Ejaculation refers to the discharge of bodily fluids as the direct result of sexual stimulation. Males ejaculate semen. Females may ejaculate fluids produced by an area called the Skene's glands, located immediately above or in front of the vagina. Because male ejaculation is a more common and visible result of sexual stimulation, the term ejaculation almost always refers to the emission of semen from the penis. There are a number of slang terms for male ejaculate, including jism, cum, splooge, and love juice. There is no slang term for female ejaculate, since culturally it is barely recognized that such a phenomenon occurs, and indeed many women do not ejaculate regularly if at all.
Male ejaculation is a process that occurs in several stages as a part of male sexual arousal and orgasm. In the first stage of male sexual arousal, the penis is stimulated and hardens. In the second stage, the male reaches a plateau during which the penis is completely hardened and the male fully aroused. Ejaculation occurs during the third phase in two stages. During the first stage, emission, sperm that has been stored in the epididymus is propelled through two ducts known as the vas deferens, by means of the ducts' contractions. The point where the sperm begin to collect in the vas deferens is known as the "point of no return." Once this process begins, it is difficult to stop male ejaculation.
As the sperm reach the ampullas at the top of the vas deferens, they enter into the ejaculatory ducts where they are mixed with several fluids contributed by the prostate, the seminal vesicles, and the bulbourethral (or Cowper's) glands. This mix of fluid and sperm constitutes semen. The fluid includes sperm ranging from 60 to 500 million depending on a man's age, the amount of ejaculate, and other factors, as well as a list of component substances ranging from urea, uric acid, and creatine, to calcium, zinc, aboutonia, cholesterol, citric acid, spermadine, spermine, and chlorine, and contains about twenty calories. A single ejaculation consists of approximately 3/4 teaspoon to a tablespoon of fluid, depending on how recently an individual previously ejaculated, how old he is, and how long he was sexually stimulated before ejaculation. The amount of ejaculate decreases if a man has recently ejaculated. Older men tend to have smaller quantities of ejaculate. The number of sperm in an ejaculation varies, depending on a number of factors, including age and the temperature of the testicles.
The second stage of ejaculation, ejaculation, is associated with orgasm and occurs at the height of sexual stimulation. A spinal reflex, which is part of the sympathetic nervous system, initiates a series of contractions of muscles in the urethra, the prostate, and the penis. These contractions force the mix of semen and fluids out through the urethra in a series of spurts, although the first contraction may contain no semen at all. These contractions begin at intervals of approximately 0.6 seconds, becoming slower as they continue. Emissions begin with a small amount of ejaculate, build toward larger amounts, then taper off. Contractions may last for an average of 17 seconds or ten to fifteen contractions. After ejaculation, males generally need to wait for a period of time before they can ejaculate again.
Ejaculation is complex mechanism involving multiple systems of the body—the urethrogenital system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, as well as sexual stimuli and emotions. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are both part of the autonomic nervous system, which is in charge of such involuntary processes as breathing, digestion, and heartbeat. The sympathetic nervous system prepares individuals to cope with stress or emergency. It controls orgasm and ejaculation. The parasympathetic nervous system prepares individuals to cope with rest and peace. It regulates sexual arousal.
Control of the mechanisms of ejaculation does not always come naturally, especially in younger males who tend to ejaculate more quickly. Many males ejaculate prematurely—that is, before either they or their partners are ready—resulting in ejaculation outside of the vagina before entry or immediately after entry. The inability to delay ejaculation until the moment when both partners are ready can result in anxiety, female dissatisfaction, and loss of fertility, and may produce longer-lasting anxieties about sex in general. Males can learn to control ejaculations through experience or by learning to identify the sensations that define each stage before orgasm. According to Virginia Masters and William Johnson, if a male understands and can identify the processes of ejaculation, he can often learn to stall or prolong pre-ejaculatory stages by slowing down or relaxing. Masters and Johnson suggest becoming familiar with these stages, using masturbation as a means through which to learn to prolong and control the "point of no return."
