Celebrity

Can Men Please Stop Mansplaining How Vaginas Work?

Ben Shapiro's comments about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP" and vaginal lubrication are actually pretty harmful

On August 7, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion blessed the world with an anthem celebrating female arousal and it didn’t take long before men were trying to put a damper on it. One man was particularly outspoken about his complaints—conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro broke down the lyrics and messaging behind Cardi and Meg’s new song, “WAP,” on August 10. ICYMI, “WAP” stands for “Wet-Ass Pussy,” and the song—and its accompanying video—is a celebration of women’s sexuality and arousal in the most graphic, unapologetic and honestly amazing of ways.

The end-of-summer hit features Cardi and Meg telling their sexual partners to “Bring a bucket and a mop for this wet-ass pussy,” rapping at them to “Swipe your nose like a credit card,” and pretty much telling it like it is—as in, being extremely open about the fact that *spoiler alert* people with vaginas can get very wet when they’re aroused. But while Cardi and Meg’s bop has been celebrated by many for its catchy lyrics, insanely hot music video (featuring a much-discussed cameo from Kylie Jenner) and empowering message (anytime someone talks about vaginas and people with them loving sex is empowering in my books), Shapiro decided to rain on everyone’s parade (or more aptly, stop the rain), by suggesting that any person who is “wet” (i.e. whose vagina lubricates itself) to the point the rappers were describing must have some sort of medical condition. Yes, seriously.

In a segment on The Ben Shapiro Show, Shapiro broke down the track’s lyrics, reading them out in what can only be described as the voice I hear in my nightmares, and not even saying the word pussy, instead referring to it as “P-word.” In response to tweets making fun of Shapiro’s reading, the commentator reiterated points from his show, tweeting: “Listen, guys. I fully explained on the show that it’s misogynistic to question whether graphic descriptions of “wet-ass p****” is empowering for women. ‘WAP’ is obviously an incredibly profound statement of women’s empowerment, a la Susan B. Anthony.” (Which is true). But, as Shapiro continued: “As I also discussed on the show, my only real concern is that the women involved — who apparently require a ‘bucket and a mop’ — get the medical care they require. My doctor wife’s differential diagnosis: bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, or trichomonis.”

Seriously Ben, can you please just not? While Shapiro may have *thought* his unsolicited diagnosis was helpful, it really isn’t. And it’s actually pretty harmful. Here’s why.

If you think Ben Shapiro mansplaining how vaginas function isn’t an issue, you’re wrong

To be clear, there are a few things going on with Shapiro’s comments, but the most egregious of them is that, by saying that women who become sexually aroused and wet to a certain degree deemed excessive need medical help, Shapiro is implying that there’s something wrong with this.  And while the idea of someone having a super lubricated vagina seems like it shouldn’t an issue (like seriously, mind your own business), it turns out that for some reason, and for quite a few people, it actually is. After Shapiro’s tweet, tons of female-identifying people on Twitter shared their own stories of being told that they were “too wet” or shamed for having a slick vag during sex.  In response to a tweet by gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Gunter, one Twitter user shared her experience having a partner tell her this, writing: “When told this, my response was he should feel good that I was so turned on by him. Inside I was horrified & felt I was somehow ‘lacking’.”

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In response to the same tweet, another user shared the ways in which a partner made *his* sexual complications his partner’s fault, writing: “I was told once, during sex, that I was too wet and that was why he couldn’t stay hard. I was mortified and wondered if my slippery vagina was really an issue. I’m glad to see this trending.”

One thing remains clear from these responses: People with vaginas are regularly being shamed for their bodies’ natural reaction to sexual stimulation.

Also, does Shapiro not understand hyperbole? I’m guessing Cardi and Meg are not actually *so* aroused that their partners need a literal bucket and mop. These lyrical angels are illustrating, through the use of the mop and bucket, that they’re extremely turned on and very wet. But that doesn’t mean that it’s literally the equivalent of a bucket of IRL water. Come on, now.

