If You're Wet 'Down There,' You're Turned On -- And Other Myths About Vaginal Wetness

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy, Polina Raevskaya/Keith Hardy/Unsplash and mheim3011/Getty

OK, I’ve got a pet peeve I need to share with y’all. Here goes. I absolutely cannot stand the assumption that how “wet” a vagina-owning person gets during sex tells you anything about how turned on they are.

There, I said it. I feel so much better now.

“But wait a sec,” you might be asking. “Isn’t wetness the first thing that tells you that you’re turned on? Isn’t it the signal that things are heating up in our downstairs? Are you denying that wetness happens during sex, and that it’s fucking hot?”

Yes, wetness can be totally hot, and yes, many of us get wet when we are turned on. I’m with you on that. But here’s the rub (sorry, had to)… sometimes you can be really wet and not feel sexy at all. Or you can also feel turned on and not be particularly wet. Anyone born with a vagina knows what I’m talking about.

The whole thing can get confusing as heck, especially because our sexual partners might mistake our wetness as being turned on when we actually aren’t, or our lack of wetness as meaning that we aren’t into sex, when we really are!

Of course, sometimes the stars align and we are wet and ready, but it’s not always that way – not in the way that most of the available erotica we might read or view would lead us to believe.

Now, before I go any further, I’m going to give you a crash course in vaginal and vulvar wetness. Ready?

Basically, the vagina is always a little wet – wetness is necessary to keep things clean and fresh, and to promote a healthy bacterial balance. The majority of our vaginal wetness comes from fluid leaving the cervix, and the volume and consistency of this fluid is largely controlled by hormones. For those of us with regular menstrual cycles, our wetness changes throughout the month – sometimes dramatically so.

According to Healthline, you are usually in a dryer phase right after your period. During ovulation, you are likely to produce the most cervical fluid, and it’s usually very slippery. Some women produce so much cervical fluid during ovulation that it leaks into their underwear and makes their vulva very wet. After ovulation, the amount of cervical fluid you produce decreases, and becomes thicker.

Sexual arousal does increase your wetness, but these fluids are entirely different than those that come from your cervix and vagina. The majority of your arousal wetness comes from your Bartholin’s glands, which are located on either side of your vulva. Bartholin’s glands secrete fluid when you are turned on, though this amount can vary quite a bit from one person to another – and how much your produce has little do with how turned on your are.

The Skene’s glands, located near the urethra also secrete fluids during sex, and are the ones thought to be responsible for “squirting,” though there really isn’t a whole lot of solid research on this phenomenon as of yet – and it’s not yet known if all women even have Skene’s glands.

Additionally, our vaginas “sweat” sometimes, according to Healthline. This definitely happens during sexual arousal, as our genitals become engorged with blood. But it can also happen at other random times, like when our bodies are sweating from increased temperature, exercise, or stress.

Clearly, there is a correlation between sexual arousal and wetness, but there are a whole lot of other factors at play here – and I would argue that our overall vaginal wetness has more to do with factors other than sex. I don’t know about you, but where I am in my menstrual cycle has a whole lot more to do with my vaginal wetness than anything else. When I’m ovulating, I’m like a damn faucet.

So why I am so up in arms over this issue? Shouldn’t I just let people talk about how “wet and turned on” they are and let them enjoy sex as they see fit? Yes, totally. You do you. I’m not here tell you how to enjoy yourself between the sheets.

But I think the problem is that so many of us don’t communicate well with each other when it comes to sex. So, if there’s misinformation out there about how sex is “supposed” to work, and how our bodies are supposed to react to it, it can be difficult to communicate our needs and be in touch with our own sexual feelings.

And in the arena of “wetness = turned on,” there’s a whole lotta misinformation floating around.

For example, if you are with a partner who thinks that vaginal wetness means sexual arousal in every single instance, they might misread your signals or move too fast. Or you may become confused by your own body, wondering why you are flowing with wetness and not feeling turned on in the least … or why you are dry, but incredibly turned on.

You might wonder if something is wrong with you if your vaginal wetness and your sexual excitement aren’t in alignment. You might feel embarrassed about asking to take things slow, or to lube up when necessary (never skimp on lube when you need it!).

I love this advice from sexologist Celeste Holbrook, in an interview with Refinery29: “The best indicator of whether or not you’re aroused is whether you feel like you’re aroused, not necessarily whether or not you’re wet.”

Yes, yes, and YES.

I think that advice could be applied to most aspects of sexuality, when you think about it. It’s how we feel inside that matters. No one else besides us can tell us if we are into something sexually or not. That’s also why so important have an open style of communication with our sexual partners when it comes to what we like, how we are feeling, and how turned on we are.

So go out there and enjoy all the sex you want – wet, dry, lubed, whatever. It’s all normal. It’s all good. When you are in touch with your body and communicate your needs to your sexual partners, it’s all HOT AF.

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