Ask Kait: A Sex Educator’s Guide to Managing Vaginal Dryness
I have a question regarding dryness (vaginal). I am 46 years old and I notice during sex I do not get wet, as I did previously. I am wondering if this is natural for my age and what can I do to change that.
I am thinking there may a few circumstances that are causing this. First off, my partner lives in the U.S. and I am in Canada so I am not having sex and we only see each other every few months. Second, I think I need longer foreplay in order to get wet…I have a problem getting wet when I am watching porn or playing with myself. And lastly, do you know if this is also due to my age…?
Thank you for this question. There are so many myths in our society related to wetness and arousal, and they’re among my favorite to debunk. Your intuition is spot-on.
Both aging and a lack of proper foreplay can contribute to dryness
Most people with vulvas* need 10-40 minutes of sensual play to get fully aroused—heart rate up, lubrication started, flushed, panting, and practically begging for it. Why the range? Getting aroused can be impacted by a variety of factors including but not limited to:
- Medical conditions
- Where you are in your menstrual cycle
There is no “average” wetness
Everyone has their own baseline for how wet they get naturally. Some people, regardless of all the factors listed above, gush the second someone touches their knee. Others, can do everything “right” and still feel dry. This is all within the range of normal and healthy.
You can be totally turned on and not wet (or hard)—and vice versa
It’s important to note that wetness (or hardness in people with penises) doesn’t tell you or your partner(s) anything about how turned on you actually are.
Genitals respond to sexy things that happen, regardless of whether you enjoy them and want more. Meanwhile, the brain says, “Oh yes this is fun, let’s keep going” or “no thanks!” The two don’t always align. This misalignment, called arousal non-concordance, happens 50 percent of the time in people with vulvas and about 10 percent of the time in people with penises.
I harp on these points because so often wetness is conflated with arousal and desire, and because for many years, “she was wet” has been touted as evidence that a sexual assault couldn’t be that. So let me say it one more time:
How wet or hard your genitals are says nothing about how into it you are or how consensual the sex is.
5 Ways to Manage Vaginal Dryness
Now that you understand what’s happening, how the heck do you address it? Luckily, there are more options than ever before.
1. Invest in a high-quality lube
Lube not only addresses dryness, but it also enhances sensation, making every lick, stroke, and thrust feel that much better. I love this one because it was created for people experiencing regular or periodic dryness due to menopause, medication, or any other reason. You can use it both daily to increase your natural lubrication, and in-the-moment to enhance sexy times. It features a blend of natural moisturizers that nourish the vaginal lining. Plus it’s free of harmful ingredients found in many lubes like glycerin, propylene glycol, parabens, DEA, and sulfates that can cause more dryness and irritation.
2. Embrace all sorts of sexy times
Instead of focusing on sex acts where a wet vagina is preferable, enjoy the full range of sensual experiences. This includes everything from a steamy makeout session to oral sex to sensation play and other forms of kink.
3. Keep masturbating
I love that you play with yourself and watch porn. Don’t stop doing this. The more blood flow you get down there, the more supple and juicy the vaginal tissues stay. Since you and your partner are in a long distance relationship, self-pleasuring will be an important part of your overall sexual wellness. Similar to partner sex, you may want to expand your idea of what “counts” as masturbation.
4. Supplement with vaginal estrogen
As people with vulvas age, the lining of the vagina thins and estrogen (a sex hormone) declines, making things dryer. While estrogen has gotten a bad reputation in recent years, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a NY gynecologist, assures patients that minimally absorbed vaginal estrogen (not systemic estrogen replacement) is safe for the majority of people with vulvas. “It works quickly by getting to the root of the problem to replace what’s missing and reverse cellular changes.” While these benefits have been validated by research and the risk of potential downsides are reduced by vaginal use, whether or not it’s a good fit for you needs to be determined by a healthcare provider.
5. Talk to your doctor about vaginal rejuvenation
These in-office procedures use either lasers or radio frequencies to increase collagen production. This is thought to rejuvenate the tissues and enhance blood flow and lubrication. While some women report positive and satisfying results and require no anesthesia or daily medicine, Dr. Dweck notes a risk of complications such as infection and bleeding, and no relief. Because these procedures have neither been cleared by the FDA nor recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, they are not covered by insurance and are rather expensive.
And if you think using lube isn’t sexy…
Lest you think using lube isn’t sexy, let me introduce you to my friend, Rebecca Brooks. She’s one of my favorite romance writers, in no small part due to her steamy sex scenes. Her latest release has one of my favorite ever (and I read a lot of romance)—and it happens to include lube:
Reed kissed her thighs, her belly button, her breast. Her neck, her ear, and finally, her lips. She felt his hardness press into her stomach, straining against her. Looked like taking care of her hadn’t flagged his interest one bit. More like the opposite. He reached over and got something out of his nightstand drawer. Another condom? But it was a bottle. He opened it, squirted something onto his fingertips. She squirmed uncomfortably against him.
“Always prepared,” he said, rubbing the slippery liquid over his cock. “I mean, not always,” he added quickly. “That sounded bad. You’ll notice the bottle is basically full. I haven’t had much use for it since—”
He cut off abruptly. “Since?” she prompted, intrigued about where this little confession was going.
“Just since moving in.” He put more lube on his fingers and brought them between her legs.
“I don’t want you to think I’m—” she started.
“That you’re what?” he murmured as he slid those slippery fingers inside her, so excruciatingly slow that she writhed her body, arching her hips so he’d put them in deeper, harder, faster and fuck her already. The very thing she’d just thought she couldn’t take.
“That you’re wet?” he said, letting the word drip luxuriously off his tongue. “That you need this?”
“That I’m not—” she tried again. He pushed his first two fingers in deeper, and she swallowed whatever she was going to say with a groan.
“Not ready yet?” He stroked her steady, steady.
“That I’m not—I can’t—”
She thought he was going to keep torturing her, that she was going to lose the power of speech altogether while he made her come again. And probably again, and again after that, turning her into nothing but babbling jelly, liquid in his hands. But mercifully he let up. Barely, but enough to pull her back from the edge he’d been pushing her toward.
“That you won’t be a good fuck if we have to use lube,” he said, low and dirty in her ear, that word fuck making her clench around his fingers, a spasm of pleasure running all the way through her.
“Something like that,” she murmured weakly.
He took her hand and brought it to his cock. She wrapped her fingers around it. It was thick, slippery, and very, very hard.
“You think this isn’t going to be good?” he asked seductively.
She whimpered. Fuck, no. This was going to be good.
“You think I don’t want it?” he went on.
She whimpered again. She was always a talker, but she couldn’t form words. He obviously wanted it. Bad.
Vaginal dryness is common and normal but it doesn’t have to impact your sex life
There are so many ways to have an intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex life no matter how your body changes.
*Using language like this acknowledges that not all people with certain genitals are the gender that was assigned to them based on those genitals. Some men have vaginas, some women have penises, and some people with vaginas identify as neither woman or man.
Author Bio Kait Scalisi, MPH, is an advocate for the revolutionary power of pleasure inside the bedroom and out. Through her public workshops, private counselling, and online platform Passion By Kait, she harnesses her science education, social justice insight, and radical empathy to empower folx to get more in tune with their bodies, discover what brings them pleasure, and integrate it into their lives and relationships in ways that are both practical and powerful. Learn more and find #freedominpleasure at PassionbyKait.com, Instagram and Twitter @PassionbyKait, and Facebook www.facebook.com/PassionbyKait.