|"Initially the concept [female ejaculation] may seem wildly audacious, intended more to inspire debate than to impart knowledge, but...there is a sound anatomical basis for female ejaculation.'|
- Rebecca Chalker, The Clitoral Truth
The British Board of Film Classification provides a list of permissible content for videos seeking classification as 'R18' category videos, available only to adults from licensed sex shops. This permissible content includes aroused genitalia, and ejaculation and semen. Ejaculation is not qualified by gender, hence it would seem reasonable to assume that this would permit female as well as male ejaculation. However, on May 2001, a video entitled British Cum Queens (initially submitted as Squirt Queens), was finally passed with a R18 certificate having been cut by six minutes and 12 seconds because the ejaculation of fluid by female performers as a sexual response was deemed to be urolagnia, banned in accordance with the Obscene Publications Act 1959. The Board reasoned that the film did not show female ejaculation because, according to the 'expert medical advice' received by the Board, female ejaculation does not exist.
Feminists Against Censorship (FAC) express their surprise and dismay at this judgment, and have sought advice from the world's foremost medical researchers specialising in female sexuality and female ejaculation. Our findings, summarised here, lead us to the conclusion that female ejaculation cannot be rejected out-of-hand as non-existent. Having found scientific researchers who are prepared to state that 'all, or at least most, women ejaculate', the conclusion which FAC would concur with is that 'the existence of a female prostate and the phenomenon of female ejaculation are fact not fantasy'. The spontaneous release of fluid - ejaculation - is a part of sexual response for at least some women, pointing to a purely discriminatory approach to ejaculation by the Board - that is, the depiction of male, but not female, ejaculation is being permitted.
It should be emphasised that FAC has no direct connection with the video material in question and this submission is not made on behalf of or at the request of any film-maker. FAC is concerned that the Board has made a discriminatory decision, contrary to the most recent expert medical advice, and a decision which continues to suppress the acknowledgement of the full range of sexual response which exists in women. FAC seeks from the Board its acknowledgement of the existence of female ejaculation in the light of the research referred to here, and urges the Board to consider fully the implications of this for its future decisions.
The Board, in a response given to www.world-sex-news.com, stated that "expert medical advice informed us that there is no such thing as 'female ejaculation' and that the fluid present in Squirt Queens (and the earlier tape) was in fact urine". Such a simple statement, when compared to research findings in the wider scientific community, can only imply that the adviser consulted by the Board was not an expert in female sexuality. Many medical experts, even those with experience of urology and reproductive biology, may not have had training in human sexuality. It is certainly not knowledge that should be taken for granted; "Even amongst anatomists and sexologists, there is an astonishing lack of agreement over what actually constitutes women's genital anatomy".
There is now acknowledgement that female genital anatomy includes a female prostate, also known as the paraureathral glands, or Skene's glands, named as such in the 1880s, and described in their historical and anatomical detail in 1948 by John W. Huffman. Interest in the sexual function of the female prostate was taken up by Earnst Grafenberg in 1950, who wrote of the "large quantities of a clear, transparent fluid [that] are expelled not from the vulva, but out of the urethra in gushes". Later, scientific interest stemmed from a paper by Sevely and Bennett which concluded that female ejaculation had received wide acknowledgement in many cultures prior to the twentieth century, and that the female prostate had a role in the production of fluid released as a part of female sexual response. Dr Beverly Whipple and Dr John Perry included a chapter on female ejaculation in their 1982 book on the G-Spot, and Whipple continued to pursue the subject in articles and conference lectures, and made, in clinical setting, a film which showed women ejaculating.
Research in the 1980s and 1990s finally began to analyse the chemical of fluids released in female sexual response in some depth, focussing on the presence of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) manufactured in the female prostate, and the concentration of other substances (urea, creatinine, glucose, fructose) in relation to their usual concentration in urine, usually achieved by taking samples of pre-orgasmic urine, post-orgasmic urine, and female ejaculate.
Analysis carried out by Whipple and Perry in the early 1980s established substantially higher levels of prostate-specific antigen and glucose, and substantially lower levels of creatinine and urea, in samples of ejaculatory fluid than in samples of urine from the same women.
A simple marker test carried out by Whipple, in which the characteristic odor produced by ingesting asparagus was clearly present in subjects' urine, demonstrated that this was not present in female (and indeed in male) ejaculate, demonstrating a difference in the two fluids. This is similar in its result to the much reported experiment in which a student of Edwin Belzer took a drug to dye her urine bright blue, and found that whilst her urine became strongly coloured as expected, the fluids she ejaculated during masturbation showed only a slight blue tinge or no colour at all.
