We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
It's common knowledge that it's released via the urethra, but where does it originate? If it doesn't come from a part of the clitoris, then why is the clitoral glans called the clitoral glans? How does it travel from the originating spot to the urethra?
According to this article female ejaculate is produced by the Skene glands.
I had written up an answer to a now-deleted post about 3 years ago addressing this very question, so I thought I'd copy my answer from that deleted post here:
The answer is dependent on which fluid (vaginal lubricant or female ejaculate) you are referring to. Since you mention both, I will address both.
Quoting from wikipedia > vaginal lubrification
Vaginal lubrication is a naturally produced fluid that lubricates a woman's vagina. Vaginal lubrication is always present, but production increases significantly near ovulation and during sexual arousal in anticipation of sexual intercourse. Vaginal dryness is the condition in which this lubrication is insufficient, and sometimes artificial lubricants are used to augment it. Without sufficient lubrication, sexual intercourse can be painful to women. The vaginal lining has no glands, and therefore the vagina must rely on other methods of lubrication. Plasma seepage from vaginal walls due to vascular engorgement is considered to be the chief lubrication source, and the Bartholin's glands, located slightly below and to the left and right of the introitus (vaginal opening), also secrete mucus to augment vaginal-wall secretions. Near ovulation, cervical mucous provides additional lubrication.
Salama et al. (2015) from the Journal of Sexual Medicine feel fairly confident that they have good evidence that female ejaculate is actually urine from the bladder.
However, this topic has been under scrutiny for some time. I have seen numerous suggestions (though little hard evidence) that the Skene's glands (which are homologous to the male prostate) are responsible. This belief originated from the early work of Ernst Gräfenberg (yeah, the namesake of the G-spot). However, Salanas et al. (2015) did confirm the presence of at least marginal levels of prostatic secretions (e.g., PSA) in female ejaculate from their study. This at least partially corroborates the involvement of the Skeen's glands in the ejaculatory process. Bartholin glands (homologous to male Bulbourethral glands) have also been assumed to play a role. Further, Salanas et al. are not the first to propose that the ejaculate originates from the urethra. You can find a relatively simple outline and list of citations on the matter on Wikipedia.
We'll have to see how the scientific community responds to the work of Salama et al…
New insights from one case of female ejaculation
Introduction: Although there are historical records showing its existence for over 2,000 years, the so-called female ejaculation is still a controversial phenomenon. A shared paradigm has been created that includes any fluid expulsion during sexual activities with the name of "female ejaculation."
Aim: To demonstrate that the "real" female ejaculation and the "squirting or gushing" are two different phenomena.
Methods: Biochemical studies on female fluids expelled during orgasm.
Results: In this case report, we provided new biochemical evidences demonstrating that the clear and abundant fluid that is ejected in gushes (squirting) is different from the real female ejaculation. While the first has the features of diluted urines (density: 1,001.67 ± 2.89 urea: 417.0 ± 42.88 mg/dL creatinine: 21.37 ± 4.16 mg/dL uric acid: 10.37 ± 1.48 mg/dL), the second is biochemically comparable to some components of male semen (prostate-specific antigen: 3.99 ± 0.60 × 103 ng/mL).
Conclusions: Female ejaculation and squirting/gushing are two different phenomena. The organs and the mechanisms that produce them are bona fide different. The real female ejaculation is the release of a very scanty, thick, and whitish fluid from the female prostate, while the squirting is the expulsion of a diluted fluid from the urinary bladder.
Every question you ever had about female ejaculation, answered
Where does it comes from? Is it pee? And how might I make it happen for me? Here’s the lowdown on ‘squirting’: the expulsion of fluid from a woman’s down-belows around the point of orgasm.
The first time Gilly, 41, squirted, it left her on a high. “I was awestruck it felt incredible, a huge release. I took a photo of the wet patch so I could reassure myself that it really had happened.”
Tash, 26, was a bit more floored – and worried about the carpet. “I was using my vibrator and sitting with my back to my bedroom door in case someone tried to come in, when suddenly there was a spurt, and I freaked out thinking I𠆝 wet myself. It was the weirdest sensation I felt a bit panicked and ashamed because I didn’t know what was going on. I mopped up the rug, then had a google.”
We’ve known for a long time that some women can produce notable amounts of liquid from their genitals – in some cases supposedly shot out with water blaster force – during sexual excitement or orgasm. Hippocrates and the Kama Sutra both reference female ‘semen’ (the former thought it helped to create children, the latter containing a detailed description of when it should be expected and why). In the 17th Century, Dutch anatomist Regnier de Graaf wrote a groundbreaking treatise, Concerning The Generative Organs Of Women, describing the fluid and linking it to an erogenous zone inside the vagina that was much like male prostate.
