Last month, Dan Savage took a question on his sex advice podcast Savage Lovecast from a listener distressed about his wife's vagina. "When we have sex, I obviously ejaculate" — obviously, because it's not really sex unless the man comes, right? — "and my semen goes inside her," the concerned husband began. "For the past 20 years, we’ve needed to have paper towels nearby, because she’s unable to hold it inside when she goes to the bathroom. It drips all over, it gets on the sheet, it’s just nasty." Sure, "nasty," that's a great adjective for your life partner's natural bodily functions. "We’d both like to solve this problem, but I’m not sure what the source of the problem is," this model specimen of sex positivity continued. "Is it that her Kegel muscles are too weak and she needs to tighten those up? Or is this something that every woman has to deal with, and I just don’t remember prior to marriage because I was either drunk, self-absorbed, whatever and just didn’t notice my sexual partners going through this?"
"Heterosexual sex is disgusting, isn't it?" Savage responded, before recommending with a shrug that the listener and his wife simply keep a pile of "cum rags" by the bed, and that said wife hold a towel between her legs during her post-coital walk to the bathroom. His listeners did not react so calmly. "We got more calls in response to this man’s question and attitude than we have gotten about any subject ever in the whole history of the Lovecast," Savage shared in his next episode, before airing a handful. "I feel terrible for this woman being shamed to think that there’s something wrong with her body because he’s disgusted by the sight of his own cum coming out of her," one man called to say. "Vaginas aren’t Venus flytraps," one woman pointed out. "There's no amount of Kegels that are going to turn your vagina into a Ziploc [resealable bag]," another observed. "Let's not call this a problem at all," a third woman proclaimed. "A woman’s nether regions are supposed to be pristinely hair-free and of course smell like a meadow full of flowers, and now my vagina is expected to be watertight? Give me a fucking break."
There's no amount of Kegels that are going to turn your vagina into a sandwich bag
You know what is hair-free and airtight as a sandwich bag? An inflatable sex doll, which this caller might prefer to a living, breathing, human woman. Women have been under scrutiny for the tightness of our vaginas and the fluids our vaginas produce — from natural lubrication to menstrual blood — throughout history, and it is all but impossible to get it right. If our vaginas are "too loose" (to seal in our sex partners' juices, for example) or "too wet," there's something wrong with us; at the very least, our muscles are weak, but maybe we're total sluts who have too much sex or enjoy sex more than we should. If we don't get wet enough, we're prudes (or "gritty kitty bitches," Ronda Rousey's moniker for women who need lube). Reminder: Your vagina's tightness does not depend on the amount of sex you've had. And while there are good reasons to do Kegels — they can improve sex and help with childbirth and incontinence — pacifying a toddler-man who can't stomach the sight of his own semen and would rather you Hoover it up with your pelvic floor isn't one of them. (Not to mention that this isn't even physically possible: "You can't get your Kegel muscles strong enough to resist gravity," sex therapist Vanessa Marin explains when I ask her about this man's supposed quandary. "Plus, the shape of the penis head naturally pulls semen out of vaginal canal.")
Vaginas drip. They leak. Sometimes, they gush. They expel period blood and natural lubrication and discharge and sometimes partners' cum, and if you'd like to put your dick inside one, you should probably get used to it. The feeling that your vagina isn't tight enough for pleasurable penetration — for either you or your partner — is valid, and many women notice significant changes in tightness after childbirth and as they age. Some of these women choose medical procedures, while others opt for Kegels or specific positions or sex toys. If you aren't feeling wet enough for a good time, meanwhile, lube is a great choice, and Rousey aside, women are beginning to discuss using lube openly and positively. If you feel you get too wet and either you or your partner is missing out on sensation, there are tricks for that too: "I'd start with offering the gentle reminder that everyone has different levels of natural lubrication, and there is no 'normal'," Marin says when I ask her for advice, "but in terms of logistics, having a lot of lubrication can of course decrease the level of friction and sensation." She recommends removing some of your natural lubrication from your partner's penis, if your partner has one, with a quick hand job or by rubbing the penis between your breasts before you hop back on (or under or beside). You may notice that all of these strategies are for pursuing pleasure, not appeasing the vagina police. So go forth with your lube and your Kegels and sex toys and hand jobs, and know that things might get messy, because vaginas are messy. Not "nasty," and not indicative of our modesty or our sexuality — just messy, and also glorious.