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Slippery When Wet

Back when my grandmother was alive, she would occasionally tell me stories about life in the 1930s. I don't quite remember how the topic came up, especially as she had no knowledge of my life as a sex educator, but she revealed to me that back then, her doctor recommended she clean her vagina at least once a week. She was told that all of her "excess secretions" left her vag a playground for pathogens. She was led to believe that her self-lubricating vagina was, essentially, dirty. Depression-era medical science instructed her to douche once a week in order to help get rid of "harmful" bacteria. And the douche medium of choice that he recommended? Lysol.

Yes folks, Lysol.

Nowadays, thankfully, we have moved away from nuking our nether regions with Lysol, and any good medical provider will tell you that douching is unnecessary. Yet whenever I go out into the community to teach, I am continually amazed to find how much misinformation is still out there regarding the vagina and its proper lubrication.

Allow me to tell you two more stories, specifically about my teaching and lubrication:

During one of my private workshops I ask everyone in the group to write down a single question they have regarding sex. Even though the topic of the night is fellatio, I promise to read out loud each question and to briefly cover the topic. The first question: "If you get wet, does that mean that you ejaculated or had an orgasm?" And before I can answer, the floodgates open: "Is lubrication different from female ejaculation?" "Why does my vagina lubricate while I'm sleeping?" "Which hole does it come out of?"

And then there was the time I had a run-in with my own doctor: it's my annual pelvic exam, and I'm sitting in an overly air-conditioned room in a threadbare cotton Johnny. The provider who will be working with me (or on me, or in me, or whatever...) asks a few questions about my vaginal health, before "diving in." "Do you notice any vaginal discharge?" He asks. I respond to the medical provider that I do. He looks up from his clipboard and informs me, in a worried tone, that I may indeed have an infection. I ask, "Isn't a healthy vagina supposed to lubricate in order to get unneeded bacteria out? "Ohhhh, well yes, you're right," he responds. "Maybe you don't have an infection."

Grrrr….do you see how my medical provider misphrased this question? Of course women produce discharge/lubrication; it's how the vagina keeps itself healthy! They should know better, but really, most don't. For you future providers out there reading this, the proper formulation of that question is as follows: "Do you have any discharge which is new or unusual for you?" And I'm not trying to pick on our medical providers for being uneducated, because really it's not their fault. They just aren't being trained on this stuff.

So, since it seems that neither the medical field nor the general public really knows what's going on with our slick vaginas, let's tackle the issue of lubrication.

The Vagina Needs Lubrication to Be Comfortable and Healthy

Lubrication makes things nice and slippery, even when not fooling around. A dry vagina can lead to chafing, itching, tiny cracks called fissures, and discomfort, to say the least. If the vagina feels dry throughout the day, long-lasting moisteners are available. Just make sure you read the ingredient label before you put something inside yourself. A vagina doesn't want anything with scents, mineral oils, or chemical preservatives called parabens going inside it.

The body naturally produces discharge throughout the day in order to keep everything healthy. The vagina is not a big straight tube, as many think, but rather has a gentle downward curve to it. Lubrication, aka discharge, helps push all the unwanted stuff that could make a vag freak out (microbes, fungi, and the like) down and out of the body. Voila, discharge!

Items That Can Make Vaginas Dry

Dish towels, douches, powder and vaginal tightening creams are a no-no.

A common occurrence in our modern world is the use of vaginal tightening creams so a vag doesn't feel too "loose." Tightening creams dry the vagina out through the use of alum, an astringent that sucks the water right out of the cells in our body. Both dish towels and tightening creams increase your risk of walking around like you rode a horse all day. They make the vagina uncomfortable and more prone to infections.

Lube is Affected By…

From antihistamines to cocaine, many drugs seriously affect lubrication production. If it's drying out your nose, it's drying out the cooch. Both are mucous membranes.

Along the same lines are hormones our bodies produce. If certain hormones are too low, it can certainly lead to lower lubrication production. Unfortunately, you often have to specifically ask your medical provider to test your hormone levels.

Finally, the Sex in America study found that within the population of women who had been sexually assaulted, 25% of them produced less lubrication than women who hadn't been assaulted. For some reason, women who have been sexually assaulted can produce less lubrication.

How You Can Increase Lubrication Production

Stimulate your AFE zone. The AFE zone stands for the Anterior Fornix Erogenous zone. Maybe it's something new, or perhaps you have heard of it under a different name: The A-Spot. They are two names for the same thing, a sensitive area area of the vagina located just in front of the cervix. According to sex researcher Dr. Chua Chee Ann, by stimulating your AFE zone three times per week for five minutes at a time you can naturally increase vaginal lubrication.

Watch porn. Whether you call it porn, erotica, disgusting, or a fun couples' activity on Sunday evening, it has the same effect on the female body; porn produces physiological excitement. An interesting study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that regardless of how "turned-on" a woman reported feeling, her vagina would still start to lubricate and become engorged when watching porn.

So what does this all mean? Lubrication and discharge is all pretty nifty. And because it's so great, you should learn to talk about lube in a casual manner with your friends to reduce some of the stigma and lack of information there is out there. The goal is to make vaginas happy and lubrication definitely does. Embrace the flood!

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Douche with Lysol

Yeah, I had also heard of the early 20th century "douche with Lysol" routine from my grandmother. In fact, there was a family rumor or wive's tale that one of my great-aunts became sterile because of that particular feminine hygiene ritual. I wonder exactly what side effects the Lysol ingredients did have.

Thanks for the article - it really needs to be said and repeated that the vagina is it's own little very well balanced eco-system.

"Dish towels"?

This has got to be some strange euphemism with which I am unfamiliar, unless there is actually some esoteric connection between vaginal lubrication and drying dishes...?

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Megan Andelloux
August 20th, 2009
Megan Andelloux's picture
Megan Andelloux, also known as "Oh Megan," is a board-certified sex educator and sexologist. Megan defines herself as a "WASP" on a mission to bring the medical and pleasure-centric sexual models...