But it’s still unclear how many of us actually are squirters. Modern studies estimate the phenomenon is experienced in some form by anywhere from 10-54% of womenਊnd, according to a 2013 study of 320 participants, the amount of ejaculate released can range from approximately 0.3ml to more than 150ml. That’s anything from a few drops to half a cup.
This broad spectrum of findings is partly due to differences in how studies are conducted and definitions but many specialists view female ejaculation and squirting as distinctly different things.
It’s a hotly contested topic – and one that’s receiving increasing attention as our understanding of the female body grows.
What Is Female Ejaculation?
Is female ejaculation (a.k.a. "squirting") the stuff of urban legends. or more of rare-but-real-diamond-in-the-rough situation? The answer: definitely real.
If it happens to you, you&rsquoll feel a big gush coming out of your vagina. You&rsquoll probably think oh my god, I just peed all over my partner! But at the same time, it&rsquoll probably feel good, too. So is it actually pee? And, if not, where the heck is it coming from?
What is female ejaculate?
10 to 54 percent of women experience female ejaculation.
Research shows that for most women, there&rsquos usually about two ounces of clear fluid in the gush, which is enough to get your sheets pretty wet. And women who do it report ejaculating a few times a week.
Truth is, eh, it&rsquos probably not all pee, but researchers aren&rsquot so sure yet. Some experts say that the fluid unquestionably comes from the skene&rsquos glands (tiny glands surrounding the urethra) and it&rsquos not pee, while others say that it&rsquos absolutely urine, explains Lauren Streicher, M.D., medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause. &ldquoThis is controversial, and it&rsquos also difficult to study. I think that both are true,&rdquo she says.
What does that mean? Well, while some women do have an "ejaculation" from the glands, others may release more diluted urine. Or, both things could be happening at the same time. (It's complicated. Okay?!)
More importantly, Streicher says that to experience female ejaculation during sex is normal, but it&rsquos also normal if you don&rsquot do it.
Does it happen to every woman?
Nope. Research shows that 10 to 54 percent of women squirt. If you&rsquore feeling left out because it hasn&rsquot happened to you, sex therapist and sexologist Alex Robboy, founder of SexTherapy.com, says that you may be able to learn. (Not every expert agrees on this, FYI. Streicher doubts that the skill can be developed.)
80 percent of women who squirt say it has improved their sex lives.
Should I try it&mdashand how does it actually happen?
Yes! Nearly 80 percent of women and 90 percent of their partners who've experienced this said it was good for their sex lives&mdashso why not give it a go?
You may or may not get there&mdashagain it&rsquos not clear if it&rsquos a born or learned skill&mdashbut "you should definitely try to set yourself up for it, because it&rsquos fun,&rdquo says Robboy. Follow these tips:
Stimulate the G-Spot: Again, while it hasn't been thoroughly studied, sex therapists like Robboy have found ejaculation often happens during G-spot stimulation. You can find your G-spot by sticking a finger in your vagina and making a &ldquocome hither&rdquo motion&mdashyou know you located the spot if you feel an almond-sized area with wrinkly skin, Robboy says.
Get a toy: &ldquoYou really need intense G-spot stimulation,&rdquo says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. Fingers get tired, and a penis is rarely enough, so a special vibrator it is. She likes the Njoy Pure G Spot Metal Wand. It&rsquos stainless steel, so you know it&rsquos powerful. &ldquoThe curve hits your G-spot in a nice way,&rdquo she says.
Hop on top: Not going to lie, it may be difficult to squirt during sex&mdashespecially in the beginning. But if you&rsquore game, it can't hurt to try with a partner. Woman-on-top positions&mdashwhether you&rsquore facing him or reverse cowgirl-ing it&mdashhelps you better control the angle of his penis. Reverse cowgirl is most likely to help him hit the spot just right, says Robboy.
Don&rsquot hold back: Just like you wouldn&rsquot hold back an orgasm, don&rsquot do it here, says Robboy. Just breathe, relax, and let your body do its thing.
Nature and origin of "squirting" in female sexuality
Introduction: During sexual stimulation, some women report the discharge of a noticeable amount of fluid from the urethra, a phenomenon also called "squirting." To date, both the nature and the origin of squirting remain controversial. In this investigation, we not only analyzed the biochemical nature of the emitted fluid, but also explored the presence of any pelvic liquid collection that could result from sexual arousal and explain a massive fluid emission.
