A deep and juicy search on vaginal lubrication
Text: Anna Scholder
Image: Islay Kilgannon
‘Have you been sitting in the sun all day? Your cheeks are really red’, my co-worker said to me the other day. ‘Uh-huh’, I claimed and quickly walked on whilst trying to keep a straight face. Little did he know, that was far from the truth: I was turned on and horny after being fingered just before work. My phone buzzed and a message popped up. Are you wet?, it read. Uh-huh, I sure was.
One of the most well-known features about water: it gets you wet. It is also one of the cornerstones of life and, as I learned, makes up over 90% of my vaginal fluids. Who knew? And then again: what else could vaginal fluids consist of? I actually had to look up a lot of information for this article because, as it turns out, I do not know nearly enough about my own wetness. Which led me to the discovery of The Principles of Pleasure, a series dedicated to women’s pleasure, from which I gained much of my insight for this article. Without further ado, let’s dive into the wetness of my vagina. No need for raincoats, just a heads-up that I will be talking about personal experiences concerning sex and - amongst other things - my own vagina.
To tackle the first bump on the road: the vagina and the vulva are not the same thing. I’ll try to explain it as clearly as I can. When I talk about the vulva, I talk about the external genitalia between my legs. It is the area bounded by the pubis mound, the groyne and the anus. The vulva, also known as the pudendum, entails the urethra, the outer and inner labia, the clitoris (hood and head) and vaginal opening. The vagina, from the cervix to the external surface via the vulva vestibule, is a muscular, elastic tube.
Now that we have the anatomy part a bit (un)covered: time to talk about some functions and tasks of the vagina and vulva in relation to wetness. The vagina is a mucous membrane, meaning that the skin and tissue of a healthy vagina are always moist. Vaginal fluid is a rather general term that can be used to describe any fluid that comes out of the vulva. The kinds of fluid I will be discussing are discharge and arousal fluid.
Vaginal discharge has the task of removing dead cells and bacteria from the vagina and out through the vulva. This helps keep the vagina clean and sustains a healthy environment. Normal vaginal discharge can range in colour from clear to milky white. It mostly consists of water, salts and other organic compounds. Cervical fluid is a form of vaginal discharge. Also known as cervical mucus, it is a clear or gel-like fluid that is produced by the cervix.
Personally, my mother did not really include this in her sex talk she had with my sister and I. To spare you the details, I do have to give her some credit on ‘the talk’ as she had cut out little sperm cells and a uterus and started acting things out. She did emphasise that my vagina is a self-cleaning organ, discharge is normal and important, and stressed that we shouldn’t ever use soap whilst washing down under.
Arousal fluid however, she unfortunately forgot to mention. This is a different kind of fluid and occurs when the body senses sexual desire or attraction. During this process, there is increased blood flow to the genitals, including the vaginal walls, which causes fluid to pass through them and thus provides lubrication. Arousal fluid production increases during sexual activity, but during orgasm - the intense release of the sexual heightening from stimulation - arousal fluids increase even more. Some people experience genital contractions during orgasm to ‘squirt’ arousal fluid from the vagina. This is sometimes referred to as female ejaculation or squirting. This clear fluid is expelled from glands close to the urethra and is not the same as pee, though it is sometimes described as a peeing-sensation.
Which brings us to the question of where the wetness comes from. Most forms of vaginal wetness come from one of two places: Bartholin glands or the cervix. Bartholin glands are two small, pea-sized glands located just inside the vagina, on the inside of the inner labia. And the cervix – being the opening of the uterus – is located further in the vagina. The only information I got in school – or still remember receiving – was on male ejaculation, getting pregnant and STI/STD’s. We have a long way to go on reaching equality here, but that is not the exit we are taking for this article. For now, we stay on the highway and away from anatomy: let me chauffeur you on a journey through my brain and personal experiences.
What do I desire?
My own sexual experiences would have definitely benefited from knowing all of the above. It would have contributed to the realisation that my body was properly functioning. Knowing where wetness comes from and the how, why and when it increases, would have made some physical experiences much more comfortable. During previous sexual encounters with people I, for example, realised I was not really wet during sex, which can make experiences rather uncomfortable or unpleasant.
With my current bed partner, getting wet is luckily no issue. Not so long ago, we went for lunch. I had not seen them in a couple of weeks due to their holiday and our busy work schedules, so I was very excited to see them again. Over the most delicious vegan sandwiches, we caught up with our stories. When I leaned back in my chair and looked at them with a smile, they suddenly asked: ‘are you horny?’, a question that took me by surprise and took a while to answer. In all honesty, I had not thought about sex, but now that they mentioned it, I did feel an urge to hug and kiss them, in addition to the growing wetness between my legs.
