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 '50s, 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 that 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.
- 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.
- The story arc of Fallen Angels (2019) is about Kwannon seeking to break an international Fantastic Drug trade of an electronic device placed on the head that manipulates the brain to stimulate a high. Because it doesn't actually chemically alter the brain, there are no physical risks like overdose, but there is still the risk of psychological damage. It's difficult for conventional authorities to trace and regulate, as it can be assembled through blueprints from perfectly legal electronics that are very common. There's also the little issue that the drug lord behind it is a sentient A.I. with a god complex that wants to use it to assimilate people's minds.
- 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".
- In the "Big Wheel" issue of Global Frequency, the rampaging Super Soldier driven Ax-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 Secret Six miniseries, it's revealed that the long-time Batman villain named the Mad Hatter, long known for his mind-control hats, has worked out a way to reverse the mind-control effect, stimulating his pleasure centers and making him a "hat addict" (and even crazier than he was originally).
- The Squadron Supreme, Gadgeteer Genius Tom Thumb weaponizes this into the Pacifier Pistols, which incapacitate with pleasure, so that cops won't need lethal weapons. How he's going to keep them from sitting around shooting themselves in the head all day is not addressed.
- Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily has Easter — a Split Personality/living lightning bolt currently in Specter's body — get shocked in the Shock Street Car when in "Shockro's House of Shocks". Instead of screaming in agony, they just moan and gasp in ecstasy.
Easter: Oh, harder Mr. Denver! Give me more!
- Things Gordon Is No Longer Allowed to Do in Rescue Team Excitementz:
1. Not allowed to use any Electric-type recruit's powers on my "pleasure center" to give myself a wicked boner.
- Demolition Man: Sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS have turned everyone away from physical sex, so when Huxley offers to have sex with John Spartan, they put on devices that connect their minds into an erotic virtual reality. Spartan stops the procedure before it reaches its conclusion. When he suggests doing it "the old-fashioned way" instead, she is not pleased and orders him to leave the room.
- 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 I.Q. (1994), 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 Albert Einstein how this could possibly be the case, and Albert simply gives him a look.
- Discussed in Love Potion Number Nine when a woman is told about a male Chimpanzee hooked up to such a device.
"He slammed the button till he died."
- The "Pleasure Chamber" in Robot Holocaust, where Valeria stands around and shows us her boobies. She doesn't appear to be getting much pleasure out of it, even though the Dark One reprimands her for using it as a habitat instead of a reward.
- Used in the works of Cordwainer Smith as a recreational device and painkiller.
- Norman Spinrad wrote a story in which 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.
- Used by Taylor the Crazy Yeerk, though it only causes the victim to remember happy memories. Presumably, it was put into an otherwise-standard Electric Torture rig just 'cause they could, but it turns out to be useful for breaking Tobias (whose hawk-form mind is incredibly resistant to torture) through sheer Mood Whiplash.
- A milder form of it is used in The Escape, in which the yeerks are trying to use sharks as aquatic soldiers. Through the use of electronic chips in the sharks' brains, they replicate the sensation of having just caught prey to encourage them.
- Philip José Farmer calls this device a "fornixator" in his contribution to Dangerous Visions, "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.
- One such device is central to the Spider Robinson story "God Is an Iron", later expanded into the novel Mindkiller.
- Used with thematic significance in Infinite Jest, in which 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 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). In the following book, Louis becomes a droud addict, explaining that it all started with someone hitting him with a tasp at a low point in his life.
- 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.
- Discussed and subverted in Marîd Audran. 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.
- Used in a truly horrific fashion in 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...
- In The Starchild Trilogy, the BrainComputer Interface used by the senior technicians who work with the Planning Computer also stimulates the pleasure centers, helping to ensure the loyalty of the technicians to the computer and the Plan of Man.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Robert Silverberg's To Open The Sky, the protagonist's wife slips into this addiction, which he doesn't even notice. On the other hand, his vice is floating in isolation tanks.
- Bernard Werber's novel The Ultimate Secret turns out to revolve around it. The Professor Guinea Pig used one to motivate himself to accomplish high feats, but after his accidental death his partner was fully intent on using it to enslave the protagonists (who were investigating said death).
