I have always considered myself a “late bloomer.” In my early teens, I had a makeshift “camp boyfriend.” He was a blonde, lanky guy. Outside of the end-of-camp dance, he kissed my cheek too hard and too wetly while I sat on his lap, fidgeting over his erection. I did not enjoy my first real kiss until the end of high school.
At a graduation event – on a boat, no less – a boy and I tucked ourselves away and tried figure out our tongues while avoiding gossipy voyeurs. We failed, perhaps at both efforts. Still, when I excused myself in the bathroom later, my underwear was heavy with a silvery, stringy substance. I peed and spent a few shaky moments wiping an unfamiliar moisture from myself.
I considered myself a virgin until I was 20. Before then, I swapped hand jobs and oral sex with male partners and some fervent caresses with female ones. I remember being pressed against a lot of walls and stairwells. I got wet, and I liked it, and my partners sighed because they seemed to like it too. But, I didn’t 100% know what was going on. Tongues continued to amaze me. Through a Facebook message, a generous friend gave me detailed instructions re: how to give a blowjob. I caught thick hot fluid in my mouth and hoped I was doing it right. I hoped that whatever was happening when my parts felt pleasure was just as disorienting and satisfying to my partner. I was wet a lot.
When a penis eventually entered my vagina, I had a new kind of pressure against my clit and my cervix, against the ridges in my inner walls. My whole body burned at every moment, and I remained wet. I produced wetness. I produced, sometimes, a noticeable excretion of wetness. No one said anything about this. I don’t remember when I started squirting. I don’t remember if it was on the baseball player’s mattress underneath the tapestry of a tiger, or if it was with the partner with whom I first had penetrative sex. I don’t remember when exactly I noticed the mess on the sheets. However, I do remember the twisting shame in my stomach. I do remember wondering what was going on. I remember that, alarmed and embarrassed, I finally texted a friend, “Do you…come when you come?”
“What it is exactly and where it comes from has been hotly debated: female ejaculation or adult bedwetting?” writes Janet Fang. Her article, “Study Concludes That Women Who Squirt During Sex Are Actually Peeing” appeared on I Fucking Love Science! on January 9, 2015. Since then, it has been shared 118,000 times on Facebook. Vice’s Allie Conti doesn’t handle the issue much better, and even her more nuanced account of larger debates about female ejaculation runs with the title, “Squirting Is Just Peeing, Say Scientists.” Within her article, she too uses the phrase, “an adult version of bedwetting.”
These articles follow recent findings of scientists in France who set out to examine, “The Nature and Origin of ‘Squirting’ in Female Sexuality.” Their study focused on seven female volunteers, each of whom stated that she produced “regular liquid expulsion during arousal or orgasm that was comparable with, at least, that of a glass of water, which abundantly wetted bed sheets” (Salama). These women were each directed to empty their bladders, at which time the scientists collected a urine sample. The study states:
Each participant was then left alone in the same examination room and started sexual stimulation by herself (with or without a sex toy) or with the help of her partner. In case of sexual intercourse, a condom was systematically used to prevent all genital contamination with ejaculate. As soon as the participant felt sufﬁciently aroused, a second ultrasonographic examination (US2) was per-formed to identify any noticeable modiﬁcation in the pelvic anatomy and to assess the size of the bladder (2).
A series of ultrasounds confirmed that each woman’s bladder emptied during urination, filled again during sexual stimulus, and then emptied again following orgasm. Comparisons between the urine sample before orgasm and the liquid sampled during/after orgasm showed that both fluids showed a strong chemical similarity. However, for most of the participants, the fluid produced during orgasm also contained prostate secretions.
The writers of the study conclude: “Squirting essentially is the involuntary emission of urine during sexual activity” (Salama 6).
My friend – my text message guru – responded, “You’re a unicorn!” This was the first I had heard of this. At 20, I was a unicorn. A squirter. I came when I came.
Unfamiliar with porn, I was totally unaware that this was a possibility for females. I had no idea that a woman could make a small puddle on the bed and be admired. No one brought it up, so I didn’t bring it up. I did not know any other woman who did this – because I never talked about it and no other women in my sphere (liberal, primarily white, college-aged, frequently drunk, frequently swapping sex stories) ever talked about it. I overheard conversations about the non-existence of real-life squirters. The Internet had few answers and depressing comment section debates. For a long time, I kept it a secret.
