Let’s be honest, even under the best circumstances, when you totally understand what you are doing and have taken all the safety precautions, BDSM can be daunting. When you add in stuff like penetrating body parts that aren’t typically penetrated, it can be daunting enough to scare you off entirely. That’s why today we are focusing on sounding.
Sounding is one of those activities where the name — unlike, say, “flogging” or “spanking” does not make it clear what is going on. Then, even when you find out what sounding actually entails (inserting things into the urethra) it can sound a little… worrisome. If you are sounding-curious, keep reading because we’re going to take some time to demystify urethral penetration and sounding. We’ll talk about exactly what is urethral sounding, what you need to know to keep it safe, and how you go about doing it when (or if) you are ready. Sound good? (see what I did there?) Then let’s get down to it!
WHAT IS URETHRAL SOUNDING?
I gave you a quick answer in the last section but let’s expand on that. First things first, what is the urethra? In simple terms, the urethra is the path that urine takes to exit the body. It’s a duct that carries the urine from the bladder. Additionally, for folks with penises, it can also carry semen. For folks with penises, the entrance to the urethra is at the tip of the penis (where urine and ejaculate come out) for folks with vulvas, the urethra is one of two openings in the vulva (the other being the vagina) and it is located between the vagina and the clitoris.
Urethral sounding is a form of sexual/BDSM play. It involves the participant inserting (or having a partner insert) a very thin rod, known as a “sound” into their urethra. Urethral sounding started out as a medical procedure intended to eliminate obstructions of the urethra or to expand or dilate the urethral opening after a stricture (that is any narrowing a bodily passage that can be the result of scar tissue or tumor growth). In the grand tradition of genital-related medical procedures (like vibrator use and prostate stimulation), sounding was found to be pleasurable for some, and a new sexual activity was born! The thin sounding rod or penis plug can be made of metal, silicone, glass but there is also a form of sounding that is done using fluid instead of a solid object. People who enjoy sounding cite its ability to heighten their sexual experience in terms of both sexual pleasure and satisfaction.
While sounding is popularly practiced by folks with penises, it can be done by anyone with a urethra. With that in mind, folks with vulvas who wish to try sounding should use shorter implements, or be very aware that their sound will need to be inserted shallowly – much less than someone with a penis. This is because of the difference in the length of the urethra.
URETHRAL SOUNDING SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Folks, I’m not going to lie to you, urethral sounding definitely comes with some risks. Among them: UTIs, tearing or cutting of the delicate urethral tissue, and, perhaps the scariest, potentially puncturing the bladder especially as the urethra comes with a curve that must be navigated during sounding.
So, now we know that injury or pain both possibilities (tbh, that is true about a whole lot of sexual activities!), so, what do you do if you experience them? Well, if during or after sounding you feel pain, lingering irritation (some, especially right after sounding is normal but if it’s still there two days a day or two later, that’s a problem) or if you have any bleeding at all, you absolutely, 100% need to consult a medical professional as soon as possible. NOTE: as embarrassing as it might be, when you see a medical professional for any sex injury at all, it is of the utmost importance that you are honest with them about exactly what happened. This is really the only way to ensure you get the help you need. Besides, no one is buying your “I fell penis-first onto a knitting needle” story anyway. Save everyone the time and frustration by just telling the whole truth.
Now that we know some of the risks, let’s talk about things you can do to keep your sounding experience as safe as it can be.
Get the right gear
Look, I get it, shopping for sex-specific products can be daunting as well as pricey. Sometimes it can be tempting to just find something else you have lying around the house that you could repurpose. But I mean this from the depths of my soul, this is NOT one of those times where you can pull that off (honestly, I don’t really advise people to do that in any situation). If you are going to try sounding you need to make sure you only use products designed for this exact purpose. To keep your sounding experience(s) safe, it is of the utmost importance that you use smooth, sterile, shatter-proof sounds.
Pay attention to the size of your sounds. Using one that is too thick could tear your urethra, while using one that is too thin makes it more possible that you might puncture your bladder. You don’t want to do either of those things. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to have multiple options on hand (sounds are often sold in sets) and to move very slowly. Also if, when inserting a sound, you feel any resistance at all, stop what you are doing.
It’s not an everyday thing
With some toys, like butt plugs for example, the body gets used to using them and can get comfortable doing it more often or with larger adult sex toys. This is not how the urethra works so, while there are no real rules or guidelines for how often is too often when it comes to sounding, I would say once a week at most.
Lube it up. Like, a lot.