Methods: Seven women, without gynecologic abnormalities and who reported recurrent and massive fluid emission during sexual stimulation, underwent provoked sexual arousal. Pelvic ultrasound scans were performed after voluntary urination (US1), and during sexual stimulation just before (US2) and after (US3) squirting. Urea, creatinine, uric acid, and prostatic-specific antigen (PSA) concentrations were assessed in urinary samples before sexual stimulation (BSU) and after squirting (ASU), and squirting sample itself (S).
Results: In all participants, US1 confirmed thorough bladder emptiness. After a variable time of sexual excitation, US2 (just before squirting) showed noticeable bladder filling, and US3 (just after squirting) demonstrated that the bladder had been emptied again. Biochemical analysis of BSU, S, and ASU showed comparable urea, creatinine, and uric acid concentrations in all participants. Yet, whereas PSA was not detected in BSU in six out of seven participants, this antigen was present in S and ASU in five out of seven participants.
Conclusions: 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.
Keywords: Female Ejaculation Female Orgasm Gushing Squirting Urinary Incontinence.
The "secret" to female ejaculation: How all women can experience it
By Carrie Weisman
Published May 20, 2015 8:00AM (EDT)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
The way women experience sexual pleasure is hard to deconstruct. Our genitalia are located on the insides of our bodies and we don’t regularly experience the same physical proof of orgasm that men do. It’s precisely what makes faking it so easy.
Men, on the other hand, aren’t (typically) afforded that same ability. For guys, climax is usually linked to ejaculation. And these explosive orgasms are often understood to be unique to the male sexual experience. But maybe it’s time to revisit that conversation. Maybe men and women aren’t as different as we thought. Because as international sex educator Deborah Sundahl told me, “Men don’t own ejaculation, it’s just been taken from women.”
The world of female ejaculation is ripe with mystery and magic, and those who have experienced it will attest to the latter. But a great deal of skepticism still revolves around the act. Younger generations may think it’s a stunt invented by the porn industry, and in a way, that makes sense. But there’s a very big difference between what the porn industry calls “squirting” and what sex educators know as “female ejaculation.” Namely because not everyone is built to “hit the wall,” so to speak. But As Sundahl explained to me, every woman is anatomically able to ejaculate.
Sundahl specializes in teaching women and couples about the G-spot and female ejaculation.
Despite claims that the G-spot doesn’t exist, the region, named for Ernst Gräfenberg, has been recognized as a “functioning female organ,” and is known within wider academic circles as “the female prostate." So yes, the G-spot is real. For any and all woman who have experienced a G-spot orgasm, it’s very real. And for the women who haven’t experienced this kind of orgasm, it’s there. They just haven’t located it yet. But what many of us may not have realized is that with this level of orgasm comes a more obvious manifestation of pleasure: ejaculation.
As I mentioned before, Sundahl insists that every woman is capable of experiencing ejaculation. Better yet, every woman is able to learn how to ejaculate there are just a few steps we need to experiment with first.
Sundahl told me, “To learn how to ejaculate is to learn, number one, where your prostate is located in your body. Number two, to build awareness of its sensitivity, which will lead to number three: awareness of the ejaculate fluid building in your body.”
She threw in numbers four and five, saying we must also to learn to “build the ejaculate." The last part, and perhaps the most difficult, is gaining the confidence to release it.
Even Aristotle made mention of female ejaculation. In the Tantric religion, female ejaculate is referred to as amrita, which translates to “the nectar of the Gods.” Galen of Pergamon once wrote that female ejaculate “manifestly flows from women as they experience the greatest pleasure in coitus.”
The G-spot, or the female prostate, can be found through the roof of the vagina. The ejaculate, however, is expelled from the urethra. For this reason, many people mistakenly believe that the fluid they feel compelled to release during sex is urine. That is so unfortunate in so many different ways. For one, nothing takes the sexy out of sex quite like being accused of peeing on someone. Bodily fluids have a tendency to gross people out, and urine seems to be a top offender.
Sundahl told me, “I ask women in my lecture to raise their hands—and I’ve done this for years so I have big anecdotal evidence—how many women stop in the middle of making love to go to the bathroom. And 30% will raise their hand. And then I ask how many of you wait until you’re done making love, meaning, they have to pee during lovemaking, and they have to wait to go, and another 30% raise their hands. That’s 60% of women holding back their ejaculate not knowing it's ejaculate, thinking it's pee…They hold back, clench their pelvic floor muscles. Some women don’t even want to have sex because it feels funny… they think something is wrong with them when they have sex. This is a big, big, big problem, this is a big issue, and the correct information must get out there.”
