“Sounding? What is that, do you dabble in music on the side?” —Me
“No, SOUNDING. Have you not heard of it? I enjoy sticking things up my urethra. Swizzle straws work great when masturbating. I used to have a metal insert I wore until I lost it, but with a partner I enjoy a pinkie finger” —My Date
These words came in an accented voice of an Oxford-educated Brit who took me out for tea last year. Of all the odd experiences I listed in my Top 10 Weird Experiences on OkCupid List, this one elicited the most reader response, so I shall elaborate.
Firstly: Don’t let the posh accent fool you; the British know how to wave their freak flags higher than the Union Jack. They just also have manners and can be initially rather reserved. So if on the third date, after they’ve finished their tea and moved on to beer, they confess, “I’m into sounding,” it can understandably catch you off-guard. This gentleman had a bit of an edge stylistically, so I knew there was more than meets the eye. As I watched the thirty-something enjoy an egg tea with the most impressive utensil use, I sensed those deft utensil skills were used for more than enjoying an innocent tea.
As a sex blogger who has images of pink butt plugs appear if you Google her, I thought I had heard of nearly every kink, but this one was new. As he confessed, I looked down at my pinkie finger. Initial memories associated with this man and my pinkie were wondering if I should indeed stick it out delicately out as I sip my tea, and now he wanted me to stick it up his penis. While I am of the mindset that if it is safe and consensual between two adult humans, any sexual practice should be acceptable, I am also OCD and worry frequently about health and safety. One summer back in college, I had an UTI that grew so bad I peed blood, so when learning about urethra play I wondered, Is that even safe? So I called sexologist Dr. Michael DeMarco, Ph.D to get some expert advice.
Sounding (or the more blunt “cock-stuffing”) is the practice of inserting objects up your urethra. It is used for medical reasons, such as a catheter, but is also a sexual fetish. Yes, apparently it burns and is painful, especially at first, but as with many S&M practices, much of the pleasure is derived from pain, naughtiness, and taboo of the practice—the whole “you’re not supposed to put that there!” turn on. Women can be “sounders” as well, but for the purpose of limiting this tale to my own experience, I’ll only speak of how dudes practice.
“The problem with putting anything at all into your penis is that there’s a risk of infection and damage. I’ve had more than one guy tell me they bled for a few days afterwards, and quite a few guys tell me they gave themselves an infection (as proven by getting a greenish discharge akin to gonorrhea),” says Dr. DeMarco.
Perhaps the most common and safest device used is a sterile metal rod, known as a “sound” hence where the term “sounding” is derived from. Professionals at speciality piercings shops (like my former friend mentioned he visited) can apply a metal rod to be inserted and worn around and taken out as you please. Sounding rods can also be purchased at speciality sex stores or online. Over time, you can expand the girth and length of the rod, as your urethra stretches. As one can imagine, lube is highly recommended in this practice. (Real lube, not prison lube. Spit dries too quickly.) Metal rods, as opposed to anything made of glass (not sure about swizzle straws) should be used as they have a smaller risk of breaking once inserted (yikes) and are easiest to sanitize.
There are health risks involved in sounding, the most common being urinary tract infections, if whatever you are sticking up there is not properly cleaned. There is also a risk of bleeding from tearing the urethra, which is why it is recommended to start small with smooth metal sounds. From the pinkie finger request, I got the impression my date was not exactly a clean freak or too concerned about UTI risks, although he was rather offended that I did not finish the salad that accompanied my Scottish Eggs I had ordered during our meal together.
“The only advice I have is to find proper equipment and keep it sterile. Use silicon lube. Do a lot of research online, and have a urologist on speed-dial. And by all means if you’re in any amount of pain afterwards, or find any sort of discharge in your underwear, especially when you wake up in the morning, then go to your doctor and be ready to be honest about your sexual activity,” says Dr. DeMarco.
The manner my date described it, through masturbation with a swizzle straw, or jabbing a pinking finger with a partner into the urethra unwashed, could lead to tearing or an UTI, so if it is something you are interested in, practice safely. (Take it from me: Peeing blood from an UTI is very, very painful, and if untreated can spread to your kidneys.) As the Brit touched upon with his swizzle straw experiences, sounding is also a form of masturbation. Confirming the apparent self-enjoyment of the practice, Dr. DeMarco elaborated: “I’ve heard it described as masturbating from the inside out.”
My relationship with the sounding Brit never extended past the third date. No emotions or orgasms were exchanged—not because I did not share his fetish (with the right person I am incredibly open-minded); we simply weren’t the right fit. Although, according to him, my pinkie finger would be.
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