- Tamika Cross, MD, FACOG, board certified physician and OB/GYN in Pearland, Texas
The thing is, though, even though Shapiro may be deserving of the negative response he's received for his false statement, his lack of knowledge about vulvar health is not something to be made fun of. Rather, it's something to correct because sex education leads to more positive and shame-free conversations about sexual health. To continue contributing to that conversation, a doctor and sexual-health expert are here to answer some key questions: What does WAP mean? What does not having WAP mean? And, regardless, will you ever need a mop and a bucket?
What does WAP mean in terms of vaginal lubrication?
Vaginal fluid, especially during sexual arousal, is a normal and healthy component of sexual and reproductive functioning, and it can also fluctuate in its presence over the course of our lives. Vulva-owners have two sets of glands that are responsible for vaginal fluid during sexual arousal: the Bartholin's glands, which are located to the right and left of the vaginal opening, and the Skene's glands, which are closer to the urethra. Each produce and secrete what we know as vaginal fluid, and their functioning and physiology is heavily influenced by hormonal fluctuations that happen throughout life, like menopause.
As far as the whole "mop and a bucket" thing? Probably not necessary since the amount of lubrication likely wont accumulate beyond about a teaspoon's worth.
In terms of function, vaginal lubrication aids in pleasure and the promotion of sexual health. According to Tamika K. Cross, MD, OB/GYN, these secretions help to minimize the possibility of micro tears and fissures from occurring inside the vaginal canal and around the vaginal opening during sexual play. “The less lubrication, the more friction, discomfort and potential trauma,” she says. But, as far as the whole "mop and a bucket" thing? Probably not necessary since the amount of lubrication likely wont accumulate beyond about a teaspoon's worth.
Vaginal wetness does not always correlate with arousal
It's important to note that differences between arousal and desire have implications on vaginal wetness, says Isharna Walsh, CEO and founder of sexual wellness app Coral. “They are closely interlinked, but they are not synonyms." Arousal is the physical manifestation of sexual response and refers to physical reactions, like heart-rate increase, blood flow to the genitals, and, yes, WAP. But just because someone is physically aroused does not mean that they desire sex—desire is more of a mental experience and want.
It is absolutely possible for vaginal fluid to be present without feeling sexual desire, and it’s also possible to be turned on without any lubrication presenting. The descrepancy in these events is called arousal non-concordance, and Dr. Cross says it is a common issue. “The only way to find out if someone is both physically aroused and desires sex," she says? "Ask them.”
Vaginal dryness can is extremely common and can happen for a number of reasons.
Research shows that around 17 percent of people with vulvas experience vaginal dryness during sex between ages 18 and 50, and around 50 percent of those who are post-menopausal. “Estrogen levels change most notably and drastically during menopause, thus vaginal dryness affects a large part of the population during that time,” says Dr. Cross. (As a reminder, hormonal fluctuations can account for shifts in the presence of vaginal fluid because of their effect on the functioning of our Bartholin's and Skene’s glands.)
Beyond menopause, other factors that can shift hormone levels include the menstrual cycle, childbirth, stress, diet, medications, genital dysphoria, sleep deprivation, certain health conditions like PCOS and endometriosis, and more. For many people experiencing dryness, especially those who only experience discomfort during penetrative sex, investing in a quality personal lubricant can go a long way. But if your wetness is accompanied by vaginal itch, discomfort, or a new color or smell, it might be worth a visit to your doctor.
Ultimately, not all vulvas are the same, so getting to know your own and learning what’s normal and abnormal for you will help you to understand whether something is an issue that would benefit from addressing with a medical professional. And that's true no matter where you land on the scale of 0 to WAP.
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