The Science of Wetness
I remember one of my earlier hookups was with a rather strange looking fellow with a red beard and Albert Einstein glasses. He was young and clearly didn’t know anything about female pleasure yet. We kissed for (tops!) 2 minutes and then he put his hand down my pants, excitedly exclaiming how wet I was. Instinctively, I responded, “I am?” wondering how that happened. They can’t all be winners right? But this experience was one that propelled me into researching female sexuality in the hopes of understanding my own body.
To me, wetness meant arousal, so when I got home from the hookup (if you can call it that) I did some research regarding how on earth I was wet from that rather boring and unarousing hookup. I found that a lot of the time when people say how wet women are, they are actually commenting on their cervical fluid discharge, which has nothing to do with arousal.
A study by UpToDate found that most women dispense just under one teaspoon (2-5mL) of cervical fluid a day. The consistency and amount of this fluid changes depending on the stage of the woman’s menstrual cycle, and doesn’t have anything to do with arousal, but instead to do with keeping the vulva healthy.
Cervical fluid is different from arousal fluid, which is the moisture that is released
when a person becomes sexually aroused after blood rushes to the genitals. For women, the extra blood leads the whole area to swell. With the pressure on the genitals, moisture seeps through the vaginal walls often leading the vulva to become wet.
Getting wet when aroused is helpful, as it can enable painless penetration without vaginal tearing. However, just like we discussed how being wet doesn't mean you are turned on, women also don’t always become wet when they are aroused.
There are many factors that impact the relationship between production of arousal fluid and psychological arousal, which is the feeling of being turned on and excited. Levels of estrogen, mental state, age, foreplay, the medication you are on (including birth control) can all impact how (arousal) wet you get in a sexual encounter.
I have found that at the beginning and end of my menstrual cycle my vulva doesn’t get as wet as other times, as bodies produce less estrogen at this time. Also, when I switched to an estrogen based birth control, I started to get more wet when aroused. All bodies are unique, so some folks may be more likely to get wet than others for several reasons.
A 2016 study in the journal of Feminism and Psychology explored women’s thoughts regarding wetness. They found that some women were concerned that they didn’t get wet enough, and others felt that they got too wet. Both sides of the curve worried about being perceived as abnormal and often felt that they were on either side of the “ideal” amount of fluid. The research shows that as long as you don’t have copious amounts of thick fluid, as would be associated with a vaginal infection, all types of arousal fluid is normal.
For those that naturally don’t get so wet, there is no shame in using a lubricant to increase pleasure and decrease the chances of vaginal tearing. I suggest that both partners start carrying lube with them the same way that they would carry condoms. This would help to decrease any societal expectations regarding wetness and make women feel more comfortable using lube without feeling like there is anything wrong with them.
In contrast, those who have partners who get really wet, tell them how much you enjoy it! This will help them feel more comfortable in their body. Sure, you may not be certain if it is arousal fluid or cervical fluid discharge, but it’s still sexy!
Instead of relying on wetness as the only arousal measure learn to trust other indicators; For example, when someone is turned on their pulse, heartbase and blood pressure increases, so try feeling your partner’s heart increase as you touch them. Feel their nipples get hard. Try asking them if they want you.
In culmination, wetness isn’t a great indicator if someone is turned on or not. Instead, communication is the best way to assess if someone is enjoying the sexual encounter an