Rumor has it, there’s a musical note that makes women involuntarily orgasm. But is there any truth to the claims? We embarked on a mostly scientific investigation.
Illustration by Grace Wilson
In honor of Valentine's Day, we're spending the week debunking myths and lies about romance. Read the rest of our "Love is a Hoax" coverage here.
Truly, the test of any society is how resourceful its women are in improvising new ways to get off, from root vegetables to rolls of dog chubs. But what if there was a simpler way to come, one that magically required zero effort? What if it was possible to orgasm through sound alone?
The orgasm note is a fabled, mythic musical note that allegedly makes women come without any physical stimulation. At all. Search online, and you'll find forums full of men—it's always men—debating its existence. (Men appear to be fascinated by the note because it combines their main interests: boyish curiosity about female genitalia, the chance to out-dick other tech bros, and the search for a really easy way to make women come.)
"Little experiment I'm going to do tonight," writes one commenter. "Meeting up with my fuckbuddy later on...in the name of science, [I'm going to] sit her on my bass amp and play F# a lot on my bass and see if it gets her where she wants to go." After some discussion of whether F# is the optimal note, and the merits and demerits of a bass versus a snare drum, one commenter chips up with an extremely heteronormative response. "I have a feeling that this might not be successful," they say unhelpfully. "You should try using your penis to please her instead."
Women have used vibration to get off since time immemorial—from hand-cranked vibrators used to masturbate hysterical Victorian women to the electric toothbrushes memorably banned at all-girls boarding schools. But orgasming from sound alone? While it seems to be technically possible—sound is produced using vibrations, and vibrations are what fund the multi-billion dollar sex toy industry—I'm skeptical. I start by doing what I do best: emailing strangers off the internet for guidance.
On the sexily named blog Rummage through the Crevices, I read of a former child star called Craig Huxley who invented a strange and wonderful machine in the 70s that—so the legend goes—has the power to induce orgasm in its female listener with a single, mighty note. The name for this loin-stirring device? The Blaster Beam.
The Blaster Beam is an aluminium instrument fitted with movable pickups (which capture the vibrations produced by the instrument and converts them to electrical signals) and strings which, when played, produced "visceral bass tones." Star Trek fans may recognize the Blaster Beam from the soundtrack to 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In the only known connection between Star Trek and the female orgasm, the Blaster Beam was played at a 1990 New York concert where—rumor has it—several female audience members spontaneously climaxed.
Years later, another blogger—hearing of the Blaster Beam's fame—played a recording of the Blaster Beam to a female friend to find out whether the rumors were true. "The expression on her face abruptly changed," he writes. "When I asked her what was wrong, she blinked for a moment and said, 'Please play that again. Louder.' I did so, and had the odd experience of watching her eyes glaze over as she half fell into a chair breathing hard. 'I...*like* that sound,' she managed to get out in a whisper."
I reach out to Craig Huxley via his daughter, whose email address I find online. After multiple email chasers, a reply comes: Huxley wants to talk to me! Unfortunately, Huxley and his daughter then go quiet. It turns out that pinning a former child star down for interview time is as difficult as making someone come without any touching.
In desperation, I turn to ever-more questionable sources. Here's a video of a woman allegedly being brought to orgasm by a car bass system. (She's obviously faking. As a former faker, I know these things.) Next up, SteadyHealth.com. As far as I can tell, it's website for hypochondriacs and like-minded perverts to get together and swap symptoms. Here's an extra salacious piece of erotic writing from user hornpannnpannn173370. Observe how the stream-of-conscious primer on the rudimentals of "horn sound masturbation" gets kind of Joycean towards the end:
First I wear the black one piece body hugging swimming costume then I took out my loud set of horn... After that I hold the power supply button and start honking the horn continuously again and again [...] With long reverbration slowly decreacing vibrations stretches my whole body vibrating stomech [sic] with horn sound could not guess the end of buzzzzz with continuos feeleing of enormous buzzzzzz of ponnnnnnnnn....nnnnnn...nnnnn..nnnnnn.nnn ultimately leads me to intense orgasm.
I also email a man called David Jordan, author of a website called 33 Hertz and Sex. "The principle is that orgasm is a frequency," he responds. "It involves our nervous system which is designed to bring about orgasm, and electrifies our bodies back up through our base to our brains." Finally, some science! I'm elated, until I check my inbox a few days later and find Jordan's emailed me the entire lyrics of Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah. I lose faith in the power of the internet, and change tack. It's time to interrogate a work colleague instead, and I know just the person—Will, who used to be in a hardcore band.
"Will*," I lean across the desk, "you used to be in a band! Did you ever see girls getting off by standing near the speakers?"
Will delicately flushes a labial pink. "Um...no not really."
"Okay! Did you ever feel anything yourself when you stood by the speakers?" I persist, in contravention of internationally recognized workplace regulations against sexual harassment. "Like, a little twinge down there? A sexy twinge that felt nice?"
