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Britain recently banned it, but porn studios in this country are still cashing in on films that feature women “squirting.” Is female ejaculation even real, though? What causes it? And should we care?

Thankfully, a new study attempts to get to the bottom of the phenomenon – and inspired us to clarify for ourselves what’s really happening when women experience the seeming “release” during sex. (Would Sex and the City really lie to us?)

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After speaking with physicians, sex researchers, and, of course, porn stars, we nailed down a few basics about the act one adult actress compared to “being able to do a backbend.”

Female ejaculation is real, but it’s not what you think.

The latest research points to one conclusion: Most of us laypeople have been defining “female ejaculation” incorrectly. Essentially, we’ve been using the phrase as an umbrella term to describe two completely different processes that can occur during sex.

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These two processes are known as “female ejaculation” and “squirting,” explained Samuel Salama of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Hospital Privé in France, who published a paper on the issue in December in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Salama and many other researchers say female ejaculation and squirting involve different fluids that originate in different parts of the body, both of which can be expelled during extreme arousal.

The former describes a fluid that is released in small quantities from the female prostate, formerly known as the Skene’s gland. (Yes, some women have a prostate! These teeny glands are located near the lower end of the urethra.) This fluid creates extra lubrication during sex, but doesn’t exactly call for towels on the sheets.

Squirting, on the other hand, refers to a large volume of “clear liquid coming from the bladder.” That’s right: watery pee. “In French we say ‘femme fontaine,’” or “fountain women,” said Salama, because the liquid expelled can gush out like a fountain. This is what you see in porn.

In their study, Salama and his colleagues used an Ultrasound to prove that, during sexual stimulation, participants’ bladders filled up with fluid – then emptied after squirting. Salama tested the substance released and found it to contain the same contents as urine.

How many women experience ejaculation or squirting?

The experts still don’t know, though rough estimates suggest somewhere between 10 and 54 percent of women experience ejaculation and/or squirting.

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“Just as some people can lift one eyebrow or some people can wiggle their ears, it's anatomy,” said Lanalee Araba Sam, an OBGYN in private practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, of female ejaculation and squirting. “Some people can have it happen naturally, some people will have to work on it, and some people will never achieve it no matter how much they practice."

News flash: Squirting in porn is often faked.

Porn blatantly suggests that squirting is proof of sexual climax – and the ability to make a woman squirt is a sure sign of sexual prowess. Which is just not the case.

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Still, squirting has taken off in adult films over the past several years. Porn distributor Brazzers told Fusion that the act is in their top 10 searched categories. They even launched a subsite, “She’s gonna squirt,” to accommodate demand. And Vivid, another major distributor, said they’ve released several films featuring squirting, and they “sell extremely well.”

And so, adult film stars have begun to either “train” themselves to squirt – or adopted tricks to fake the effect entirely. The most popular method involves over-hydration and training the vaginal muscles to release fluid on demand,  several actresses told Fusion.

Squirting is “like being able to do a backbend,” explained Zoe Monroe, an Adult Video News (AVN) nominee with over 80,000 Twitter fans. Her tip? She recommends drinking Pedialyte to ensure hydration before shoots.

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Other performers attributed the geyser effect to smoke and mirrors. “Of course it's faked for porn sometimes,” said Carter Cruise, whose videos can be found on PornHub and Kink.com. It “doesn't shoot across the room, I mean, come on.”

Some actresses use large oral syringes, fill their vaginas with water, and hold the water in until just the right moment of climax. Some use douches without a syringe.

Did the U.K. really ban female ejaculation in adult films?

Yep. Last month the British Board of Film Classification outlawed female ejaculation on screen – along with choking, whipping, and facesitting. How did a natural anatomical response make an otherwise BDSM list?

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To clarify, the board really banned squirting. (The confusion over terminology runs deep.) A spokesperson told Fusion that it did so after medical experts advised that the act was “being simulated by urination.” And urinating on camera violates the country’s decency act. Hence, the ban.

Should all women aspire to squirt-status?

Of course not. Enjoying sex often comes down to letting go, which is pretty much the opposite of training oneself to pull off what should be a natural euphoric response.

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“To put that pressure on women to squirt – it's part of the mythology of porn that is unfortunately messing with too many young minds,” said Fort Lauderdale’s Sam.

Our takeaway for young and old minds alike? If female ejaculation or squirting is happening in your sex life, embrace it. If not, don’t worry. As Justin Lehmiller, editor of the popular website Sex and Psychology, told us: “There’s no narrative about what should happen during sex.”

Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.

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