While we have experienced some incredibly stupid controversies over the course of the past four years, my nominee for the stupidest controversy of them all has got to be the brouhaha over the Cardi B song WAP. If you are a wise person you know nothing about this song and I regret to inform you that it exists. I’m not going to post a video because I just really don’t see the point; by now you’ve either seen it or you don’t want to and it’s not a good song anyway.
WAP is one of those songs that is allegedly meant to celebrate women’s sexuality by viewing it through the lens of what men like. Because the initials WAP stand for “wet ass p—-”. I mean, ok, that’s fine, whatever. The existence of this song reminds me of this classic Simpsons gag in which Bart demands attention from everyone.
I think it’s gotten to the point in our culture where everything has been so in our faces screeching so loudly for so long, and so many barriers have been broken along the way – barriers of politeness, civility, good taste, and good sense, that people who intend to shock have to resort to ridiculous lengths to do that. That’s the only reason why this inane song even exists. WAP is just a barrier of politeness that hadn’t yet been broken so someone broke it to make money. The tiredness of the gimmick BORES me.
But this isn’t about any of that. I don’t care that there is a song called WAP. It doesn’t bother me that it exists because so far it exists in adult spaces and the kiddies aren’t even in school to come home asking a lot of questions about it.
The thing that pisses me off about WAP is this – the song has enabled some people on both sides of the aisle to further politicize and pathologize the natural functions of the female body in ways that are gross and wrong.
As some of you know, in my day job I run a women’s fertility website and on that website I am the official “sexpert”. For the past twelve years, people have come to me seeking answers to questions about how their bodies work. Unlike most sex researchers, people seek my counsel when they’re trying to get pregnant (rather than knowing they’re a part of a Very Important Research Project, in which case they might make themselves sound more outrageous or more tame depending on what they think the researcher wants to hear). So they tend to give me honest answers so I can better assist them in the process of conceiving. They don’t exaggerate, they don’t keep secrets from me, they give it to me straight because they want to get pregnant and I need the facts in order to enable me to do that.
The people – 99.99% of them women – come to me from all six continents (no one from Antarctica yet) and again, unlike most sex researchers, I have the privilege to assist quite a large swath of people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. All are extremely forthright with me, not only about what is going on with their junk, but what they think and feel about it, and at this point I can state emphatically that regardless of ethnicity or nationality, the ties that bind women in terms of our sex are universal. Some people I spend years with, taking this journey at their side, chatting with them several times a week, and as a result of this incredible opportunity the fates have granted me, I really feel that I’ve got a window into female sexuality that other people lack.
The truth is this – a shocking number of women don’t understand their bodies, are told a lot of insane and ridiculous half-truths and untruths about their bodies even by people who call themselves “experts” and “doctors”, and carry shame and embarrassment about their bodies as a result. And a shocking number of men don’t understand the female body, don’t want to understand it, are told a lot of insane and ridiculous things about the female body, and feel quite entitled to add to the shame and embarrassment women feel about their bodies. Sometimes this male entitlement borders on abusive, or is abuse outright. And lest you think this state of affairs affects only women on certain continents and in certain socioeconomic classes, think again.
One of the biggest arenas in which this disconnect occurs is the issue of vaginal lubrication and since the WAP controversy is stirring up this whole hornet’s nest it seems like a good time to talk about it.
Since ignorance on this somewhat taboo subject abounds, let me do a brief rundown for you on how the female body ACTUALLY works. Brief, I promise.
Women in their childbearing years have this pesky little thingy called a menstrual cycle that governs our lives just as much as chronic and insistent boners govern yours, my dudes, if not far far more. Contrary to popular belief (I’ll be using that phrase a lot) the menstrual cycle is not always regular, and it doesn’t always take 28 days (in fact it’s much more common to have cycles that vary a bit and are sometimes a little shorter or a little longer than it is to always have precise 28 day cycles). By cycle, I mean it’s just a series of events that happen in a particular sequence – NOT that it is always set in stone, the same for everyone, but the events that occur happen in this particular order cause that’s how the body works. The menstrual cycle is not even the same for every person every month, it changes over time, and that too is ok and totally normal.
During the first part of the cycle, which is called the follicular phase, women make a lot of estrogen and a couple other lesser known hormones that stimulate an egg to develop and be released called follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone (men make these too in different amounts than women do – our bodies use these hormones for a couple different purposes, not only ovulation). In addition, during the follicular phase estrogen stimulates the uterine lining to grow nice and lush to allow a fertilized egg to implant there.