I started to have sex with other guys. I was seized by fear and embarrassment. What would a new partner do if I soaked his sheets? Would they think I was wetting the bed? Would they think it was gross? Would they recoil in horror and never call me again – or, worse, kick me out on the spot? Instead of talking to them before we fucked, I just didn’t say anything. They roamed their fingers and tongues in my wetness. Men moaned in my ear, panting how much they wanted to fuck my wet pussy. I have never used lube with a partner. They dipped their cocks in my wetness. But, for months and months, I didn’t squirt, and I didn’t come. I mewed and I cried out, but I did not come, not really. We threw away the sticky condoms and the sheets remained dry.
I met an older man, around twenty years my senior. He took me from a bar to his beautiful apartment, to his King-sized bed and his 1000+ thread count sheets and his plush white comforter. We rolled around for hours. I have never slept in a nicer bed, and I did not risk ruining it. The next time we saw each other, he poured me a glass of wine, sat me on his couch, and asked me what he could do differently. He knew I hadn’t come. He saw through my act. So I told him, in short bursts of breath, “I…uh…squirt?”
He asked me if I was serious. He said he had never had sex with “a squirter” before. He bent me down right on his living room couch. When I soaked through one of his tassled throw pillows, we moved to the shower. Then the bed. He encouraged me to never be ashamed of this “power” again, both in words and in his ecstatic pleasure and amazement when I came and came. I lived across the country from this man, and this was the last time we fucked, but I tried to remember this. After all, I really fucking liked it.
Until this recent study – and probably after it – the topic of female ejaculation has been hotly debated. In fact, the topic of female orgasm alone has been hotly debated. Western society seems to have firmly concluded that women do, indeed, have orgasms. Vaginas? Just for baby-making. G-spots? Confusion. Squirting? Just for porn. Everyone woman should/could do it. Or it’s pee.
This study from France does indicate that the fluid emitted by some women at orgasm does contain the same chemicals as urine. It gathered in the bladder. I have wondered where so much liquid could come from, so this is not altogether shocking. I myself have squirted enough to require a black velvet absorbent sex blanket. I have produced an arching gust of fluid that darkened a circle feet away from my vagina. That was a great orgasm. Every orgasm I have had that results in “squirting” has been an amazing, bone-melting, loose-limbed orgasm. I have also peed in a toilet. It does not feel the same. But, okay, the liquid itself might be similar.
Let’s ignore the fact that only seven women of the entire world’s population were involved in this study. Let’s ignore the fact that these women self-selected, and it is possible that they emit more urine than others. Let’s ignore the prostate fluids. We can ignore the fact that women have used beets and urine-tinting medication and found that the fluids they emitted during female orgasm did not change color. What if, in fact, the stuff some women squirt is chemically similar to their urine. Does that make the act of squirting “peeing”? Does that make me an “adult bed-wetter”?
To quote Amy Luna Manderino, who blogs about gender and sex and recently appeared on a episode of the Savage Lovecast:
If you cut a woman, she’ll bleed. But women also bleed during menstruation. Imagine if the researchers examined the chemical composition of menstrual blood and saw it contained similar chemicals as circulatory blood and so they said this was evidence that women are “bleeding” and everyone who heard that would think that women were wounded in their vagina, because that’s what we usually associate with “bleeding.” But menstrual fluid is about a completely different process—procreation.
Why then, are these headlines reducing female ejaculate to pee? I can only speak from my personal experience, but the act of sitting on the toilet while scrolling through Reddit and the act of writhing around with a finger deep in my vagina are two very different things. The fluid smells different and looks different. Moreover, the feeling of release and pleasure is hardly comparable to the relief of peeing. “Squirting” is an orgasmic response. In fact, the French scientists write, “It is also noteworthy that squirting often results from the combination of direct mechanical stimulation of the anterior vaginal wall (around the so-called G-spot) and a facilitating emotional status, with extreme conﬁdence and relaxation” (Salama 5).
