Wetness is our friend. I don’t just mean the,”Oh my god I’m so wet” kind of wetness, but all of it.
In my years working as a sex educator, I’ve heard reoccurring concern about fluid, specifically, vaginal fluid. It’s a point of anxiety and mystery for many, even those who generally feel sexually open. So, what’s the difference between ejaculate, discharge and wetness for vagina holders? I’m here to dive in and quell any concern and confusion.
Wetness, even if it’s discharge that is the result of a vaginal infection, is our body’s primary tool to communicate to us the state of our vaginal balance and wellbeing. And trust me, the vagina can be vocal.
Wetness can be the vagina telling us “I’m getting ready to ovulate,” “I’m having trouble with a bacterial overload or an infection,” or even “I’m really turned on, pay attention to me!” When our vaginas talk, we should listen. With a little focused attention, it is possible to see and feel the body signaling for us to address its needs.
So that we don’t get overwhelmed by all the different meanings or causes, let’s break it down more specifically so that we can all better understand wetness.
Cervical fluid, also referred to as discharge, is produced under the influence of estrogen in the cervix at the base of the uterus. The texture, consistency, color, and smell of cervical fluid changes throughout the course of the menstrual cycle, ranging from a subtle hint of something in your underwear, to a thick, slippery, whitish fluid that can stretch as a slick string up to a few inches.
This wetness, or cervical fluid, can be synced up with the erotic cycles that accompany the menstrual cycle. When do you feel most turned on? When are your senses heightened? When do you feel sexy, fly and ready to connect with all the sensual pleasures of this world? It’s different for everyone. But for many, this is during ovulation, due to increased estrogen, the hormone that makes it more likely to successfully reproduce. It is when cervical fluid is generally at its most abundant, slickest, and thickest, and when you might even feel little gushes of fluid or extra wetness in your underwear.
It’s important to note, however, that biological imperative doesn’t mean as much to us now as a species, and though reproduction is part of our design and can play a role, we most certainly do not all have sex simply to make babies.
Personally, I actually often have the opposite reaction to ovulation. I do feel more energized and maybe even more sexy, but I also have far more big-work energy, creative drive and feel more clear and productive. This means I want to get things done and it’s harder for me to quiet down and get into my body. When I am around menstruation time I am often more easily turned on because I’m already naturally turning inward, feeling slower, cozier, quieter, and with my body. We all have our different erotic cycles.
Now, cervical fluid changes with the menstrual cycle, but it is also highly individual — every person has their own fluid characteristics. Often, this is the source of anxiety. Since we don’t generally share fluid selfies or discuss our bodies with friends, it’s easy to feel insecure about discharge. So to help make us all feel more at ease, a general rule of thumb: if the fluid feels fine and smells fine, you’re healthy– even if there is a lot of it, or it seems different than someone else’s. But if it is accompanied with itching, irritation, burning, strong odor, frothiness or unusual colors like greenish, it’s time to seek a professional opinion.
Vaginal ejaculate is made in the prostate or skene’s/paraurethral glands. It is not the same as cervical fluid or lubrication. Vaginal ejaculate is a healthy bodily function; it flushes the urethra, preventing infections and nourishing the delicate tissue. Ejaculate, regardless of the genitalia, is produced in the prostate gland and then exits through the urethra. For people with vaginas, it is composed of prostatic fluid mixed with glucose and trace amounts of urine. Similar to vaginal discharge, the smell and taste of ejaculate varies a lot throughout the menstrual cycle and between individuals, as well. Want some fun homework? Try and see if you can notice how your ejaculate changes over the course of a month.
Just Plain Wet
Vaginal wetness from sexual excitation is another way that our bodies intelligently take care of us. It is also different from cervical fluid in that when we are sexually aroused, the tissues in our vaginal canals and vulvas become engorged with blood. This causes a fluid called transudate to get pushed through the vaginal walls, sometimes referred to as “sweating”. Overall with wetness, the more you prepare your body and mind with arousal and stimulation, the more likely your body will be able to produce the lubrication it needs for friction or penetration.
The joy of wetness: don’t forget the lube!
Lastly, regardless of how much cervical fluid you produce, where you are in your menstrual cycle, how wet you get during sexual excitation, or how great you may or may not be at squirting/ejaculating, using high quality, organic lubes (like TOCA’s, ahem!) will make sure that you don’t have to worry about dryness, friction, irritation, inflammation or having to stop before you want to because of pain.
When your body is healthy and free of infection, the wetter the better, I say.
Anne Louise Burdett is the CEO of TOCA and lead formulator. She is also a sex educator, sexuality and sexual education curriculum writer and trainer, and a botanical medicine clinician focusing on sexual health and trauma.