Vice

By Anna David

We asked sex experts why golden showers can really get some folks going.

“Some people see it as a beautiful connection—a way to see more of their partner and to be more intimate,” says Dr. Chris Donaghue, the author of Sex Outside the Lines. The acclaimed sex therapist isn’t opining about the sort of long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses Kevin Costner described in Bull Durham. He’s talking about urophilia, otherwise known as piss play or—in the words of an unsubstantiated report that’s gotten some ink recently—golden showers.

Although urophilia isn’t quite as rare as you might think, we don’t talk about it that much because we have a culture that is still a bit squeamish about sex. And if there’s anything we’re more squeamish about than sex, it’s bathroom habits. Urophilia does an excellent job of straddling both lines.

“I don’t tell anyone about [the fact that I do] it,” confesses a European man in his forties whom I contacted when I saw his “PEE ON ME PLEASE” ad on Craigslist. “I don’t want to look bad. Some people think it’s nasty and disgusting.”

This man—let’s call him Pierre—discovered he was into piss play when he saw it in a porn a few years ago and found himself aroused. He asked a woman he occasionally had sex with if she’d be into it and she was game, but told him that she’d need to relax by having sex first. So they did and once she’d been on top of him for a while, “she said she was ready and then stood up and peed all over my stomach and penis while I masturbated,” says Pierre. He came from the pee, but not from the actual intercourse. Later, in the shower, he peed on her nipples. Alas, that woman is now married and Pierre’s current sexual partner isn’t as game for piss play. He told me that she looked genuinely disgusted when he showed her a golden shower video, so he’s never even broached the topic of actually pissing on her.

That’s how Pierre found himself posting his ad—an ad that, when we spoke, hadn’t attracted too many responses beyond a few women who said they’d be happy to pee all over him for a fee. This lack of action is probably why Pierre tried his damnedest to get me to give the old pee play a try. “I can’t imagine,” he kept saying, “why a writer would feel like she could write about a topic without experiencing it herself.” I got the sense that he thought that once I fully understood urophilia, I’d insist that he come over, bladder bursting, and show me what all the fuss was about.

Why some people are turned on by urine isn’t something that’s fully understood. Experts can’t even say if this fetish is more common among men because, as Donaghue puts it, we live in a culture “where women aren’t empowered to ask for what they want sexually.” All we know for sure is that nothing about our fascination with pee is new.

They used urine for everything in Ancient Rome, from invisible ink for secret messages—the alleged origin of the expression “read between the lines”—to teeth whitener. Piss was so valuable back then that those who sold it had to pay a specific tax. Pee has also been an essential part of the arts. Taschen’s tome  Erotica Universalis has pictures of paintings, mosaics, and wood carvings of pee-related sex acts that go all the way back to 100 AD. In literature, you find stories of erotic pee going way back as well. Most famously is Marquise de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, the 18th century book about four libertines who liked to drink urine.

Then there was Havelock Ellis, an English physician who studied human sexuality in the early 20th century. Ellis wasn’t just one of the first people to write about urophilia as a fetish, he was also one of the first to openly admit to being into it—something he traced back to the fact that as a teenager, he would sponge his mother’s back while she peed. Other key moments in urine history include Lori Wagner peeing on a corpse in the Gore Vidal-written film Caligula (1979), the R. Kelly scandal in 2002 (“a real low moment in the history of it all,” noted a fetish expert I consulted), and a sly confession from Ricky Martin in an interview (2006). You could almost say that by the time golden showers made that cameo in Sex and the City (2000), it had actually jumped the shark.

The Sex and the City storyline (where Carrie dated a politico played by John Slattery who liked to get peed on) is the scenario of piss play that we understand the best—namely, the idea that powerful dudes like it because they’re turned on when they’re dominated and defiled. But that concept only appears to be correct part of the time.

“Sometimes people like this because they find getting defiled arousing. While to others, it has nothing to do with that and instead just feels wild and uninhibited and taboo without being dangerous,” says sex therapist and author Dr. Gloria Brame. One thing both Brame and Donaghue agree is bullshit is the notion that having a fetish like this means something disturbing or titillating happened to you during your formative years.

“The old Freudian thinking is that people are trying to resolve trauma and that can be true but for many people, something they fetishize is something they associate with pleasure,” says Brame. Echoes Donaghue, “There’s no universal meaning [to this behavior] because everyone’s going to come to it with a different association. Some will find it demeaning, while others will see it as wanting more of the person.”

Indeed, a former dominatrix I spoke to told me that one of her golden shower clients was a high-powered doctor and the other a sweet, nebbishy guy who carried around a small wooden fake toilet he’d had made. The nerdy one would put the toilet on his face and she’d squat above it and let her golden liquid fall into his mouth while he moaned.

It seems like just as you develop a stereotype about who’s into this fetish, another person comes along who disproves it. And that, of course, doesn’t take into account the many people who’d never come clean about their predilection for piss. Brame told me a sex educator she knew held a class on the topic and it was the best-attended lecture he ever gave with the fewest questions asked by the attendees. Reading between those lines, potty play may be, for many people, their best kept secret.