Not only is Shapiro’s “diagnosis” medically incorrect

Thankfully Shapiro isn’t a doctor, because any doc will tell you that vaginal lubrication itself is medically A-OK, not to mention serves a purpose, helping make sex more comfortable and enjoyable. Often, when someone with a vagina is sexually excited, blood flow in their genitals will increase, triggering the release of fluid from the cervix. (According to a December 2019 article by Arizona OBGYN Affiliates, a thin layer of vaginal fluid typically lines the walls of your vagina and helps for various reasons, including providing lubrication for sexual comfort, minimizing or preventing vaginal pain and supporting fertility.) Once blood flow is increased, this can lead to the vulva and clitoris swelling and the vagina lubricating itself (a.k.a. “getting wet”). Per Planned Parenthood, “this lubrication helps with friction and makes vaginal sex more comfortable and enjoyable.”

As Washington-based public health researcher Dr. Daniel Grossman tweeted: “In my medical opinion, it’s normal—important even—for women to have a WAP. Vaginal lubrication is common & orgasm experience depends on the individual. We should not shame women who have WAP.”

It’s important to note that not everyone who gets sexually excited will experience lubrication the same way. Vaginal wetness can vary depending on independent factors like age, hormone levels and even your mood. Vaginal wetness can also occur when you’re *not*sexually aroused, with vaginal fluid and discharge occurring if you have a vaginal infection as a way to clear it out. (Seriously folks, vaginas are amazing!!)

It’s also extremely harmful

Not only is the notion that a very lubricated vagina is indicative of some kind of infection largely medically inaccurate, but it can also be extremely harmful. Thinking or implying that there’s something wrong with a certain amount of vaginal lubrication (when there are no other symptoms that would suggest otherwise) can have really damaging effects on the owners of said vaginas. If the aforementioned tweets from women highlighted anything, it’s that comments about being “too wet” or the fear of being “too wet” can dictate how people feel about their bodies, desirability and pleasure in general. Don’t believe me? Just look at the numerous articles that come up when you type “Can you be too wet” into Google, or the several Reddit threads with people asking whether or not being “too wet” is a turn off. “Our sexual health is not separate from our overall mental health and wellbeing and our relationship health,” says Samantha Bitty, a Toronto-based sexual health and consent educator. “And [these comments] have a huge impact.”

Bitty, who has been a sexual health and consent educator for over 10 years, has seen firsthand the effect these comments can have on people with vaginas, via DMs and messages online from people who are “so hurt, sad, disembodied and dysmorphic because  these types of narratives [about vaginas and pleasure] get passed around so casually,” she says. “When we are taking a space, [in this case] the pussy, which is so vulnerable in terms of people’s relationship to it [already], and then you’re stigmatizing it further—that is harmful.”

These narratives often come from a lack of education around the pleasure and arousal of people assigned female at birth. (Not to mention the fact that the ways people learn about sex is largely through mainstream media and porn, where “we don’t see wetness, we don’t see squirting, we don’t see those things represented through a woman’s lens; it’s always through a misogynistic gaze,” according to Bitty). “We, as in a medical academic scientific community, only just started investigating in any meaningful or quantifiable way, the arousal or the purpose of people assigned female at birth’s pleasure organs,” Bitty says. This research has only occurred within the last couple of decades, meaning that the medical community still has a lot to learn and unlearn about bodies, pleasure and arousal for people who with vaginas. “You can become a full doctor without doing any comprehensive reproductive health care, no abortion, no trans healthcare, nothing,” she continues, “but you want to sit and talk about how you know that [when vaginas are] too wet there must something wrong?” 

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Another place these assumptions come from? Misogyny. “There is a literal policing, punishment and regulation of women’s bodies specifically, but also folks who are assigned female at birth,” says Bitty. This is especially prevalent when it comes to expressions of sexuality.

And this lack of medical knowledge and prevalence of misogyny can intersect in truly harmful ways, spreading misinformation and perpetuating untrue narratives about sexuality and fidelity, linked to a way outdated (not to mention incorrect) belief that being “really wet” equates to hyper-sexualization. Take, for example, an April 2015 article in The Telegraph, in which a person wrote: “My girlfriend gets really wet when we have sex. She seems really sexual. Can I trust her to be faithful to me if she gets this excited when we are together?” Excuse me while I scream.