But estrogen does some other pretty cool things too. It causes numerous changes in our body, one of which is the production of fluids all throughout our reproductive tract that enable sperm to survive (without these fluids, sperm quickly die in the vagina) and swim to the egg. We call the form of this fluid we are the most familiar with “egg white cervical mucus” because it’s mucus, made by the cervix (not the vagina itself, but it flows down into the vagina from the cervix), and it has an appearance kinda like egg white – stretchy and clear. We’ll nickname this EWCM for short.
(brief but important aside – that having been said, just because this mucus is called “egg white mucus”, it is NOT EGG WHITE, like out of an egg. They are different things. Anyone who tells you to use egg white as a lubricant in your vagina to help you get pregnant for any reason (egg whites do NOT make you have a boy!) is wrong and is setting you up for a horrible vaginal and even uterine infection – the kind of infection that could possibly end a pregnancy. I don’t care how many titles they have after their name, egg whites in the VJ is not a good idea. I don’t care that your friend used them and everything was fine – some people win games of Russian Roulette too. Egg whites may be natural, but so is botulism. Not only do egg whites have potential contaminants in them such as salmonella which are known to cause miscarriages, their pH is super high, much higher than the pH of either semen or cervical mucus, and this high pH favors the overgrowth of nasty microbes that exist naturally in the vagina and on the penis that would normally not pose a problem. NO EGG WHITES!)
It is true. WAP DOES NOT simply come from arousal fluid. In fact, it’s entirely possible to have increased hormonal vaginal wetness at certain times of the month and have NO interest in sex whatsoever. Women often experience greater arousal at the same time of the month they have this egg white cervical mucus courtesy of our buddy estrogen, but both the EWCM and increased libido are caused by the rising hormones.
After ovulation has occurred, we enter the luteal phase, and the hole in the ovary that the egg came out of turns into this neat little critter which we only have half the cycle, called the corpus luteum. The purpose of the corpus luteum is to make hormones, and the most important hormone the CL makes is progesterone. Progesterone does three very important things. Firstly, it stops the development all the other eggs, since women develop 15-30 eggs per ovary every month, and only the best one or two are released. You won’t ovulate again after having ovulated already thanks to progesterone and the rest of those eggs will be absorbed rather than turning you into Octomom. Secondly, progesterone helps the uterine lining to thicken and prepare even more for the arrival of a fertilized egg in about 7 days. And finally, this rise in progesterone causes the EWCM to dry up and our cervixes, which were soft, swollen, and open, to harden and close. This is to prevent infection – EWCM is great for conceiving but it also can encourage microbial growth as well so we only make it when we need it.
Progesterone makes some other things happen which are more irritating – our sex drive drops, some of us get a bit crabby or depressed (contrary to popular belief, PMS for many people happens not only right before their period arrives but in that post-ovulation week), and many of us find our self-control is a bit lower leading to binge eating and impulse buying (ask me how I know). And that lack of EWCM means that most women do experience vaginal dryness particularly the week after ovulation. Luckily, in about 7 days’ time, our body will release another burst of estrogen to help sustain the uterine lining, and at that point many women experience an improved mood, a boost in sex drive, and resurgence in WAP then – though rarely the levels that it reaches prior to ovulation. If you conceive, the corpus luteum hangs around and makes progesterone to sustain a pregnancy (till well into the first trimester when the developing placenta takes over and the CL goes away) and if you don’t, then it withers up and both progesterone and estrogen drop sharply, and your period comes.
EWCM aside, women do make a natural vaginal lubricant fluid for sex that can happen at any time of the month. Please note, this naturally occurring lubricant is NOT always tied to arousal per se. Our bodies can make that lubricant even when we do not want to have sex at all. It’s natural and intended to prevent our delicate girly bits from sustaining injury during sexual intercourse. It is entirely possible – just like it is possible for men to get an erection they don’t want if their genitals are stimulated or sometimes even if their eyeballs are – for there to be a release of vaginal lubrication when a woman does not want to have sex at all. Even in cases of rape this can happen and so the presence of this natural lubrication in the vagina does not directly equate to a woman feeling aroused. AT ALL, and so menfolk, please do not doubt a woman’s word when she says not tonight, she has a headache.
But regardless of arousal fluid, the primary source of what most would recognize as WAP is the natural rise in hormones, estrogen in particular, that occurs prior to ovulation.
