Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a college student who wanted to know why her boyfriend starts sneezing when he becomes sexually aroused. I can’t say I’ve ever heard this question before, but it turns out that there’s actually some research on this topic.
Why does my boyfriend sneeze when he’s really excited? Is that normal?
Believe it or not, scientists have known for a long time that some people experience sexually-induced sneezing. In fact, the first case was documented over a century ago and involved a man who started sneezing uncontrollably at the mere thought of having sex ! Since then, researchers has discovered several other people with the same experience, as well as some people who have sneezing fits upon reaching orgasm .
Sexually-induced sneezing is something that can affect both men and women. We don’t fully understand why it happens, but the prevailing theory is that it has a neurological basis. Specifically, it is thought that there is an anomaly in the way some people's autonomic nervous system is laid out (this is the portion of the nervous system that controls largely involuntary bodily functions, such as breathing, sweating, sneezing, and sexual arousal) . The basic idea is that some people’s “wires” happen to be crossed, which means that certain nerve signals generate unexpected effects. Sneezing during sex is just one possibility—scientists have also found some people who can’t help sneezing in response to bright light or a full stomach.
So is this a “normal” sexual response? Well, it depends what you mean by “normal.” Is it something that’s common and affects a large number of people? Probably not, unless there’s a huge underground community of sexual sneezers we have yet to discover. Only a few dozen cases have ever been reported in the medical literature. However, for your boyfriend and other people with this condition, sneezing is part of how their body normally responds to sexual stimulation and it is probably unlikely to change.
The important thing to recognize is that this is something that is out of your boyfriend’s control and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or with him (unless this is something he only experiences with you, in which case we might be dealing with some type of allergy). I suppose one positive way to look at it is that you’ll never have to guess whether he’s in the mood or faking orgasms!
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 Gould, G. M., & Pyle, W. L. (1901). Anomalies and curiosities of medicine. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders.
 Bhutta, M. F., & Maxwell, H. (2008). Sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm: An under-reported phenomenon. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101, 587-591.
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