Do some women ejaculate like men? In the twentieth century the experience of female ejaculation was widely believed to be an invention of Victorian pornographers, particularly William Lazenby’s notorious The Pearl, published in 1879 and banned the next year. Masters and Johnson, the pioneering 1960s sex therapists, described it as an “erroneous but widespread concept”1 and Germaine Greer declared it “utterly fanciful” in The Female Eunuch2. Despite the fact that Aristotle wrote about it and De Graaf, a seventeenth century Dutch physician, described the phenomenon in detail, modern medical and sex researchers have largely ignored it or inaccurately identified the fluid produced as the result of urinary incontinence. So while the clitoris and the G-spot have been the subject of study, debate and discussion, female ejaculation has until recently been considered on a par with wetting the bed! Not surprisingly this has led some women to be ashamed of their experience and attempt to hide it from partners. In a few anecdotal cases, male disgust at the emission of fluid has even been grounds for divorce3. However, a new online survey among women in Germany, Austria and the USA that suggests that not only do many women experience ejaculation but that they also see it as a positive element in their sexual behaviour4.
The survey, conducted by a Vienna urology clinic in the form of an online questionnaire, found that of the 320 women who responded 30% experienced ejaculation “a few times a week” and some 20% about “once a month”. The women estimated the amount of fluid they produced ranged from 0.3 mL (12%) to 60 mL (29%) and up to over 150 mL (20%). Given that the average male produces only about a teaspoon of ejaculate (about 6 mL), these volumes are hard to ignore. What’s more, over 80% of the respondents described their ejaculate as a clear fluid without any suggestion of the colour associated with urine, a finding that is backed up by other research.
So where might this fluid come from? The most likely source is the Skene’s glands located on the forward wall of the vagina, around the lower end of the urethra. These glands are surrounded by tissue, including part of the clitoris. They lubricate the vagina during arousal and may have some role in G-spot orgasms. Given that the male and female reproductive organs develop from the same basic genital system at about 6 weeks after conception, Skene’s glands may be the most likely female organ corresponding to the male prostate, the source of men’s ejaculate. However, the glands vary considerably between women, which may explain why not all women appear to experience ejaculation. The glands discharge into both the vagina and the urethra, hence the longstanding confusion between female ejaculate and urine. In the Vienna survey, 32% of women identified the vagina as the source of their ejaculation and 23% the urethra. About 15% were sufficiently aware of their anatomy to identify the front wall of the vagina as the ejaculation source.
Given that the Vienna findings are based on women’s subjective experience, they don’t offer a definitive answer to the mysterious source of this fluid. It seems clear that both the urethra and the vagina are common sources, but whether the fluid is some sort of female ejaculate that corresponds to the male variety or an expulsion of vaginal lubricant is still up for debate. The idea that female ejaculate is mostly urine, while still commonly believed, seems less and less likely. As men should be well aware, it’s impossible to urinate while you are ejaculating and there’s no reason to suggest women are different. Some older women do experience urinary incontinence during intercourse, a problem that is often under-diagnosed, but none of the Vienna respondents registered this problem and there is no evidence to support a sudden leakage of urine of the scale reported by women who ejaculate.
The reason that female ejaculation was ignored for so long is that it seemed to have no reproductive purpose. As long as men (and some women) believed that female bodies were designed to make babies rather than experience the pleasure of orgasm, there was not going to be any room for female ejaculation. Now that women have embraced their orgasmic potential, the fact that for some the experience includes ejaculation is finally getting attention. However, as the continuing debate over the G-spot demonstrates, female sexuality still gets less attention than it deserves from researchers. For the women who completed the Vienna survey, however, their experience of ejaculation was pleasurable whatever its source. Far from being embarrassed by their ejaculation, 78% felt it enriched their sex lives and 90% described their partner’s attitude as “positive”. Given that three quarters of the women described themselves as heterosexual, it seems that male partners were finding the experience of their partner’s ejaculation almost as satisfying as their own. Perhaps those Victorian kinksters were onto something.
- William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Human Sexual Response, p.135.
- Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, p.240.
- Alice Ladas, Beverly Whipple and John Perry, The G Spot, p. 71.
- Florian Wimpissinger, Christopher Springer and Walter Stackl , “International online survey: female ejaculation has a positive impact on women’s and their partners’ sex lives”, BJU International, 2013.