Ejaculation is a powerful bodily experience that has long been associated with penises and male sexuality. But ejaculation from the vulva or vagina can also happen—before, during, after, or without orgasm. Now that there is more understanding that women and people assigned female at birth do have a sexuality—that we aren’t passive sexual objects—there’s more openness and awareness about our sexual biology, desires, and appetites. Squirting is just one part of that.
What is “squirting” or “female ejaculation”?
During sex, some people with vulvas experience the involuntary emission of fluid. This has become known as “squirting” or “female ejaculation” (though not everyone with a vulva identifies as female, nor does everyone who identifies as female have a vulva).
“Squirting has been getting a lot of attention in recent years. Accurate information and conversation about the sexual realities of female-assigned folks—whose bodies are still often subject to myth and mystery—is fantastic. That said, squirting is sometimes presented as something to “achieve” or an essential part of being sexually liberated. That creates a lot of unnecessary pressure!”
— Kitty May, Director of Education and Community Outreach at Other Nature, a feminist sex store in Berlin
Some people feel squirting is a party trick they’re expected to perform, but what about those who find it empowering? And what does it mean to talk about “female ejaculation” with people who identify outside the gender binary?
A short history of squirting
It seems that we have been ejaculating for a long time. In 2010, urologist Joanna Korda and her colleagues combed through translations of ancient literary texts and plucked out multiple references to the ejaculation of sexual fluids (1).
The Kamasutra (written in 200–400 A.D.) speaks of “female semen” that “falls continually” while a 4th century Taoist text, “Secret Instructions Concerning the Jade Chamber,” distinguishes between “slippery vagina” and “the genitals transmit fluid.” Korda and her coauthors reasoned that the latter can clearly be interpreted as female ejaculation (1).
Squirting controversy: Is "female ejaculatory fluid" simply urine?
In 2014, female ejaculation was banned from UK-produced pornography. The ban was met with considerable protest, as it implies that ejaculation from a vulva is somehow perverse, while ejaculation from a penis is completely normal.
Apparently censors found it hard to tell the difference between female ejaculation and urination, which is considered an “obscene” pornographic act.
There is no conclusive agreement among scientists regarding the composition of female ejaculatory fluid (2-5). Although still unclear, female ejaculate fluid has been demonstrated to contain urine, and may also contain a combination of other fluids as well (2-4).
In 2009, Doula and Sex Researcher Dr. Amy L. Gilliland saw that existing studies of female ejaculation failed to take into account the experiences of the people ejaculating, so she interviewed 13 women about their experiences (6).
Most reported “copious” amounts of fluid being released around the time of orgasm, enough to “soak the bed”, “spray the wall” or have their partner scream in terror and misunderstanding (6).
Gilliland noticed that women who initially felt shame about their ejaculation tended to have more positive feelings about it later in their lives: after learning more about it, hearing about others’ experiences, or having positive feedback from their sexual partners (6).
What does squirting feel like? Ejaculation experiences
There is comparatively more written about heterosexual and cis-gendered women’s ejaculation experiences, so I reached out to queer and transgender people in my network for their stories:
"With time my feelings have definitely changed."
“One of the first times I squirted was with a long-term partner, I was in my early twenties and felt quite embarrassed, I worried it was pee. My partner and I smelled it and tried tasting it, coming to the conclusion it wasn’t pee and that if it was, it really didn’t matter. At that time it didn’t happen so frequently and I didn’t feel as confident about it or understand it as much as I do now. Now, it happens often and I feel like I have much more control over it.
I can squirt much further distances these days and larger amounts of liquid. With time my feelings have definitely changed: as long as the surface is OK to squirt on, I really enjoy squirting and find it very pleasurable. I’ll often squirt right as I’m coming, it’s part of the orgasm for me.”
— Princess (cisgender woman, queer)
"When I squirt I feel really good with my body and my gender."
