the Marid Audran series. When Audran gets a brain socket installed, his doctor explains that he's gotten an advanced version with some experimental features. One of the features he could have gotten was a direct wire to the pleasure center, but his patron decided that Audran would be too likely to abuse the privilege, so instead he got a wire to the pain center.
  • Deathstalker has a religious sect called the "Ecstatics," who had their brain modified to be in a continual state of orgasm.
  • Takeshi Kovacs encounters a couple of characters who have become addicted to this in Broken Angels, including the Political Officer of his mercenary unit who was forcibly wired up to keep him in line. The results are not pretty.
  • A new device in A Nightmare On Elm Street The Dream Dealers allows people to experience the dreams of others, including sexual ones.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Garak from Deep Space Nine. Being a multi-talented spy, he was given a device in his brain that releases good-time feeling juice in order to counteract torture. Turns out life with the Federation sucked so hard, he turned it on and left it on. Addiction swiftly followed.
  • Referenced in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Xander informs Willow that since they're fiddling with a 'Blaster', that randomly hitting buttons is not high on his agenda. He then adds that if it were called the 'Orgasminator', that would, in fact, be his desired approach.
  • The story about the accidental women's orgasm device is in Mad Men, where the men who built a vibrating "relaxeciser" can't understand why all the women seem to love it. Then Peggy tries it...and she understands perfectly. She's assigned to develop an ad campaign for it; one of her first. This being The Sixties, it relies a lot on subtle Double Entendre.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Game", Riker unknowingly brings aboard a game that rewards the user for advancing in the game. The entire crew, except Wesley and his girlfriend (who have not played) and Data (who was deactivated), quickly become addicted and willing to turn over the Enterprise to the bad guy of the week.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In GURPS devices that do this can be used to aid in interrogation just as effectively as Electric Torture.
  • In Shadowrun:
    • In the main game, some BTL chips can have this effect, as using one floods the chip-addict's brain with a specific emotion at a far higher intensity than real life could ever afford.
    • Some of the nastier Horrors in Earthdawn, the Shadowrun-prequel fantasy game, have a psychic Instant Gratification power that they use (alternately with Electric Torture) to coerce total obedience in their humanoid Mooks and Moles.
  • In Planescape, this is the classic trap for members of the Society of Sensation. Sure, a Sensate can just sit around the Hall all day "listening" to sense-recordings of hedonistic delights, or go to their off-plane headquarters and experience the real thing. Sensates who actually show promise within the organization, however, are those who value the negative experiences as much as the positive ones, and go out into the multiverse to find them.
  • Al Amarja has a subculture of drug dealers called "Sandmen." Their drugs are manufactured while a "donor" is sleeping; whoever takes the drugs experiences the donor's dreams as a hallucination. There's a good market for pleasant dreams, but truly jaded users (and Al Amarja is full of them) seek the kind of dreams that give the drug its name: Nightmare.

    Video Games 
  • In Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, Guybrush notes the Marquis de Singe's simian lab assistant Jacques seems to enjoy the electrocution device used to motivate him to move about the lab a little too much.
  • In Mass Effect 2 there is a reference to a "nerve stimulator" built into a quarian's suit. Something that "any responsible adult should have." Followed by, "Here, let me turn it on right now... excuse me, human, private conversation!" Tali also mentions nerve stimulators during her romance. She says she'd rather have the real thing, thanks. However, a review of her finances shows her having purchased ever more expensive stimulator variants in the meantime.
  • Dragon Age II - Party banter between Anders and Isabela reveals they visited the first game's brothel during their time in Ferelden, and Isabela was there the night Anders (a mage) did something involving electricity.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Sundowner mentions before his boss fight that when the brains of the soon-to-be Tyke Bomb cyborgs kill in their simulations, they get a nice jolt to their pleasure center to help them associate massacring soldiers and civilians alike with feelings of joy.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Almost the entire human race in Starpocalypse wears large helmets with a button that gives them an orgasm. Their usage has caused mass cultural stagnation.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond. Shriek has invented a tuning fork that uses soundwaves to stimulate the pleasure centers of the mind. Cue the disgusting groans from the mook. Shriek: "I believe you've earned some time with...The Fork." Followed swiftly by Shriek removing the helmet of his suit, because the suit is the only thing that allows him to hear, and otherwise he's deaf without it. (Don't feel too bad for him, he did it to himself.)
  • In the Futurama episode "Hell is Other Robots", we find strong electric currents have a powerful hallucinogenic effect on robots, which leads to Bender developing a habit of "jacking on".
    • In Bender's Game, after Leela gets used to the whole pain aspect of a shock collar, this trope starts to kick in.
  • Green Lantern: First Flight: Sinestro uses a pink orb of some kind as an "incentive" to get Labella to talk. She doesn't mind at first, but begs for him to stop after he ties it to her hands.
  • Not a direct example, but Archer sees Cheryl demand to be tased after seeing Archer (deservedly) get a dose of the same. She gets her wish, and is quite happy about it:
    Sploooosh! It was like wave after wave, crashing onto you... and into you...

    Real Life 
  • Lab rats have been hooked up to electrodes that stimulate what is colloquially referred to as the "reward center" of their brains. When placed in a cage with two buttons, one that dispensed food and the other activating said electrodes, the rats typically starved to death if they didn't first die from exhaustion. The result is less dramatic with other, more complex species, though.
  • This was deliberately done to some people for research purposes back in the Bad Old Days when the insane, blind or other "disabled" people were considered disposable. Real Life averted the trope though, as although the people would constantly use the stimulation when it was available, they typically displayed no distress at it being removed.
  • A doctor who was implanting a spinal cord stimulator to relieve back pain managed to serendipitously discover an Orgasmatron. It's now in use to treat orgasmic dysfunction.
  • Would this make ECT Electronic Delayed Gratification?
  • While not strictly related to pleasure, personal electroshock therapy units, such as TENS units, can have this effect by providing almost-instant relief for muscle aches and related pain. So, not truly gratification, at least not when used properly (in fact, you cannot buy one without a doctor's note), but instant relief.
    • A swift internet search for "electrosex" will reveal the many uses of a TENS unit and their ease of acquisition.
  • There have been several instances of humans having electrodes attached to their pleasure centres for various reasons, and when given free reign over their activation have generally gone to pieces in the same way a heroin addict might be expected to. There's even a term for this... Chronic Thalamic Self Stimulation.
    • Dr. Robert Heath did some startlingly unethical research into this, including one experiment testing to see if he could "cure" a depressed, drug-addicted epilepsy of being gay. His work is available online, though only in preview form for free.
    • Woman has electrodes fitted to her brain for medical reasons, discovers its use to be rather pleasing, rapidly becomes addicted to the point of causing herself physical damage and neglecting her family.
  • One of the reasons cited for why this seldom works properly for humans is that the "pleasure" center in the brain is more of a "satisfaction" center. Stimulate it and you stop feeling hungry, stressed, or tired while it's stimulated. In animals, who work on an instinctual level, this is equivalent to flooding their system with pleasure because fulfilling needs is practically their entire thought process. Within humans, it merely brings one to a more relaxed level.


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