Today, I’m going to perform a public service by attacking an issue that’s moved in and out my consciousness at least four times in the last half-century and could very well become a national crisis—“A Sleeping Giant at Our Doorstep,” as Reader’s Digest might call it—if not confronted squarely.
The problem? Urolagnia.
The first was in seventh grade, circa 1961. Our basketball coach was another boy’s Dad, a Marine sergeant who always wore his uniform to games. In the locker room, he had just finished jacking us up for a game and I was the last one out the door. He stepped in front of me, grabbed my arms, and lowered himself to my eye level, his nose about an inch from mine.
COACH: “Remember, Hart: It’s better to be pissed off than pissed on ! Right?”
COACH: “Am I right? HUH?”
ME: “Uh…I guess…”
The second was a scene in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) in which, as frustrated moviemaker Cliff Stern, he asks his sister Barbara (Caroline Aaron) to replay the “action” she received from her “Personals” ad. She describes her blind date up to its early-morning denouement and dissolves into tears.
CLIFF: Barbara, I’m shocked at what I’m hearing. You’re my sister–you’re this nice, middle-class mother. What are you telling me?
BARBARA: I couldn’t move; I was tied tightly to the bedposts.
CLIFF: Oh, Jesus–by a stray, uh, a guy you didn’t know? Now you’re gonna tell me that he robbed you, right?
BARBARA: No. He got on top of me and, and…
CLIFF: And, what? What?
BARBARA: I can’t say it; I can’t–just can’t say it…
CLIFF: What? Tell me. What’s so terrible?
BARBARA: He sat over me–and went to the bathroom.
CLIFF (clutching his head, grimacing): UHHHHHH! Ohh. Ohhh! That’s so disgusting! Oh, my God–that’s the worst thing I ever heard in my life!*
Thus was revived for me something that–for reasons I’ll explain–I’d kept submerged since third grade. (NOTE: I’m not counting Fielding Mellish’s two moisture-related encounters in Bananas (1971)—with his electric blanket in bed, as a child, and from another guerrilla trainee while hiding in a bush during a San Marcos training exercise. In those cases he was just anxious, not aroused, so I could laugh it off.)
The third was in 1995’s Water World, in which Kevin Kostner as the post-apocalyptic “Mariner” introduced the concept of…personal recycling, for hydration purposes. For the record, this phenomenon is known technically as urophagia, the use of liquid gold as a beverage, rather than an accessory, in a nonsexual context—as opposed to urophilia, which refers to intra-carnal consumption. You’ll be relieved to know that these subcategories are beyond the scope of this analysis because, well, you know—eww. (My exhaustive research yesterday afternoon disclosed that the Indian culture has a centuries-old therapy called Shivambu Kalpa Vidhi which prescribes both drinking and sprinkling routinely for better health. As far as I’m concerned, that’s one more disqualifying question that should be added to H1-B work visa applications.)
The most recent was thanks to NBC Sports (“Our Motto: ‘No Detail Too Insignificant to Ignore, As Long as Your Event Sells Advertising’”) in its coverage of the Summer Games. In interviews, Olympic aquanaut Ryan Lochte admitted, way too cheerfully, that he pees in Olympic pools, a subject upon which he expanded in his own video. What’s more disturbing is that he’s also campaigning to compete in d/mating TV shows. Bachelorettes, beware. (Three months ago, it was reported that Nicole Kidman showered Zac Efron with, uh, affection in The Paperboy. I missed that one, so it doesn’t count. Besides, the studio insisted Kidman’s character’s treatment was wholly medicinal; I guess they’re still looking for a distributor. I’m on the fence about the remedy, but Nicole never fails to raise my temperature. She can rouge my moulin anytime.)
Why? I’m old, and I’m a coward. Two factors are responsible. First, my age and repressed Catholic upbringing combined to define my early boundaries for erotica pretty narrowly. Not only was touching oneself in any pleasurable way a Mortal Sin; combining that with such an egregious breach of toilet-training etiquette had to get you a one-way ticket to far edge of Danté’s Seventh Circle. When Michael Jenkins treated me to his personal take on “where I came from” at third grade recess, the damage was done. That my parents used organs that I associated only with elimination for procreational (or other) purposes was too much to, um, absorb. I couldn’t even look at them at dinner for a week. Finally, the extent of the literature that was available to me when puberty knocked was:
- Whatever I could find by rooting around in Mr. Rock’s garbage cans, in the alley between our houses. The only full-frontal depictions were of nude volleyballers, not renowned for their universal physical appeal. The men’s magazines of the time—e.g., Argosy—did feature both photographs and renderings of barenaked ladies, but the Good Parts were always obscured by gravity-defying appliqués or in-hand food items. (“They must look like that because they’re hungry.”)
