Murder aside, You is a sexy show. Apart from Joe needlessly killing people, and the messy consequences that arise from it, You’s draw is how openly it discusses sex. From introducing swingers in season three to circulating viral photos of Victoria Pedretti mounting Penn Badgley on Twitter, sex has, inadvertently or not, become a main focus of You. With pressure to push out hotter, sexier content, producers answered the call with a dicey move this season, showcasing a kink not often seen in mainstream media: watersports.
In season four, Joe meets an eclectic group of socialites, ranging from social media icons to nepo babies galore. One of these high class debutants is Adam Pratt (Lukas Gage), a wealthy American living in London running an esteemed social club funded by his father’s money. Dating Phoebe Borehall-Blaxworth (Tilly Keeper), a bubbly British socialite within his circle, Adam harbors his watersports secret from everyone. Instead of engaging in the activity with his partner, Adam seeks external validation in the form of busboys he employs. The reasoning, he later reveals, is more complex than Phoebe may understand—as is often the situation with sexual kinks.
Watersports are, quite simply, a fancy term for “piss play.” It can be everything from a golden shower, where one person enjoys being peed on to a wider, all encompassing definition of incorporating pee for pleasure. Less underground than typically assumed, 4% of men and 3.5% of women in the UK have engaged in watersports; in America, the statistic may be even more common. Justin J. Lehmir writes in his book Tell Me What You Want that out of 4,175 people surveyed, 19% of straight men and 8% of straight women have fantasized about the act. In the queer community, roughly 40% of people have considered it on numerous occasions.
So why, exactly, is it popular?
People engage in watersports for a myriad of reasons, ranging from domination to humiliation according to many first hand accounts in Metro News. Specifically, in You, Adam’s reasoning relates back to the power dynamics he feels being peed on by someone who’s socioeconomic status is lower than his. This dom-sub relationship is common in watersports, where one person in real life may hold the power, the other may subvert that power in consensual, sexual settings.
Luna Matatas, a Toronto sex shop owner who runs an “Intro to Urine” class, expands on this point in Vice, noting that “Some people really enjoy it as a form of power play, they either want to give to a person that’s submitting to them or the person submitting to them wants to take it from their dominant as a sign of surrender.” She adds, “It’s the ultimate sign of submission, taking someone inside of you and taking their waste or their fluids inside of you.”
Often in the media, watersports are relegated to two categories, none of which recognize the kink for anything other than a point of ridicule. Whether used as a quick laugh in comedy skits or relied on more explicitly for shock in Team America, watersports are often sidelined in television and film for comedic value instead of engaged with as a legitimate kink. Following the 2017 Donald Trump controversy (well, one of them) with the alleged “pee tape”, negative connotations exploded surrounding watersports, with Twitter blowing up over jokes and late night hosts shrinking their nose at the disgusting act.
Even in 2023, people are still referring to it as “weirdo” behavior.
This type of public scrutiny over the act does, in fact, have a lasting impact on those engaging in it. As reported by the site Kynk 101, almost 100% of people who engage in watersports feel internal shame about it. Even in nonsexual settings, bladder control, and loss of other bodily functions, are weaponized as a gag for the shame surrounding it, as if going to the bathroom is not something we all naturally do.You tackling the subject head on, in a time when media doesn’t often embrace such a taboo topic, brings forth a discussion on how to utilize the oft common practice in safe settings.
Better yet, it showcases an extremely healthy way of how to discuss it with a partner.
When Phoebe finds out about Adam’s affairs behind closed doors, she has the opportunity to ridicule and humiliate him for the kink. Of course, part of the draw to watersports is humiliation, but that is more reserved for the act than the conversation surrounding it. Adam shies away from initially discussing which kink he’s into before realizing it’s more psychological than anything. Phoebe’s enthusiasm, willingness, and open-minded attitude grants Adam a safe space to talk about things before ultimately realizing the two might not work in the end.
The breakup may be inevitable, but both Adam and Phoebe have nothing but love for the other due, in part, from their willingness to face messy, wet, “embarrassing” kinks head on, the key to any relationship.
“Watersports can foster trust and intimacy,” says sex therapist Samantha Manewitz in Cosmopolitan. “There is vulnerability both in having a partner pee in your presence and allowing yourself to be peed on,”
You is leading the conversation about how we discuss sex both on, and off, screen. The visibility this recent season brought to lesser known kinks, as well as the discussion it’s inspired on Twitter about an actors’ boundaries regarding the matter, showcase the respect You showrunners have to handling such delicate matters. Sex is a precarious topic—it’s vulnerable, messy, and requires a level of intimacy in discussing what works between two partners. Especially with kink, where communication is paramount, it can be terrifying telling someone you love what works, and doesn’t, about your sexual relationship.
Luckily, You is helping with that.