Consider the most annoying things in life. For the vast majority, "bursting for a piss" is surely up there with "wasps", "offensively slow walkers" and "plugging your phone in overnight and waking up to discover the plug was never on". I say the "vast majority", here, because for a small minority, desperately needing to urinate is an extremely desirable thing.
For the uninitiated, omorashi – from the Japanese word for "wet yourself" – is a fetish that involves being sexually aroused by the discomfort of a full bladder. Like any fetish, it has varying degrees of extremity: some members of the omorashi community experience arousal by encouraging someone to develop a full bladder, while others can orgasm after watching someone lose bladder control and experience the relief and embarrassment that comes with it.
Water sports are nothing new – golden showers and urophagia (drinking urine), for example, are well-documented fetishes. The difference with omorashi is that the focus is on clothed incontinence. There are no known stats on how many people share this kink (which isn’t surprising, considering the fact omorashi isn’t exactly first date chat), but it’s not new either. It has its roots in Japanese gameshow-style videos where contestants compete in urine-holding challenges, but interest in omorashi is certainly not just limited to Japan. Australian publication West Set Magazine is aimed at girls who "enjoy the thrill" of wetting themselves. The homepage reads: "Our girls are always desperate to go to the toilet, but love to pee in their pants instead!"
The question is, though, how exactly do you navigate dating and relationships when a full bladder gets you off? I spoke to Nick*, a retired estate agent from Mexico, who’s been part of the omorashi community sporadically since he was a teenager. Nick’s first encounter was as a 13-year-old in Arizona. Although his father banned him from teasing his same-aged neighbour, Amber*, whose medical condition meant she often wet herself, he recalls the arousal (and the accompanying shame) that came with it. "I often thought that lightning would strike me dead for being such a dreadful pervert," he tells me, "but I just couldn’t control it."
After Amber revealed she was aware that he became physically aroused when she had an accident, Nick says she proposed a different solution: "If you let me play with your penis whenever it gets hard, I'll wet my pants anytime you want me to." The pair engaged in this omorashi game for a year in 1970, a period Nick describes as "incredible bliss", until she left America.
After unsuccessful attempts to meet like-minded women, it was not until last year that Nick found another omorashi playmate, Isabel*, a nurse from California, after she rented a house he owned. As with Amber, it started with subtle hints. "She would text: 'Love to keep talking, but must find a bathroom, just about to wet my pants!'" says Nick. "I would make a reply like: 'Accidents will happen, my dear.' And she would respond with: 'They certainly do!'"
As Isabel had never shared this fetish with a man before, Nick says that by the time they were together, they had "almost convinced ourselves that we had found a potential omorashi partner". The pair were afraid to directly mention it to each other, though, and it took a picnic for them to realise they had "finally" found someone to share the fetish with.
"Isabel complained about how the springtime pollens were going to make her sneeze. Soon, she was sneezing quite uncontrollably, and she cried out, 'I’m gonna pee!' I saw her crotch darken, and then she just surrendered control," says Nick. "Her shorts were totally soaked, and she was also wet all the way down the inside of her left leg. She could tell by my reaction that I was aroused."
Since the pair only meet a few times a year due to the distance between them, they started to find various ways to incorporate the fetish into their sex life. "Often, it’s just as simple as giving her a good, robust tickling," says Nick, "but sometimes we make more of a game out of it." One such game included making Isabel laugh at a pub where the pressure on her bladder was unbearable. He fondly recalls: "She doubled over with laughter to the point where she lost control."
Although this made her "turn red with embarrassment", Nick recalls that she was aroused when thinking how strangers, particularly men, may have seen that she had wet herself in public.
Considering omorashi is largely based on fantasy, Nick is clearly fortunate he’s managed to share the fetish with women who also enjoy it. But it hasn’t always been that way: he recalls spending a "lonely decade on websites that never led to anything".
Having to contend with such secrecy due to fears of rejection, it's no wonder many are never able to incorporate the fetish into their intimate lives. Nick agrees: "It takes a great deal of trust to speak to another person about an unusual fetish. I know people who have been married for more than a decade and have never had the courage to mention their omorashi fetish to their wife or husband."
Nick himself says this was the same with his ex-wife, who he married in his thirties: "I knew that she had an adventurous sexual past and she had tried all kinds of things. All the same, we had been married for several years before I felt enough trust to broach the topic of omorashi."
It’s unsurprising, then, that many people congregate online, where there are myriad safe, non-judgemental spaces. In closed Facebook groups, users (some with Omo added to their names) share explicit photos and videos of wetting themselves or their partners, ask each other how long they should hold on – "Please can someone let me go peeeeee" is a common request – and either berate or congratulate each other. Meanwhile, omorashi Tumblr pages feature fan fiction and fan art, while community forums focus on sharing wetting experiences and even erotic stories online
Tom*, a US-based omorashi community member who makes desperation and wetting videos, tells VICE he first got into the fetish after a relationship in which he and his girlfriend would sometimes pee on each other during sex. Even so, he says: "It's not part of my day-to-day life. I just get into it for small periods of time; it depends on what's going on in my life."
You’d assume that sharing such a niche kink would bring people together, but building lasting relationships through fetish-orientated social media is rare. Nick says: "You can trade emails with all kinds of people who enjoy this fetish without ever encountering anyone with whom you share anything other than the fetish itself. I met both Amber and Isabel through ordinary means, and the fact they were willing to share the omorashi fetish with me had absolutely nothing to do with online activity."
Nick is adamant that there's nothing wrong with finding loss of bladder control sexy, even if it's not socially accepted.
"Society teaches us what we are 'supposed' to like in terms of sexuality," he says, "It tells us through messages, both subtle and direct, what ought to turn us on. So, if there is anything I would say to the world at large, it is this: don’t be afraid to go exploring."
*Names have been changed.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.