What's in female ejaculate?

October 25, 2002

Dear Cecil:

I'm not asking this out of prurient interest, as lame as that may sound. I'm curious about the physiology involved with the small percentage of women who experience ejaculation of fluid during orgasm. I won't go into it, but I have personal knowledge that the fluid is not urine or a lubricating secretion. What exactly is the fluid, and from what part of the female anatomy does it emanate?

The problem you have discussing a topic like this is that people's responses generally break down as follows:

  • 10 percent say the ejaculate is urine.
  • 10 percent say it's something else.
  • 80 percent stick their fingers in their ears and sing, "OH BEAUTIFUL FOR SPACIOUS SKIES, FOR AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN. . . . "

Well, too bad. This is a legitimate question, and I'm going to do my best to get to the bottom of it if I have to gross out everyone on the planet.

First let's agree on what we don't know. I don't want to get into the details either, but I too have personal knowledge of the fluid under discussion. I agree it's not a "lubricating secretion"--unlike the vaginal fluid produced during arousal, the ejaculate is watery and somewhat acrid to the taste. But I can't say definitely that it's not urine, at least in part, and unless you've got an unusually refined palate, Bill old buddy, you can't say it's not either without access to a lab. For years the standard explanation was that the stuff was urine squeezed out of the bladder or urethra during the state of heightened muscle tension that accompanies orgasm. But conventional wisdom has shifted over the past two decades, and most sex therapists now seem to think the discharge is more than plain old stress incontinence. Little research has been done, however, and none of it is conclusive.

One thing that distinguishes the fluid from urine is that it contains elevated levels of two proteins, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and prostate-specific acid phosphatase (PSAP). PSA and PSAP are found in male ejaculate and originate in the prostate gland.  This leads some researchers to conclude that women must have something analogous to a prostate gland themselves. The emerging consensus, in fact, is that the paraurethral glands, which run more or less parallel to the urethra, are the "female prostate." Orgasm may cause these glands to empty out. Some think female ejaculate consists solely of discharge from the paraurethral glands, others that it's a mix of glandular secretions and urine, but I don't know of any firm evidence for either theory. I'm willing to believe it varies with the individual.

None of this would interest anyone but anatomists, however, were it not for the fact that for the past 20 years female ejaculate has been at the center of the controversy over the Grafenberg spot--the female pleasure center that some claim is a myth. Many G-spot proponents contend that the female prostate is the G-spot and that stimulating the G-spot triggers female ejaculation.

Both these propositions are questionable. According to Milan Zaviacic, a pathologist who has examined the female prostate on numerous occasions during autopsies, the gland is located at the site commonly believed to be the G-spot in just 10 percent of women. Even in cases where the female prostate and the G-spot coincide, no one has persuasively shown how that would account for the intense sensations associated with the G-spot--for example, that the female prostate is richly supplied with nerve endings.  (The outer third of the vaginal canal does have plenty of nerve endings, but as far as we know they're not concentrated at a particular location.)

So, we can put the "G-spot = female prostate" theory to rest, right? Hold the phone. Zaviacic goes on to say that "the meatal type of the female prostate," found in 66 percent of women and located further down the urethra than the G-spot is supposed to be, "is a newly identified female erogenous zone important to coital female orgasm"--in short, he's still convinced the gland is sensitive to sexual stimulation, wherever it is. Zaviacic cowrote a paper on the subject with Richard Ablin, who discovered PSA, and Edward Eichel, a therapist who advocates the "coital alignment technique" (CAT), a variation on the missionary position that supposedly makes it easier for the woman to come. (For details, see www.oralcaress.com/simultaneous.htm#perfect.) Eichel has described CAT as the "new intercourse," and says it works in part because it stimulates the female prostate. I venture to say many women would welcome any improvement on the dismal sexual technique of the average male. But we still don't have a convincing account of how the female prostate can produce sexual sensations--Zaviacic tells me he hasn't done any special investigation of the gland's innervation. Absent such research, a lot of the current claims sound like hype. I mean, really now--a new female erogenous zone? A revolution in sex? No disrespect, folks, but we've heard this before.

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