File photo: The Super Orgasm does little more than turn female sexual pleasure into some sort of freak-show.

London - Some things in life remain all the more seductive, more thrillingly potent, when concealed behind a certain mystique. And after watching Britain's Channel 4’s latest programme, I can firmly say that the female orgasm is one of them.

Toe-curling doesn’t even come close to describing watching The Super Orgasm. Of the many scenes which made me cringe, one showed a young woman, lying under her duvet, eyes closed, thrashing about as though in the midst of a horrible nightmare.

This was 28-year-old web entrepreneur, Jannette, from South London, in the throes of sexual ecstasy.

And while no doubt producers convinced her that being filmed mid-orgasm was all part of Channel 4’s mission to explore innovative new arenas, the entire scene was demeaning and exploitative.

While TV bosses try to present this as "science", putting five women through experiments to map their brains and bodies as they climax is in fact a barrel-scraping new low, symptomatic of how desperate they are to attract viewers.

Because despite all the pseudo- science, sex is reduced to a series of spasms — and the female orgasm akin to a biological quirk, rather than a phenomenon borne from our emotions as well as our bodies. Love, passion or basic human affection are barely mentioned.

Because for all the apparent "liberation" of discussing the Big O at length, Channel 4 is hardly doing women any favours by depicting this intimate experience as something to be attained wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask in a laboratory.

The Super Orgasm does little more than turn female sexual pleasure into some sort of freak-show, exploring as it does the ability of a tiny number of women to have hundreds of orgasms in a single experience.

And I believe it sets up damning new sexual ‘norms’ to aspire to. The message seems to be that one orgasm isn’t enough any more — not when some lucky women can have many more.

This might seem a surprising viewpoint from a former editor of Cosmopolitan, the magazine often accused of being obsessed with orgasms.

But I’d argue there’s no inconsistency here. In 1972, when Cosmo launched, there was a lot of ignorance surrounding sex. And the misinformation about lovemaking was good neither for women nor their partners.

Of all women’s hang-ups, orgasms — or the lack of them — were the biggest. Information about how women’s bodies worked, as well as how to manage sexual expectations, was urgently needed, not least so couples could enjoy more fulfilling and loving relationships.

So I’m certainly no prude, and I accept we have much to thank the sexologists of the past for, such as Alfred Kinsey, who set up the Institute For Sex Research in late Forties America and was instrumental in insisting that women were sexual beings, too.

But there’s a world of difference between carrying out intimate experiments in the laboratory and reporting on the findings, and what The Super Orgasm has done: beaming the most private moments of its participants into millions of living rooms.

Channel 4 attempts to present its new show as a unique experiment on the basis that, up until now, sexologists have only examined women who orgasm once during any sexual encounter.

Its scientists apparently set out to discover what might distinguish women who say they have as many as 100 orgasms in a single sexual bout from those with a paltry count of one.

The implication being that if we did know what made these women so special, us poor ‘one-only’ mortals might benefit and even learn to become multi-orgasmic ourselves.

But the question I ask is would we want to even if we could? And how can this sleazy programme help any woman? Three distinct experiments were carried out, looking at the multiple orgasm from the points of view of psychology, neuroscience and endocrinology.

The first was in the ‘arousal booth’ of Dr Gerulf Rieger at the University of Essex. Rieger, who has a PhD in Personality Psychology, has a special interest in the building blocks of arousal.

Step forward bisexual Nathalie, 24, an engineering student based in Bournemouth, who believes the most orgasms she’s had in a single session is over 60, though ‘if pushed for time’ she’ll settle for between seven and ten.

This first test is to measure pupil dilation and flow of blood to the genitals.

And it requires the volunteers to do something most sensible women would find humiliating to even consider: watching porn videos and masturbating, all while an internal probe with a camera attached gathers data.

It becomes apparent that this is a gratuitous "experiment" because the results are hardly surprising. As predicted by Dr Rieger, the four super-orgasmic women he tests are more easily aroused. In other words, highly-sexed women are, well, more highly sexed.

The second experiment, carried out by Dr Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist and psycho-physiologist, also involves watching porn, though this time with electrodes attached to the head so alpha wave readings can be taken.

This is our opportunity to meet Danika, 28, a mother of two, who had only ever been super-orgasmic with her husband and had never masturbated until the programme encouraged her to do so (mercifully, off camera).

The results suggest that certain types of alpha waves — the brainwaves present when the body is in deep relaxation — come into play in the run-up to climax, and then remain high in women who achieve further orgasms, while reducing in those who have one.

However, because the sample is so small, it makes any worthwhile scientific conclusions very doubtful indeed.

For the final experiment, ever-eager Jannette goes to the States, where she meets neuroscientists Dr Barry Komisaruk and Dr Nan Wise, who clamp her into that Hannibal-Lecter style mask and place her inside an FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine, which registers increases in blood flow to the brain.

What then? Why, yet another request to turn herself "on".

I’m beginning to tire of seeing an ecstatic Jannette — but not so Dr Wise, who discovers that the brains of women capable of more orgasms continue to light up in more than 30 separate areas, while the brain of your average woman de-activates post-orgasm.

She concludes: "I believe women who are easily orgasmic are more capable of tuning into their sensations and focusing on sensations." A sensible assumption, you might have thought — one which perhaps did not require the humiliation of a Hannibal Lecter mask.

All this scientific hoopla is really just part of Channel 4’s larger ongoing ploy to chase ratings using nothing more than sexual titillation.

And ironically, The Super Orgasm isn’t in the least erotic, just embarrassing. How I longed to rescue Jeannette from her naive belief that by pleasuring herself for the camera, she’s helping science unravel a great sexual mystery.

The truth about the female orgasm that this TV spectacle fails to acknowledge is that we are as individual in our sexual responses as in every other aspect of our personalities.

With so much pressure on women today to be sexual goddesses, fostered in part by the ever-fake, multi-orgasmic stars of readily-available porn, the last thing we need to feel is that we are underperforming if we can’t ride waves of ecstasy.

Indeed, worrying about this is hardly the way to achieving true intimacy and contentment in the bedroom. Sex isn’t meant to be a performance, but a shared, loving experience.

Pursuing multiple orgasms is rather by the by, and investigating them on prime-time TV is nothing short of pointless — for science and for women.