Squirting is a hot topic — here's what you need to know about whether squirting is real, what squirting is, and more.

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Ah, the elusive urban legend of ~squirting~. Whether you've experienced it, seen it in porn, or simply heard rumors about it, you're not the only one who's curious about squirting. (PornHub data from 2010 to 2017 even reveals that more and more people are searching for "women squirting" videos.)

First things first: Is squirting real? Yes, it definitely is. (Producing lots of fluids is just one of the many common but unexpected side effects of sex.) From there, it gets a little more complicated. Here's what you need to know about squirting, what squirting is exactly, how to squirt, and more.

The Science of Squirting and Female Ejaculation

There's admittedly a lot of controversy over whether "squirting" is the same as "female ejaculation." The two are often used interchangeably, though some newer research clarifies that they indeed seem to be two different things. (It's worth noting that the term "female ejaculation" itself is problematic because it can disclude people who are gender non-conforming or non-binary.) People also argue that squirting could be coital incontinence (aka the involuntary loss of some urine during sex), which research says could affect anywhere from one-tenth to two-thirds of women. (More on why in a sec.)

However, a 2018 review published in the International Urogynecology Journal asserted that squirting, female ejaculation, and coital incontinence "are different phenomena with various mechanisms and could be differentiated according to source, quantity, expulsion mechanism, and subjective feelings during sexual activities." Translation: Squirting is real, female ejaculation is real, and coital incontinence is real, but they are all different things.

What Is Squirting?

The latest research found that squirting is actually a gush of fluid coming out of the urethra and is, in fact, urine, according to sexpert Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., a certified sex educator in New York City. (That's why some experts argue that squirting could be coital incontinence.) The aforementioned 2018 review also defines squirting as the orgasmic expulsion of a form of urine that exits the body via the urethra.

What Is Female Ejaculation?

Female ejaculation fluid, on the other hand, is the release of a thicker, milky-er, white substance that is actually super similar to semen, just without the sperm, according to Levkoff. In fact, this substance is even made of prostatic acid, glucose, and fructose, similar to semen. The review also defines female ejaculate as the secretion of a "thick, milky fluid by the female prostate (Skene's glands) during orgasm."

Squirting vs. Female Ejaculation

The difference between squirting and female ejaculation was shown in a 2014 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Researchers had women pee, then had them engage in sexual stimulation until they ejaculated. Pelvic ultrasound scans showed that women's bladders were at least partially full before they squirted, but empty after — indicating that the liquid originated from the bladder. Sure enough, when the researchers tested the liquid, two out of seven of the samples were chemically identical to urine. (Check out four other Sex Rumors to Stop Believing.)

The other five samples also had something called prostatic-specific antigen (PSA), an enzyme that's produced by the Skene's glands, which are often referred to as the female prostate. These glands are located inside the vagina at the lower end of the urethra and are where scientists believe female ejaculate comes from, according to Levkoff. (The Skene's glands are also pretty close to your g-spot, which, yes, is real.)

So the first group indeed "squirted," while the second group had ejaculated. What does all this mean for your sex life? Nothing — however your body responds to orgasm, own it, says Levkoff. (Related: Can You Have Multiple Orgasms?)

Can all women squirt or ejaculate? Well, that's unclear. Somewhere between an estimated 10 and 50 percent of women ejaculate during sex, according to The International Society for Sexual Medicine, but they also note that some experts believe all women can ejaculate, but that most aren’t aware because the fluid can flow backward into the bladder instead of outside of the body.

How Do You Squirt or Ejaculate?

Now that you know squirting is real and female ejaculation is real, you probably kinda want to try it. Good news: Here's a guide to how to try to squirt for vulva owners.

That said, if you're looking for a magic combination of moves that are guaranteed to help you or your partner squirt or ejaculate, sorry; the jury's still out on whether everyone can learn how to squirt during sex, says Leah Millheiser, M.D., director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University Medical Center. Just like some people can ograsm from nipple play or butt stuff alone, some people may squirt while others may not. There's nothing wrong with squirting or not being able to squirt.

While squirting can happen during an orgasm, it doesn't necessarily have to happen at the moment of climax; it may happen simply when you're aroused and stimulated, says Millheiser. (Stimulation of the g-spot or nearby Skene's glands might even make you feel like you need to pee during sex.)

That said, if your body ejaculates or squirts during sex, there's no need to feel self-conscious about it. "I tell women who experience female ejaculation and feel nervous or embarrassed about it to just tell new partners upfront before sex: Hey, this is something that happens to me. It's a sign that the sex is really good!" says Millheiser. Then just lay down a towel or plastic sheets and get to business. (Maybe even try using a period sex blanket.)