Susan Block, founder and director of the Dr. Susan Block Institute, tells me, “We woman, we’re told early on that we should be clean, we have to be careful… I think this is a big reason that a lot of women just don’t want to ejaculate. It’s just not something we feel is attractive —some of us. But I think that’s changing and women are becoming more accepting of our bodily fluids and more understanding of what ‘clean’ means. You can be perfectly clean and ejaculate.”
She added, “Part of my mission with female ejaculation education is to help these women feel normal. Because they are. And it’s a normal reaction. And it’s a sexual reaction – they aren’t incontinent.”
“I’m not against golden showers, but this is a different thing.”
That being said, there’s no easy way of convincing anyone of anything they don’t want to believe. Those who want to think the fluid that (some) women expel during sex is plain urine will likely continue believing just that. But those individuals probably haven’t spent much time around the stuff.
As Sundahl writes in her book, Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot, “Men and women’s ejaculates are similar in chemical makeup, though of course women’s ejaculate does not contain semen. Female ejaculate is predominately prostatic fluid mixed with glucose and trace amounts of urine.”
Block tells me, “It smells different, it tastes different (and yes, I have tasted it), and it smells nothing like urine… it sort of [has] no smell… and it’s very clear.” She added that the most notable difference between female ejaculate and urine is that the former won’t stain your sheets.
There’s a statistic that reads, “70% of all women need clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.” In fact, it’s a stat I’ve used many times before. But as I delved further into the world of female ejaculation I realized the sentence needs some rewording. All women are armed with a G-spot. Those who gravitate toward clitoral orgasms don’t “require” this kind of stimulation to reach climax, they rely on it. And that’s perfectly fine. But it hardly means they’re incapable of achieving anything more.
The way we talk about female sexual pleasure tends to be a little black and white. When it comes to the G-spot, it’s often framed as a case of, you either have it or you don’t. That sells a lot of women short, and discourages many from embarking on further exploration. As Sundahl said, “It’s almost like seeking a religion, but you don’t know there’s a god.”
The pursuit of sexual pleasure has always been clouded by the fact that it can end in pregnancy. But it’s important to be reminded that, like men, women have sex just as much for recreation as for procreation. There’s something reassuring about knowing that. And sometimes, it just feels nice to give as good as you get.
Block told me, “Female ejaculation is carnal proof that a woman’s ability to hit her lover right between the eyes when she comes is equal to that of a man. There is equality here. It’s not only erotic but political, as it is a tangible, palatable, symbol of female sexual power.”
Block has even taken to calling female ejaculate "holy water."
There’s still plenty of research to be done on female ejaculation. The term “G-spot” wasn’t even popularized until 1982, when Alice Khan Ladas, Beverly Whipple and John D. Perry released The G Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality. Before then, there was hardly any mention about it at all. And that makes sense, too. It’s pretty hard to discuss something without the vocabulary needed to describe it. But now that we do have the necessary language, information is starting to flow in. Certain studies have even found a number of health benefits associated with female ejaculate.
Sundahl told me, “It has just burst on the scene, this knowledge about female ejaculation and the G-spot orgasm. It’s just sweeping the bedrooms of the western world. Exponentially by the month women are learning to do this. It’s really a joyful time.”
So what’s the big “secret” to female ejaculation? There is no special button, no specific skillset to inherit. In fact, a lot of women have probably already ejaculated during sex, they just didn’t realize at the time. It is possible, after all, to experience ejaculation independent of orgasm. You just have to let it flow. Allowing yourself to do that takes time. As Sundahl explained, “If you’re clamping down on this urge to ejaculate for decades, you’re not just going to let go in a day.”
All in all, good sex is worth making a mess over. Even if it means changing the sheets.
Do women ejaculate?
Some women do ejaculate when they reach orgasm, but scientists still have many questions on the subject.
&bull How many women ejaculate? Is it common? Estimates range from 10% to 50% of women. Some experts believe that all women ejaculate, but most aren&rsquot aware of it because the fluid often flows backward into the bladder instead of outside of the body.
&bull What is the fluid made of? For many years, scientists thought that the fluid was urine and women often worry that this is the case. However, the fluid is similar to a man&rsquos ejaculate, which comes from his prostate gland.
