Vaginal discharge vs. lube from being turned on?

Dear Alice,

This might sound like a gross question, but I do need an answer! When my partner performs oral sex on me, I'm not sure if my vagina is moist because I'm wet or because I have vaginal discharge... which is what? Isn't it normal for a woman's vagina to be somewhat moist, and to have a little discharge? When a woman gets wet, how can she tell? And know the difference between that and discharge?

Also, my partner and I haven't tried intercourse yet (I am a virgin)... I've read your previous answer to a man who said his penis might be too big for his partner; I am worried that I'm too small/tight for my partner. It doesn't look easy for him to even enter, and I don't know how I can make my opening wider to accommodate him (how much foreplay, how long?). How much pain does the woman feel? Thanks a lot!!

Need Answers

Dear Need Answers,

You are right on both accounts — it's normal for a woman to have vaginal discharge and it's normal for a woman's vagina to become more "wet" or lubricated when she is aroused. Why? A woman's cervix produces mucus, which lines the vagina and is expelled as discharge. So it's normal to notice a whitish to yellowish stain on your underwear. The color, smell, and consistency of discharge can change throughout the month, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Discharge can be more wet or more dry, change in taste from sweet to salty to sour, and be more or less thick or viscous. Each woman has a general pattern of how her monthly cycle proceeds. You can follow your own cycle by feeling the entrance of your vagina with your finger daily, looking at the secretions, being aware of sensations of vaginal wetness or dryness, and recording these characteristics every day for several cycles.

In terms of sexual stimulation, early on in sexual excitement, veins in a woman's genital tissues begin to dilate and fill with blood, gradually making the whole area feel full (called vasocongestion). In the vagina, this swelling creates a "sweating reaction," producing a fluid that makes the vaginal lips get wet — often an early sign that a woman is sexually excited. This fluid wets the entrance to your vagina, making penetration easier. When your partner performs oral sex on you, the fluids you're feeling are probably a bit of both — some normal discharge and some of the extra lube from sexual excitement.

In terms of your vaginal entrance not being big enough for your partner's penis, although the entrance to the vagina may look small, the vagina elongates and becomes more elastic when a woman is aroused. Along with lubrication, this allows a penis or other object to enter the vagina more easily, and pleasurably. As far as foreplay, there is no magic formula; every person needs a different amount of kissing, caressing, and connection to feel physiologically and mentally ready for sex. Two pieces of good news are that:

a) You don't have to have sex until you feel ready. Feeling ready includes trusting your partner, being able to communicate openly with your partner, understanding yours and your partner's anatomy, understanding how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections and/or unwanted pregnancy, and wanting to try having sex.

b) If you start to have sex and feel any pain or doubt, you can always let your partner know you'd like to slow down, go back to foreplay, or stop altogether (this is where feeling confident that you can communicate openly with your partner comes in handy).

If you're thinking about having sex soon, you can check out the related Q&As for more information. Exploring your sexuality can be lots of fun, especially when you go at a pace that makes you and your partner comfortable. Take your time and enjoy!

Last updated Mar 04, 2014
Originally published Apr 01, 1994

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