FYI, just because a person’s vagina may lubricate more does not mean they’re necessarily more sexual; and even if they are, hyper-sexualization does not mean your partner is going to be unfaithful. But while statements like the aforementioned seem pretty silly and “duh”-inducing, they contribute to a pyramid of sexual violence, which is the ways in which things like language about what is “normal” can create stereotypes that ultimately lead to violence). “These sorts of narratives about women’s pleasure, women’s bodies and how they operate or how we perceive the pussy operates, is at the base of that pyramid of sexual violence,” Bitty says. “All it takes is a man who’s partnered with a woman and that person has not worked through their internalized misogyny, and their partner’s so-called pussy is too wet and it’s like, ‘Oh, well you probably have an infection. Maybe you cheated on me. I’m going to kill you now.’ That’s literally the line of thinking of incels.”

“Say what you’re going to say, but don’t say it out of context,” she continues. “Say ‘there are various situations where there could be vaginal lubrication that is connected to infection,’ but don’t say, ‘Oh, wet-ass pussy is unhealthy.'”

Not to mention, comments like Shapiro’s insinuate that women don’t know their own bodies

But not only do Shapiro’s comments insinuate there’s something wrong with women, but by offering his unsolicited medical advice, the commentator’s also low-key implying that women don’t know their bodies and the difference between getting “wet” (when your vagina lubricates itself, often before sex) and abnormal vaginal discharge (hence the positing about potential infections). Which is wrong for a whole host of reasons, mainly the fact that people with vaginas don’t need a non-professional mansplaining how their bodies work to them and dictating what is and is not healthy.

Especially because women have had to put up with this sort of mentality when it comes to health and their bodies for so long. It’s a pretty well-recognized fact that many healthcare providers have implicit biases that affect the way female patients are heard and treated. Essentially, it’s common for women and their medical concerns to be downplayed, dismissed or not taken seriously by physicians (this is even worse for Black and Indigenous women). This is in stark contrast to the way men are treated when it comes to their health, and can have tragic consequences.

“If we’re going to imagine it in a Western context and a contemporary Western scientific context, then [medicine] is extremely paternalistic,” Bitty says.

If Shapiro’s point was not misogyny, and actually real concern for vaginal health, Bitty says she’d be curious about the commentator’s stance on birth control access and sex education in public schools—since, you know, he’s so concerned about vaginas.

And also wildly hypocritical

Everything else aside, the reaction of men like Shapiro and rapper CeeLo Green (who called female rappers like Meg and Cardi “desperate”) to two women rapping about enjoying sex and celebrating their lady bits is hypocritical AF. Not only do Shapiro’s comments speak to the fear people *still* seem to have around women as sexual beings and people who hold sexual power (at least when it comes to being sexual on their own terms and outside of the male gaze), but also to the double standards still inherent in our society. Because, would we even be having *this* discussion if two men were rapping about their dicks? The answer’s no. Because they’ve been doing it FOR YEARS.

Also, for anyone hating on Meg, Cardi and WAPs, Bitty has one question: “How is it somehow OK for a U.S. president to talk openly about grabbing us by [our pussies] but we can’t sing songs about them?”

Ultimately for Bitty, the basis of Shapiro’s comments and our discussion of them goes back to sex education, which, if done in a productive way in the first place, would nip any discussion around women not knowing their vaginas right in the bud. “Maybe if we normalized the function of pussies in mainstream conversation, if we treated pussy ‘issues’ the way that we treat dick issues, then we wouldn’t even be having the conversation,” she states. “It would be, ‘Oh yeah,  I can tell the difference between my vaginal arousal lubrication and my yeast infection because you educated me properly first of all in my public school education.” (I.e. end of story, Mr. Shapiro). “But infra-structurally, we don’t normalize women’s knowledge of their own bodies.”

Which is why songs like Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s “WAP” are so important and needed. They normalize and celebrate the bodies, sexuality and experiences of people with vaginas. So friends, celebrate your WAP. And don’t be ashamed about having your partner safely and consensually park their big mac truck (or whatever the non-heterosexual equivalent is!) in your little garage!!