"No... Just no."
Later, as I'm idly re-reading the staff handbook, Will messages me.
"Look, there have been a handful of times when I've been sitting on guitar amps or speakers as vibrations have reverberated up through my body and I've thought, 'Mm, that's nice. Yeah. Ooh.'"
"But it only happened once," he adds.
So far, my attempts to verify the existence of the orgasm note have proved frustrating and pointless, like trying to wank someone off in the back of a moving vehicle. But this isn't a hand-job I'm going to walk away from, no matter how much my wrist hurts. I take inspiration from all the women through history who've had to improvise sex toys, and think creatively. In a rare moment of lucidity, it hits me: Perhaps I can figure out the specific frequency of most vibrators and work backwards from that to locate the orgasm note!
I reach out to Dr Nikky Prause, who led a recent study investigating the frequencies of a range of popular vibrators. Prause explains that there are three ways to measure a vibrator: frequency, displacement, and acceleration. Unfortunately, that's where it gets more complicated.
"It's not as simple as saying, '33 hertz is the optimal frequency for a vibrator,'" Prause explains, referring to online message boards which consistently—for reasons unknown—rate this as the most dependable frequency to blow your load. "When you say, '33 hertz works best', you're not factoring in displacement."
There was an "intense variation" in the vibrator frequencies used by Prause's test cases to achieve orgasm, under laboratory conditions. "The essential stimulation pattern that seems to work uses increasing intervals," she explains. "Ten seconds on; ten seconds off; 30 seconds on; 30 seconds off. Towards the end, you just turn it on." When pushed, Prause identifies 110 hertz—the frequency of the Hitachi magic wand—as most effective in her laboratory experiments. "That could just be because it's very intense," she suggests. "It's extremely strong."
Despite the fact that Prause can't give me the specific frequency that will induce hands-free orgasm, I'm still heartened by her words. After all, my efforts to find an expert thus far have turned up weirdos with soul patches and abundantly misspelled Wordpress blogs. Does Prause believe in the existence of the orgasm note?
"I could see some frequencies being more effective, because the cells in the vulva and clitoris are responsive to different frequencies," Prause responds. "But ultimately, my theory is probably no." That said, she acknowledges the orgasm note might have a placebo-like effect. "My research shows that people are good at using their cognitive fantasies to get themselves to orgasm. Tell people that this is the orgasm note, and the power of suggestion can be powerful."
In all quest narratives, there comes a moment where the reader thinks all is lost. My story is no different. Just as I've resigned myself to never knowing whether the orgasm note really exists, I receive another email from Craig Huxley's daughter, Fiona. Would I be free for a Skype call? After weeks of emails, we set a date. It's nearly 9 PM in London, and I'm sitting cross-legged on my bed when Huxley himself appears on my laptop screen.
I'm desperate to ask Huxley whether the orgasm note exists, but first we make polite small talk about his forthcoming documentary about elephants. Finally, much name-dropping later (him and Michael Jackson apparently go way back), I seize my opportunity to ask him about the existence of the orgasm note. Can one mighty instrument succeed where so many phalluses have failed, and bring women to climax?
"Oh, it's so true," Huxley says, with unmistakeable pride. "I've had many women thank me for it."
It feels a bit weird asking Huxley this given that his daughter—both have the same vivid red hair—is sitting right next to him on what looks like a piano stool. However, they seem extremely chill. Apparently, it's all about the chakras.
"The Blaster Beam stimulates the sacral chakra, which is about two inches below the naval," Huxley explains. "And it also stimulates the root chakra, at the bottom of the spine." He speaks glowingly of the incredible lowness of the note. "It's about an octave and a half below the lowest note on the piano... The very lowest note."
When I push him for detail, he walks over to an adjacent piano and thumbs out a descending trio of notes. "I guess it's mostly an 'E' note," he says, repeatedly sounding the last key. But the Blaster Beam's range isn't really comparable to that of a piano—it's much, much lower and deeper. "Take it down ten cycles," he says, "and the sound's really down with the whales." The reason for this is that the Blaster Beam is huge, 18 feet long of metal beam with strings controlled by moveable pickups that alter the sound.
So are the rumors about that 1990 Central Park concert, in which multiple female audience members spontaneously orgasmed, true? "Yes," Huxley confirms. "I don't know what part of it is wishful thinking, or having fun with the music," he adds. "But when I've played in the studio also, and I've been using rolling sounds—pitches and tremolos—people have described going into an orgasmic state, without the inconvenience of having sex!" He laughs good-naturedly.
I feel euphoric after speaking to Huxley, as if the CIA director personally phoned me to confirm the moon landings were faked. Unfortunately, I don't get the chance to listen to the Holy Grail—that subterranean "E"—because Huxley has misplaced his 18-foot-instrument and can't remember exactly where the Blaster Beam currently resides. No bother. I've succeeded where many a man has failed: I've figured out the laziest possible way to make a woman come.