We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now on to this week's question: Why you can't get wet during sex, and what you can do about it.
Q: "I am a 21-year-old female who has not had a lot of sexual experience and does not know a lot about the human body when it comes to sexual arousal. I have had a few great experiences in the past, but recently, when with a new partner, I have found sex to not be very pleasurable, and even sometimes painful. What is there to do about not getting very wet down there? I don't know if it’s because I don't get much foreplay before sex or if my body chemistry is off. If you're not turned on, can that make penetration painful? How can I know if I'm ready for penetration? Any tips on how to handle this? It's making me self-conscious when it comes to new partners …"
A: Thanks for your question! Lubrication is an absolute necessity for any sort of vaginal penetration. You’re putting one body part into another and making skin rub up against skin. The tissues of your vaginal canal are quite sensitive, and need lubrication to keep things moving smoothly. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t always produce the exact amount of lube necessary for penetration, which can lead to discomfort and pain. There could be a number of different factors at play here, so let’s jump right into five possible explanations for you not getting wet, and what to do in each situation.
1. You Need More Foreplay
You mentioned the simplest explanation for not getting wet enough for intercourse: not having enough foreplay. Getting wet isn’t an immediate experience for most women. Your body needs time to produce lubricant and secrete it through your vaginal walls.
A lot of people tend to get judgy about foreplay, and there’s definitely a stereotype of women being “frigid” and needing a lot of time to feel desire. The thing is that foreplay should be enjoyable — it shouldn’t be seen as a chore! Our bodies enjoy the process of feeling anticipation, being stimulated, and warming up. If you tend to rush into intercourse, see if you can give yourself permission to slow down.
What To Do About It: In the moment, remind yourself, “I deserve to feel pleasure” or “I’m enjoying this; I don’t need to rush.” Write a list of your favorite foreplay activities and share it with your partner. If you’re worried about your partner’s reaction, say something encouraging like, “I love how good you make me feel when you’re doing [fill in the blank]. Don’t stop until I’m begging you to have sex with me.” If they refuse to focus more on foreplay, they don't deserve to be having sex with you.
2. Your Body Produces Less Lube
Some women simply don’t make a lot of their own natural lubricant. Regardless of how turned on they get or how badly they want to have sex, their lubrication levels are just on the low side. This can be caused by hormonal changes, medication, or aging, or it can happen for no particular reason. Know that you’re not any “less” of a woman if your body just happens not to get as wet as another woman’s, just as you’re not any less of a woman for producing less saliva or fewer tears. It’s a just a bodily function.
What To Do About It: I almost always recommend using lube if you’re going to have intercourse. Even if your body produces a ton of lubrication, bottled lube makes everything so much more enjoyable. It also lasts longer than natural lubrication, which further decreases your chances of experiencing discomfort. (I personally love the Pjur line.) There’s absolutely no reason to feel embarrassed about using lube with your partner, but you can introduce it by saying something sexy like, “I heard this can make things feel insanely good.”
3. You Have A Sexual Pain Condition
Now we get into slightly trickier territory. It makes sense to experience pain if you’re not very wet; the dry friction is just too much for your sensitive vaginal tissue. But if your pain is quite severe, if penetration is difficult or even impossible, if you feel your muscles contracting involuntarily, or if you experience pain even with the use of bottled lube, then you might have a sexual pain condition, like vaginismus or vulvodynia.
What To Do About It: If you suspect this may be the case, make an appointment with your OB/GYN. For further reading on this topic, check out the book Healing Painful Sex: A Woman's Guide to Confronting, Diagnosing, and Treating Sexual Pain by Deborah Coady.
4. You’re Experiencing Non-Concordance
In her fantastic book Come As You Are, Emily Nagoski talks about genital non-concordance. In short, it’s the concept that what our brains want and how our bodies react don’t always line up. Ever been around a guy who got an erection in front of a group of people? Or a guy who couldn’t get erect even when things were getting hot and heavy and he seemed into it? It’s also an explanation for how some women can even experience arousal while being sexually assaulted. That’s non-concordance at work. Nagoski says that there’s about a 50 percent overlap between what men’s brains want and how their bodies react, but only about a 10 percent overlap for women. The important thing to pay attention to is what your brain wants.
What To Do About It: The solution here — if you find your brain is indeed into having the sex — is to use some bottled lubricant whenever you’re ready to get down. Hopefully, understanding that this is a very normal reaction amongst women will help you feel less shame and confusion.
5. You Don’t Want To Have Sex With That Person
Is it possible that there’s some part of you that just isn’t comfortable with your past or current partners? Your brain might immediately leap in to say “No,” but see if you can pay attention to how your gut reacts. Sometimes, our bodies have different responses to people or situations than our brains do. It might be that your partner subconsciously reminds you of someone from your past, or that you’re picking up on some weird energy from them. Your body might actually be shutting down because it doesn’t want to be intimate with that person.
What To Do About It: I know that our bodies can sometimes be frustrating and confusing, but it’s still important to try to pay attention to our gut reactions. If it’s hard for you to get a sense of this, try thinking back to other partners you’ve been with. If you’ve had the exact same reaction with every single person, it’s likely that something else is at play. But if you’ve reacted differently to different partners, it might be something deeper. Maybe it’s that you need more time to get comfortable, or maybe it’s just not a great fit between the two of you. Try dialing things back a few bases for a month or two, then see how your body reacts once you’ve gotten to know each other better.
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