“The first time I squirted it was like a fountain and I was pretty surprised. The person I was having sex with didn’t care, she acted like it was completely normal and just kept going. I was all wet, it felt so great! These days I squirt mostly at the beginning of my cycle: the first week or two after my period finishes. I really feel good about squirting. I like how it makes people happy or surprised. To me it’s like a counterbalance to male ejaculation. As someone who identifies as non-binary, it’s very interesting to play with this.
Every time I have sex I identify as a different gender, or as someone with every gender possible. When I squirt I feel really good with my body and my gender. I don’t need to have a cock to ejaculate, it’s like I can have everything. It’s also a victory, about letting my body go. Maybe it’s pee or maybe it’s not, I don’t care. It’s very satisfying to just let my body do what it wants to do.
I don’t orgasm before squirting, and for me to squirt requires very physical almost violent penetration, and when I squirt I empty myself in a way. So sometimes I can orgasm after, but usually after squirting I need to stop the sex — squirting is already something intense for me. Sometimes I squirt at the time of orgasm, it might be that my partner notices and tells me, or sometimes it’s very strong and I notice it myself.”
— Anonymous (non-binary, queer)
" I feel very sexy and powerful when squirting."
“The first time I squirted I was about 18 or 19 years old. I was masturbating in the shower with the pressure stream from the shower head, and I just came really hard, squirting out. It felt amazing, like an extreme release and relaxation I hadn’t experienced before; intense pleasure. Now I squirt every time there is the right pressure put on my G-spot or when I masturbate with the shower head.
Most of the time I orgasm and squirt at the same time, but sometimes I will squirt shortly before or after I come. I feel great about it and have done since the first time. I feel very sexy and powerful when squirting. My partners also seem to enjoy it a lot, at least I haven’t had any complaints.”
— Layana (cisgender woman, queer)
"It was very nice, a bit messy but very intimate."
“For a few years I felt like something needed to come out, and it never happened. I was so scared to pee myself, so I said stop. Then one time my partner fucked me for a long time, and I decided that I wasn’t scared to pee. I relaxed, and I ejaculated. It was very nice, a bit messy but very intimate. My partner was excited too. I think seeing someone let go is a sexy thing. When I was younger I didn’t like to feel too wet or sweaty, but now these things are part of sex for me and actually make me feel more horny.
Now I ejaculate more often. I can’t control it, but I recognise when it’s going to happen, and it feels really amazing. It happens before orgasm, then if I keep fucking a bit I will come afterwards. Breathing techniques have helped me to relax, to ejaculate, to control my orgasm and also make orgasms stronger. I used to think that female ejaculation was a way to see when someone comes, but now I know that ejaculation doesn’t mean that there was an orgasm.
For anyone who feels embarrassed about squirting I think it’s important to remember that it’s super sexy, and even if it’s pee that’s OK — pee is just water anyway.”
— Sammi (transgender man, queer)
In some ways ejaculation is much like orgasm: sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t yet have a definitive answer for why some people with vulvas ejaculate and others do not. It could be because some people are not sexually aroused enough, or getting the kind of sexual stimulus needed to ejaculate, because they don’t feel comfortable doing so, or because they purposefully hold back because they think that ejaculating is peeing (6). It could also be that more people ejaculate than they think, just in smaller amounts that go unnoticed.
“Squirting happens to some people and not others; it might be the case that everyone who has a vulva has the capacity to squirt, but there’s no way of knowing that, and, more importantly, it’s not something that everyone is interested in,” says Kitty May. “There’s nothing wrong with or shameful about squirting — but there’s nothing wrong with not squirting, either!”
Whether it’s orgasm, squirting, or something else, every body is different. Instead of focusing on a destination, why not just put a towel down and enjoy the journey?
Article was originally published on Nov. 9, 2017.
Edit: This article previously included a dataset created by Pornhub. While Pornhub has recently taken strides to make their platform a safer space, we do not wish to endorse them by citing them in our work. We are pro-porn and pro-sex worker at Clue, but we are also pro-consent and anti-violence.