Yet women across the world will run serious risks to avoid getting wet, ‘Dry sex’ feels best, they claim – for the man at least.
To keep the vagina dry, women insert herbs, absorbent materials like paper, chemical cleaning agents, antiseptics, or even toothpaste. A dry vagina is supposed to feel better for the man during intercourse. Men say they like the friction, heat, and swollen tightness.
But ‘dry sex’ also carries serious health risks, says Dr Tinde van Andel, a Dutch expert and co-author of the paper Dry sex in Suriname. 'It can lead to cuts and inflammation in the vagina and it suppresses the natural bacteria. All of which increases the likelihood of infection with sexually transmitted diseases, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV),' warns Dr van Andel.
Dry sex is popular all over Africa – though it depends on ethnic background, and there are some notable exceptions. In Indonesia too, a wet vagina is frowned upon. Dryness is also favoured in parts of South America and the Caribbean, says Dr van Andel, who is a specialist in the medicinal plants of Suriname.
The vagina-drying herbs women use often contain tannins, which give the sensation of dryness and tightening – like the dry feeling in the mouth from strong tea or red wine. Other plants contain irritating chemicals that make the vagina swell and become tight, so the man's penis feels ‘bigger’.
So what’s in it for women? Apart from the increased risk of infection, mostly just discomfort and pain during sex, says Dr Van Andel.
They keep doing it because they think that otherwise, their man will look for another girlfriend, she says. And both men and women often see vaginal discharge as being unhealthy and a sign that a woman has been sleeping around.
So what’s Tinde van Andel’s advice to women whose partners want ‘dry sex’? 'Say no, of course!' But it’s easy for her to say, she adds.
'Women who live in countries where dry sex practices are common have probably been taught from an early age that washing the vagina with plenty of soap and drying agents is essential for a woman to keep her husband faithful and happy. Many are dependent on their husbands or boyfriends so they’re in no position to tell them what they want.'
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