Urethral sounding is a form of sexual play that involves inserting a thin sex toy, known as a sound, into the urethra. In medical practice, this tube drains urine out of the bladder. Proponents of this sexual practice claim that it can help heighten sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction.

Originally, the practice of urethral sounding began as a medical procedure to help clear obstructions in the urethra or to help dilate, or expand, the urethra after a stricture. However, people began to practice this act for sexual gratification, using fluid or a glass or metal object.

Although some people may derive pleasure from urethral sounding, it can result in sexual health complications and severe damage to the urethra. As it is highly likely that people will require medical attention for subsequent issues, many urologists strongly recommend avoiding this sexual act.

In this article, we discuss urethral sounding in more detail, including why people do it, the benefits and risks, and how to perform it safely.

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The urethra is a slender tube that is primarily responsible for transporting urine from the bladder to an external opening in the genitals. Its anatomy varies slightly between males and females. In females, the urethra is roughly 1.5 inches (in) in length. In males, it is much longer at about 7–8 in, and it also helps transport semen.

Medically, a sound refers to an instrument that a medical professional places within a narrow passage, such as the urethra. They typically do this while a person is under anesthesia. Outside of this field, it can describe the sexual practice of placing a soft or rigid item into the urethra via the opening, called the urethral meatus. It can also refer to the injection of liquid along the canal for sexual arousal and pleasure.

Some people may use other terms to describe this sexual act, such as urethral play, catheter fetish, or cock-stuffing. Some may also call sounds other names, such as bougies. Sounds are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and configurations to meet various requirements.

People may practice recreational urethral sounding for sexual or erotic purposes. Infrequently, urology clinics encounter cases of retained foreign bodies, with a leading cause being autoerotic stimulation or sexual curiosity. Proponents suggest that the act is stimulating and can provide sexual pleasure, due to both the urethra being in a sensitive area and some viewing the act as taboo.

In males, the urethra passes through the prostate gland. If a person is able to insert a urethral sound deep enough, they may be able to stimulate the prostate, which some refer to as the P-spot. In female anatomy, evidence notes that the urethra passes through genital walls, which are dense with nerves. Some experts also consider the G-spot an excitable area along the length of the urethra.

As such, due to the sensitive placement of the urethra, some people may be able to achieve sexual stimulation and pleasure from the act of sounding.

Urethral sounding itself offers no specific health benefits and poses some health risks. However, proponents perform the act due to the potential sexual pleasure they may receive. A 2021 study notes that sexual activity can be beneficial for psychological health, and a 2016 study adds that sexual satisfaction can help improve quality of life.

A person may experience the following benefits from attempting urethral sounding:

  • exploration of their body and different sensations
  • a different sexual experience
  • stronger and longer orgasms
  • deeper intimacy and trust with a partner

However, it is worth noting that this sexual activity can cause damage to the urethra. Ideally, only a medical professional should perform sounding for health purposes in a safe and controlled environment.

Urethral sounding can be a safe practice if a person performs it correctly. However, most urologists advise that only experts should perform the act and that it should only serve as a medical procedure.

Proper sterilization before and after a sounding session is essential to reduce the likelihood of infections. Knowing the appropriate size of the sound or object and starting slowly and gently can also help prevent discomfort while sounding.

An older study highlights that recreational urethral sounding is associated with certain sexual behaviors — such as having multiple partners and unknown partners — and may increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Additionally, the Urology Care Foundation notes that side effects of urethral dilation can include bleeding and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Other sources point out the risks of urethral trauma and erection problems.

Another potential risk of sounding involves the object becoming lost or stuck, potentially making surgery necessary to extract the foreign body. This could put the person at risk of infection, injury, or trauma. Foreign materials present in the urethra may cause a person to experience:

  • pelvic pain
  • obstruction
  • hematuria, which is blood in the urine
  • dysuria, which is painful urination
  • changes to urinary frequency

Many urologists will emphasize that the risks of performing this act greatly outweigh any pleasure a person may experience. As such, they do not recommend that people perform urethral sounding. Additionally, they advise anyone who does attempt sounding to seek medical attention to address any health complications they will likely experience.

Most health experts advise against trying urethral sounding. However, those who insist on trying it can minimize the risks by taking the following steps.

Preparation

  • It is essential to clean and sterilize the urethral sounds in boiling water or betadine solution before use.
  • A person should thoroughly wash their hands and genitals with gentle, unscented soap. They can also use surgical gloves for added protection.
  • The individual should choose a comfortable position, which can be sitting, standing, or lying down.
  • It is advisable to apply lubricating gel to the genitals and sound.
  • People with a penis should insert a sound while the penis is flaccid, as it may be uncomfortable and difficult to apply a sound to a fully erect penis. For people with a vulva, opening the labia may provide greater access to the urethral opening.

Insertion

  • A person should try to relax before carefully and slowly inserting the lubricated sound. They can insert the sound by using one hand to open the urethral hole and the other to guide the sound gently inside.
  • It is essential not to force the sound if there is pressure or resistance.
  • If there is pressure or resistance, or the sound is not going as deep as a person would like, they can switch to a smaller sound. They can also gently remove the sound and add extra lube to it and the genital area.

Experimentation and exploration

Once the sound is inside, a person can explore what they find the most stimulating. This may involve gently moving the sound in and out in small increments or changing the angle of penetration. However, if a person experiences pain or significant resistance, they should stop. People may also try massaging the genitals, using a vibrator, or asking a partner to hum at the end of the device. Humming introduces vibrations, which may further enhance pleasure.

Removal

  • A person should gently and slowly remove the sound, using lube as necessary to prevent discomfort and pain. It is advisable for people with a penis to wait until it is flaccid before removing the sound.
  • It is best to urinate right away to flush out any lube or bacteria in the urethra. Although this may sting a little because of the irritation in the urethral wall, this discomfort is often temporary.
  • Thoroughly washing the sound, hands, and genital area is important for preventing infections. A person should also sterilize the sound and store it away properly to avoid contamination.

Some frequently asked questions about urethral sounding may include:

Does it stretch the urethra?

Potential stretching will depend on a person’s practice. Occasional sounding will not stretch the urethra. However, regularly performing sounding and increasing the size of the sound may cause the urethra to stretch.

Does it affect urination?

Practicing sounding safely lessens the chance of it having any long-term effects on urination. However, a person will probably experience irritation and stinging when urinating after a sounding session. It is important to note that even if a person performs the act safely, they still run the risk of potential scarring and damage to the urethra.

Who should not try it?

Urologists advise against urethral sounding outside of medical practice. However, those with an increased risk of experiencing potentially severe complications should take extra care to avoid the practice. These people include those with a history of urethral injury, frequent UTIs, or any condition affecting the prostate, such as prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

What if the sound gets stuck?

People should try to relax the genital muscles and apply more lube. If the sound is still stuck, they should immediately go to the emergency department and be honest with the medical team to receive prompt treatment.

Are male and female urethral sounding the same?

The process of urethral sounding for males and females is the same, although it may provide different sensations. As the female urethra is shorter, it can only accommodate smaller sounds.

Urethral sounding is a form of sexual play that involves placing foreign objects inside the urethra. Originally a medical procedure to dilate the urethra, proponents report that sounding can enhance pleasure and sexual satisfaction.

However, it is important to be aware of the numerous risks the act holds. Most urologists heavily advise against sounding due to the high risk of damage to the urethra and other health complications.

Safely performing the practice with sterile and appropriate sounds may help avoid potential problems, such as urinary tract complications. However, most health experts emphasize that it is a risky act that should not take place outside of medical practice.