A lot of BDSM activities have names that leave absolutely no doubt that they are kinky AF. Names like “cock and ball torture”, “electrostimulation”, “breast torture”, or “mummification” all sound like things that fall outside the realm of the typical sexual activity. Other BDSM stuff is a bit more cryptic: “sensory deprivation”, “cupping”, and “sounding” to name a few. Today we are going to demystify one of those mysteriously named activities: we are going to be taking a good hard look at something called sounding! Urethral sounding, to be specific.
What is urethral sounding?
First stop, let’s talk about what sounding is, exactly. Sounding or urethral sounding is a type of sexual/BDSM play where the participant has a very thin rod, known as a “sound” inserted into their urethra. A sound can be made of metal, silicone, or glass. Sounding can also be performed using fluid. This is most often practiced by folks with penises, though anyone with a urethra can do it (folks with vulvas should be aware that if they want to try sounding they should be using a shorter implement than their penis-having counterparts would). People who enjoy sounding cite its ability to heighten their sexual experience in terms of both pleasure and satisfaction.
Urethral sounding started out as a medical procedure that was typically performed to help eliminate obstructions of the urethra or to expand or dilate the urethra after an urethral stricture (that is any narrowing a bodily passage that can be the result of scar tissue or tumor growth). As happens with many genital-related medical procedures (prostate stimulation also got its start this way!), people realized sounding could be pleasurable and thus began to do it for sexual gratification.
Why do people enjoy urethral sounding?
So, why do people engage in sounding? Basically, because it feels good and they like it.
If we want to dig a bit deeper, some folks get a kinky kick out of the taboo of penetrating something that typically is not penetrated. Additionally, for couples who engage in sounding together, there is a sense of vulnerability that comes with the act of allowing someone to penetrate your urethra. This can be especially true for cis-gender heterosexual men, who may not have much experience with being penetrated.
It’s not all about the emotional type of feelings though, there can also be very pleasurable physical sensations that come with sounding. Some find that when used in conjunction with other sexual activities like masturbation, blow jobs, hand jobs, or even simply moving the sound in and out, sounding can create a more intense experience and lead to a more powerful orgasm. But that is not all! For folks with penises, stimulating the prostate gland is considered a big benefit of sounding. On its way from the penis to the bladder the urethra crosses through the prostate gland — this is called the prostatic urethra — so sounding can deliver some pretty solid prostate stimulation.
There is one more reason folks might enjoy sounding and this one is a bit more of a BDSM thing: it can be a very effective form of power play giving the dominant partner the power to control when (or even, if) a submissive partner with a penis will get an erection and then, even if they are allowed to have an erection, it might be uncomfortable.
In short, there are a whole lot of different reasons why people might enjoy sounding. Now that we know that, Let’s get into some of the nitty gritty nuts and bolts facts about urethral sounding.
Tools for Urethral Sounding
Now, what we have talked about so far mostly relates to long metal or glass tools called “sounds” and while they are very important in this conversation (and will actually come up later in this section) they aren’t the only things available to folks who want to insert things into the urethra. Here are a couple of tools that can be used for sounding.
Made from silicone or metal, penis plugs are used for shallow insertion into the urethral opening, concentrating most of the sensations in and around the head of the penis. They tend to be no longer than 1 to 2 inches insertable and they typically have a T-shaped base or an O-ring at their top. This prevents them from being inserted too deeply (because, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this but things can get lost in the urethral tract, requiring medical intervention). Penis plugs are available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses and some are even hollow so one can urinate or ejaculate through them, making them ideal for long play sessions or even wearing as you go about your typical day.
Designed to stimulate the end of the penis, sperm stoppers belong to a category of fetish products known as chastity devices. A sperm stopper attaches onto the penis externally and features a metal ball that is inserted at the end of the urethra which is located at the tip of the penis.
As you have probably surmised, sperm stoppers are designed to prevent the wearer from ejaculating. That said, it can still be possible for someone who is wearing one to ejaculate. While sperm stoppers can stimulate the tip of the penis, many wearers cite the psychological torture aspect of not being able to ejaculate as the biggest benefit.
Okay, so now we are back to the urethral sounds. These are the long thin rods that we most typically associate with urethral play. They are often made of steel but can also be made with glass or silicone. Their trademark shape makes for safe urethral plug insertion. Technically sounds can be used by people of any gender but it is important to know that for folks with vulvas, the urethra is significantly shorter than it is for folks with penises so if someone with a vulva wants to explore urethral plug sounding, they would only have to insert a sound a very small amount to experience sexual pleasure comparable to what one might experience by inserting a sound down the entire length of the penis.
With all that in mind, sounds are often quite long as they are designed to reach the base of the penis and the inner prostate. Additionally, a urethral sounding rod tend to be a bit weighty and that is important as it allows gravity to help them slide gently into place as opposed to being forced down the urethra.
Okay, so now that we know about the tools, let’s talk about how exactly you go about using them!
How does urethral sounding work?
