The idea of female ejaculation has been around since at least 500 BC, and in all of that time no-one has ever confirmed that it does exist, and no-one has ever confirmed that it doesn’t. Yet 40 years ago it became a viral meme of sex, thanks to a paper published in the Journal of Sex Research. Ever since then FE – to give female ejaculation its usual abbreviation – has been at the center of such battles between believers and deniers that millions of words have been written about it.

So, what is the story?

Addiego’s team examined a woman, ‘who identified an erotically sensitive spot, palpable through the anterior wall of her vagina.’ The team decided that the spot coincided with ‘a fairly firm area approximately 2 cm by 1.5 cm, with the long axis along the course of the urethra. This area was palpated, and the subject reported it caused the sensation of having to urinate. Further digital stimulation made the sensation pleasurable. The area grew approximately 50% larger upon stimulation.’

The experiment must have been quite something. First, the lady emptied her bladder, then her husband massaged her until she orgasmed, allowing the team to collect the ejaculate, which had run all over his hand. After detailed analysis, the team pronounced that it wasn’t urine.

Bingo. This matched up with what Gräfenberg had reported in his (totally wonderful) 1950 paper:

“Occasionally the production of fluids is so profuse that a large towel has to be spread under the woman to prevent the bed sheets from getting soiled… If there is the opportunity to observe the orgasm of such women, one can see that large quantities of a clear transparent fluid are expelled not from the vulva, but out of the urethra in gushes… I am inclined to believe that ‘urine’ reported to be expelled during female orgasm is not urine, but only secretions of the intraurethral glands correlated with the erotogenic zone along the urethra in the anterior vaginal wall.”

Addiego’s team named the area they found after Gräfenberg, who never knew, because he had died nearly a quarter of a century before. Addiego and co. then moved on to study FE, but it was they that created the idea of the G-spot, not Gräfenberg. The important point here is that theirs was not a scientific experiment – it was the opinion of six medics about a small area of one woman’s vagina. What isn’t generally known, because most people only read the abstract of the paper, was that the woman had a decade-long history of stress incontinence, and that she had had to fight to prevent leakage when she came, but had got around it by using Kegel exercises to strengthen her pelvic floor.

The following year, Ladas, Whipple and Perry published a book, The G spot and Other Discoveries about Human Sexuality, which included an entire chapter about ejaculation. These pages are packed with stories, but such research as backed them up was limited, including the study above, and another paper by Bezos on female ejaculation, which was based on data gathered by six students who had interviewed about five people each. This wasn’t science either: no testing of ejaculate was done by Bezos, and it isn’t even clear exactly how many interviews the students did.

When Belzer returned to the subject in 1984, it was because he had discovered that the testing they had done on the original woman was suspect, and in the interim, a team led by Goldberg had repeated his experiment with 11 women and found that the pre-orgasmic urine samples were identical to the ejaculate. Belzer concluded:

‘A review of recent works related to the concept of female ejaculation, defined as a partial, infertile homologue to male ejaculation, indicated that we have insufficient evidence to accept or reject the concept on scientific grounds’, adding ‘The relationship between stimulation of this area [i.e. the G-spot] and subsequent orgasmic expulsion has yet to be studied systematically.’

Belzer’s retraction didn’t matter, because by then, The G spot and Other Discoveries about Human Sexuality was a best seller and what the science showed had become irrelevant, because FE was deemed to be a thing by the public.

It has stayed that way ever since. Every now and again, a group of researchers will publish a paper about it, but the level of interest in the scientific community is low because no-one has ever been able to design a repeatable experiment to show that FE exists, or to prove that the ejaculate itself is different to urine.

This is where things get really funky, because it has proven hard enough to define what a female orgasm is, let alone what FE might be, and to make matters worse, there is squirting, sometimes abbreviated to SQ, and there is coital incontinence, sometimes known as CI. Put on your hard hats, because we are in the asteroid belt of science here, where there are no signposts back to Kansas.

Pro-FE researchers have more or less focused on Skene’s glands (also known as paraurethral glands) as being the female equivalent of the male prostate. The major drawback to this conclusion is that the way we develop from an embryo makes the analogy between Skene’s glands and the male prostate questionable, and that even the scientists who believe the female prostate exists are locked in a battle about whether it is present in all women or not.

To give an idea, Skene’s glands weigh at most about 3.5 grams in total, with a total internal free fluid volume of about 1ml, so we are not talking about a lot of ejaculate here. If FE is a thing, then it is going to be hard to observe, perhaps a few drops at the end of the urethra (pee tube) at the most. It could be that this is why no-one has been able to come up with a repeatable experiment to prove that FE exists; but all the same, unless FE is super rare, such an experiment should be easy to do, because all it needs is a catheter and a bunch of willing women to catch several samples. A lot of people have tried and so far, so bad.

You will have gathered that FE and squirting are nothing to do with each other, but that doesn’t stop people confusing the two. Squirting does exist and there are many movies here to prove it – check out Mina K in “My Reflection” or Veronica Leal in “Erotic Discovery 2” for two stellar examples – but SQ and FE have completely different mechanisms. Women who squirt almost always find it pleasurable, but since the liquid they squirt comes from the bladder, and it is identical in chemical composition to urine, then it is urine, so the story ends there. Equally, squirting isn’t the same as coital incontinence, because women who squirt can control it, whereas women with CI can’t do anything about it without treatment. In theory, any woman can squirt if it floats her boat.

Maybe we could have used a better metaphor there…

For us, the elephant in the room where FE is concerned is this: once guys can ejaculate, they can only come once, and then there is a long ‘refractory period’ before they can come again (there are exceptions, but we are talking less than 3% of men). To this, we would add that the rules of embryological development show that when a gland has a set of effects in one sex, it works the same way in the other sex, and we can’t think of any exceptions. Yet the vast majority of women are multi-orgasmic.

Physiology runs on such predictable lines that given the above, we might expect women who ejaculated not to be capable of coming multiple times and to have a refractory period just like men – yet nobody except Belzer in his 1981 paper has even thought to ask the question. Given that this is such a clear difference between adult women and men, it speaks volumes about the state of the research on FE that no-one knows the answer.

Zaviacic published a paper 20 years ago suggesting that Skene’s glands should be called the female prostate, but while there appears to be at least some biochemical and histological grounds for his argument, the name change hasn’t happened because there isn’t enough proof.

What do we believe? You have to consider the evidence. If FE existed, then it shouldn’t have taken 40 years of looking to get to a place where we still can’t identify the ejaculate, or even decide where it comes from. Ultimately, proving that something doesn’t exist is 100% harder than proving that it does exist, so while there is a will for FE to be a thing, the arguments will rage on.