&bull Where does the fluid come from? Experts aren&rsquot certain, but research suggests that the Skene&rsquos glands are involved. These glands are found in the vaginal wall, near the urethra. (The urethra is the tube from which urine exits the body.) Women who ejaculate often do so when their G spot is stimulated. The G spot is an especially sensitive area located about two inches from the entrance of the vagina. For many women, stimulation of the G spot brings intense sexual pleasure. The Skene&rsquos glands and the G spot are close to each other. It is thought that the stimulation of the G spot may trigger secretions from the Skene&rsquos glands in the form of ejaculate.
&bull How much fluid might a woman ejaculate? The amount can vary widely. Some women release just a little fluid others may need to have sex on a towel to keep from wetting the sheets.
&bull Should women worry about ejaculation? No. Some women feel embarrassed when it happens, but many partners are not bothered by it at all. However, if women notice any unusual vaginal secretions or discharges that cause concern, they should see their gynecologist.
Introducing the Pseudopenis, or Why Female Hyenas Are Feminist as Fuck
Penis means power. The dominance of dicks and those who have them isn’t a coincidence, or the unavoidable consequence of Big Patriarchy keeping women down—rather, it’s a case of simple biology. In most mammalian embryos, the genital tubercle forms very early, later developing into either a penis or a clitoris, subject to a complex cocktail of influential hormones. Androgens like testosterone stimulate penile growth and are also associated with aggression, so the relationship between actual dicks (penises) and figurative dicks (aggressive jerks) is axiomatic. But amazingly, in the case of female-dominant spotted hyena societies, those boss bitches have actually evolved a sort of penis of their own.
It’s technically called a “pseudopenis,” and it’s an extreme example of clitoromegaly—essentially a very enlarged clitoris.
Clitoromegaly/pseudopenises have been documented in several species: I came across mentions of pseudopenises in binturongs (Arctictis binturong, a type of adorable Southeast Asian bearcat), fossas (Cryptoprocta ferox), and ringtailed lemurs (Lemura catta). (In each instance, the pseudopenis is an enlarged clit and isn’t linked with other masculine characteristics.) Clitoromegaly is also documented in humans it’s considered a disorder of sexual development with a number of possible causes, including steroid usage or polycystic ovarian syndrome, with the most common cause being congenital adrenal hyperplasia . In humans, sometimes the enlarged clitoris can resemble a penis more often, it just looks like a large clit.
The pseudopenises of female spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), however, are different. They can be up to 90% as large as male penises and, at least from the outside, look almost exactly like actual penises, scrotum and all.
The illusion of a scrotum is created by two fleshy masses at the base of the pseudopenis, filled with fat and connective tissue. Where you’d expect to find a vagina, spotted hyena females instead have fused labia. (The anomolous female anatomy was first described by Morrison Watson for the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in 1877, but the first detailed illustration was done in 1949 by D. Dwight Davis and H. Elizabeth Story in Chicago and published in the Fieldiana journal of the Chicago Natural History Museum, now the inimitable Field Museum. Their observations included a number of facets: short spines covering the clitoris/pseudopenis a well-defined glans of the clitoris, cylindrical with a prominent dimple in the center fused labia and “scrotal swellings” containing only fat and connective tissue. In short, again, the whole situation looks almost exactly like a penis.)
For female hyenas, a lot happens through the clitoris—mating, urination, and even giving birth. Trying to put a penis inside a pseudopenis, or push a baby out a long, narrow clitoris, is unsurprisingly pretty challenging. Over 60 percent of cubs born to first-time spotted hyena mothers are stillborn, suffocating during their journey through the birth canal. (1) Giving birth causes the pseudopenis to rupture on one side, forming an open wound that takes weeks to heal and can become infected.
But, on the other hand, this unique biology gives female hyenas complete control over mating. In order to permit penetration, females must voluntarily retract their pseudopenis up into itself, creating an opening for the males to enter. So yes, that means that it’s completely impossible for a male to rape a female hyena.
Considering the difficulties of giving birth through the pseudopenis, researchers have long wondered why it evolved in the first place, and what purpose it serves. Because the spotted hyena’s pseudopenis is so remarkably penis-like—much more so than any other instance of pseudopenises/clitoromegaly—it’s been heavily studied. But, when I tried to find out what role pseudopenises play for lemurs, binturongs, civets, European moles, platyrrhine monkeys, or any other species, sexism in science stopped my research short. Genital masculinization is very rare in female mammals, and the few studies I did come across were inconclusive and dull, with all reports suggesting that it’s not associated with female dominance. Even in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), which exhibit pseudopenises and some level of female dominance, results have been mostly inconclusive .