Okay, we have gone over a bunch of stuff but you might still be thinking “that’s all great but how to urethral sound, exactly?” and so that’s what we’re talking about next. Here are some steps to take to have a safe and pleasurable sounding experience:
This one has multiple steps but trust me, it’s worth putting in the time to properly prep.
- Clean and sterilize the sounds with the right sex toy cleaner before you try to use them. This is a vital step in the process so please don’t skip it.
- You also want to thoroughly wash your hands and genitals before sounding. Remember, any dirt or bacteria that is lingering on your hands or genitals could be forced into the urethra during sounding and that can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI) and wounds can even cause urethral stricture. Be sure to use unscented soap and consider wearing latex or nitrile gloves for some extra protection.
- Find a comfortable position. You can explore sounding from a sitting, standing or lying down position so feel free to pick whatever one works best for you.
- LUBE. Seriously, use a lot of it, and be sure it’s water-based, please. Lube up the sounding tools and your/their genitals. Sterile lubricant is recommended.
- Folks with penises should be flaccid or semi-erect. Trying to insert a sound into 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 female urethra.
The person who is having the sound inserted should try to relax and take some deep breaths before slowly and carefully inserting the lubricated sounding rod. To ease the process, it can help to use one hand to hold the urethral opening wider while the other gently guides the sound into place.
If you feel pressure or resistance, or it is not going as deep as is desired, please do not force the sound and take a break, or switch to a smaller sound. Make sure you remove the larger sound gently and reapply lubricant.
Once the sound is in position, you can explore what feels good. You can try gently moving the sound in and out (in small increments please) or trying different angles (again, stop if you feel pain or resistance). 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.
When you are ready to remove the sound, be sure to avoid discomfort by doing it slowly and gently and also adding more sterile lube if necessary. For folks with penises, it’s a good idea to wait until the penis is completely flaccid before attempting removal.
Much like after sex, it’s a good idea to urinate immediately after sounding. This can help flush out any bacteria as well as any lingering lube. Be warned, it might sting, because sounding can irritate the walls of the urethra. This should be temporary. If the burning sticks around for more than a day, it’s important to consult a doctor.
Finally, wash everything. The sounds, the genitals, your hands, wash it all. This will help prevent infection. Additionally, it is a good idea to sterilize your sounds before putting them away.
Is urethral sounding safe?
Urethral sounding comes with some definite risks including urinary tract infection (UTI) and tearing or cutting of the delicate urethral tissue. Additionally, there is a chance of puncturing the bladder while trying to navigate the curve of the urethra. It is of the utmost importance that you use smooth, sterile, shatter-proof sounds.
Also, if you get injured or experience pain, irritation, or bleeding please go see a doctor and (this part is very important) be honest with them about how you were hurt. That might sound incredibly embarrassing but it really is the only way to ensure you get the help you need.
Tips for safer sounding
With that last section in mind, let’s go over some tips for keeping you as safe as possible while you experiment with sounding.
Be very aware of the size of your sound.
If it is too thin, you run the risk of puncturing the bladder (if it slips too far), but if it’s too thick, you are at risk of tearing the urethra. Both of those options are terrible. When you are experimenting with sounding, be like Goldilocks, not too big, not too small. And one more time, if you feel any resistance when inserting a sound, do NOT try to push past it.
Don’t overdo it.
When it comes to how often you should engage in sounding, there’s no hard and fast rule but, generally speaking, it’s probably a good idea to keep it to once a week at most. Some body parts stretch and adapt, allowing you to use bigger adult sex toys over time but the urethra doesn’t really have that same adaptability and sounding is not something it will adjust to over time.
It’s different if you have a vulva
We’ve talked about this a bit already but I want to make sure that we are very clear on the fact that if you are curious about sounding and you have a vulva, the degree to which you insert a sound will be significantly less than it would be if you had a penis. Someone with a penis has a urethra that is about 7-8 inches long (because it runs the whole length of the penis) someone with a vulva, on the other hand, has a urethra that is approximately 1.5 inches long. It’s a huge difference!
Unlike, for example, the vagina, the urethra does not self-lubricate so please be liberal with the sterile lube.
Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene.
This is not a time you want to cut corners on cleanliness. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and your genitals before each session. Additionally, it is a great idea to sterilize your sounds. 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.
With sex play, it can sometimes feel like more is more. If you like that vibrator, wouldn’t inserting a butt plug make it feel even BETTER? This is a time when that is definitely NOT the case. It might be tempting to insert your favorite anal plug or anal beads while you explore sounding but resist that urge. Having an anal toy inserted will actually shift your anatomy a little, pressing against part of the urethra and that will disrupt the path of your sound.
So there you have it folks, everything you need to know about putting things inside your urethra! Remember to wash up, lube up, go slow, and above all, have fun!
If you are curious about sounding, take a look at PinkCherry’s selection! They’ve got sounds, electrostimulation sounds, electric sex toys, lube and a whole lot more to get your sounding adventure started!