British censors banning squirting in porn this week seems to have caused a fair bit of uproar, so let's have a look at what we're dealing with.
On Monday, the laws governing British VoD porn changed. A whole range of sex acts (which you can read about here) were banned by the government, but the takeaway is this: woman have, yet again, been dealt a crap hand.
The new guidelines state that it's fine to depict a woman gagging on a dick, but not acceptable to film a man having his face smothered by her vagina. Bukkake is A-OK; squirting is outlawed.
In fact, female ejaculation can be shown in short sequences, but it cannot "land on anyone" and must not be "consumed". And really, what's the point of showing it in the first place if nobody's going to end up covered in the stuff? This is in stark contrast to jizz, which can be fired liberally over any part of a woman and may be guzzled on camera in unrestricted quantities.
Like everything pertaining to women and sex, perceptions of squirting have a long and politically-charged history. Were you to educate yourself on sex by watching porn, reading medical journals and perusing literature alone, you'd walk away a little confused.
For straight, cisgender men, sex would appear relatively simple. For women, the picture would be fraught; at some times associated with mental illness, at others with demonic possession. Here, they'd be reduced to one-dimensional spunk-receptacles; there, feared as power-wielding nymphs. Squirting may seem like nothing more than a muscularly impressive porn trope, but it is, in fact, at the apex of a centuries-old shit storm around female sexuality.
Porn star Saskia Squirts, as her name suggests, is a pro when it comes to expelling large projectile secretions. She's part of a genre that, according to PornHub, Brits are 16 percent more likely to search for than any other nation, and holds her talent up as a perfectly natural bodily thing that regulators really shouldn't be worrying themselves with.
"I discovered I could squirt about three years ago," Saskia tells me. "I didn't have to practice, I just knew how to do it. It's hard to describe, really, but you feel it and hear it before it comes. It's a bit like a trapped fountain leaking dribbles before the explosion. Squirting is a natural body function – totally harmless and enjoyed by endless guys. But my ideal person to squirt on? Jason Statham."
Estimates as to what proportion of the female population is able to squirt vary depending on what definition of squirting is used. And while the nickname is recent, the phenomenon has been documented for thousands of years, cropping up, for example, in 4th century Chinese Taoist texts.
In the West, squirting was first mentioned in about 300 BC by Aristotle, and later in the 2nd century by Greek philosopher Galen. Over the next few centuries other middle-aged white men chimed in and, in the 16th century, Dutch physician Reinjier De Graaf identified the periurethral gland as the female prostate and apparent source of the squirt.
Roll on the 19th century and fear about female sexuality is at fever pitch; the woman who squirts is now officially – in the eyes of British law, at least – a full blown menace.§
"In the 19th century, Krafft-Ebing – the first modern 'sex doctor' – described female ejaculation as related almost exclusively to homosexuality in women," says Alex Dymock, a lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Lancashire's Edge Hill University, and a researcher into the history of sexuality.
"It was linked to fears of the degenerate, whose 'weakness' was owed to their sexual aberrance. Krafft-Ebing was working in a context in which fears of degeneration were rife, where mankind was perceived to be under a constant struggle between animal lust and moral behaviour. Female ejaculation functioned as yet another locus for fear of sexual excess or aberration in women, which not only symbolised their failure to conform to sexual passivity, but also their failure to fulfil their reproductive function."
With the UK's latest ruling on VoD porn, it's questionable how far we've come. The problem lies in the fact that, despite centuries of documentation and hours of what is surely rock solid evidence on YouPorn, people are still split into two schools of thought: that women can really ejaculate, or that it's actually just piss.
The British Board of Film Censorship (BBFC), for example, argues that its hands are bound by the Obscene Publication Act, which doesn't allow sex works featuring "urolagnia" (deriving sexual pleasure from urination). The board isn't allowed to pass scenes showing people consuming or being covered in piss, so, to be safe, similar scenes of squirting are also cut.
"Unless it's very clear that what is being shown is indeed 'female ejaculation', as opposed to urolagnia, the Board's position has to be that scenes of this nature featuring liquid that might be urine have to be cut," a spokesperson told VICE on Tuesday. "Medical advice we have taken has suggested that some scenes submitted to us that purported to show 'female ejaculation' were, in fact, urination."
Myles Jackman, a lawyer specialising in obscenity law, believes that this fuzziness reveals how out of touch legislation really is. "It's entirely sexist and unreasonable," he tells me. "Historically, censors refused to accept female ejaculation exists. Now they accept its existence but don't want to acknowledge its practical reality."
Annie Sprinkle would be one of the first porn stars to confront viewers with the practical realities of squirting, in her 1981 film Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle. As the 1980s progressed, squirts would become a litmus test of increasingly divided feminist viewpoints. For some, female ejaculation was a male fantasy, casting women's bodies as lesser versions of men's. For others, it was empowerment incarnate.
In 2001, when Ben Dover's British Cum Queens (originally submitted as British Squirt Queens) was sent for classification, demands for cuts by the BBFC were met with strong opposition from Feminists Against Censorship, which offered medical testimony that female ejaculation does exist and is not urine. The group labelled the BBFC's objections discriminatory.
The most high-profile battle to keep squirting on camera, however, was fought by porn producer Anna Span. In 2009, the BBFC requested that Span cut scenes from her Women Love Porn DVD that they called urolagnia and Span argued were female ejaculation. In response, Span sent the BBFC a deluge of medical reports proving, she said, that the squirting was legit. Alongside the academic publications, Span wrote:
"All members of the crew, including myself, witnessed the ejaculation and knew that the speed, volume, viscosity, smell and sight were all very different from urine. To be honest, we were all very shocked by it! Especially Dean, who received the ejaculate in his mouth."
Span was victorious, but her win didn't clear the way for a free-for-all in squirting porn. In fact, the BBFC still seemed unwilling to cede that the scenes in Women Love Porn were not urolagnia. At the time, a spokesperson said:
"In this particular work, there was so little focus on urolagnia that the BBFC took legal advice, and the advice was that, taking the work as a whole, there was no realistic prospect of a successful prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act and therefore the BBFC passed the work."
Still, the win was important and heralded the beginning of at least a grudging concession. "Anna Span's win was a big moment," says Chris Ratcliffe, head of Television X. "The BBFC began with a position of complete prohibition, and now squirting is allowed in isolated sequences. It's a chink in the armour."
Today, most sex educators and experts are likely to enthuse about squirting, offering advice on how to achieve it and encouraging women to go ahead and just drench those sheets.
"Female ejaculation is most likely to happen when you are very turned on, at the peak of passion and usually at the receiving end of some pretty hearty G-spot stimulation," says the team at London's Sh! sex boutique. "Female ejaculation has been clinically analysed and found definitely not to be urine. It is, in fact, an ejaculate fluid – like male ejaculate, but without the sperm. Why is female ejaculation the cause of so much anxiety? Why do we hold back when, if we learn to let go and female ejaculate, it will send ourselves and our lovers wild with delight?"
The crux of it is that, even if the jets of liquid we see emanating from porn stars are sometimes piss, does it really matter? Female ejaculation exists and, as such, surely any depiction of it is fair game. The laws that govern our porn-viewing habits are not only patronising and out of touch, but deeply misogynistic – a relic from the days in which visible female sexuality was seen as a terror-filled abyss of madness and mayhem.
Squirting, as the most visible form of female sexual enjoyment, should be a welcome change from the dutiful smiles and mechanical moans of mainstream porn actresses. Ladies, keep on squirting.
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