When you think about orifices on the human body that can be penetrated sexually, there's probably a pretty limited number of holes that come to mind. The vagina, sure. The mouth, absolutely. The butthole, certainly. But have you ever considered the urethra?
If you're cringing just reading that, don't worry; you're not alone. The idea of urethral sounding – that is to say, inserting a long probe into the urethra for sexy purposes – is off-putting to plenty of people, because many of us associate that area with (at best) peeing, and (at worst) pain from UTIs, or catheterization while in hospital.
But the forbidden nature of urethral penetration is exactly what draws a lot of people to it. Much like anal sex, it's a way of sexually stimulating a hole that was not evolutionarily "meant" to be used in that way, but that nonetheless has a ton of sensitive nerve endings to tickle and tease.
Sounding can be done in conjunction with other sex acts, such as handjobs or using a vibrator, to intensify sensations even further. For example, stroking someone's penis up and down while there is a sound inside it can make an otherwise normal handjob into a sadomasochistic experience, while holding a vibrator against the protruding end of a sound will cause the vibrations to reverberate through the urethra, a unique sensation that has to be experienced to be understood.
When done on penises, sounding also has the benefit of allowing you to penetrate an organ that often does the penetrating. This can be subversive in a really hot way, whether you enjoy it for kinky reasons, gender euphoria reasons, "disrupting the sexual status quo" reasons, or all of the above.
Some people also find that sounds can stimulate the prostate or G-spot at certain angles and depths, giving you new ways to enjoy erogenous zones you may already be familiar with.
If your interest is piqued by the idea of getting off in a whole new way, read on for details about sounding and the rods that are used to do it!
What are sounding rods?
Sounding rods, also known as urethral sounds, are long probes, usually made of metal, that are designed to be inserted into the urethra. Medically, these are sometimes used by doctors to dilate the urethra so that the bladder can be accessed more easily during surgical procedures, or to help dislodge foreign objects that have gotten stuck up there.
However, as with many medical implements, sounds have been co-opted by many sexually adventurous people for kinky exploration, and are sold at many sex shops and specialty kink shops.
Hegar sounds are the most common and beginner-friendly type of urethral toy. These usually come in a set, containing multiple different sizes, so that you have options to choose from when trying to find the most comfortable and pleasurable sound(s) for your particular body.
Rather than being entirely straight, Hegar sounds usually have a subtle curve to them, which allows them to be inserted more comfortably. (Check out Wintersong Tashlin's article on the subject for more detailed information on how to do this. You may also want to watch their video series on KinkAcademy if you're a visual learner.)
People with more sounding experience may want to branch out into using different types of sounds. For instance, "rosebud"-style sounds are flared at the tip, creating an interesting stretching/popping sensation as the toy is moved in and out. There are also sounding toys that incorporate vibration and/or electrostimulation for an added level of intensity.
Using "makeshift" sex toys, or household objects repurposed as sex toys, is almost always a bad idea, but would be especially disastrous in the case of sounding because of the unique risks involved (see below). So if you're curious about this kinky act, invest in a proper set of stainless steel sounds, even if you have to save up for a while. No quick thrill is worth giving yourself an internal injury or infection for.
What are the risks of sounding, and how can they be avoided?
Sounding is a pretty risky activity, and requires preparation and knowledge in order to be done more safely. After all, it involves inserting a pointy object into a hole that's not really meant to be penetrated by anything other than a stream of urine!
Some of the more severe risks of sounding include perforation or tearing of the urethra and other internal injuries, as well as urinary tract infections that can spread to the bladder or kidneys. On the milder end of the spectrum, you may experience urethral irritation during or after sounding, which can result in a burning sensation when you pee. This is normal, but if it persists, it may be a sign of an infection and would warrant a visit to your doctor to get treated before the infection spreads.
The most important precaution to take when sounding is to use tools and lubricants that are medically sterile, meaning that they won't introduce bacteria into your urethra. A sterile surgical lubricant, such as Surgilube, is a must-have for sounding, and can be ordered online. (Sex educator Wintersong Tashlin has more detailed recommendations in their blog post on the subject.)
As for the sounding rods themselves, you'll want to keep those sterile by disinfecting them between uses with rubbing alcohol or similar.
Is sounding only for people with penises?
People with vulvas can be sounded as well, but this is less common because there is a heightened risk of urinary tract infections compared to people with penises.
The urethra is also much shorter in people with vulvas, so there is less room in which to play.
Urethral sounds are a great example of humankind's continual inventiveness in the sexual realm. We constantly push the limits of what's possible – and what's pleasurable – in pursuit of new ways to get it on, alone or together. On an individual level, this can allow us to feel more in touch with our bodies and more empowered in our sex lives.
It's important to do your research on the best practices, health- and safety-wise, for any new kink you delve into – especially those that carry a high degree of risk, like sounding. But if you've armed yourself with the necessary knowledge and are prepared to take some risks in order to potentially access new heights of pleasure and excitement, then sounding might be exactly what you're looking for.