Dry sand dunes in a desert

I have vaginal dryness and don’t get very wet, and I can tell it upsets my partner because they think I’m not turned on. Is something wrong with me?

Good news—more than likely, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Every body is different and makes different amounts of natural lubrication. Some people just don’t get that wet when they’re turned on, and that’s completely normal and ok.

Plus, how wet you are is NOT a good indicator of whether or how much you want to have sex. People can be wet when they don’t want to have sex, and dry when they do!

Also, how does your partner know what a normal amount of natural lubrication is? It’s very possible that what they consider dry is actually perfectly normal.

When your body becomes aroused (or turned on), the vagina and cervix produce a clear, slippery mucus (we know—not exactly a sexy word) called natural lubrication. Natural lubrication helps sperm on their journey into the fallopian tubes. It also makes sex more comfortable and pleasurable, especially for people with vaginas. Without lubrication, penetrative sex creates friction and can be uncomfortable or even painful, and sometimes causes bleeding.

Here are some reasons people experience vaginal dryness:

  • Sometimes, if you’re nervous or not relaxed, your body won’t get fully aroused. Spend some extra time de-stressing and relaxing before sex. Do things that make you feel safe and good in your body.
  • You’re just not that turned on. Take a moment to check in with yourself to make sure that you want and are excited about what’s going on. Is there something you or your partner could do that would turn you on? Consider putting a pause on sex until you’re sure it’s something you want.
  • Your estrogen levels are low. The hormone estrogen plays a big role in natural lubrication. How much you have changes throughout your menstrual cycle. People with vaginas naturally get less wet just before and after their periods because of this. This doesn’t mean that anything is wrong—it’s actually a sign that your body is working like it’s supposed to.
  • Certain medications, including hormonal birth control, can affect how much natural lubrication you make. If you’re concerned about vaginal dryness, you can talk about switching birth control methods to one that works better with your body. Or, if you like your birth control method otherwise, you can of course use store-bought lube.
  • Make sure you’re gentle with your vagina and not using douches or harsh soaps. Your vagina cleans itself, and getting soap or other chemicals up in there can mess with its natural bacterial balance. Wash your outer labia (the part with hair on it) with a gentle soap, and just let water run over the rest. Do NOT use douches or put soap in your vagina.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and other hormonal conditions can cause vaginal dryness. You can talk to your healthcare provider about this and use store-bought lube.

If sex is uncomfortable (or you just think more lube could make it feel better), there’s thankfully an easy solution: store-bought lube!

Be sure to use water- or silicone-based lube, NOT oil-based lube (which can break down condoms). Just put a little around the outside of and just inside your vagina (or anus) and on the outside of the condom/toy/penis. Ta da! You’ve turned your desert-down-there into wetlands. We talk more about what lube is and how to use it here.

But you don’t say anything about how vaginal dryness bothers YOU. You only talk about it bothering your partner.

How do you feel about this? Is penetrative sex uncomfortable or painful for you?  How do you feel about your partner’s reaction? Has your partner said or implied that something is wrong with you?

If you feel safe and comfortable, talk to your partner about what you’re feeling.

Ask them why how wet you get bothers them. It’s possible that they could be insecure. In their mind, if getting wet = being turned on, NOT getting wet = failing to turn you on. Consider showing them this post, or explaining that how much natural lube you make has nothing to do with them or how much you want to have sex. It’s just how your body is, and you can’t control it. Of course, they might be thinking something entirely different. The only way to know for sure is to ask.

That being said, insecurity isn’t an excuse to make you feel bad about yourself.

If your partner has told you that there’s something wrong with you, or continues to make you feel bad about this, think hard about your relationship. In general, do they respect you and make you feel good about yourself? Or do they often ignore your boundaries and make you feel bad about yourself? The latter could be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

If you’re 10-26 years old and have more questions about your body, sexual health or healthy relationships, stop by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, comprehensive, confidential healthcare.

A version of this post was originally published in October, 2018.