A study by F Cabello Santamaria analysed urine for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) using Microparticle Enzyme Immunoassy and found that 75 per cent of the sample showed a concentration of PSA in postorgasmic urine samples which was not present in preorgasmic urine samples. The fluid collected at the point of orgasm (distinct from the urine samples) showed the presence of PSA in 100 per cent of samples. Cabello believes his research to confirm his hypothesis that all women are capable of ejaculation, but the amount of fluid expelled from the female prostate, or the direction in which it is expelled (towards the bladder), mean that it is not always perceived. (Cabello notes that retrograde ejaculation is also an occurance in some men.)
Cabello provides his own summary of those whose work he concludes has proven the presence of PSA in females fluids: "...we have all those authors that try to prove that women emit a certain fluid, different from vaginal lubrication, during their sexual response (Grafenberg, 1950; Sevely & Bennet, 1978; Belzer et al, 1981; Perry & Whipple, 1981; Addiego at al,. 1981; Sensabaugh & Kahane, 1982; Belzer et al., 1884; Zaviavic et al., 1984; Stifter, 1987 etc). Thanks to this last group, the presence of prostate acid phosphate and fructose in the supposed female ejaculation, elements normally present in male ejculation, seems proven". According to Whipple, it is Zaviacic in his 1999 book on the human female prostate who provides "the most complete enzyme histochemical, exocrine, and imunohistochemical studies on the female prostate and the analysis of female ejaculation".
Despite this body of evidence, it cannot be said that the issue is without complications. Dr John Perry has attempted to analyse findings further, to propose that there may be more than one type of sexual response in women which involves the emission of fluid. 'Pure' female ejaculation involves secretions of the female prostate; alternatively, 'gushing' involves a much diluted form of urine; or the two phenomena may occur in combination. Whilst larger volumes of fluid may indicate that it involves the expulsion of dilute urine, its chemical composition implies that it is a distinct part of sexual response rather than ordinary urination. An experiment recorded by Dr Gary Schubach involved female subjects engaging in sexual stimulation then having their bladders drained with a catheter. After this draining, seven women still expelled 50 -900 ml of fluid in sexual response, fluid that showed "a greatly reduced concentration of urine and creatinine (the primary components of urine). The clear inference was that the expelled fluid is an altered form of urine, meaning that there appears to be a process that goes on during sensual or sexual stimulation and excitement that effects the chemical composition of urine".
It is reasonable to suggest that the most far-reaching conclusion to be drawn from this is that it is not credible to expect the expulsion of urine (especially if chemically altered, vastly diluted expulsions from the bladder are still to be described as urine) to always be kept completely out of scenes of sexual activity and response.
It is certainly not acceptable for the Board to promulgate a point of view that lacks clear research support, and denies both women and men knowledge of a natural female sexual response. Too often in history women have been denied the right to know about aspects of their own biology, and have lived with the fear that the way in which their own bodies function is not 'normal'. Cabello considers it sufficiently important to state that "With the obtained data, we...calm those women who fear that they have urinated while experiencing orgasm". Indeed, it is not a trifling matter when some women have been referred for surgery to correct what is perceived to be some form of urinary incontinence. To accept that female ejaculation exists is not synonymous with stating that all women ejaculate, nor with advocating ejaculation as the goal of sexual achievement for all women. We are sure that the Board must be aware that much of the sexual material it passes with an R18 certificate does not necessarily represent the sexual experiences of all women.
The fact that in September 2000 the Board passed a film (British Housewives Fantasies Part 1) which showed two women ejaculating on orgasm implies that there is some recognition by the Board that the expulsion of fluid by women can be a natural sexual response distinct from urination. This accords perfectly with the view of an NHS Consultant in Human Sexuality: "Ejaculatory women do not 'choose' to void urine, it is the consequence of a neural reflex and a natural part of their sexual response". The move away from what could seemingly be described as a 'common sense' approach cannot be justified by the opinion of a single unnamed medical expert and advice from the police on the interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act.
The Board does not pass material that it considers to be in breech of the Act - that is, material with a tendency to deprave and corrupt. Yet the events which led to more relaxed guidelines for R18 category videos being published in July 2000 indicate that female ejaculation may not necessarily fall foul of this definition. Indeed, this should be balanced against the damage that can be done to women by indicating that what they experience as a natural response to sexual stimulation simply does not exist.
