Squirting has become a porn staple in recent years, but the recorded history of female ejaculation goes back to the fourth century — if not earlier. But even after over 1600 years of talking about squirting, researchers still don’t agree on what, exactly, it is. “There aren't a lot of studies, none are replicable, many use questionable methodologies, and none have really useful sample sizes of participants for us to say we 100% know what is going on physiologically,” explains Dale Mueller, a sexual health educator at Minneapolis’ the Smitten Kitten and the lead researcher at sex toy education site BadVibes.org.
Researchers don't even agree on what to call it: some people use "squirting" and "female ejaculation" interchangeably, while others insist there's a difference. Additionally, some people use another term, "gushing." All three terms refer to "fluid that comes out of the urethra during sexual arousal or around the time of orgasm," Mueller says, but people use specific terms to refer to different amounts, consistencies, or types of fluid, or different types of ejaculation. This is already a complicated topic, so to keep things simple, we'll stick with squirting for now.
Squirting happens when "a varying amount of watery fluid comes out of the urethra (either forcefully or not) during sexual arousal and stimulation, often very near to the timing of orgasm,” Mueller says. They define this fluid as consisting of “water, glucose, fructose, prostatic fluid, and proteins (and trace amounts of urine),” but different studies have found different results — especially when it comes to how much urine is in this fluid. Likewise, studies differ on where this fluid comes from: the bladder, the urethral sponge, or the Skene's glands.
We also don’t know what specifically causes squirting, although we do know it happens in sexual situations. “What exactly triggers the ejaculation is also a little mysterious, because it's often connected with the spontaneous, strong muscle contractions of orgasm, but many folks squirt before or after orgasm, or only on a second or third orgasm, so that's not a hard rule,” Mueller says.
Most people agree that squirting happens when there's "a mix of being relaxed enough to allow fluid to come out of the urethra — which for many is a learned process that needs to override the learned muscle reaction to feeling fluid in the urethra that is tied with holding in urine — and the pressure and pelvic floor muscle contractions and bearing down with the pelvic floor that occur around the time of orgasm,” Mueller says.
Some people squirt involuntarily but wish they didn’t, while other people have never squirted but want to learn how. “Most folks can squirt, and some scientific theories guess that pretty much everyone is actually already doing it if they're having orgasms, but not everyone produces a large enough amount of ejaculate to notice,” they add.
If you do want to learn how to squirt, Mueller shares five steps: build arousal, relax physically and mentally, experiment with what works for you, keep breathing, and be patient. Many people find that squirting happens after G-spot stimulation — sometimes in combination with external pressure above the pubic mound — so you may want to begin there. Mueller suggests using a sex toy: “Firm or very girthy dildos, like the nJoy Pure Wand or the Vixskin Maverick, work for some folks much more effectively than fingers or a penis.” However, other people squirt after different kinds of pressure, such as clitoral stimulation or even anal sex.
“What works for someone else may or may not work for you,” they add. “It may take a few tries, to a few years of trying, before you unlock the secret to your ejaculation. It's a mix of mental state, physical state, body knowledge and comfort, and sexual stimulation.”
If you can’t squirt — or if spending years trying just doesn’t sound worth it — that’s totally fine. Everyone’s orgasm looks different. “Squirting is kind of like sneezing: it's a semi-involuntary bodily occurrence. Everybody sneezes, but some people have big loud sneezes or little wet sneezes, some people sneeze twice every time, some people sneeze 12 times in a row,” Mueller says. Additionally, some people have different levels of control over sneezing than others — and release different amounts of snot. “Everybody's sneeze is their normal and is also totally unique. Same with orgasms and ejaculation.”
Basically, don’t stress it. “Squirting has no bearing on your self worth, desirability, or sexual prowess, nor is it a reflection of your sexual health,” they add. “It's just a thing some bodies do and some bodies don't do, and other bodies can learn to do or learn not to do."