So, naturally I wanted to know if they can tell if I’m in the mood. Can they tell when I’m aroused and into sex? The answer was: ‘yes, by your body language’. So, I asked them to elaborate and got the full answer. ‘The look in your eyes, the dimples in your cheeks, the angle of your head, you start to blush, the way you listen to me, your body temperature, you’ll wet your lips and I can go on some more... Most of the time it is a combination of those.’ Those are indicators for them that I’m into them and perhaps desire them. Desire is explained as sexual attraction to someone or something, with the added motivation to seek out sexual activity. Desire can come in two forms: spontaneous or responsive. And yes, there are times I see a person and immediately feel a connection resulting in an urge for tongue-wrestling. More often, however, my desire has to grow and be cultivated. Doing things that help me relax or feel turned on, further the growth of my desire.
Then what do I desire; what gets me turned on, I asked myself. It wasn’t until my bed partner had a mild pneumonia, causing their voice to drop almost an octave, I realised a major turn on for me: the tone of someone’s voice. In addition to voice, someone’s mind can get me turned on too: the way they think, talk or explain things are indeed sometimes very sexy. These realisations helped me discover ‘tools’ to use during solo-sex: audio-porn. I am most certainly not a fan of porn, for I am of the opinion that it is a female-unfriendly entertainment industry that undermines genuine, healthy and pleasurable sexual encounters. That being said; I have found an app – Dipsea – that offers female-friendly audio narrated stories of sexual encounters. They focus on storytelling and market themselves as ‘an app for Sexy Stories, Sleep Scenes, and Wellness Sessions designed to turn you on’. For me this app works: listening to these stories or to someone talking during sex helps me get in the mood. It also ensures my brain has something to focus on.
In over my head
This brings us to my biggest hindrance during sex: my own brain. The brain is a very complicated organ and plays, next to the reproductive organ, a big role when it comes to wetness. After four years of being sexually active, I have definitely figured out I need my brain to be somewhat empty and my mind to be present and in the moment for me to enjoy the sex. That sometimes takes a while and can be challenging. My mind very quickly starts wandering to other places. I’ll see something on a wall and off my thoughts go, on a journey of their own. Or perhaps even worse: I’ll become so aware of my own body during sex, I start performing it. This may sound weird but have you ever thought: ‘[i]I wonder how this looks, how does the other person see my body[/i] or [i]am I doing it right? Should I make different sounds[/i]?’ whilst having sex with someone? You get in your own head and start watching or judging yourself. This phenomenon is called spectatoring. Whenever that happens to me, I find it very difficult to slip out of it. My current bed partner does notice when it happens. They sometimes stop to ask what is going on or check if I´m alright. I was, indeed, alright. But my thoughts were all over the place. After a later sex-session, we ended up talking about what we think about during sex. Throughout this talk I came to the realisation that I still find certain revelations uncomfortable to share. Perhaps it is because I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone’s feelings or think they might find me weird. So, with somewhat crimson cheeks, I for the first time mentioned to them that my thoughts sometimes wander off, to the most random of places. I could end up thinking about fantasies or other people and previous sexual experiences. And sometimes I’ll be writing an essay, making a grocery list or analysing the bedroom in my head. They noticed my discomfort and in an attempt to put me at ease shared their thoughts too, resulting in me being turned on by their brain and fantasies once more.
My mind wandering to other places or my body running ahead of my brain indicates a dissonance or disagreement between the body and the mind. This is called sexual discordance. Desire, pleasure and genital response are three separate things. Ideally they should be overlapping or aligned, yet that is not always the case. This realisation took me a while and to be honest, I still find it difficult and frustrating to come to terms with. To me, this dissonance only seems to occur when I am with someone rather than when I am alone. I know what I like and my mind does not seem to wander off as much whilst masturbating. So in order to better understand my own body, I watched an online workshop on masturbation and yoni massage. I was completely mesmerised and sat at my kitchen table with a flushed face. The yoni massage focuses not only on the vulva but also on the mind. Breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises help get your body and mind more aligned and relaxed; practices I’m now trying to master in my bedroom.
So, as the exercise goes; relax, breathe in and out. Although it might get slippery along the way, you will gain so much if you go on your own discovery-journey. No one’s road is the same, but go explore, learn and try in a personalised and comfortable way. I have for sure never been more satisfied with digging deep and will definitely keep on uncovering along the way.