“WAP” is the aim for women when it comes to sex ― vaginal lubrication is a positive and healthy thing! ― but sometimes, we’re anything but wet down there.
Cardi B’s sex-positive collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion dominated the charts this summer and into the fall. Given its salacious subject matter ― “WAP” stands for “wet ass pussy” ― it also made its way into the culture wars. (We really didn’t need to know so much about conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s sex life.)
At its core, the song is about female pleasure and prioritising it in bed, which ― given how few straight women report having orgasms with a partner ― is a categorically great thing.
But hey, DAP is a thing, too. Though we hardly think Cardi and Megan were trying to shame women, the issue of vaginal dryness needs to be included in our serious WAP-adjacent discourse. (And since sex ed is so abysmal in the U.S., we’ll take any opportunity we get to demystify sex.)
Many women experience discomfort and even pain during intercourse and masturbation because of vaginal dryness. Though menopausal women report experiencing it most often, younger women deal with it, too. Some 17% of women ages 18 to 50 and 25% of women ages 50 to 59 have experienced vaginal dryness during sex, according to Women’s Health Concern.
“I actually suspect that number is low because women are often ashamed or embarrassed to bring this up and, for the most part, doctors don’t do a great job of initiating conversations about sex with patients,” said Kimberly Resnick Anderson, a sex therapist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine.
“Women are often self-conscious if they experience vaginal dryness, especially if they are under age 40,” she told HuffPost. “They feel like they aren’t responsive to stimulation the way they ‘should’ be.”
“If you’re self-pressuring yourself or getting pressured to get wet, it will be counterproductive. You can’t will yourself to become wet.”
Wetness is a good indicator of being turned on, but it’s not the only one. Being aroused doesn’t always get us wet, said Chris Maxwell Rose, a sex educator and podcast host at PleasureMechanics.com. And, equally important, wetness isn’t always a sign of arousal.
“This is really important for everyone to understand, to prevent misunderstandings and assumptions all around,” Maxwell Rose said. “Arousal is a full body experience that can look many different ways, and vaginal wetness is influenced by many different factors, of which arousal is just one.”
In other words, wetness is highly variable, both person to person and moment to moment. And despite the expectation we’ve picked up from porn that women should be and always are wet and ready to go, that’s not how it works in the real world. Most women need time to get themselves there ― and some actual effort from their partners.
“If you’re not wet, give your body time to respond to pleasurable stimulation, which can prepare you for more direct stimulation,” Maxwell Rose said.
Aside from that, consider introducing lube in the bedroom (more on this later). It can add a little extra moisture down there and make sex more enjoyable and less uncomfortable. (Foreplay + lube = 💦)
Of course, there are more serious causes for vaginal dryness.
For some women, there may be a little more going on. According to Resnick Anderson, some of the most common biological reasons for vaginal dryness are:
- Estrogen deficiency (due to surgical removal of the ovaries and/or menopause or other endocrine conditions)
- Certain medications, such as antidepressants, cold medicine and even oral contraceptives. (If it’s “the pill” that’s your problem, Resnick Anderson recommends looking into non-hormonal contraception since hormonally based contraceptives can affect all phases of sexual response.)
- Douching (You really don’t need to do it! Your vagina actually cleans itself, so there’s no need to buy products that can be bad for your health.)
- Childbirth or breastfeeding
- Radiation and/or chemotherapy
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
There can be psychological causes as well, Resnick Anderson said, including:
- Inhibited sexual desire
- Sexual aversion
- Penetration phobia (also called genophobia)
- Mistrust, anger, anxiety or depression
- Lack of foreplay or insufficient stimulation
- Lack of sexual attraction toward one’s partner
- Body image issues
- Stress (Yes, even just everyday stress can lead to dryness. “If the body is in survival mode, drying up may be more common,” Maxwell Rose said.)
Talk to your gynecologist if you suspect something more serious is at play. If you think the cause is more psychological in nature, ask your doctor for a referral to a sex therapist. They’ll likely be able to help you work through any underlying trauma or concerns about sex.
Generally, a little bit of lube goes a long way to addressing this issue.
Now let’s get back to lube. These days, you have myriad options to choose from: water-based, silicone-based and even CBD-infused. More often than not, adding lube to the equation takes a lot of performance-based pressure off women, said Janet Brito, a psychologist and sex therapist in Honolulu.
“If you’re self-pressuring yourself or getting pressured to get wet, it will be counterproductive. You can’t will yourself to become wet,” she said. “Instead, give yourself permission to purchase a variety of water-based lubes so that you can easily use it when you decide.”
Topical estrogen ― creams, gels and sprays that help get hormonal estrogen into your bloodstream through your skin ― could also help, according to Brito.
Finding the right lube might take some time, so Maxwell Rose recommends buying small bottles of organic water-based lube and silicone lube to test what works best for your body.
Once you’ve tried out the samples and found your go-to, always have it on hand and make generous use of it. (That’s what it’s made for!)
“Almost all erotic stimulation feels better with a little lube, so don’t hold back ― and normalize reaching for the lube bottle anytime you want a bit more slide and glide,” Maxwell Rose said. “Using lube doesn’t mean you aren’t into it. If anything, it can signal active and enthusiastic consent when you reach for it!”