Golden Showers and Watersports: How Many People are Sexually Aroused by Urine and Why?

For the last two weeks, I’ve been inundated with both reader questions and requests for media interviews on a topic I’ve rarely been asked about before: urophilia, which refers to being sexually aroused by urine. Initially, most of the inquiries were looking for comment on why a certain high-profile public figure allegedly has this sexual interest, and I was not about to get involved in that—I’m not in the business of commenting on the rumored sexual proclivities of celebrities or politicians. However, the questions I'm getting now have shifted away from attempts to understand a specific person and toward a more general curiosity about the prevalence and psychological origins of urophilia. These are the kinds of queries I’m much more inclined to answer. So, here’s what we know.

Sexual interest in urine goes by many names. The more technical, scientific term is urophilia; colloquially, however, it is also referred to as “watersports” or “golden showers.” In addition to going by many names, urophilia encompasses many different practices. For instance, some folks want to urinate on other people, others want to be urinated on, some want to watch others urinate or wet themselves, and a few want to drink it.

There is very little research out there on urophilia because it’s a pretty uncommon sexual interest. As some evidence of this, consider a recent study in which approximately 400 adults wrote about their favorite sexual fantasy, which researchers then coded for themes [1]. It turned out that urine did not emerge in any of the fantasies described by female participants and it only appeared in 1.4% of the fantasies described by male participants.

In a different study, approximately 800 European college students (all of whom were heterosexual) were asked whether they had ever seen porn focusing on various unusual sex practices, including urophilia, as well as how sexually excited this porn made them feel [2]. Although 23% indicated having seen urophilia porn, the average level of excitement was very low--just 1.27 on a scale ranging from 1 (not exciting at all) to 9 (very exciting). Thus, while it's not all that uncommon for people to have seen watersports or golden showers in porn, it appears that few find these porn scenes to be sexually arousing.

Given how uncommon it is, urophilia is something that is primarily the subject of case reports, as opposed to large-scale, systematic research. As such, our understanding of the psychological origins of urophilia is rather limited.

That said, like all sexual turn-ons, psychologists believe that there’s more than one underlying cause, meaning that different people might find urine arousing for very different reasons. For example, attraction to urine could potentially stem from a broader interest in BDSM: some may find it arousing to urinate on a partner as an act of dominance, whereas others may find it arousing to be urinated on or to be "forced" to drink a partner’s urine as an act of submission or humiliation.

By contrast, others might experiment with watersports out of a more general interest in simply trying something new, novel, or taboo. Likewise, some might give it a try simply because our disgust response lessens during sexual arousal, which means that things we might otherwise think of as gross don't seem quite as unappealing when we're horny (indeed, when asked to rate their attraction to watching others urinate, men find this more appealing if asked about it when they're already aroused compared to being in a non-aroused state).

Urine might have a more fetishistic element for some in which a person has simply learned through experience to associate the sight, smell, or taste or urine with sexual arousal. Lastly, there are also some who may find the act of wetting themselves to be sexually arousing, such as diaper fetishists, and yet others who find it arousing to watch others’ embarrassment or humiliation as they unintentionally wet themselves in public.

As you can see, it would be wise not to leap to conclusions about why a given person is into urophilia—there are likelya lot of potential explanations.

Contrary to popular belief, having an unusual sexual interest such as urophilia does not necessarily mean that one is mentally disturbed or has a psychological disorder. Unusual interests only rise to the level of disordered behavior when they are non-consensual in nature or cause significant psychological distress to the people who have them. The vast majority of unusual interests don’t reach this level.

Beyond questions about how many people are into urophilia and why, the other big question I’ve been asked is how risky/safe it is to practice. While it has long been thought that urine is sterile, recent research has shown that this is a myth. Bacteria may be present in urine, even in someone who is perfectly healthy. As a result, there may be potential health risks involved in consuming or otherwise coming into physical contact with someone else’s urine. That said, it’s important to recognize that urine is actually a far less risky bodily fluid to come into contact with than, say, blood or semen, especially in terms of risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections. 

For more answers to reader sex questions, click here. To send in your own question, click here.

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[1] Joyal, C.C., Cossette, A., & Lapierre, V. (2015). What exactly is an unusual sexual fantasy? The Journal of Sexual Medicine12(2), 328-340.

[2] Tripodi, F., Eleuteri, S., Giuliani, M., Rossi, R., Livi, S., Petruccelli, I., ... & Simonelli, C. (2015). Unusual online sexual interests in heterosexual Swedish and Italian university students. Sexologies, 24(4), e84-e93.

Image Source: 123RF.com/kubias

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