Other methods for preventing premature ejaculation include the use of condoms, which can de-sensitize the penis; using de-sensitizing creams; deploying a position other than the missionary position that gives the partner more control; or squeezing the base of the penis to reduce the erection by blocking blood flow to the organ. Some males believe that masturbating immediately before sexual intercourse will increase their control of ejaculation by decreasing the immediacy of their desire, but that practice is less successful because the entire phenomenon of arousal and ejaculation is more complex than a matter of satiety.
Another ejaculatory issue is a failure to ejaculate during orgasm, called anejaculation or a "dry orgasm." Some males have problems with their prostate glands that prevent or delay ejaculation. Some males have a very low sperm count, called oligospermia, or have no sperm at all (as, for example, after a vasectomy), called azoospermia. Males also often ejaculate involuntarily during their sleep, called a "nocturnal emission."
A far less recognized phenomenon than male ejaculation, female ejaculation is the expulsion of fluid from the urethra during sexual stimulation. Because its source and causes are less obvious than those accompanying male ejaculation, female ejaculation is seen as unusual. Many cultures have taboos surrounding women's body fluids. Women, unlike men, are not supposed to sweat copiously, be seen urinating, or have public evidence of menstrual periods. Because of these cultural attitudes towards female bodily fluids, female ejaculation is often construed as abnormal—as either an aberration or as a lack of bladder control. The occurrence of female ejaculation is not abnormal, but is instead a sign of sexual satisfaction and female orgasm. Not all females ejaculate, nor do women ejaculate during every sexual encounter. Female ejaculation, however, is a phenomenon that has been recognized since the ancient Greeks, though the nature of the ejaculate and its purpose have only recently been explored.
Skene's glands, an area of tissue located between the urethra and the vagina, produce the milky, liquid substance that is expelled from the female's urethra during periods of high sexual excitement. The glands are believed to have developed from the same embryonic tissue that develops into the prostate gland in males. The glands produce both small quantities of seratonin, which they release into the bloodstream, and prostate hormones. They are erectile in character, which means that when stimulated they enlarge, and when stimulated, they also produce fluids that empty into the urethra and are expelled during orgasm. The fluid that is ejaculated contains PSA (prostate-specific antigen), PAP (prostate-specific acid phosphatase), sugars, urea, creatinine, and water. It may vary in consistency and in concentrations of its elements, depending on the quantities expelled. It is not urine, nor does it represent a failure to control the bladder.
Because there seems to be little relation between female ejaculation and other reproductive functions (that we know of), very little research has been conducted on the phenomenon, the Skene's gland, and the relation between the gland, female ejaculation, female orgasm, and the Gräfenburg Spot or G-Spot, which is the place on the anterior vagina wall just behind the Skene's glands that, when stimulated, produces intense sexual pleasure. Ernst Gräfenberg himself suggested that the ejaculate, which he noted has no function in lubrication, was produced when the Skene's glands were stimulated through the G-Spot.
There is still much ignorance and confusion about the nature and purpose of female ejaculation. Often it is a source of embarrassment and even humiliation. Seeing elements of female sexual response as aberrant or even as diseases or problems is evidence of the lingering masculinist character of medicine and gynecology. Because female ejaculation seems to play no discernable role in reproduction nor in a concept of sexual intercourse as completely complementary in that female organs and responses mirror those of the male, female ejaculation appears to be in excess. When one thinks of intercourse as the joinder of opposites, the female is the repository for male ejaculation, not a partner who contributes her own ejaculate. Nonetheless, female ejaculation is a completely normal sexual response. Knowing about this response would make many women's sexual lives easier.
see also Orgasm.
Milsten, Richard, and Julia Slowinski. 2000. The Sexual Male: Problems and Solutions. New York: Norton.
Sundahl, Deborah. 2003. Female Ejaculation & the G-Spot. New York: Hunter House.
Williams, Jacob. 2005. Premature Ejaculation—New Hope for an Old Problem. New York: C.A.S. Publishing.