You’re at brunch with your BFF (the one who overshares and you love her for it) when she mentions how her latest hookup made her orgasm so many times she had to strip her sheets at 3:00 a.m. because they were soaking wet.
“Uh, you mean you peed your bed?” you ask.
“No,” she explains, “squirting, as in gushing during orgasm, is totally different from pee.”
“I don’t think so,” you counter.
And then you’re both whipping out your phones to prove each other wrong. But after scrolling through hundreds of articles, neither of you can find a definitive answer.
What kind of effed-up sorcery is this?
Despite millennia of evidence that squirting is a very real thing that happens to some women during sex (see the receipts, below), so much about it still remains a big fat question mark. Experts have yet to come to a consensus on how, when, or why squirting happens—and most important, whether or not it’s *actual* pee that comes out.
For starters, let’s take research that estimates around 10 to 54 percent of women expel fluid during sex. Okay, so either half of all women do it...or almost none. Yeah, not helpful. There are a handful of other small, conflicting studies about the phenomenon, but doctors say way more specific research is needed, which makes it tricky to scream “It’s pee!” or “STFU, it’s not pee!” at brunch with any kind of conviction.
The thing is, though, the world really, really wants to understand it. Perhaps thanks to porn—in which women are often seen shooting out streams of fluid during foreplay and intercourse—curiosity over this sexual feat has reached an all-time high. (Searches for “squirting” on Pornhub more than doubled between 2011 and 2017, and women are 44 percent more likely to look for this stuff than men.) Basically, it’s the Loch Ness monster of our sexuality: The less evidence there is about it, the more we want to know.
*Oprah voice* So, what is the TRUTH?
Oz Harmanli, M.D., chief of urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery at Yale Medicine, has reviewed much of the research on squirting. His personal conclusion? The liquid is urine that can be mixed with some sort of female ejaculate. But (eek) mostly urine.
Let him explain: Squirts often contain something called prostate-specific antigen, a protein found in semen, which suggests that women do have the ability to come sort of like guys do. But, he adds, “there is no gland or reservoir in the female body, other than the bladder, that can produce the amount of fluid that is released with squirting.”
So. In the argument with your bestie, yeah, you probably have the edge (thank you, Dr. Harmanli). But here’s some more news: Squirting doesn’t only signal a great time; it may also point to...urinary incontinence, or more specifically, coital incontinence, aka the inability to control your bladder during penetration or orgasm.
While standard pee leaks are typically a thing older women deal with, coital incontinence may affect 20 to 30 percent of women of all ages, says ob-gyn Heather Bartos, M.D. And it can be tied to the status of your pelvic-floor muscles, adds ob-gyn Morgan West, D.O. When those muscles are strong, you have max control—your bladder and urethra are on full lockdown mode, so nothing is coming out if and when you don’t want it to. But when they’re weak or, you know, relaxed at the tail end of an intense tantric sexathon, the muscles may not be able to withstand the power of your orgasm, setting up the perfect (rain)storm of squirt.
Um, so...time to freak out?
Nope. Unless you or your partner are totally squeamish, squirting—and what exactly this love juice contains—is really NBD. Yes, you may need to clean up afterward, but don’t let that kill your vibe. Most people find even just the idea of squirting incredibly hot. And honestly, if someone is making you nut so hard that you’re legit losing all control over your own body and its functions...who cares about a little mess? You’ve now got one hell of a brunch story.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.