That’s not the case for spotted hyenas, who’ve managed to capture the hearts and minds of many scientists. In particular, Kay Holekamp at Michigan State University has been studying a population of wild spotted hyenas in Masai Mara for over 30 years. Thanks to her dedicated research team, much of the sociobiology of spotted hyenas has been demystified.
Spotted hyena societies are nature’s truest matriarchies, and the rigid ranking order is well-known by each clan member, with males filling in the lowest social ranks. High ranking females pass their social power on to their female offspring, but male cubs must eventually leave their birth clans and attempt to join a new group. At that point, even juvenile females rank above the incoming males, who must tolerate any abuse hurled their way if they want to eventually mate with the ranking female or be accepted into a new clan. Females are generally larger than males, more aggressive than males, and socially dominant to them in almost every case.
Incidentally, this quasi-misandrist social structure has the distinct advantage of reducing genetic bottlenecks when resources are scarce and populations plummet. (2) Spotted hyenas are the most abundant large carnivores in Africa—personally, I like to think their success is largely due to the subjugation of males, but the intellect and prefrontal cortex development required to support such a complicated social hierarchy is probably a contributing factor. In fact, some studies have shown that spotted hyenas have social cognition and recognition on par with that of primates. (3)
Pseudopenises play an important role in the social order as well. In addition to looking just like a penis, they act like a penis too—erections are common among females, and licking or inspecting erect female penises is an important greeting behavior within spotted hyena society. Presenting an erect penis or pseudopenis is actually an indicator of submission, and a behavior that’s unique to spotted hyenas. (4) High-ranking females rarely present their pseudopenises for inspection, and in greetings between males and females, males nearly always lift their legs first.
Since social rank largely determines access to resources like food, and thus heavily influences reproductive success, high-ranking females enjoy many privileges within the clan. Their teeth are usually better than the rest of the clan, because they’re granted access to the choicest hunks of fresh kills, while lower-ranking clan members are left to feast by crushing bones with their powerful jaws. (And yes, contrary to most pop-culture representations, hyenas are excellent hunters, not just scavengers. They have incredible immune systems and can eat pretty much any rotting carcass, but they seem to prefer fresh meat and are particularly fond of zebra.)
In a 2008 Smithsonian piece , Holekamp postulated that this premium food access might hold the key to the evolutionary mystery of the pseudopenis. Spotted hyena feeding is intensely competitive, with adults consuming 30 to 40 pounds of meat in one feeding, vying with up to 30 other hyenas for access. Since hyena cubs don’t have the jaw strength to crunch bones, mothers must be dominant enough to ensure that their cubs get preferential access to food. Social rank is so strongly related to food access that in one photograph of two six-month-old cubs sitting side by side, the cub born to the clan’s alpha female is twice as large as the other, who was born to a female ranked #19.
But even if feeding cubs was the driving force behind the evolution of female dominance and aggression, the pseudopenis is still an outlier—and unfortunately, one that remains a complete mystery. Body size and aggressiveness do seem to be linked to pseudopenis development. A common misconception is that female spotted hyenas have higher levels of testosterone than males. They don’t, but studies have shown that, during pregnancy, high-ranking females have higher levels of androgens than those who are lower in rank. Rates of aggression and mounting behavior in cubs were also positively related to their mothers’ relative gestational androgen levels. So aggression is adaptive, and pseudopenis development is linked to aggression, (5) but the mechanism for that link is still unknown. (6)
I set out to find an answer to the seemingly simple question, “What’s a pseudopenis, and why do they develop?” I ended up down a k-hole of endocrinology, evolutionary biology and sociobiology. I read at least 60 scientific articles about hyenas, lemurs, vivverids, and more. But still, I’m no closer to knowing the answer than I was when I started.
I’ll admit to being pretty disappointed with the lack of conclusive evidence on the evolution and purpose of such a fascinating edge case of female genital morphology. But animals are endlessly fascinating it’s not always possible to shoehorn evolutionary idiosyncracies into a neat, tidy narrative. Frequently, any attempt to do so is a disappointing oversimplification. We may not be able to explain the female hyena’s pseudopenis, but we can marvel at it—all seven inches.
What Is the Point of the Female Orgasm?