We have already talked about the urethra being delicate and the potential to puncture or tear stuff during urethral play so now seems like a good time to talk about lube. You want to use it liberally. The urethra has no ability to self-lubricate so keep things safe and comfortable with lube. Water-based is your best bet, and a sterile lube is even better.
Keep it seriously clean
When it comes to sounding, there is no such thing as too clean. It’s a good idea to sterilize your sounds before you use them. You can do this by boiling them (in a pot, on the stove) for about 10 minutes before taking them out to cool and air dry. Additionally, you want to thoroughly wash your hands and your genitals before each session.
Leave your butt out of it
Butt toys like anal beads can often be a fun addition to genital play but this is not the case when it comes to sounding. Why? Having an anal sex toy inserted will actually shift your anatomy a little, pressing against part of the urethra and that will disrupt the path of your sound, and increase your risk for injury.
Bonus: for vulvas only.
I mentioned this earlier but I want to make sure I’m totally clear about it: If you want to try sounding and you have a vulva, please remember that your urethra is approximately 1.5 inches long. Compared to the urethra of someone with a penis which, because it runs the entire length of the penis and then some tends to be around 7 to 8 inches long, 1.5 inches is VERY short. With that in mind, please remember that the degree to which you insert a sound will be significantly less than it would be if you had a penis.
HOW TO URETHRAL SOUND SAFELY
We just spent a bunch of time talking about safety precautions so now let’s talk about applying those precautions and exploring sounding in a safe and (hopefully) satisfying way.
Proper preparation is a key component of safe urethral play and, frankly, it’s a good idea for any kind of sex play so take the time to take these steps:
- Sterilize your sounds before use. This may feel like a boring step that you are tempted to skip but do not do that. Keeping sounds very, very clean is a key component of safe use.
- While we are getting stuff clean, take the time to wash your hands and genitals with unscented soap. Additionally, consider using latex or nitrile gloves for extra protection when experimenting with sounding. This step is important because it lowers the risk of urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs can be triggered by having any dirt or bacteria that is on the hands or genitals pushed into the urethra by the sound, so make sure everything is as clean as possible.
- Find the position that works for you. Whether you want to lie down, sit, or stand (yep, you can engage in sounding from any of those positions), it’s important for you to be comfortable.
- Don’t be shy about using A LOT of sterile lube on the hands, genitals, and sounds.
- Get the genitals into position. For folks with penises this means flaccid or semi-erect – conducting urethral insertion on a fully erect penis would be both difficult and uncomfortable. For people with vulvas, it can be helpful to spread the labia to provide clearer access to the urethra.
Get it In
Whether you are inserting your own sound or have a partner doing it for you, try to relax. This is a time when deep breathing is a good idea, especially as the (thoroughly lubricated) sound is slowly and carefully inserted. It can be helpful to gently hold the urethral hole open while the other hand gently guides the sound into place.
We mentioned this earlier but, remember, If you feel pressure or resistance, or the sound is not going as deep as you want, switch to a smaller sound. Make sure you remove the larger sound gently and reapply lubricant. Do not push or force a sound when you encounter resistance.
Get it Moving
Now it’s time to explore. You can try gently (and in small increments) moving the sound in and out or changing angles. It can also be pleasurable to explore genital massage, using a vibrator, or even introducing vibration by having a partner hum on the exposed end of the sound.
But that’s not all! For folks with penises, stimulating the prostate is considered a big benefit of sounding. On its way from the penis to the bladder, the urethra crosses the prostate gland — this is called the prostatic urethra — and that means that sounding can deliver some pretty solid prostate stimulation. Feel free to explore that!
When you’re ready remove your sound, move slowly and gently, adding more lube if necessary. If you are removing the sound from a penis, make sure said penis is flaccid first.
Another “avoiding a UTI ” tip: it’s smart to urinate immediately after sounding to help flush out any bacteria as well as any lingering lube. You might feel a stinging or burning sensation which is totally normal immediately after sounding. If that sensation sticks around for more than a day, consult a doctor. To help prevent infection, you need to, once again, wash your sounds, your hands and your genitals. I also advise sterilizing your sounds before putting them away.
That’s the story on sounding! It’s a unique experience that definitely comes with some risks, but if you take the proper precautions — keep everything clean, move slowly, and use lots of lube — you can should have a safe and satisfying sounding experience.
Looking for some sounding gear? PinkCherry has a whole selection including sounds (even electrostimulation sounds!), electric sex toys, lube and a whole lot more to get you properly prepped to explore the wide world of sounding!