So, the last time I was having sex I realized I wasn’t as wet as I usually am. I was concerned. I’m usually wet, very wet, and everything is silky and moist. So even though I tend to be kinda tight in the cooch region, the snug fit is secondary to the smooth ride. When I’m having sex dude slides right in and, according to my ex, “feels like he’s bathing his junk in a cocoon of warm, silky lotion.” I think he was being kinda extra. I, personally, only employ such hyperbole when I’m talking about how fine Idris Elba is.
My ex claimed being inside me was better than coming because if he was inside me then the sensation never ended but once he came it was over, and, until he got it back up to start round two, his junk was lonely and lotionless. I used to take it for granted that I was a wet wet wet girl. So wet it would be all over my thighs and dripping on the bed. So wet that any time someone went down on me I could taste myself all over their face when we kissed.
Everyone I slept with loved it. It made them feel desired; like they were doing all the right things; like every move they made was blowing my mind. I loved it too, because it made sex amazing for me. But I didn’t realize until recently how much of my sexual psyche was wrapped up in the things my coochie did. I used my wetness as a barometer to measure my level of interest in someone. I used my wetness as a tease to turn the dude on before we hooked up. I used my wetness to judge how good a sexual experience was.
I’m pretty uninhibited, and I care about my partner’s pleasure, and I’m down for pretty much anything that doesn’t involve pain or degradation, so I never really gave much thought to it when people I slept with said I was amazing in bed. I always thought my attributes: the flexibility, the freakiness, the fun-ness, the focus, were the major part of why I was a hit between the sheets. Until I lost my wetness I didn’t realize how much it factored into my partner’s opinion of the sex, and my opinion of myself.
Lots of women suffer from vaginal dryness. There are many reasons for this, from anxiety, to medication side effects, to hormonal changes, to irritants in the fabric of your underwear, or the laundry detergent you use on your delicates. Two-thirds of women over sixty struggle with the condition. Vaginal dryness makes sex painful because the lubrication is limited, and so things don’t slide in and out without abrasion. Insufficient arousal is one of the biggest causes of vaginal dryness because most men don’t realize that for women, as my friend likes to say, “foreplay is the main play.”
In my case, I think what was happening was that I didn’t enjoy sex with this person— a former boo turned fuck buddy— as much as I used to. He was the previously-mentioned chronic masturbator who had lost sensation in his junk and compensated for it by grinding into me like a pestle pounding fufu. Sex used to be amazing with him and this new situation left me sad and frustrated. I started anticipating the pain before we even started, so my coochie wasn’t as eager for the D as it used to be. I’m also in my thirties, and, though this is supposed to be a woman’s sexual prime, there’s definitely a chance that I’m going through some hormonal changes.
But surprisingly, instead of thinking about all these very logical things, every time my body didn’t make it rain I felt a faint sense of shame. Every time we had sex, in addition to nursing my sore coochie, I wondered if the sex wasn’t up to snuff for him. If his memories of me as this sexual goddess were being tainted. If he would no longer remember me as the all-star-rock-my-world-put-it-on-you-and-pick-it-back-up chick who he would compare every woman after to. I felt as if I was letting him and myself down.
Now, you might be thinking “Girlfriend, have you ever heard of lube?” And I had. I actually had some, the best kind: “Pjur Concentrated Silicone Lubricant” — a physical manifestation of Danish ingenuity that I would take off my earrings and beat a trick down for if she dared to challenge its ability to bring about world peace. But I always bought it to give hand jobs with (it elevates your hand job game to a truly distinguished level). I never put it inside my coochie! My coochie didn’t need lube! My coochie was naturally perfect!
But one day we were having sex, and halfway through I dried up and every thrust felt like sandpaper. I paused the action to get the lube, and as I was squirting it up there I felt like crying. For the rest of our hook-up period I had to use the lube almost every time. And though it made the sex more bearable I convinced myself it was a poor replica of the juice my body made naturally.
Somehow, in my mind, though I thought I was way too progressive for that kind of thinking, I had internalized the message that insufficient arousal was somehow uncool. Society always finds a way to make women feel like shit. And though it’s not always spoken about, I think there is an implicit belief that insufficient arousal (particularly if there has been some foreplay) is the woman’s fault. If you’re not wet enough for the sex to be comfortable some guys don’t realize it’s because they are falling short of the mark. They attribute it to you not being sexually liberated enough.
Intellectually, I was in firm support of lube. I understood it made things better. I even understood that everyone has a different level of natural lubrication, so not everyone who uses lube suffers from vaginal dryness (some people could be at peak wetness and still use lube as the sprinkles on top of the sundae). I believed lube was a wonderful thing. I knew I would vote for lube if it ran in the 2018 mid-term elections. But somehow I had equated my vaginal lubrication to my sexual worth. And it took a lot of unpacking to realize that my idea of sexual worth itself was pure-grade, grass-fed bullshit. What does being good in bed really mean? And why is this an accolade I was so attached to receiving?
As women we’re socialized to want a gold star for everything. We’ve been taught that approval is necessary to our self-acceptance. And you know what? It’s not. If there is communication and mutual respect during the horizontal mambo, and the person makes me happy and vice versa, then that should be enough. And every tool, ANY TOOL, we have to use to achieve maximum satisfaction for both parties is a blessing from Comisnusina: the god of orgasms; not something to be salty about or ashamed of.
There is a plethora of fixes for vaginal dryness, regardless of the cause. There are lubricants which run the gamut from water-based, to silicone-based, to more natural options like coconut oil. There are over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers which help introduce water back into the tissues of the vagina. There are estrogen replacement medications (particularly for women going through menopause). There are vaginal estrogen inserts, which can be a ring, a pellet or a cream. There are estrogen patches, which you stick on your skin. And any of these options should be used with pride that you are taking charge of your sexual wellbeing, and not shame or inadequacy that your coochie can’t make it rain like it’s supposed to.
There are also sex toys, which can sometimes help get you revved up for the penetration part, or can enter the game if midway through it you need an extra boost. There is porn, which can provide visual stimulus that just your partner touching you doesn’t provide; there is erotic literature; there are special condoms with all kinds of bells and whistles designed to hit specific spots. All these are great options if your vaginal dryness is caused by insufficient arousal. Most importantly there is your voice, providing explicit instructions to homeboy on just what you need to reach the promised land.
There is no such thing as sexual worth. There is no empirical ranking system for being good, bad or average in bed. No such thing as being too wet, or not being wet enough. There’s just you and how your body functions, and the journey you take to your most satisfied self.
F.N. is a thirty something Ghanaian free-lance writer who alternates between living in Accra and Washington, DC.