Streaming television has ushered in a new era of on-screen kink. From Euphoria on HBO to Billions on Showtime, these TV-17 dramas don’t shy away from portraying fetish — sometimes, literal streaming. Take the new season of You on Netflix: Adam (Lukas Gage), an associate of Joe’s, gets off by being urinated on by wait staff.
This kink has many names: piss play, watersports, golden showers, or — more formally — erotic urination. We asked the experts to explain what piss play is, and why some people find it arousing.
Piss play becoming more mainstream
Piss play involves the use of urine for sexual gratification, i.e. urinating on someone or drinking urine. Fantasizing about this kink isn’t so uncommon: In a study of more than 4,000 Americans for his book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire(Opens in a new tab), Dr. Justin Lehmiller found that 32 percent of men and 15 percent of women said they’ve had a sexual fantasy involving urine before.
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“When you start looking at those numbers, it suggests that maybe this isn’t as rare of an interest as we’ve typically thought,” said Lehmiller, a Ph.D in social psychology and fellow at the Kinsey Institute.
Piss play has gotten more and more media attention in recent years, said sex educator and author All The F*cking Mistakes(Opens in a new tab) Gigi Engle. “It all started with the whole Donald Trump rumor,” said Engle, referring to the alleged “pee tape”. “Now people are starting to feel more comfortable talking about it. It’s the same phenomenon that happened with like 50 Shades of Grey,” she explained.
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While 50 Shades got a lot wrong about kink, it pushed BDSM into the mainstream. Now, piss play is the current “media darling,” according to Engle.
This also coincides with Americans getting kinkier in general. In a survey Kinsey conducted with sex shop Lovehoney once COVID vaccines became widely available, over half of participants said their sexual interests changed during the pandemic. Of those, 73 percent said they’re kinkier now.
Why is piss play arousing?
“There are as many answers” as to why someone might enjoy piss play “as there are people who enjoy the practice,” said sex therapist Stefani Goerlich(Opens in a new tab), certified sex therapist/clinical sexologist and author. For some — like the You character Adam — it’s about degradation.
Degradation play is an activity that involves creating a consensual, pre-negotiated feeling of humiliation, worthlessness, shame, or embarrassment in someone, said Goerlich. While masochism is often thought of as someone enjoying physical pain — and that’s true for many — some masochists instead enjoy the way their bodies respond to these intense emotional sensations.
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“For these folks, degradation play can be a key element of their sexual expression,” Goerlich continued. As the brain processes emotional and physical pain similarly(Opens in a new tab), degradation play is one way to receive an endorphin-rush that others may experience getting spanked.
You directly connects class and status to degradation in a way that’s both realistic and specific, Goerlich said. Not everybody who enjoys degradation implements themes of class into their play, but the ideas of status and hierarchy are integral to such activities.
WhileYou‘s portrayal of degradation is realistic, Adam’s lack of interest in playing subservient to his actual partner signals that urination validates and reinforces his real sense of superiority to others, said Goerlich. For most people who enjoy urination play, however, that emotional power imbalance stops when the scene does.
Another reason people may enjoy watersports is the strong sense of dominance or submission depending on your role in the act. “One of the reasons why a lot of people are drawn to watersports is that they have a broader interest in BDSM,” Lehmiller said. “So they might find it arousing to urinate on a partner as an act of dominance, or they might find it arousing to be urinated on or, in some cases, to drink a partner’s urine as an act of submission or humiliation.”
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Degradation, however, isn’t a must-have for piss play. For some, it’s about the sensory experience — they might enjoy the smell, feel, or sight of urine. Urine might be a fetish to these folks, meaning they have an enduring fascination with it and the olfactory, tactical, or visual elements that go along with this play.
And, like many sexual interests, there’s a draw to the taboo nature of it. “One of the main things that that turns us on is being told something is bad or something is taboo or something’s wrong,” Engle said. “That’s just how the human brain works…if you tell me no, I want it more.”
“Trying new things — and especially trying things that are taboo — is very erotically appealing to a lot of people.”
“Trying new things — and especially trying things that are taboo — is very erotically appealing to a lot of people,” Lehmiller concurred.
Whether a sexual act is taboo, however, is dependent on time and place. “There are always things in society that are sexually taboo, and that bar keeps shifting,” Lehmiller said. “It wasn’t that long ago that oral sex was considered to be really taboo, but now it’s considered a totally normal thing and it’s very common.”
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Our distance with bodily fluids is fairly new in human history as well. “It wasn’t terribly long ago that everyone had a chamber pot under their bed and, as a result, we were all much closer to our various body fluids than we are today,” said Goerlich. Now that we have indoor plumbing, “distance almost always results in a sense of disgust, whether warranted or not,” she said. Our culture has thus come to see urine as something gross to be avoided, and degrading to encounter.
Further, it might be the case that people see piss play on TV and experiment IRL — but it could also be that the heightened media attention has emboldened people to be more open about it.
“We don’t know to what degree interest in these activities [is] specifically changing versus people just now feel like they can talk about it,” Lehmiller said.
Piss play is “really, really normal,” said Engle, and you might want to try it — for the reasons stated above. If you’re going to try it, best do it in the shower or bath for easy cleanup.
“Some folks enjoy leaning into that disgust in order to evoke a reaction in their bodies through urine play,” said Goerlich. “Others don’t find urination to be degrading at all, but simply enjoy the sensory experience of the moment. As with most things — kink is in the eye of the beholder.”