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Squirting – something interesting is going on

In case you missed the recent headlines, a rather controversial study has been published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, which claims that female ejaculate is actually just urine. The sex blogging community has been up in arms over the claims, and we can totally see why.


Female ejaculation – also known as ‘squirting’ – has been in the press a lot recently. But headlines screaming ‘science PROVES it’s only piss‘ serve to highlight some pretty weird mainstream attitudes to sexuality.

Just before Christmas, the UK government passed rules regarding video on demand pornography which included some pretty strict restrictions on female ejaculation. The reason? They thought it was urine, or at least argued that on-screen it was ‘indistinguishable’ from it.

At the time, I got pretty worked up about this. As a sex blogger, I frequently read blogs and articles from people who talk about their own squirting experiences, in which they’re pretty damn clear: it does not feel like you’re pissing yourself. Moreover it doesn’t smell or taste like urine.

Shortly after the law change, though, a study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and was immediately picked up by tonnes of newspapers. They excitedly declared that science had ‘proved’ that female ejaculation was only urine, and thus sold this as an end to the age-old debate.

I beg to differ, and a number of other sex bloggers do too.

The excellent Epiphora has written on this in detail at her sex toy review blog. She points out that not only did the study in question have only seven participants, but that it also came to quite a different conclusion to many other studies in the past, which found significant differences between urine and ejaculate. This guide from The Babble Out also gives much more info about female ejaculation (including how to try and squirt if you want to give it a go).

I think there are a fair few criticisms to be made of the study, although even more that can be leveled at the news sites which reported on it uncritically. Here’s the thing with squirting: it has fascinated people for a long time, because there are a number of women, and trans guys, who release large quantities of fluid at the moment of orgasm. Not necessarily at every orgasm – some people report doing it only when they have specific G-spot stimulation. Some people may have ejaculated only once or twice, whereas for others it’s a regular occurrence.

Whether it’s a new time with a particular toy, or a frequent event that happens when they’re shagging, it’s pretty clear to me that something fairly interesting is going on here. And I’m sorry, but saying ‘it’s just piss’ is never going to cut it.

The study in question looked at 7 individuals who all claimed that they regularly released large amounts of fluid on orgasm. The researchers performed ultrasounds on these people to check their bladders were empty, then repeated that both during and after orgasm, eventually claiming that a rush of fluid into the bladder shortly before orgasm proved that what was expelled was definitely urine. They also studied the substance that came out and concluded that it was likely urine, albeit with some ‘prostatic secretions’ mixed in.

What’s interesting about the way this study was reported is that it was presented as a kind of fait accompli – as if to say ‘see? It’s not cum, it’s piss, so just stop talking about it,’ with perhaps an added dollop of ‘stop doing it,’ as well. Yet many people who report that they do squirt also report that it tastes and smells different, and that it feels pretty bloody good, thanks very much.

The implication of equating female ejaculate with ‘just pee’ is that you shouldn’t pee while you’re having sex, and so those people who ejaculate should just… well… stop it. This is crap.

I’m not a scientist, so minutely dissecting the study is probably beyond my abilities. However others have pretty fairly pointed out that this is by no means the first attempt to study ejaculate, and other studies have presented different conclusions. If you want something broader, check out Dr Petra’s excellent overview of the problems with reporting on female ejaculation and orgasm – it’s from a couple of years ago so before this study came out, but it’s a great overview of how sex reporting has been influenced by our culture.

Here’s the deal, though, and where my own frustration with science and sex reporting comes from: this particular study hit the headlines because someone wanted to be able to give a ‘definitive’ answer, the implication being that if they have proved it’s urine then the debate is settled. Yet regardless of what this (or any other study) has found, clearly something interesting and hot is happening for all the people who squirt when they come. Dismissing a whole bunch of experiences as if they never happened seems patently ridiculous, and you only need to glance at the #notpee hashtag on Twitter to see that there are plenty of people who fee pretty sidelined by the way this has been reported.

Ultimately my opinion on the whole ‘squirting or pee’ thing is going to be the same no matter what the actual answer: we should not be presenting ‘squirting’ as something you should either do or not do based on the specific chemical makeup of the fluid. Some people squirt, and others don’t. It’s part and parcel of sex for many, an occasional event for some, and an impossibility for others. Even if it is urine (which I doubt), that doesn’t mean we should tell people to stop doing it – firstly because for many it’s an enjoyable part of their sex lives, secondly because it does absolutely no harm and thirdly because it’s often involuntary. The only time I wan’t to hear anyone telling others not to do it is if they find a particular person who’s been squirting Kryptonite.

There’s a lot of sex shame out there – from women who get told not to sleep with guys on the first date to guys who are told that they’re ‘dirty’ for using certain kinds of sex toys. People who are shamed for working in porn, or having a fetish that’s a bit out of the ordinary. To add to all the myriad obstacles that can prevent people from enjoying their sex lives, being told that something your body does at the point of orgasm is ‘gross’ or ‘just pee’ or anything that belittles the pleasure you get from it, is pretty damn horrible.

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