Now, some stuff can interfere in this process. Medication (including hormonal birth control and fertility medications such as Clomid), herbs (vitex, saw palmetto, mint, licorice root…and please ladies, do not use any licorice root, even in the form of tea or candy, when pregnant or even when trying to conceive as it may harm your baby’s brain development…and many other herbs too numerous to list, even many that are said to help improve cervical mucus), supplements (even seemingly benign things like Vitamin B6, certain amino acids, and bee pollen can muck up your cycle…and this is true even if a naturopath tells you to take them!) Even drinking alcohol to excess or too much green tea can make cervical mucus scanty. Stress, lack of sleep, being too thin or dropping a lot of weight even if you aren’t too thin, having been ill, exercising a lot, sudden changes in diet, breastfeeding, the natural results of the aging process – all these things can affect your hormone levels in ways that may alter the amount and consistency of the cervical mucus a woman produces.
Just as women can experience lubrication without arousal, it is equally true that women can feel extremely aroused and have little to no vaginal lubrication due to hormones at certain times of the month, or those things I mentioned in the previous paragraph that interfere with hormones. This is why they sell those tubes of goo at the drugstore. Buy them! They’re good! If you don’t like one, buy a different one!
Just like we all have different facial features and hair color and skin tone we all have different patterns to our cycles as well. You aren’t a broken person if you don’t have a lot of cervical mucus, I promise – believe it or not, the opinion of Cardi B really doesn’t reflect biological reality. Nor are you a broken person if you DO have a lot. MANY women have 7-10 days of EWCM, before, during, and slightly after ovulation. (EWCM does not, contrary to many people’s belief, appear only the day of ovulation.) And MANY women don’t! And all these variations are ok! It’s just how the Good Lord made us! Some people have EWCM visible for a day or so, but it’s up inside where we can’t see it. Please don’t go spelunking, tho – you can injure yourself doing that and also introduce microbes that can cause infection. I promise you it is up there.
EWCM, aka WAP, is natural and normal and a part of how a vagina is meant to work. I occasionally encounter a client who tells me she has been self-treating (and in a few very sad and enraging instances, was being treated by medical professionals) for “chronic vaginal infections” that “come back every month!” when what she was really experiencing was simply her body’s natural cyclical production of EWCM.
So that brings me to Ben Shapiro. Ben Shapiro is a right wing pundit who happens to be married to an OBGYN. When WAP dropped Shapiro decided to take issue with it since this is 2020 and I guess it’s the fate we all deserve. That’s his choice I suppose; personally I have bigger fish to fry than worrying about a silly song and I think it makes conservatives look like prudish morons when they do. But to each their own.
The thing that infuriated me about Ben was that he chose to do this by medicalization, contributing to the “women’s bodies are ticking time bombs” trope that I despise so greatly.
And, no. As I already described in detail that many probably thought was too much already, it is normal and natural for many women to have a lot of vaginal discharge at some parts of the month. EWCM is not pathological, vaginas are not diseased or gross, it just part of the way the female body works. It’s a part of our bodies like men’s morning wood is part of theirs. Yes, women can get some issues with that part of our anatomy at times as any parts of anyone’s anatomy can sometimes misfire, but you don’t just go jumping from a little extra joy juice to “diseased whore” in a single bound, dude.
Not to be outdone, Cardi B then released a video in which she then took it upon herself to call out and shame women who DON’T have a lot of EWCM, which she called “DAP” (dry ass p—-). She claimed it was due to “pH balance” and uncleanliness and in my opinion this was just as gross and wrong and misogynistic as what Ben Shapiro said. Look, Miss B, don’t pretend to celebrate a woman’s body to sell albums and then turn around and mock women who experience with issues of vaginal dryness, act like they have a medical problem and that it’s caused by a lack of sanitation, when the damn fact is that at least some of the time we ALL have DAP (even u Cardi B) and it is completely out of our control!
Please note, this has the n-word (which I completely do not endorse in any way) and some very foul language in it even for me.
Now, you may be wondering why all this matters. Celebrities gonna celebrity. Why am I taking time from my day to write this essay (trust me I’ve asked myself the same question about 38 times over the course of the last couple hours). But the thing is, it is because this kind of shit is BAD FOR WOMEN and when it comes in the form of a video like WAP it is bad for women in the guise of being good for women! And complaining about things that say they are good for women when they are actually bad for women is the whole freaking reason I started this blog anyway.
Seriously – I get questions again and again from women around the world who feel like freaks because they have what they perceive to be too much vaginal lubrication or not enough vaginal lubrication or are experiencing entirely natural fluctuations in the amount of lubrication they produce. This chronic failure on the parts of basically everyone to recognize that there is a normal cycle in which sometimes we have WAP and sometimes we have DAP, and that there is wide ranging variation across the female population in which some of us make more than others and even individually we have some months that are more WAPpier than others causes women to be plagued with self doubt on a good day.
On a bad day, it’s very much worse than that.
You see, it isn’t just that it gives us the sadz. It is that women are maltreated and actually ABUSED because of male perceptions of their vaginal levels of hydration.