What does it mean when journalists and scientists attempt to categorize this response – one born of “confidence and relaxation” with the disposal of waste, so oft-stigmatized by Western cultural norms? Perhaps I write defensively, but it is hard for me to ignore that my most intense orgasms have been accompanied by a great deal of liquid. I don’t have a fetish for “golden showers,” though I don’t judge those who do. I just come like I come. It is “involuntary” only in that I am experiencing unselfconscious, consuming pleasure, just as my male partners do when they shudder out their loads. Are we to pretend that semen is a neat, clean substance? Are we to pretend that we have never been repulsed by the cloying stickiness on our tongues? We do pretend, and we don’t call semen penis-snot. We refer to it as part of the glorious miracle of life.
I will not say that these scientists set out to shame women for their orgasmic responses. Female ejaculation has long been a controversial topic in need of further study and validation. In fact, just this year, the British government passed a ban on portrayals of female ejaculation in porn, effectively qualifying the act as obscene. But, I will say that the scientist’s scope seems limited. For example, Samuel Salama, who helped to run these studies, said that he believes every woman is capable of squirting “if their partner knows what they are doing,” ignoring that only self-selecting women volunteered for the study, along with the fact that some of them brought themselves to orgasm (Thomson). I cannot claim with certainty that this apparent heteronormative bias is associated with his findings, but I do find his statement difficult to ignore.
What does this study tell us? First, we must remember that the small sample size means it indicates rather than concludes. Similarly, my small sample size of articles that covered this study for the general public perhaps indicates that Western society is incredibly eager to slap a label on female ejaculation. Especially a label that we can laugh at. Especially a label we can glory in, pointing gleefully at those who have dared to enjoy such an act. It’s not coming; it’s peeing. Another embarrassing function of the female body.
I can’t help but feel a rush of shame thinking that this response to pleasure might be “peeing.” Words and the meaning we assign to them are powerful. It seems that this kind of female orgasm and all associated fluids might need a new label, maybe one that continues to validate the very existence of intense, uncontrollable, ecstatic female orgasm without critiquing either the damper or dryer ends of the spectrum.
For a while, I trained myself out of squirting. I didn’t mean to. But my current partner and I were camping with my father, and I didn’t know where I could find extra sheets in our cabin by the lake. I held it in, just as I held in my cries, pressing my teeth against my partner’s flushed palm.
After weeks of suppression, the squirting went away. I came, but only mildly, like a hiccup in my blood rather than a seizure. It was not the best. And, I could not just will myself to do it again. I could not just drink a bunch of water and bear down or squeeze really hard. Instead, I had to find the best orgasmic positions and situations. Me on top, with his finger on my clit: yes. Me bent curled backward over the coffee table while he fucked me from the couch: yes. Me in unfamiliar and exciting situations: yes. When new sexual experiences bring new rushes of unselfconscious pleasure, I squirt. I feel that “extreme confidence and relaxation,” and I won’t apologize for it. I don’t even mind sleeping in the wet spot.
 I am using the phrases “female ejaculation” and “squirting” interchangeably here. Following this study, some wish to define only the release of prostate fluids as female ejaculate proper and to redefine the release of the other fluids as something different, but I don’t buy the separation. Also, it is important to note that squirting appears in various forms of projectile intensity.
 Published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Article published anonymously
Conti, Allie. “Squirting Is Just Peeing, Say Scientists.” Vice. 18 Jan. 2015. Web. <http://www.vice.com/read/scientists-perform-first-major-study-on-whether-squirting-is-just-peeing>.
Fang, Janet. “Study Concludes That Women Who Squirt During Sex Are Actually Peeing.” I Fucking Love Science! 9 Jan. 2015. Web. <http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/women-squirting-during-sex-may-actually-be-peeing>.
Manderino, Amy Luna. “I F*Cking Hate Click Bait, Part Two.” The Sex Evolution. 11 Jan. 2015. Web. <http://www.thesexevolution.com/1/post/2015/01/i-fcking-hate-click-bait-part-two.html>.
Salama, Samuel, Florence Boitrelle, Amélie Gauquelin, Lydia Malagrida, Nicolas Thiounn, and Pierre Desvaux. “Nature and Origin of ‘Squirting’ in Female Sexuality.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine (2014). Print.
Thomson, Helen. “Female Ejaculation Comes in Two Forms, Scientists Find.” The New Scientist. 9 Jan. 2015. Web. <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26772-female-ejaculation-comes-in-two-forms-scientists-find.html#.VNKGnWR4qds>.
Image: Louis Fleckenstein Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.