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Female Ejaculation: What’s Known and Unknown

Ten to 50 percent of women produce fluid on orgasm.

Since it was first reported in the early 1980s, controversy has surrounded female ejaculation. But the most recent research—most of it conducted in Slovakia—strengthens the case for women’s ability to release fluid on orgasm, and suggests that it comes from the same gland that produces most of the fluid in semen, the female analogue of the male prostate.

Depending on the survey, somewhere between 10 and 50 percent of women ejaculate at orgasm. The amount of fluid varies considerably, from a few drops to considerably more, so that some women must make love on a towel to keep from soaking the sheets.

If so many women ejaculate, why is female ejaculation controversial? Because in Western medicine, medical phenomena must be explained before they are become accepted, and female ejaculation has remained unexplained. It was not clear where the fluid came from, hence the controversy. The Slovakian research provides the missing explanation. The main researcher, Milan Zaviacic, contends that women’s ejaculate comes from the female prostate, a gland he contends has been misnamed for more than 100 years. 

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From the Paraurethral Glands to the Female Prostate

In the middle of the vulva, above the vaginal opening but below the clitoris, is the opening of women’s urine tube, the urethra. A group of glands are embedded in the tissue around it, the paraurethral glands. “Para” means around.

In the 1880s, Alexander Skene discovered the first two paraurethral glands, called Skene’s glands. Skene documented that the glands he discovered produce a little fluid. Since then, several other paraurethral glands have been identified. The glands’ arrangement, and the fact that they produce fluid reminded researchers of the prostate. As a result, some sexologists call these glands the “female prostate.” But the name has not caught on. As far as non-sexologists are concerned, men have prostates and women don’t.

Confirming What the Ancients Observed

Nonetheless, Skene’s observation that the glands named for him produced fluid explained a good deal of sexual history. Writers dating back to the ancient Romans, reported that women produce a thin fluid that “flows when they experience the greatest pleasure.” The Kama Sutra and centuries-old Japanese erotic works also mention fluid issuing from women’s genitals during orgasm.

Unfortunately, however, both Alfred Kinsey, the first American sex researcher, and Masters and Johnson, the inventors of sex therapy, dismissed female ejaculation as simply extra-copious vaginal lubrication. 

Urination on Orgasm?

But such dismissals do not ring true for many women who notice that they release fluid on orgasm. Some feel embarrassed about “peeing” when they climax. (Over the years, I’ve received many questions about this.) Others realize that the fluid neither looks nor smells like urine.

In the 1980s, sexologists John Perry, Ph.D., and Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., popularized the G-spot, the area of sexual sensitivity that most—but not all—women feel when fingers or a sex toy press on the front wall of the vagina (the top when the woman is on her back), about two inches in from the vaginal opening. Perry and Whipple also documented the fact that vigorous G-spot stimulation increased the likelihood of female ejaculation on orgasm.

Definitely Not Urine

They and other researchers analyzed female ejaculatory fluid and found that it is not urine, but rather a combination of secretions from the paraurethral glands that chemically resemble prostate secretions in men. But how could women produce prostate fluid when they have no prostate?

Women Have a Prostate

In a series of studies spanning the decade from 1990 to 2000, Zaviacic and colleagues unraveled some of the mystery surrounding female ejaculation and the female prostate. But because this research took place in Eastern Europe with much of it published in Slovakian journals, it has not received much attention in Western Europe or the U.S. I learned of it at a sex-research meeting:

• Microscopic studies of the Skene’s glands show “secretory” cells, i.e., cells that secrete fluid.

• Women produce prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a compound unique to the prostate gland. If women produce PSA, they must have tissue analogous to the male prostate.

• Enzymes characteristic of the male prostate are also found in the Skene’s glands. 

• When men develop prostate cancer, PSA levels rise. When women develop cancer of the Skene’s glands, their PSA levels rise. 

• Tumors of the Skene’s glands contain cells very similar to those found in prostate tumors in men.

Zaviacic’s conclusion: The Skene’s glands are, in fact, the female prostate. He contends that the term Skene’s glands should be dropped in favor of female prostate. He insists that female ejaculate is analogous to male semen.

The Remaining Mystery

Virtually every healthy man who has a prostate produces prostate fluid. But only a fraction—10 to 50 percent—of women ejaculate. If women have a fluid-producing prostate gland, why don’t they all ejaculate? Currently, no one knows. It’s possible that most or all women do ejaculate, but that studies to date have not been sophisticated enough to document it. It’s also possible that for reasons that remain unclear, some women don’t ejaculate.

What About the Copious Squirting in Porn?

Some porn videos feature women who produce cups, pints, even quarts of fluid while in the supposed throes of ecstasy. Is this for real? Yes and no. As I mentioned, some women ejaculate enough fluid to necessitate placing a towel under them. Based on current research, it’s not clear what proportion of women are in this group. But available evidence suggests it’s small. It’s possible that producers of squirting videos select for women who ejaculate unusually large amounts of fluid. But it’s more likely that these videos rely on women filmed after using vaginal douches. If you enjoy such videos, fine. Just don’t expect this to happen when you make love.

References:

Zaviacic, M et al. “Ultrastructure of the Normal Adult Female Human Prostate Gland (Skene’s Gland),” Anatomy and Embryology (2000) 201:51.

Zaviacic, M and RJ Ablin. “The Female Prostate and Prostate-Specific Antigen…Reasons for Using the Term ‘Prostate’ in the Human Female,” Histology and Histopathology (2000) 15:131.

Zaviacic, M et al. “The Normal Female and Male Breast Epithelium Does Not Express Prostate-Specific Antigen…” General Physiology and Biophysiology (1999) 18(Suppl 1):41.

Zaviacic, M. “The Adult Human Female Prostata Homogogue and the Male Prostate Gland: A Comparative Enzyme-Histochemical Study,” Acta Histochemica (1985) 77:19.

Zaviacic, M et al. “Prostate-Specific Antigen and Prostate-Specific Acid Phosphatase in Adenocarcinoma of Skene’s Paraurethral Glands and Ducts,” Virchows Arch A Pathol [Slovakian journal] (1993) 423:503.

Zaviacic, M and B. Whipple. “Update on the Female Prostate and the Phenomenon of Female Ejaculation,” Journal of Sex Research (1993) 30:148.

 

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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