2003-04-28 14:49:51 -- BRITISH feminists attacking the film censorship board for cutting porn videos? Yes, that was a surprise, particularly for the British Board of Film Classification, which didn't expect a controversy last year when it decided to cut six minutes and 12 seconds from a video called British Cum Queens. But up popped a group called Feminists Against Censorship, which wrote to the board demanding a review of their decision.
And what was shown in those vital six minutes? According to the filmmakers, the offending material showed women experiencing ejaculation. Not possible, said the board, which was quoted claiming that according to its "expert medical advice" female ejaculation doesn't exist. What was shown in the video had to be urination - which is banned from videos under the Obscene Publications Act.
The feminists expressed their dismay at a decision they claimed would damage women "by indicating that what they experience as a natural response to sexual stimulation simply does not exist". They presented the board with a dozen scientific references supporting the phenomenon. The board then claimed it hadn't said it didn't exist but rather that it considered female ejaculation to be a "controversial and much debated area". Its view was that the video depicted "nothing other than straightforward scenes of urination masquerading as female ejaculation". Similar videos are regularly sold as "urolognia" in countries such as France and Germany, noted the board.
The board was right about one thing - the phenomenon of female ejaculation is controversial and much debated. An internet search reveals more than 23,000 references to research on the subject, dating to the historic moment at a 1980 conference for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex (SSSS) when sex researchers Beverly Whipple and John Perry showed a film of a woman ejaculating, claiming the fluid was being released from a female prostate after stimulation of an area on the top wall of the vagina they called the "G spot".
Martin Weisberg, a gynaecologist at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, was blunt in his response: "Bullshit. I spend half my waking hours examining, cutting apart, putting together, removing or rearranging female reproductive organs. There is no female prostate and women don't ejaculate."
But Weisberg changed his mind after the scientists arranged a personal viewing and observed "several cc's of milky fluid" shooting out of the urethra. When the fluid was analysed and found to have vital similarities to prostatic fluid, Weisberg became a believer.
Since then the hunt has been on, with international sex researchers working to discover what the fluid is and where it comes from. Twenty years later some answers are emerging. There's no longer any question that some women do release liquid through the urethra at orgasm - with scientific observation now providing documented proof of what women have long been telling them. It happens, but we still don't know quite what it is.
The mysterious clear, odourless fluid seems to have shared sources, with some released from the paraurethral glands (or Skene's glands, now officially designated the "female prostate" by the international committee determining anatomical terminology), some appears to be a chemically altered form of urine, plus some contribution from glands which produce vaginal lubrication. Analysis of the fluid shows clear evidence of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - a substance produced by the prostate that does not appear in urine - and far lower levels of other substances (urea, creatine) normally found in urine.
The prostate component is very small, "limited to a couple of teaspoons at best", Perry says. He concludes that in women who produce larger volumes of ejaculate, the rest is urine. But how then is it colourless, without the characteristic taste or smell of urine? Enter Perry's "beer piss" theory, which stems from the time he was a young man consuming large qualities of beer and observed his urine appeared to have less colour than usual. It is this diluted urine - jokingly known as "beer piss" - which Perry proposes to make up the bulk of the ejaculate.
But Dr Gary Shubach, a Californian sex researcher, examined fluid released by women who had their bladders drained by a catheter before ejaculating. He found some still produced more than half a litre - suggesting sources other than diluted urine.
Meanwhile, out on the coal face, women report that when they eat substances that give their urine a distinct odour or colour, this doesn't show up in the ejaculate - an observation confirmed when a student of one of the sex researchers took a dye which turned her urine bright blue but had no effect on her ejaculate.
These discoveries have been comforting to the many women who produce their own wet patch. In the early 1970s, when I was editing the adult sex education magazine Forum, we received regular letters from worried women reporting ejaculation. At the time we told them that this "involuntary release of urine" was quite normal. But the discovery of a specific ejaculate has proved reassuring since many were uncomfortable with the idea of wetting themselves with excitement.
Indeed the excitement which greeted the early 1980 news on ejaculation led to one of my funnier experiences as a sex therapist turned radio broadcaster. I was talking about female ejaculation on my weekly talkback program. A would-be talkback caller rang what she thought was the radio station and launched into a vivid description of throbbing tissue, swelling vaginas and gushes of fluid. Suddenly she heard a very haughty female voice saying, "And whom do you think you are talking to?" She then realised she had a wrong number! When she recovered from the shock, she called and told us what had happened.
Female ejaculation does exist but it occurs in perhaps only 10 per cent, according to more recent research from Whipple and Perry. It is possible that all women are producing the ejaculate, but in some it just goes backwards. It's called "retrograde ejaculation" in men - the ejaculate is not released but flows back into the bladder. At the 1997 World Congress of Sexology a Spanish sex researcher, Dr F. Cabello Santamaria, reported he had found in the post-orgasmic urine samples of 75 per cent of women PSA that wasn't there before orgasm.
And what about the G spot? Last year Dr Terence Hines, from Pace University, declared in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology that the G spot is "a gynaecological UFO" and described as "laughable" the scientific evidence supporting its existence: "If this structure was to exist, there would have been some pretty impressive anatomy associated with it and at this point it just hasn't been found."
He dismissed the notion that the problem was that not enough people have looked for it. "It's a bit like somebody saying, 'Gee, there's a continent out there in the Pacific - we just haven't noticed it before,"' he wrote on WebMD, a medical website.
Hines has come in for a hiding, with all the chief researchers in the field lining up to attack him. Whipple, now an emeritus professor at Rutgers University and president of the SSSS, leapt into print, citing the 250 peer-reviewed research publications that have shown that the urethra is surrounded by erectile tissue which includes 31 prostate-like structures. This erectile body can easily be accessed through the vaginal wall, with some women reporting a particularly sensitive area in the roof of the vagina. One of the principal researchers, Milan Zaviacic, a Slovakian pathologist, finds that about 10 per cent of women have the majority of this erectile tissue localised in the area of the G spot.
The Sydney sex therapist, Dr Rosie King, says that although many Australian sexual health professionals are still sceptical, this research is supported by reports from her female patients. "I have absolutely no doubt female ejaculation and G spot orgasm do exist but they only apply to a minority of women who do, however, report remarkably uniform experiences," she says.
Forget the scientific literature. The real proof that the world has awoken to female ejaculation came last year in the TV show Sex and the City, when Samantha diverted from her rapacious man-hunting to enjoy a lesbian affair that included a very close encounter with the vital fluid. Making it into the sexual repertoire of these trend-setting female sex superstars means female ejaculation has hit the big time.
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