When doing research for this post, I had to cope with the same discomfort experienced by people who study objects which offend good taste and deal with polite society's underbelly. I knew my enquiry was legitimate, yet I couldn't help but feel weird and in need of a justification, wondering what people passing by would have thought of me. Anyway, I am convinced that once we try and demolish the silence surrounding the topic of pee, we need to go beyond other taboos too, such as sexuality. If the two aspects are related, why should we neglect their connection? That is how I ended up exploring urolagnia.
What is known under the euphemistic name of golden shower or the slang water sport can also be found under the scientific labels undinism, urolagnia, or urophilia. The latter is a subcategory of paraphilia, that is a mental health disorder term which refers to sexual excitement happening (only) in response to objects or situations that fall outside the normative patterns of society. Within the group, exhibitionism, fetishism, pedophilia, masochism, sadism, transvestism, and voyeurism are mentioned too. Paraphilias are supposed to develop as a consequence of events occurring during the childhood and formative years of a person. In the case of urolagnia, a person gets aroused in relation to urine and urination, which means its sight, its smell, its sound, the thought of it, or the material itself. The etymology of the word is revealing: in Greek it means “love” (philia) or “lust (lagneia) for urine”. To put it bluntly, the success of the sexual activity depends on being urinated upon and/or swallowing pee, but also the reciprocal condition is possible. In some instances the fetish simply consists in watching another person pee, or smelling things with a urine scent, whilst sometimes the pleasure derives from wetting one's own clothing or from telling someone else about wetting it. Apparently, “urophiles” signal their fetish to others by placing a yellow handkerchief in their pockets. In terms of health, some risk is present if one's partner has a bladder infection. Furthermore, urine is high in salt and waste material from vitamins and antibiotics may be expelled through it, so that consumption should be limited. In general, though, there are few concerns since urine is considered virtually sterile in healthy individuals. Nevertheless, medications and psychotherapy are available for those who partake in urolagnia, yet want to get rid of it.
Possible causes for the emergence of urophilia are the fact of having repeatedly witnessed one's parents' urination, that of having been forced to hold urine as a child or that of having been frequently left in dirty diapers. Other hypothesis may be put forward. For example, one could imagine that urine is regarded as an extremely personal substance that comes from one's inside, so that urinating upon a beloved one or have them urinate on you might be considered as a way to have a closer bond with them. In addition, male urophilia can be linked to impotence and urination is seen as a replacement for the actual sexual intercourse. In some cultures, actually, there is barely a difference between urine and semen. Moreover, urophilia is a practice that can be linked to the desire of dominating or being dominated, which can even be, in extreme cases, a desire of humiliating or being humiliated. This is partly what emerges from The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera, who describes the secret lust both Sabina and Tereza feel as they think of their lovers seeing them sitting on the toilet and relieving themselves. Nonetheless, further explanations to urolagnia are to be found. Tellingly, scientists and theoreticians still debate if sexual orientation should be considered innate or socially constructed and if there are any necessary reasons behind sexual desires and behaviours.
To conclude it is worth noticing that sexuality is a site where important socio-cultural struggles take place. In particular, categories are always negotiated because denominations and definitions can make us behave in different ways, alert us to specific aspects, cause stigmatisation, influence our political understanding, mark identity and signal belonging or exclusion, providing comfort or distress. Since the birth of sexology, sexual variations have been catalogued fixing individuals into an identity set that may pathologise and, eventually, marginalise. A basic distinction was (and, to a certain extent, still is) drawn between reproductive practices and practices which don't aim at reproductive sex, that is "perverse" ones. This is why there are constantly battles over and shifts in the meaning(s) of paraphilias: what has to be considered harmful and what harmless? What is acceptable, what is not?
Without classifications we cannot live: we use them to order the world and we need them to be able to move in it. Yet it is of great importance who creates them and how they are perceived because they typify persons, speak of our individual and collective being, they involve power and resistance, they regulate sexuality and gender, and allow or forbid people to talk about their sexual preferences.