Queefing is a weird one, isn't it. It has a funny name, a funny sound, and if you are a teenage boy, is commonly referred to as "fanny farting". Unless you have the confidence of a straight, white, cis man, when it happens you can't help but feel embarrassed.
So, I spoke to psychosexual and relationships therapist Carolyn Cowan - who works with people around their sexuality, gender identity and is also a trauma therapist - about why queefing really is nothing to be ashamed of. And, why in fact, it's a pretty sexy thing to happen.
What is a queef?
First of all, a queef really, really isn't a fart. "It’s an escape of air from the vaginal chamber," Carol says. "A lot of people don't know they have a vaginal chamber." Put simply, a queef is, "[air that] gets pushed in and then released. It’s not air building up from fermentation in the intestine, it’s just air that’s been accumulated in the vaginal chamber. It doesn’t have an odour, unless you have an infection like bacterial vaginosis."
Why do queefs happen?
First, we need a basic understanding of our anatomy, Carolyn explains. "When you put your finger inside your vagina, what closes around it is your pelvic floor which is roughly four inches thick. Above that you have the vaginal chamber. And above that sits your cervix, which is the entrance to your womb. If you were to put fingers, a dildo or a penis inside your vagina, the tip of it would arrive somewhere between the top of your pelvic floor and the bottom of your cervix."
Usually, there's no air in the vagina or vaginal chamber (unless you have pelvic floor issues and it doesn't close, Carolyn says). But when you start to get aroused, a series of things happen up in there.
"The pelvic floor and vagus nerve soften," she explains. "We want to have a soft pelvic floor even though weirdly there’s this cultural idea that we should have a tight pelvic floor. Actually, the more relaxed your pelvic floor, the better your orgasms."
Next, your vaginal chamber opens up and becomes "literally a room between your pelvic floor and your cervix" as Carolyn puts it. "When you’re fully aroused, your tendons shorten and pull up your womb and bladder, to get it out of the way which makes a lot of space. And therefore there’s more room for air to get in."
How does the air get in there?
"If [your partner is] using a penis or a toy to penetrate you, air will get into the vagina. Depending on how you change your position, your organs will move and there’ll be compression against the belly. Air can escape and sound like a fart during penetration, orgasm, or even if you bear down a little bit," she says. "If you were just being licked it’s not likely [to happen] unless your legs are being held open, and you were being fisted. It’s generally linked to penetration."
If you've given birth vaginally, are used to being fisted or having more than three fingers inside your vagina, there can be more space and this makes it more likely for air to escape, Carolyn explains.
"It’s an interesting thing because we’re culturally embarrassed, but it’s actually very much a measure of how excited we are. If somebody’s horrified by it, they should know it’s a measure of arousal. It’s a lovely thing. It’s about the amount of space we’ve made inside ourselves for the other person."
The main thing Carolyn wants us to know, is that you should never feel ashamed if it happens to you. "You might find with one person it happens a lot, and it doesn’t happen at all with someone else. It’s so penis/fingers/toy dependent. For some it depends on the position and angle. Either way, it's normal and it's OK."