Road sign for Climax, Saskatchewan, Canada Benjamin Rondel
There may be few questions of human sexuality more rancorous than those about the female orgasm. Scientists agree that women probably started having orgasms as a by-product of men having them, similar to how men have nipples because women have them. As Elisabeth Lloyd, a philosopher of science and theoretical biologist at Indiana University put it in her 2005 book The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution: “Females get the erectile and nervous tissue necessary for orgasm in virtue of the strong, ongoing selective pressure on males for the sperm delivery system of male orgasm and ejaculation.” But why we ladies still have orgasms is hotly debated.
Male orgasms exist, it’s widely believed, to encourage men to spread their seed. On face value, it would be easy to say that women orgasm for the same reason: to encourage them to have sex and make babies. But in practice, compared to male orgasm, female orgasm is very difficult to achieve. There’s a lot of variation even within individual women, and 10 percent of women never have them at all. And, unlike male orgasm, female orgasm isn’t a prerequisite for pregnancy.
So why do women have orgasms at all? There are two firmly opposed camps on this question. The first group proposes that it has an adaptive function in one of three categories: pair bonding, mate selection and enhanced fertility. I’ll break these down. The pair-bonding theory suggests that female orgasm bonds partners, ensuring two parents for the offspring, while mate selection offers that women use orgasm as a sort of litmus test for “quality” partners. The enhanced fertility theory, meanwhile, proposes that uterine contractions during female orgasm help to “suck up” sperm into the uterus.
The by-product camp, on the other hand, claims that female orgasms are to this day an incidental by-product of male orgasm, not an evolutionary adaption. “There’s no documented connection between women who have orgasm at all, or faster, having more or better offspring,” Lloyd says.
The schism between the two camps deepened this month with the publication of a new study of twins and siblings in Animal Behavior that seems to rule out the by-product theory of female orgasm. Researchers Brendan Zietsch at the University of Queensland in Australia and Pekka Santtila at Abo Akedemi University in Finland asked 10,000 Finnish female and male twins and siblings to report on their “orgasmability” (their word, not mine). They looked for similarities in orgasm function between female and male twins. If the by-product theory of female orgasm is true, they say, this similarity should exist. Due to the inherent differences in orgasm between women and men, females were asked to report how often they had orgasms during sex and how difficult they were to achieve, while males were asked how long it took them to reach orgasm during the act and how often they felt they ejaculated too quickly or too slowly.
Zietsch and Santtila found strong orgasmability correlations among same-sex identical twins, and weaker yet still significant similarities between same-sex non-identical twins and siblings. However, they found zero correlation in orgasm function between opposite-sex twins. “We show that while male and female orgasmic function are influenced by genes, there is no cross-sex correlation in orgasmic function — women’s orgasmability doesn’t correlate with their brother’s orgasmability,” explains Zietsch. “As such, there is no path by which selection on male orgasm can be transferred to female orgasm, in which case the by-product theory cannot work.”
Zietsch says he doesn’t have a favorite theory on the evolutionary function of female orgasm, but if forced to guess he’d say that it provides women extra reward for engaging in sex, thus increasing frequency of intercourse and, in turn, fertility. (There’s no proof of this yet, though, as Lloyd points out.) Zietsch continues: “I’ve shown in another paper, though, that there is only a very weak association between women’s orgasm rate and their libido, so the selection pressure on female orgasm is probably weak — this might explain why many women rarely or never have orgasms during sex.”
Lloyd and other proponents of the by-product theory agree that weak selection pressure could be acting on female orgasm, but not enough to maintain it over the eons of human evolution. Rather, if female orgasm bestows any reproductive benefits onto the human race, it would be by happy accident. Unsurprisingly, Lloyd has a lot of bones to pick with the recent study. Comparing different orgasm traits in women and men is a textbook case of apples and oranges, she says.
Kim Wallen, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist at Emory University and frequent collaborator with Lloyd, explains it thus: “Imagine that I wanted to compare height in men and women. In women I used a measurement from the top of the head to the bottom of the foot. In men I used how rapidly they could stand up. Would I be surprised that each measure was correlated in identical twins within sexes, but uncorrelated in mixed-sex twins? Such a result would be what was predicted and completely unsurprising. Zietsch and Santtila have done the equivalent of this experiment using orgasm instead of height.”
Wallen also points out that previous research has shown that traits under strong selective pressure show little variability, while those under weak pressure tend to show more variability. With human orgasm this bears out in that men report almost always achieving orgasm during sex, while the ability to orgasm during intercourse varies widely among women. (Penis and vagina size – both necessary for reproduction — show little variability, suggesting they are under strong selective pressure, Lloyd says, while clitoral length is highly variable.) Wallen asserts that Zietsch and Santtila, “chose to compare apples to oranges because the evidence is so strong that men’s and women’s orgasms are under different degrees of selective pressure, the very point they were trying to disprove.” Yikes.