- One of my pal’s father was a general surgeon, so we had access to medical manuals. Key information was typically restricted to small print and line drawings, but our grateful eyes fell upon the occasional in flagrante photo. This proved valuable, in the long run. The whole of my “birds and bees” indoctrination was a copy of Fighting Father Coughlin Speaks to Youth that showed up in my sock drawer around my 12th birthday, plus whatever other crap my two older brothers shoehorned into my head.
By the time the Internet rolled around, I was in my second marriage with two sub-teen boys. If you’re single or don’t have kids, you’ll have to take my word for this: even for the mildly curious, the opportunities for undisturbed sexual exploration online are limited, or end in futility. (If I’ve done nothing else for you in writing this, using “urolagnia” as your primary search term will provide some cover if the wife checks your browsing history.)
Okay. Clinically, urolagnia is any activity in which “sexual excitement is associated with the sight or thought of urine or urination.” It’s subclassified under paraphilia, which is broadly defined as “sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation and that may cause distress or serious problems for the paraphiliac or those associated with [him or her].” According to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), our subject has 548 neighbors. You can view the top 90 here. (“Homosexuality” was so classified until 1974, so factor that into your thinking.) No wonder shrinks are so expensive!
Handily, Wikipedia summarizes variations on the general theme:
- Desperation – The act of holding one’s own urine until the need to urinate is urgent, making another hold in their urine, or watching another person with an urgent need to urinate. (The Japanese variation on that last condition—omorashi—features folks who suffer “accidents” while clothed and uncoupled. This piqued my interest; I could save a ton on my BPH medication and get away with it. And, I hear they like diapers, so I’m set for 20 years down the road.)
- Voyeurism – Seeing another urinate without the person’s knowledge, either through videotaping by a hidden camera, or by lurking in locations where people are urinating or are likely to have an urge to urinate. Apparently, this interest in ding-a-lings other than his own cost Chuck Berry some serious coin.
- Clothes wetting – Becoming sexually aroused by wetting one’s clothing or observing another person doing so. Others get aroused by telling some people about when they lost control and wet themselves. Some prefer a particular type of clothing to urinate. Havelock Ellis, the British founder of modern sexology, was impotent until at age 60 he discovered that he was aroused by the sight of a woman urinating.
- Exhibitionism – Becoming noticeably desperate or wetting oneself with the express purpose of being seen by strangers. Practitioners have described going to public places such as a mall or a park. Some intend to create situations where others can see their wet clothing. Rockbitch, described by Wikipedia as an “expat, British, mostly female, Celtic punk/metal/goth band, best known for performing nude and incorporating sexual acts and Pagan rituals into their performances,” (Whew!) also carried this in their gig bags.
- Pussing – British expression for an activity involving a consenting couple where the male partner watches the woman urinate otherwise undetected in a semi-public place, usually a toilet cubicle at a pub, hotel, restaurant, theatre/cinema, office, club, etc. (Sadly, this classification appears suspect; Wikipedia has backed off, and an alleged web site devoted to it is a page on currency formulas—in Japanese. Well, those Brits are famous for their discretion. Now that the Summer Games brought them outside themselves, John and Jane Bull might be ready to partner up and hit the loos again.)
Popular terms among the hoi polloi for indoor irrigation include “golden showers”—straight-up sex adjunct; take a bow, Ricky Martin; “water sports”—usually involves humiliation or masochism;” and “piss/pee play.” Google these at your own risk. The friendliest professional summary I found is a blog post by British psychologist Dr. Mark Griffin, playfully entitled, “Urine demand—a beginner’s guide to urophilia.” His review of the literature leads him to conclude that “forced retention of bodily waste” as a child is a likely cause. Attention, Parents: When the kid says she’s gotta go, right now—STOP THE CAR. She’ll thank you for it, later—if she remembers to call. The little brat.
Best name ever for a self-anointed sexologist/urolagnia authority: Annie Sprinkle.
Though I left out names and links for the pathologically scary, Wikipedia’s list of suspects is interesting. James Joyce? Hitler? Brian Eno? Where R.Kelly falls on this continuum is open to question; Viacom has taken that video down. (Courtney Love has been wrongly accused; you’ll have to find another reason to continue hating her.)
There you have it; don’t shoot the messenger. Personally—I’m relieved.
So—urolagnia/urophilia: Cultural backwater or mainstream problem? Perhaps we can organize a nonprofit to break the surface and plumb its depths. Arise, America! We have nothing to lose but our laundry, cleaning, reupholstery bills—and our rubber sheets. Let’s see; yellow ribbons and hankies are already taken. Perhaps a tasteful little golden beaker…
Just so you know, I’m not going anywhere near coprophilia. That’s just disgusting.
*Thanks and a shout-out to Trevor at Every Woody Allen Movie for helping me remember which of his gems that scene is in.