Volcanoes, Waves and Avalanches: Do Different Types of Orgasms Exist?
When discussing orgasms, there's often debate about whether or not different types exist. Some women swear they've experienced different sensations, while others claim an orgasm is an orgasm, no matter how it's achieved.
What's the truth?
Lioness study: legit or promotional?
A 2022 study by the team at smart vibrator maker Lioness, based in Oakland, California, caused quite a stir in the scientific community. The study was conducted using a specialized app designed to track sexual activity. The app was used by a group of women who were asked to masturbate while wearing a sensor-filled strap-on, and the coinciding data collected was used to create 3D models of the women's orgasms.
The study results showed there are three distinct types of orgasm based on pelvic contractions, which were named volcanoes, avalanches and waves. The team at Lioness claims this is the first time these different types of orgasms have been identified.
"While this study is really interesting, it is the first putting forth this specific theory and we'd need more data to prove that there actually are three orgasm patterns," said Suzannah Weiss, a board-certified sex educator in Los Angeles and resident sexologist for the pleasure product brand Biird.
Sex experts have raised concerns about the study's validity and the sample size of participants, and even opined whether it was simply a marketing gimmick designed to sell more products.
Nicole Prause, Ph.D., a sexual psychophysiologist in Los Angeles, said she is confident these are not distinct orgasm types at all.
"The data reflect acts of bearing down that women use to enhance their arousal, not the orgasm itself, and acts of intentional hyperventilation to enhance sexual arousal, which also moves the pelvis and are not a part of orgasm," she explained.
No, an orgasm is an orgasm
With ideas of different orgasms floating around online, it can make women feel like they need to achieve a different and "better" type of climax.
"It is extremely frustrating to see women pressured with a new wave of apparently false medical information about their sexual responses," Prause said. "This is not what women need."
The vast majority of women experience orgasm from clitoral or vaginal stimulation. Even then, there is debate among sexologists and psychologists about whether or not there are two distinct types of orgasms.
Many sex experts believe all orgasms are clitoral orgasms. In her book "Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It," Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., explained that any type of stimulation eventually leads to the internal and external clitoris becoming engorged with blood. Since the front wall of the vagina is connected to internal parts of the clitoris, you can't stimulate the vagina without stimulating the clitoris as well.
So what's the verdict? Are different types of orgasms real or just a myth? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer—the jury is still out on this one.
But if there were different types of orgasms…
To play devil's advocate, let's entertain the idea that there are potentially distinct types of orgasms. For example, while it may be a small minority, some women can orgasm from thoughts alone or from anal or breast stimulation.
"People have reported experiencing orgasms through nipple stimulation, anal stimulation and even stimulation of nonsexual body parts such as the ears," Weiss explained. "Some people can 'think off' or fantasize their way to orgasm. Others can orgasm through other non-touched-based means such as hypnosis and breath work or just by watching porn. This is why I think we need to broaden our definition of orgasm."
Experts agree the majority of women can experience vaginal, clitoral and blended orgasms. Vaginal orgasms occur when the clitoris is stimulated indirectly through pressure and friction on the vaginal walls. Clitoral orgasms, on the other hand, are achieved by direct stimulation of the clitoris. Finally, blended orgasms are a combination of both vaginal and clitoral stimulation.
These types of orgasms can also feel different:
- Clitoral orgasms. These tend to be shorter and more localized to the clitoris. They are often described as "explosive" or "intense."
- Vaginal orgasms. These are described as a "full-body" experience and can involve the clitoris, the G-spot and the A-spot, or deep spot. They are often longer and more intense than clitoral orgasms.
- Blended orgasms. These are sometimes described as the most intense and satisfying type of orgasm. For some people, they represent the best of both worlds.
What's the verdict?
Do different types of orgasms exist? The answer remains up for debate. Even the definition of orgasm is subjective, depending on each person. Most people just know that they reach a peak after steadily getting more and more excited, and after that peak, they're sensitive and need to rest.
"Ultimately, it is up to each individual how they define orgasm based on their own experience of it," Weiss explained.
Understanding the differences between clitoral, vaginal and blended O's can help achieve greater sexual satisfaction for both you and your partner. But you should never feel pressured to experience some new "type" of orgasm. As long as you have healthy communication and boundaries, the pleasure you feel is what really matters.