A DRY vagina, when attached to the confines of copulation or any other kind of sexual tete-a-tete would, in the West, most always be associated with some kind of dysfunction; either that of the dispirited man who may feel his carnal preambles have not sufficed to stimulate his counterpart, or perhaps the result of a woman’s psychological or physical state. There are many reasons, and many sexual active, or formerly active people have likely experienced dry sex at some point in their lives, but it’s likely that the result was not something wanted, expected, or even coached into being, in the West, I don’t think. Although in some countries, mainly developing countries including parts of Africa, South America, and in Indonesia and Thailand, women are reportedly at pains, and at risk, in trying to achieve a dry vaginal state during sexual intercourse.
Women who have sexual intercourse while their vagina is not lubricated may feel discomfort, and the cuts and abrasions that might be incurred during a dry romp, could lead to infections. Nonetheless, some women in the aforementioned parts of the world use various herbs, cleaning agents, and absorbent materials to achieve dry sex, according to various reports. The reason, for the most part, is so that men will allegedly achieve more sexual satisfaction; but it is also related to a woman’s sexual portfolio, or for wont of a better word, purity. According to an article in This is Africa some men prefer dry sex because they “like the friction, heat and swollen tightness” and “so the man’s penis feels bigger.” It’s also believed that a wet vagina during coitus might lead men to think that the woman is overly lustful, which apparently is frowned upon in some parts of the world (if not to some degree in our skewed and arguably static cultural notions about sex, in all parts of the world).
While the ‘dry vagina’ phenomenon in Thailand has not been widely reported, it has been the subject of a number of studies. In a 2010 study, ‘Social Science & Medicine’ found that:
Some respondents in Asia stressed the need to maintain a ‘harmonious’ relationship with husbands in keeping with the positive value women place on balance, social harmony, and self control of emotions, which they managed, in part, through the use of vaginal practices. Married respondents in Thailand and Indonesia seemed to share an underlying acceptance of social norms supporting both monogamy and a woman’s ‘duty’ to service the sexual needs of her husband using the enhancements of vaginal practices.
A 2003 ‘Population Council’ study reported that, “A recent study found that vaginal cleansing, drying, or tightening was practiced by 13% of women in Thailand, 67% in Uganda, and 60% in Zimbabwe.” Adding that, “informants from Thailand reported that because both dry sex and excessive vaginal wetness are viewed unfavorably by men, women are under pressure to achieve an intermediate amount of lubrication that facilitates sex, but is not too plentiful to detract from men’s pleasure.”
Having written quite a bit about Thailand’s ‘Perfect Women’ crisis: a tangled web of codes of conduct lumped on women, tenets devised by the patriarchs that may form a Thai woman’s gender purview from the moment she is able to speak; and being privy to contemporary iterations of man-pleasing artifacts such as those that purportedly whiten a women’s vagina, I’m familiar with some of the cultural yokes in Thailand relating to women’s beauty or ‘goodness’. I was however, until I saw an article in Thai written by feminist author and social critic, Lukkana Punvichai, better known as Khampaka, was unaware of a ‘dry vagina culture’ here in Thailand.
In an interview Khampaka explained, “For me in these cultures a dry vagina signifies a ‘good woman’ – it is not just about the quality of vagina, but dry means you did not use it much.” A wet vagina might mean a women is seen as a “whore”, she adds, or at least that “women might sleep around with many men.”
A treatment in Thailand to keep the vagina dry is ‘Yaa Hee Yum’, which translates roughly as medicine to make the vagina tight. It is administered when the woman sits over a fire in which the herb is burning. Yar Hee Hum was a fixture at the Thai health expo in 2014, though its importance was given to repairing the vagina postpartum, but also to “help a women feel young again”. Khampaka explains that some women in Thailand use the herb “to trick their man into thinking that their vagina is small and tight,” and even though she says this will undoubtedly cause the woman pain she says in their minds, “it’s worth the pain as it will make the man think she is a good woman.”
She refers to a novel called ‘Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl’, a fictional account written by two anthropologists of a young Somali woman’s life. In the novel the woman is circumcised by the time she is nine, but she is proud of her circumcised “dry and clean vagina”, says Khampaka, because it is not like a white woman’s vagina, that is, “dirty because it is wet and smelly”. Khampaka believes that the West, and aforementioned other countries, are divided in what she says is a, “wet and dry culture”.
Khampaka however does not believe, in spite of the moral tone taken against women who attempt to modify their genitals – if it is their own wish – that women of any nationality should be obliged to treat their vaginas in a way that is prescribed by conventional demands. It is their own, they should do with it as they choose. Speaking of this wet and dry culture she says, “there is no right or wrong”, that women should not be misled into thinking any particular state of virginal aridity of moistness is correct.
I wasn’t expecting her to take this position, mainly because it seems that women might be coerced into doing something painful and harmful to meet a man’s arguably unfair demands, to placate his insecurities. She explains that it’s a matter of freedom, and not what is right, and that women might also prefer dry sex. “I just want to ask Thai woman what they really prefer, wet or dry?” she says, “If they prefer wet, why do they need the soap to make their vagina dry?”
She also explains that in the case of Ya Hee Yum the herbs apparent ability to make sex better is misleading. “Ya Hee Yum makes the vagina dry, not strong and tight as we are told,” she says, adding, “but on the shelves of women’s products in shops there are tons of vaginal soaps which are advertised as making your vagina ‘dry’, ‘clean’ and having a ‘good smell’”
She mentions that the stimulus that creates the natural lubricant is seen as dirty because of the age-old cultural belief that “sex is dirty”. She says that many Thai women go about their lives trying to forget they just had, “wet, dirty, sex last night.”
She asks, whether wet or dry, why, “do women desperately want do anything just to make their men happy in bed?” She goes a step further and asks, “Why do we need to be loved and desired by men?” The patriarchal ideology, she says, “that has been working in our minds for decades makes us automatically feel we need someone in our lives, and we must do our utmost to keep them in our lives and do anything to prevent them from walking away?” Women, she says, must come to terms with the fact that it is normal behavior for men to get bored and walk away, and to also accept the humility that comes with it.
Much the same, I guess, as men – whose inboxes have likely experienced some penis growing products, or whose countenances have been flattened from time to time by overreaching bumf in men’s mags about how to please your girl, and might seem out of whack with their inherent acumen for sexual dalliances.