Wave. Avalanche. Volcano. You might think there’s nothing remotely sexy about these words, but a new study is set to change that.
The research from Charles University in Prague found that female orgasms fall into three categories: a wave, an avalanche and a volcano.
A “wave” is as it sounds – a short burst of pelvic contractions and release of tension.
A “volcano” is so called because these types of orgasms feel like more of an explosion, as the pelvic floor tension swiftly releases.
An “avalanche” refers to higher pelvic floor contractions, which decrease during and after orgasm.
The study asked 54 women to use a Bluetooth-connected vibrator, the Lioness. This particular vibrator has two sensors which detect the force of pelvic floor contractions, so that these patterns can then be analysed.
The three types of orgasms relate to the different patterns of pelvic floor contractions at orgasm that these women experienced.
The women who did the study were asked to masturbate at home using the device over a few days (sounds like our kind of science experiment, tbh).
“Wave” orgasms were most common in those who took part in the study, with 26 women experiencing this type, while 17 had an “avalanche” orgasm and 11 had a “volcano” orgasm.
James Pfaus, a professor of neuroscience at Charles University, who led the study said the idea actually has its roots in a book from 1966. He explained that in Human Sexual Response, the pioneering research team William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson wrote about three patterns of sexual response in women.
Obviously, 54 people is a pretty tiny sample size, but Pfaus says this research is just the start. “We are doing a long-term study of women using the Lioness to see how these different patterns are experienced subjectively as orgasms, as levels of pleasure and where the stimulation that induces them largely comes from,” he said.
Pfaus says that while they’re not finished collecting data on this, it’s clear that women have a ‘predominant’ sexual response style. “In a way, this makes sense. These are adult women who have experienced orgasms many times before and, like riding a bike or swimming, there are motor patterns that have become crystallized through experience to be associated with it.”
Stella Anna Sonnenbaum, a somatic sexologist, said that it’s great that scientists are looking into female pleasure, as this area has been underresearched for a long time. But she’s wary of being too narrow-minded about how we define pleasure.
“As a sex educator, what I’m teaching is involving as much of the body as possible in sexual arousal, and also letting go of the genital focus. It seems shallow to define the quality of orgasms simply via pelvic floor contractions,” she said.
According to Sonnenbaum, this kind of thinking can be “reductionist” about women’s sexual pleasure. “There are more than a hundred different kinds of orgasms, and a lot of them don’t even involve the genitals that much,” she said. “Self-pleasuring is a great way to find out about our own pleasure, but partner interaction is not mentioned here at all.”
Her advice for experiencing one of those many types of orgasms? “Use plenty of toys – not just one. Make sure that one of them is a whole-body one, and learn to use your hands too. Everywhere, not just on the genitals.”