On December 24, a group of French scientists published what is probably the first medical-journal article on squirting. They gave pelvic ultrasound scans to seven women who previously reported emitting about a cup full of liquid (!) when they had sex. By administering the scans after the women peed, and then twice during sexual stimulation, they were able to conclude exactly where the liquid was coming from and what it consisted of—and, spoiler alert, it was pee.
There have been plenty of studies done on female ejaculation, this is the first one, as far as I can tell, to specifically explore women who expel great gushing quantities of fluid when sex is happening. Since at least the 80s, however, there's been a lot of debate around whether or not women ejaculate at all, or if any instance of it is just an adult version of bedwetting.
It should be noted that there are papers that say, yeah, there is something that comes out of vaginas during sex that definitely isn't urine. (It's supposedly liquid from the "female prostate.") But in this specific study—the first to focus on women who soak the sheets—the answer is nah. "The present data based on ultrasonographic bladder monitoring and biochemical analyses indicate that squirting is essentially the involuntary emission of urine during sexual activity, although a marginal contribution of prostatic secretions to the emitted fluid often exists," is how the researchers put it.
For a debate that can essentially, and crudely, be boiled down to "cum or piss?" it's surprisingly fraught with important implications. Some feminists say that reducing the physical manifestations of their orgasms to urine diminishes the importance of female pleasure during sex. Other feminists say the opposite: Claiming it's more than urine perpetuates a male fantasy.
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In recent months, this uncertainty has even given ammunition to censors in the UK, where squirting was one of a number of practices that was banned in porn . Because no one could say definitively whether it was piss, government busybodies were apparently bound to assume it fell under the category of urolagnia, which is considered obscene.
One thing that's for sure, though, is that people love watching it. Mike Williams, who works for PornHub's communication team, told me it's the seventh most searched term worldwide.
But why? Justin Lehmiller, who edits the popular blog Sex and Psychology, has a couple of theories. "It probably stems from a desire to know that the woman enjoyed herself and was sexually satisfied," he told me. "A lot of guys actually care about this and they want to know the sex was mutually enjoyable." He also adds that it's just as likely an ego thing, or a validation of masculinity.
As for the "do ladies ejaculate or is it just pee?" debate, I'm sure there'll be more to, uh, come.
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