In addition to the scientific research summarised here, there are also the testimonies of ordinary women, which should not be overlooked. These range from experiences of "a dime-sized puddle on the bathroom floor" to "very dramatic squirting episodes where the fluid hit my toes". It should not be forgotten that women are still developing from a past in which their ability to orgasm has been disputed, not to mention their proper role being characterised as one of disinterest in sexual matters and sexual response altogether. The anxiety which some of the scientific researchers refer to is also expressed: "During sex, I worried and got embarrassed about the mess I seemed to make". If the Board continues to blindly support the line that 'female ejaculation does not exist', does that mean all women who experience it are liars? Can the Board really expect to sustain an approach which, when measured against its own guidelines, appears to be based so heavily on ignorance and discrimination?
Appended is a bibliography on the subject of female ejaculation that demonstrates the volume of research on this subject, plus correspondence sent directly to FAC from relevant researchers in support of our submission on this issue. We are confident that the arguments presented here, and specifically, the expert research which supports these arguments, is far stronger than whatever 'evidence' the Board may have considered in rejecting outright the existence of female ejaculation. The research may not all be straightforward, but, "to be fair, our understanding of ejaculatory physiology in men is almost as rudimentary as our understanding of it in women, but no-one has the temerity to say that male ejaculation does not exist".
We look forward to your response, and sincerely hope that it will adequately reflect the depth of scientific research which is available on this matter, and the right of women not to have their natural sexual responses denied and censored.
Louise Achille and Catherine Wilkinson
on behalf of Feminists Against Censorship
British Board of Film Classification
3 Soho Square
London W1D 3HD
Dear Louisa and Catherine,
Thank you for your letter of 18th December regarding the BBFC's stance on female ejaculation.
If I may clarify our position, the Board does not in fact take any view on whether or not female ejaculation exists. As you admit in your letter this is a controversial and much-debated area with a range of views being taken amongst medical professionals. At the most basic level, however, the Board is content that the pornographic tapes so far presented to us as examples of 'female ejaculation' are in fact nothing other than straightforward scenes of urination masquerading as 'female ejaculation'. This has been confirmed by a female sexual health expert who the Board has consulted on a range of issues relating to videos intended for the 'R18' category.
Quite the opposite of attempting to confront the issue of female ejaculation in a reassuring, sympathetic or informative light, the tapes in question appear to be nothing more than a cynical attempt on the part of porn distributors to get around the constraints imposed on urolagnia in sex tapes by the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act. It is worth noting that the kind of material that the Board has been cutting is regularly sold as 'orolagnia' in other European countries (France, Germany, Netherlands, etc) where there is no equivalent legal restriction on the use of urine in sex videos. Indeed, although videos featuring urolagnia are very much in evidence on the continent, videos purporting to show 'female ejaculation' seem to be invisible. Perhaps female ejaculation is less exciting (or profitable) to pornographers and their viewers than urination? Generally speaking sex videos of the type encountered at 'R18' neither seek to inform nor educate about female (or male) sexuality but merely offer graphic (and grossly distorted) views of sex for the arousal of viewers. Indeed, as you acknowledge in your letter "much of the material [the Board] passes with an 'R18' certificate does not necessarily represent the sexual experiences of all women".
To conclude, the Board remains open minded about the issue of female ejaculation but we have yet to be presented with any pornographic video that has convinced us - or our medical advisor - that it consists of anything other than an excuse to display scenes of urolagnia. Such scenes are regularly found obscene by juries in the UK and therefore cannot be classified.
Chief Assistant (Policy)
I have seen Louise Achille and Catherine Wilkinson’s submission to the BBFC regarding Female Ejaculation, and their ruling on Steve Perry’s video "Squirt Queens" which was cut down by 12 seconds to get a licence as "British Cum Queens".
I was in correspondence with Steve Perry during the BBFC’s consideration of his submission, as at the time I was myself in the process of making a documentary-style video on Female Ejaculation, and hoped to obtain an R18 license so that it could be legally sold in UK and inform/educate on this misunderstood subject.
I made the video and submitted it to the BBFC, the title being "Female Ejaculation - an illustrated discussion". On receiving it they phoned me in a flat-spin saying that without having even viewed it they could assure me that anything portraying "ulolagnia" would have to be cut, together with any DISCUSSION of female ejaculation or vaginal fisting (which occurred in the interviews in the video). Truly objective censorship - NOT!
- Did I want to withdraw my submission and save myself the £750 fee?...
As the process would have made a mockery of the raison d’etre and candid documentary style of the video I withdrew it.
If you would like to view a copy I will be pleased to send one to you. My motives are purely altruistic, as having had a number of sexual partners who ejaculate I have been made aware of the embarrassment and intimidation they can experience due to ignorance and misunderstanding of former lovers.
Keep up your good work!