Getting wet is not only an essential part of sex— it's also one of the most fun elements. People with vaginas know (and feel) when it's happening, but the process itself can feel a bit mysterious. If you've ever wondered “Why do I get wet when I’m turned on?” or how you can help get the pipes flowing, then it's time to take a closer look at anatomy. No need to pick up a mirror to examine your downstairs — all the answers to your burning questions are right here, including why girls get wet in the first place, and why a wet p*ssy is sometimes not all it’s cracked up to be.
What Causes Vaginal Lubrication?
Dr. Christine Greves M.D., an OB-GYN at Orlando Health’s Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, tells Bustle that vaginal lubrication is a part of the “excitement phase” — meaning, when people become highly aroused. “The fluid is caused by an increase in blood flow and pressure to the genitals, resulting in swelling of the blood vessels,” she says. When that happens, the signal is sent to release fluid — a mix of water and proteins — and out it comes.
The fluid itself comes from the Bartholin's gland, located between the vagina and vulva. It's different from the vaginal discharge that's a normal part of your cycle, but you've probably noticed this, because it's a lot slipperier and spreads more easily. The qualities of the fluid vary hugely from person to person, and experts say it can change based on emotions, hormones, where you are in your cycle, and other factors.
How do people start to feel wetter in the first place? Arousal — whether it’s with a partner or by yourself. “Lubrication occurs to allow painless penetration and movement,” Dr. Greves says. Lubrication is also linked to how often and how long you're aroused. So if you're easily excited, or frequently think about sex to the point of becoming a little turned on, you'll probably be naturally more wet. If you don't get excited as often or as easily, experts say, you may just have to spend a little time in the foreplay stage to get there.
What's A Normal Amount Of Vaginal Lubrication?
“Vaginal wetness is such a subjective thing, different from person to person and even from sexual encounter to sexual encounter,” sex educator Emma McGowan previously wrote for Bustle. “While one person may need rubber sheets every time they get turned on, another might need a little extra help from a high-quality lubricant. And each of those people could be just as turned on as the other.” Whether you have a flood down there or experience a lot more dryness, a lot depends on your individual experience.
Some people never produce much natural wetness and will use synthetic lube, while others can produce so much that it can actually reduce sensation. Lubrication levels can vary depending on your hormone levels — especially estrogen — and the stage of your menstrual cycle. Lower levels of estrogen in general can mean your body’s less capable of producing lubrication, according to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. Your estrogen is at its lowest just before and after your period, and that’s when you might expect lubrication to be slower, or just not there.
Medications can bring on dryness, too; a study in 2016 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that antidepressants were linked to vaginal dryness, and Planned Parenthood notes that a lot of hormonal birth controls can also make things feel Sahara-like.
Too much lubrication isn’t always the goal either. A study of women published in 2016 in Feminism & Psychology found that “excessive wetness” was one of the most common anxieties about lubrication, along with worries about not being wet enough. If you notice a loss of sensation when you’re aroused because of a WAP situation, experts recommend communicating it to your partner and figuring out what might work to make things more pleasurable (another position, for instance).
How Can You Make Your Vagina Get Wetter?
Fluid is “just one of the ways your body and mind talk to one another,” Dr. Greves says. And sometimes that chat between your brain and your downstairs may need a bit of assistance to open the floodgates.
If you're naturally on the drier side, you can try more foreplay, and experts recommend trying artificial lubricants too. There are lots of different types. “When in doubt, water-based lubes are the best choice," certified sex coach and SKYN sex and intimacy expert Gigi Engle previously told Bustle. "They absorb very easily into the skin, meaning you do have to reapply, but you'll never have to stress about greasy sheets." They also won’t eat away at condoms, which is a hazard of petroleum and oil-based lubricants.
You can also try a vaginal moisturizer, which is especially popular during menopause, as the hormone changes often cause dryness. "If the dryness is hormone-related, like from a drop in estrogen after menopause, people can consider hormonal creams and suppositories like estradiol and prasterone or non-hormonal suppositories like hyaluronic acid," Dr. Leslie Meserve, M.D., chief medical officer and co-founder of CurieMD, a telehealth platform for menopausal women, previously told Bustle.
No matter how wet you get on an average day, if you’re not as wet as you’d like to be, you can always add more. “Having sex without enough lubrication can lead to chafing and even tearing of the delicate skin on your vulva and vagina, so there’s really no reason not to help a body out if it needs it,” McGowan noted. After all, your bits deserve the absolute best.
Dr. Christine Greves M.D.
Dewitte, M. Female Genital Arousal: A Focus on How Rather than Why. Arch Sex Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01792-x
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Fahs, B. (2017). Slippery desire: Women’s qualitative accounts of their vaginal lubrication and wetness. Feminism & Psychology, 27(3), 280–297. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353516674239
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