In some parts of the world and among immigrants to our part of the world, having a lot of EWCM is seen as a sign of either disease (thanks, Ben, for contributing to that, you misogynistic a-hole) or more often, a sign of promiscuity, because women’s desire is seen as so dangerous they actually remove the clitoris of young girls as they reach sexual maturity. Women in many cultures use caustic agents in their vagina to dry up cervical mucus and give a perception of “tightness” that is wrongfully associated by some to be a marker of a lack of sexual experience. This practice causes vaginal infections and UTI, injuries such as tearing which can be quite severe, prevents conception (which can lead to spousal abuse and even murder when a man or his family becomes enraged that his wife has not produced offspring because sperm can’t survive the toxic brew of drying chemicals) and even enables HIV to spread more easily.
Women DIE because of the stigma against EWCM, a thing our bodies make naturally.
In other parts of the world, AKA OUR part of the world, a lesser known but still misogynistic and abusive practice is when men refuse to let their partners use storebought lubricants because they claim any time a woman is experiencing intermittent vaginal dryness it’s a sign of unfaithfulness, lack of interest in sex/her spouse, or that she is broken/damaged in some Freudian way. Some men claim that using a store-bought lubricant is a method of trying to hide infidelity or physical flaws (just like some MRA claim that using makeup is “lying”, they also claim using lube is “lying). These men would rather their wives experience sexual pain than to use a lubricant. Here’s a lovely example where a woman who just had a baby 3 months ago that she is still breastfeeding is being punished by her partner for vaginal dryness. And here is another one about a woman on birth control experiencing the same issue. And here’s one more just for those who still doubt. This is a story I hear over and over again, FAR more often than the women who are forced to use drying agents, and I don’t hear many sexperts like the people who write for Vice or Teen Vogue saying an official word despite how ubiquitous it is.
And then if that’s not bad enough, around ovulation when a woman is naturally having EWCM, some of these men then take that as an additional sign of infidelity. “Wul, she’s dry sometimes, and wet sometimes, and that must mean she’s cheating on me, guess I’ll beat her”. This is a real thing, people. Men, maybe even some men you actually know, are regularly accusing their wives of cheating and threatening divorce or violence against them on this basis of the amount of vaginal discharge they have. (this is not only something that has been reported to me hundreds of times, but is something I have personally experienced in a relationship, so keep it to yourself, there, Doubting Thomas).
The solution Cardi B offers…WAP, supposedly meant as female empowerment, simply further promotes the idea of having a lot of vaginal lubrication naturally as being the “right” way for a woman to be because men like it that way.
No. No, Cardi B, that is not female empowerment any more than it was empowering to women when you had your vagina bleached.
I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t even watch this one, you’re on your own.
There is one commonality between men who punish their wives for being “too wet” and men who punish their wives for being “too dry” and that commonality is men. Men, who in many cases have no understanding of the way the female body even works, imposing their sexual desires onto women, and becoming enraged and abusive when our bodies fail to comply. Helpful hint dudes, the WORST thing you can possibly do for your sex life is to make your wife feel a lot of pressure about sex. Nowhere in the song WAP will you read any lyrics about how Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion’s boyfriends hollered derogatory names at them till they got WAP (and considering Megan was actually shot by her boyfriend, that’s saying a lot.)
Yelling at women, saying they are frigid, getting butthurt and inconsolable because a woman’s body doesn’t work the way that some early 2000’s era PUA led you to believe it should, and refusing to just open a goddamn tube of KY during the times of the month when women happen to need it THROUGH NO FAULT OF OUR OWN simply ends up with women associating sex with fear, stress, and pain. And that, dear chums, will spoil your sex lives FOREVER.
And I wouldn’t even fucking care for your sake, but it will also ruin HER sex life forever and she deserves better.
This is not about you, dudes. It’s just the way we gals are built. Please quit viewing everything a woman does and experiences through the lens of “is this good for my peener”. Because expecting…nay, demanding…WAP at the times of the month and in circumstances when DAP is what is happening is like asking you to start breathing out your asshole – doesn’t matter how much you might want to, it’s not gonna happen, because it’s biologically impossible.
The female body is a weird and wonderful thing. It does some amazing shit, but just like every body system we possess, our lovely vaginas follow rules we can’t just set aside because you watched a lot of porn growing up and had this vision of the way women’s bodies worked that just so happens to be completely untrue.
Learn the rules, just like you learned the rules of how to play fantasy football and set the timing on a 1968 Ford Fairlaine and all those many many many hard and challenging things u brainy brainy men learn along the way.
And rejoice! The female body is actually a lot less challenging than a lot of stuff you guys set your mind to.