Let’s talk about the big O.
Warning: This article contains sexually explicit material.
As Allie Conti of Vice points out, this isn’t the first time someone has undertaken the project of studying female ejaculation (which, presumably, entails going up to various women and saying, “Hey, can you masturbate and then orgasm into this cup for us?”). But the consensus still seems to be fairly split. Some researchers say that ejaculate isn’t urine, and that it’s liquid from something called the female prostate, or the Skene’s gland; others claim that women are deluding themselves and squirting is the adult equivalent of wetting your PJs after you’ve had too much chocolate milk before bed.
The consensus is equally split among the general public. Although squirting is one of the most popular search terms on tube sites, if you survey the general sex-having population, people will either have one of two reactions: 1) “Ew, that’s gross,” and 2) “Whoa, that’s awesome.” In my experience, heterosexual men primarily fall into the former category, viewing squirting as an awkward and uncontrollable bodily function, much like queefing or farting during sex.
Women, however, tend to view the ability to ejaculate like a man as a huge accomplishment, an elusive goal for which to strive. When I shared the squirting study on Twitter, for instance, one of my colleagues (who has sex with women) was incredulous, saying she just couldn’t believe it, having “conducted [her] own scientific tests.” One of my other female friends, upon my texting her that I’d had a spontaneous fluid emission of my own, texted back, “I don’t believe you,” following up a few seconds later with: “Can you teach me how?”
But regardless of whether squirting is a thing or not a thing, if it’s pee or some other colorless, odorless, consistency-less substance entirely, my question is: Guys, why do we care? Why does it matter? OK, so squirting might be pee. How does that affect the lives of the women who are capable of it, or for that matter, the ones who aren’t? If squirting is pee, my question is: So the fuck what?
From the perspective of those women who claim to be able to ejaculate—approximately six percent, according to one 1994 Czech study—the question of whether squirting is pee does matter, because they’ve been made to feel ashamed about their own natural bodily functions for so long.
Cytherea, the porn star colloquially known as the “Goddess of Gush,” says her squirting ability have actually garnered her a negative reputation in the industry. “I’ve had talent say, ‘I don’t want to work with her. She pissed,’” she tells me. “One guy actually said, ‘My mama didn’t have me come all the way to this country to be pissed on.’” But she says she knows her own body well enough to know that what happens to her body during orgasm isn’t peeing. “All I know is this: When I have an orgasm, I get extremely wet. And it feels really frickin’ good.”
As someone who does not regularly ejaculate—I’ve only done so three times, once shortly after I got my first vibrator and twice during actual sex with my boyfriend, who claimed to have had no idea what was going on—I don’t have a stake in this debate. But I do have a stake in the general debate over women’s sexuality, and whether women actually get a say in what scientists have determined is going on with our own bodies.
For centuries, women have been told that what doesn’t make them feel good sexually should and what does make them feel good shouldn’t. From Freud’s dictum that clitoral orgasms were more “infantile” than vaginal orgasms to the medical community institutionalizing “hypersexual” women on the grounds that they were “deviant” and the many state laws against sodomy, up to and including cunnilingus, our culture has devoted itself to policing women’s bodies and ensuring they are incapable of receiving pleasure.
Fortunately, we are at a point in the evolution of human sexuality where women are no longer considered deviant for expressing sexual desire. But we are not yet at a point where all forms of female expression of sexuality are considered equal. A proper, contained clitoral orgasm that produces no fluid, where a woman sits primly poised atop a pillow while her (male) partner gently stimulates her with a tongue or one to two digits maximum: totally fine. But a shrieking, hair-pulling, messy, red-faced, panting, full-body orgasm, induced by more than two digits or more than one partner of more than one gender is not considered quite as OK. And it’s definitely not OK if it produces prodigious amounts of fluid, and it’s definitely not OK if that fluid is urine.
As a feminist and a sex writer, I would like to live in a world where all types of orgasms, provided they’re the result of consensual sexual activity, are considered equally OK, regardless of whether a little (totally sterile, harmless) bodily fluid might come out as a result. I’d like to live in a world where women can give and receive pleasure without constantly worrying if their stomachs are too fat or their labia too long or if some otherworldly noises or fluids might come out. I would like to live in a world where women can give and receive pleasure with just as much abandon as men can, where it’s OK to feel “really frickin’ good” without needing to know the biological reasons why.
But until we stop discussing whether constructs like female ejaculation are the result of a “genuine” biological reaction, or the inevitable byproduct of not going pee before you have sex, then we’re never going to be able to live in this world.
Photo via Sander van der Wei/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)