Fair warning, this article will make reference to squirting, gushing and the G-spot. Now that’s out of the way, let’s have a candid discussion about female ejaculation. While pornography featuring female ejaculation has been banned in the UK, it represents the third most searched category in Australia and has been a consistent point of curiosity throughout history. Many of you may be surprised to learn that females are capable of ejaculation, however, the phenomena has been written about from as early as 4 Century China, where the liquids excreted during orgasm were believed to be imbued with mystical and healthful properties.
As it turns out, during orgasm some women (10-40 per cent) experience the involuntary emission of fluid ranging from 30 to 150mL. This has become known colloquially as squirting, though this usually refers to a larger amount of liquid being excreted. In the Western world, great minds like Aristotle and Hippocrates have pondered the origins of ‘female sperm’ and ‘female discharge’ but the earliest approximations of scientific investigation were some rudimentary physiological descriptions appearing in everyone’s favourite bed-time read, the Kama Sutra. In the following centuries, female ejaculation continued to fascinate but it was not until the early 1900’s that any real progress was made in working out the source of this mysterious discharge.
In 1904, psychologist Havelock Ellis proposed that female ejaculation was analogous to semen and originated from the Bartholin glands (two pea-sized glands responsible for secreting mucous which lubricates the vagina). Almost 50 years later, Ernest Gräfenberg opposed this view by arguing that female ejaculation had little to do with lubrication. He came to this conclusion by observing women masturbate, noting that ejaculation occurred more frequently with palpation of an erogenous zone on the front wall of the vagina which became later known as the G-spot.
Interestingly, ancient descriptions of this erogenous zone closely match Gräfenberg’s centuries later work. It was Gräfenberg’s contention that female ejaculation was secretion from intraurethral glands located underneath the G-spot. It was not, Gräfenberg was adamant, urine, which was the leading alternative hypothesis at the time.
One man’s opinion is far from conclusive and in 1982 researchers undertook chemical analysis of female ejaculate and a clearer picture began to form. This landmark study demonstrated a clear difference between the liquid excreted during orgasm and urine, a finding that was later confirmed by several independent scientific studies. From these results, it was posited that female ejaculate originated from the Skene’s glands: the equivalent of a female prostate.
Yet the scientific community remains divided, some questioning the very existence of the G-spot while others question the vast differences in the amount of fluid expressed by women. Some women report very little liquid (2-4mL) resembling watered-down milk, while others express far greater volume. This has led some researchers to maintain that squirting is actually an involuntary emission of urine, or hyper lubrication. A recent study published out of Le Chesnay, France conducted by Samuel Salama and his colleagues sought to lay these questions to rest by combining ultra-sound imaging with chemical analysis of higher volume female ejaculate.
The researchers recruited seven women who self-reported that they squirted the equivalent to a glass of water during orgasm, enough to noticeably wet the bed-sheets. The women provided a urine sample, and then underwent an ultrasound that confirmed that their bladders were indeed empty. The women then, either with the help of their partner or alone, began sexual stimulation and once sufficiently aroused underwent a second ultrasound. At this point, the women returned to the task at hand until they achieved orgasm and ejaculation. A sample of the ejaculate was collected and the final ultrasound performed.
Unsurprisingly, the first ultrasound showed that participants’ bladders had emptied. However, the second ultrasound, conducted when the women were close to orgasm, showed significant bladder filling. The final ultrasound once more showed that the women’s bladders were empty. This suggested that female ejaculation, at least for these women, was largely urine.
Biochemical analysis of the fluid showed that this was definitely the case for two of the women in the study. For the other five, the analysis showed that the fluid was largely urine but it also contained prostate-specific androgen (PSA) originating from the Skene’s glands. The authors of the study concluded that these results strongly support the hypothesis that female ejaculation is an involuntary urine emission. The presence of PSA was ruled to be residue of ‘true’ female ejaculation.
So is ‘squirting’ just pee? Yes and no. It seems that larger volume fluid emissions, or squirting, are for the most part urine. However, there does appear to be evidence that a smaller volume of fluid is actually female prostate secretion due to mechanical stimulation of the G-spot. Whether this constitutes ‘true’ female ejaculation remains to be seen as most previous studies include all ranges of fluid emission. Further, it is unknown conclusively whether these two forms of excretion are mutually exclusive, or whether there is some overlap as suggested by the presence of PSA in the urine of women in this study. Likely, women who are capable of ejaculation naturally vary in the amount of fluid they excrete.
The implications for personal and sexual health are also unclear. An international survey of women who were capable of ejaculating found that four of five reported that squirting was enriching to their sexual lives. However, this included any volume of fluid emission. Squirting generally results from a combination of stimulation of the G-spot, relaxation and a comfortable emotional state and can occur without any larger implications of disease, and may be an indicator of a healthy sexual relationship.
The only clear conclusion that the researchers draw from this latest study is a recommendation to urinate frequently before and during sexual activity if squirting presents a problem. Other than that, stay hydrated and have fun.
James Sherlock is a PhD Candidate at the School of Psychology, University of Queensland. His research includes investigating genetic variation in traits related to mate choice such as pathogen disgust and avoidance, mate preferences, and the mental and behavioural aspects of masculinity and femininity.
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