- In one of the early Warhammer 40,000 novels by Ian Watson (before the background fluff had been set in stone) the Imperial assassin Melindeh has been conditioned to withstand any form of torture, but she is helpless when the villain takes to overloading the pleasure centers of her brain.
- "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).
- The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle has a young-adult-friendly version of the trope: a Micro-Ray that can directly stimulate the pleasure center of the brain. The experience is described as feeling like flying.
- In Black Lightning (2018), Jefferson is able to manipulate the human body's electrical fields and Lynne seems to find it quite pleasurable.
- Come Back Mrs. Noah: The crew demonstrate a "pleasure hat" that the occupants of Britannia Seven will use to entertain themselves during their sixty-year journey to another world. As Mrs. Noah's favorite sport is wrestling, they place it on her head, and she starts acting like a rowdy spectator in the ringside seats.
Carstairs: We have encapsulated the whole conception of recreation; separating the pleasure from the activity.
Cunliffe: After sixty years I would have thought that was automatic.
- In the Doctor Who serial "The Krotons", the Krotons' Teaching Machines reward correct answers by inducing feelings of pleasure in the user.
- 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 '60s, it relies a lot on subtle Double Entendre.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "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.
- Being a multi-talented spy, Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 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 manually — and eventually he stopped turning it off. Addiction swiftly followed.
- In an expanded universe novel set in the Mirror Universe, Agent Seven of Corps Nine (i.e., Seven-of-Nine's Evil Counterpart) has one as well, also being an Obsidian Order agent.
- This is done in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) as a reward for a student learning about the Shoe Event Horizon.
- In GURPS, devices that do this can be used to aid in interrogation just as effectively as Electric Torture.
- Over the Edge: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A magical version exists in the form of the Orgasm spell, which is noted as being used primarily for sex work, entertainment, pranks, or (for shadowrunners) a means of non-lethal incapacitation. It's swapped out for the Euphoria spell in later editions, which does the same thing but with less mess.
- 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 a downplayed (for once) version, it's hinted techpriests in Warhammer 40,000 don't mind getting electrical shocks from the exposed wiring all over the place, or actually enjoy it. Ciaphas Cain suspects that as cyborgs, it's a tasty snack to them.
- Dragon Age II: Party banter between Anders and Isabela reveals that 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 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.
- 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.
- In Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, Guybrush notes that 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.
- The Turing Test: According to Mikhail, the Mind-Control Device works this way: it conditions the mind through Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning, eliciting feeling of euphoria when the wearer is obedient and dysphoria when the wearer is disobedient.
- This Reddit thread that earned first place on r/jesuschristreddit's best posts of 2016. Warning: Not Safe for Work.
- In the Questden adventure The Sunfish, Bucky has one such device implanted by his jailors in an effort to make him more docile. It only makes him sneakier, and after escaping, he hands the remote to his fellow escapees as a sign of mutual trust.
- 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.
- In the Æon Flux episode "Thanatophobia", a one-shot character named Sybil is shot in the back. So that she isn't paralysed, Trevor fits her with some kind of prosthesis for her spinal cord that needs regular replacement. Being the somehow-lovable kinky bastard that he is, Trevor takes advantage of this each time to make her orgasm repeatedly by stimulating her spinal cord. (In the original TV broadcast, this was redubbed to show him apparently torturing her for fun, because that would be so much more tasteful.)
- 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..."
- Batman Beyond: The villainous audio engineer Shriek has invented a tuning fork that uses soundwaves to stimulate the pleasure centers of the mind. Instead of paying his mooks with money, he allows them to spend time with it.
- In the Futurama episode "Hell is Other Robots", we find that strong electric currents have a powerful hallucinogenic effect on robots, which leads to Bender developing a habit of "jacking on".
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: The episode "Stimpy's Invention" is built around this trope.
- 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.
- 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, 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 centers for various reasons, and when given free rein about 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 epileptic of being gay. His work is available online, now in full.
- 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 immediate physical needs is practically their entire thought process. Within humans, it merely brings on a sense of contentment at the moment, but does nothing to prevent you from foreseeing bad future consequences of just sitting around being stimulated.