Mar 12, 2021 • 5M

Piss Play

Robin Craig
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Monthly essays about sex and culture.

A spectre is haunting culture - the spectre of piss. From Buzzfeed videos of people drinking their own piss for the first time to Bear Grylls achieving a strange sort of fame for his piss-guzzling survival antics, we love to watch people drink urine. Piss is everywhere and yet the prospect of enjoying it in sex, known as ‘watersports’ or ‘golden showers’, remains taboo.

We do, however, love to gossip about people using piss in sex. In April 2019 unconfirmed reports of the Russian government holding a tape showing Trump pissing on sex workers swept the internet. The ‘pee tape’, as it came to be known, was something of a spectre itself: the ‘Steele dossier’ which was the source of the rumours only had secondhand knowledge of it, and the tape never surfaced. Nonetheless political cartoonists went to town, using the alleged piss play to paint Trump as a hopeless pervert.

Claytoonz.

Using apparent perversion to smear political opponents is nothing new, but the focus on piss play as an act of unthinkable deviance is curious. Piss porn is ubiquitous - a quick search for ‘piss’ on PornHub brings up over forty-three thousand results while a 2014 Canadian study showed 16% of respondents had fantasised about using piss in sex.

Most of piss porn follows standard power play dynamics anyone familiar with BDSM practises will recognise. To piss in someone’s mouth is an expression of control and superiority that places the piss-drinker as the consumer of bodily waste. To piss oneself has a similar build-up of pressure and release as orgasm, combined with the eroticised shame of losing control of one’s body. Being pissed on dictates a clear hierarchy of who is dominant and who is submissive, dictated by a stream of fluid from the genitals not wholly unlike cum. The use of piss as a gesture of submission is not solely a human preoccupation either - dogs will roll onto their backs and urinate on themselves to show the pack leader that they’re not a threat.

Havelock Ellis, a 19th century sexologist and eugenicist who published Studies in the Psychology of Sex, was an early proponent of piss fetishes. In his correspondence and autobiography Ellis cheerfully recounted his ‘urophilia’, writing ‘I may be regarded as a pioneer in the recognition of the beauty of the natural act in women when carried out in the erect attitude.’ In other words, he enjoyed watching women stand to pee. 

François Boucher ‘La Toilette intime (Une Femme qui pisse)’ (1760s).

Ellis, rather disconcertingly, referred to piss as a ‘divine stream’ and claimed the image of a woman standing to urinate was one of the few things that could make him erect. He traced his fascination with divine streams back to his childhood experiences. In one incident, his mother playfully thrust his sibling’s soiled nappy in his face when he was nine years old. Several years later, his mother lifted her skirts and squatted to relieve herself behind some bushes while taking the young Ellis on a walk through some gardens. Ellis would later recount how the sound of her urine hitting the ground had titillated him.

Childhood experiences of bladder control (and loss of it) may account for some people’s interest in piss play as adults. It’s certainly true that children’s toilet use is carefully controlled and school bathrooms can be places of shame and exposure. In one US survey, 81% of elementary school teachers said they allow children unlimited access to water while, contradictorily, 88% also said they encourage their students to hold in their pee. Similarly, a UK study found that 40% of secondary school girls reported holding their pee to avoid using school toilets, while 16% of boys reported unnamed “bad things” happened in school toilets.

The simultaneous encouragement from teachers for children to hold in urine and a fear of school toilets means pee is configured as both dangerous and shameful in school settings. Needing to pee may result in a teacher being angry with you, or being bullied in the toilets by your peers. It’s no wonder that piss can become a shorthand for power and control in later life that is inevitably brought into sexual contexts. 

Being ‘forced’ to piss yourself by a partner merely reenacts childhood experiences of not being allowed to pee by adults. Piss becomes a fetishised object that holds particular power: whoever controls the piss controls the scenario, much like teachers and parents did in childhood. To piss yourself signals an absolute loss of control over your body in a deeply visible and socially taboo way - it’s no wonder that, for some, it’s also the ultimate kink.

Robin Craig is a PhD student and freelance cultural writer. You can find him on Twitter at @robin__craig.

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