To their credit, Zietsch and Santilla acknowledged the limitations of their study, both in the paper and in Zietsch’s email to me. More work obviously needs to be done. “Figuring out the function of female orgasm, if any, will probably require very large genetically informative samples, fertility data, and detailed information on sexual behaviour, orgasm rate, and the conditions and partners involved,” Zietsch says. “I do have plans, but the debate probably won’t be settled quite some time to come.”
If, at this point, you’re as frustrated as me, you might be wondering what we do know about female orgasm. Well, we’re closer to knowing why they’re so few and far between during sex. In a paper published online this January in Hormones and Behavior, Lloyd and Wallen found that the farther away the clitoris is from the urinary opening, the less likely it is that the woman will regularly achieve orgasm with intercourse. If this holds up in future experiments, Lloyd says, it would establish that a woman’s ability to have an orgasm during sex rests on an anatomical trait that likely varies with exposure to male sex hormones in the womb. “Such a trait could possibly be under selection,” she says, “but this would have to be investigated. So far, no selective force seems to appear.”
The question isn't if female ejaculation is real. It's why you don't trust women to tell you
U nlike its male counterpart, female orgasm is a covert, hidden experience, frequently recognizable only to the person experiencing it. (And sometimes, not even to that person: in rare cases, women can orgasm without even realizing it themselves.) There is no physical, visible proof of female orgasm, and by extension, no physical proof of female pleasure – unless, like me, you’re one of the women who can experience female ejaculation.
And yet, instead of serving as incontrovertible evidence of the existence of female sexual response and female orgasm, discussions of female ejaculation serve mainly to provide fodder for the debate about whether or not women can be trusted to accurately report their own sexual experiences.
Almost every conversation about female ejaculation devolves into a discussion of whether or not it is “real”. Though a whole genre of pornography is dedicated to celebrating the phenomenon, filmmakers are routinely accused of faking it with some kind of studio magic. When a recent scientific study investigating the phenomenon identified two forms of female ejaculation and argued that the more common “squirting” form was comprised primarily of fluid from the bladder, many crowed with delight to have “proof” that what ladies had “mistaken” for a sign of sexual pleasure was merely a form of arousal-induced incontinence. (Notably, the second, rarer form of female ejaculation – deemed more “legitimate” by the study – bore a slight resemblance to male ejaculate.)
The skepticism about women’s ability to understand their own sexual responses shows up in pop culture too in the first season of Amazon’s Transparent, a character who mentions squirting with a partner is immediately asked whether she wasn’t merely urinating.
But why is there still an assumption that women can’t understand or describe what we experience during sex? It’s perfectly clear to any woman who has ejacluated that doing so is a unique experience unto itself – including me. At thirty-two, I’ve long forgotten many significant sexual firsts, but I do remember the first time I ejaculated: I was 19-years-old, in my apartment on the Upper West Side as I played with a small vibrator, I felt something inside of me break open. For the previous year or so I’d been on Paxil, which had subdued and restrained my sexual response, even rendering me anorgasmic. But the liquid pooling on the floor below me was solid evidence that my ability to orgasm had finally been restored.
Female ejaculators know firsthand that even, if the fluid they emit during orgasm comes from the bladder, it looks, smells and feels different from urine. And it’s hard to ignore that the experience of spontaneously expelling fluid in the height of orgasm is fundamentally different from the more intentional act of voiding one’s bladder.
But regardless of the biological basis of female ejaculation, the physical experience is, at its heart, a pure expression of female sexual pleasure. Insisting that female ejaculation is really just confused urination doesn’t just denigrate women’s ability to understand our own bodies – it also positions female sexual pleasure as filthy, dirty, and ultimately less than the celebrated male orgasm.
To some, the question of whether female ejaculation is “real” may seem frivolous at best – an academic debate with little impact beyond how one handles clean-up in the bedroom. But the answer to this question has effects beyond our personal sex lives, and the stakes involved are real. Both Australian and UK obscenity codes ban female ejaculation from pornography on the basis that it might be urine and thus obscene. Since pornography is a visual medium and female ejaculation is the only visual evidence of female orgasm, this ban is tantamount to a wholesale censorship of female sexual pleasure in explicit media.
And in a world where women’s narratives about their sexual experiences are routinely called into question, the debate over female ejaculation serves as a reminder that, when it comes to sex, we still don’t believe women. Even when they’re literally wetting the bedsheets with proof.