Queefing. As a word, it’s out there in the cultural consciousness. As a bodily function, it’s probably one of the most misunderstood. I read through the handful of scientific studies on queefing and caught up with Angela Jones, a New Jersey-based OB/GYN, to get the run-through on everything queef-related.
What is queefing?
Queefing refers to the release of air from the vagina. “[It’s] a more ‘politically correct' term for the vagina farting,” Jones says. “No one wants to say ‘farting’ because it seems a bit crude. But in a nutshell, that’s what it is.” Although some women are able to queef deliberately when air is inside their vagina, queefing is usually an involuntary response from the body. The vagina is a tube that has an ending composed of folds called "rugae," Jones explains. “Air can become entrapped in these folds and when it’s released, voila. You have a queef.”
If queefing involves air coming out of the vagina, your next question might be: How exactly does air get inside in the first place? A 2017 literature review led by Hedwig Neels suggested that queefing usually occurs when the muscles around our reproductive organs are relaxed, therefore enabling more air to enter the vagina. According to an Iranian study, this is most likely during penetrative sex, although it can also happen during fingering and oral sex. Also, exercise activities that involve posture changes (e.g. jogging and sit-ups) can also cause air to move in and out of the vagina. Certain body positions relax the muscles more—doggy-style in the bedroom and the downward-facing dog in yoga class are believed to be primary queef-enablers.
Is queefing healthy?
The quick answer is: Yes, in the majority of cases queefing is entirely healthy—it’s simply a matter of air entering and then exiting a space. Jones tells me that it’s completely normal. “It’s a natural bodily function,” she says. “By talking about it, it certainly becomes less taboo and hence you’ll be less likely to be embarrassed about it.”
There are two clinical conditions that may lead to queefing, namely rectovaginal fistulas and pelvic organ prolapses (POP). Rectovaginal fistulas are rare and usually caused by Crohn’s disease or prolonged childbirth. POP are more common, but tend to happen in older age as a result of childbirth, surgery or obesity. You’d already be seeking medical assistance prior to any resultant queefing in both cases. It’s also worth remembering that neither of these conditions are a significant cause of queefing—a 2015 study indicated no difference in queefing rates between women with and without POP.
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How common is queefing?
Since queefing is a healthy bodily function, little academic research exists on how prevalent it is. A handful of clinical case studies were published in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, but we had to wait until 2009 for a general population study with a decent sample size. This survey study indicated that—among mostly-white Dutch 45-85 year olds—queefing was reported by 12.8 percent of women. Similarly, the Iranian study cited earlier surveyed a broader group of 18-80-year-old women and suggested that 20 percent of them had ever experienced queefing.
A quick glimpse on Reddit reveals plenty of anecdotal accounts that display just how common queefing is. In one thread, a woman started off by declaring “IT’S SO NORMAL,” before describing how “if I happen to do it during intercourse with my current partner we either ignore it or we laugh about it.” Similarly, a man stated that in his experience “it's just random and unexpected but it is very common. With great sex, cums [sic] a great many sounds.”
Jones agrees, and is keen to stress that it’s extremely common. “If you have a penis pumping in and out of a vagina, air is going to get in there; hence, queefing is common during or after sex, as well as during exercise.”
How do people react to the sound in bed?
There are no large-scale surveys of men’s views towards queefing but, of course, there’s a bunch of individuals online willing to share their views. Men’s responses to queefing on this Reddit thread range from relatively neutral to positively arousing. One man suggested that he doesn’t really care either way: “The only interruption that might happen after a queef is having a laugh with my partner about it, then it’s right back to business.” Another man indicated that he’s turned on by queefing: “Looks like I'm in the minority but I actually find it kind of hot.” In fact, there’s a small community of men who describe themselves as queef fetishists
The two studies described earlier shed some light on what women think about queefing. Out of the Dutch women who experienced queefing, 24 percent reported no bother at all and 72.6 percent reported a little bother. The Iranian study gives us more contextual insight. Only 10 percent of the Iranian women who queef during sex were bothered by it. However, this number shoots up to 92 percent among women who queef during daily activities and 53 percent among women who queef during exercise. These figures may reflect an acceptance that queefing can happen during sex—a largely private activity—and the potential embarrassment of queefing in more public scenarios, where it could be misconstrued as a fart.
Women’s online discussions of queefing during sex indicate a range of feelings. One woman began a Reddit thread by saying that she queefs during sex and that “it’s incredibly embarrassing and turns me off instantly.” Elsewhere on the thread, another woman explained how “I used to feel super embarrassed about it as well until I was having sex with this guy [and queefed] and he smirked and said ‘that pussy talkin' to me’…totally changed my perspective.”
Ultimately, women’s reactions to queefing probably come down to how much they know about it. “If you know what it is, you’re probably cool with it. If you don’t know what it is, you’re likely to be embarrassed,” Jones tells me, “but don’t be. Knowing is half the battle.”
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