The sticky issue of lubrication

Inspiration for this post comes from two sources:

1) a conversation with a friend who admitted that, despite being a nurse and thus educated about the variability of the human body, was too embarrassed to talk to her long term boyfriend about using lubricant. She was experiencing a little vaginal dryness, but rather than talk to him about it she decided it was just easier to avoid sex.

2) a certain amount of controversy over the new Cardi B song WAP (Wet-Ass Pussy) feat. Megan Thee Stallion.

American conservative commentator Ben Shapiro trended on Twitter after commenting “My only real concern is that the women involved get the medical care they receive. My doctor wife’s diagnosis: bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection or trichomonis [sic].”

Firstly, he can get in the sea. Getting wet when aroused is not a medical condition and absolutely does not mean there is anything wrong with you.

Secondly, porn isn’t real life. So if you aren’t getting as wet as you might like to, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with you either. If you’re experiencing discomfort during or after sex then it’s worth getting checked out by your GP. But there are lots of reasons that your body may not respond physically even when you’re mentally or emotionally aroused. Stress, illness and certain medications can all contribute to vaginal dryness.

Also, while we’re on the subject: female ejaculate is NOT urine and should absolutely not be considered extreme pornography. [1]

When I’m well, I’m fortunate that lubrication is not a problem for me, and I’ve never yet had a sexual partner complain. Rest assured, they’d find themselves swiftly booted from the bedroom if they did. However, I spent almost a decade dealing with vaginal dryness due to my illness and during that period I would have been significantly more uncomfortable without lubricant.

The best recommendation I received was from a consultant who provided me with a sample of Yes! Organic Intimacy gel. I use the water based variety (it’s condom and toy safe!) but best of all it actually works to rehydrate vulval tissue, soothing dry skin and reducing the risk of injury. During periods where my autoimmune disorder was particularly bad I would use it every night to rehydrate my skin and prevent tearing. Without it, there were days when I wouldn’t even have been able to get dressed in the morning. My skin was so dry and thin that even the pressure of my underwear could tear it.

Back to my nurse friend: she’s experiencing periodic dryness and is too embarrassed to discuss using lube with her partner. She’s worried that he’ll take it personally, that he’ll think she isn’t turned on, or that it will emasculate him. Do people really think this way? Surely anything that makes sex more fun for everyone involved is a good thing?

Maybe years of being in a polygamous, bdsm relationship have just made me really, really open about sex. Discussing comfort and preferences and pleasure is something that I’ve had a lot of practise with, and people in monogamous vanilla relationships may not have had that experience.

IMO this anxiety about vulval health and function is an example of why we need more comprehensive sex education, including discussion of pleasure and human variability. Too many people, especially young women, drive themselves crazy worrying whether they’re “normal”. Are they too wet? Not wet enough? Labia too big? Too hairy? Does it smell? [2]. I feel like a lot of anxiety could be avoided if we were more honest about our bodies and less prudish about non sexual nudity. Bodies come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes and most of them are absolutely, wonderfully normal.

I would be really interested to find out if cultures that have less shame around nudity have quite such a problem with body image issues. Maybe if young men and women got to see a wider variety of bodies, not just perfect porn bodies and air brushed models, they’d be a little more gentle on themselves.

[1] I am not over this decision from 2014, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

[2] Put down the femfresh. A healthy vagina does not smell fishy or bad. Neither does it smell like flowers. It just smells like vagina. Like it’s supposed to. You don’t need a douche and you don’t need special soaps. Warm water on the outside is fine.

Published by QuirkyCnt

I've spent 10 years living with chronic pelvic pain. Vulvodynia, vestibulodynia, vaginismus - I've got the set. I've even got lichen planus, which is an autoimmune disorder, and adenomyosis. This blog documents my experience with chronic pain, sexual dysfunction and all the ways I've tried to manage it. Expect fetish clubs, polygamy and explicit conversations about sex and sexuality.

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