Slippery desire: Women’s qualitative accounts of their vaginal lubrication and wetness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In the shadows of the cultural obsession with male erections, women’s vaginal lubrication and experiences of wetness have received surprisingly little academic attention. Framed largely as a biological or normative behavioral “sexual function” issue and not as a subjective experience, no previous qualitative studies have asked women to discuss their feelings about their vaginal lubrication and wetness. This study analyzed semi-structured interviews with 20 women from a diverse 2014 community sample collected in a large Southwestern U.S. city in order to examine American women’s subjective feelings about their own vaginal lubrication and wetness, particularly the sensations they experience and the meanings they make around wetness. Results revealed four themes in how women described vaginal lubrication: (1) wetness as pleasure, joy, and connection; (2) wetness as physical and biological phenomenon; (3) anxiety about insufficient wetness; and (4) having excessive or “too much” wetness. Tensions surrounding women’s sexual anxieties and where they place responsibility for “too little” wetness is discussed in tandem with analyses of how pleasure and arousal may (or may not) overlap with feelings about sexual normality and health. Ultimately, renewed attention to the complexities of women’s sexual arousal and function, particularly in stark contrast with pharmaceutical efforts to medicate women’s sexual arousal and reduce it to “brain chemistry,” are examined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-297
Number of pages18
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • medicalization
  • pleasure
  • sexual arousal
  • sexual desire
  • sexual dysfunction
  • sexual satisfaction
  • vaginal lubrication
  • women’s bodies
  • women’s sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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