Of all the sex toys and tools in your toolbox, lube is one of the most simple and overlooked. So much of the pleasure we derive from sex is about skin-on-skin friction, and lube can make certain frictions move along the spectrum away from chafing and towards feeling extremely good. For whatever kind of sex you’re having (or hoping to have), chances are a bit of lubricant can make the sensations and situation feel better for everyone involved. So why is lube so intimidating?
Well, if you find lube intimidating, you’re not alone. And if you’re already riding the pro-lube train, congratulations. We’ll meet you there.
So Why Isn’t Lube In Your Sex Toy Drawer?
There are a few barriers in the way of us – as individuals and as a society – embracing lube. The major one is the stigma attached to it. Unfortunately a lot of people incorrectly believe that adding lube during sex is a sign that women or anyone with a vulva are not functioning ‘properly’, because we allegedly should be ‘wet’ enough from arousal. But that’s really not the case.
First of all, no matter how much natural lubricant your genitals produce, there’s always a case for adding a little extra (especially if you’re running a marathon and not a sprint). For one, not all body parts self-lubricate. Perhaps most crucially, the anus and the clitoris. For any anal play and anal sex, whether that be with hands, penis or sex toys, lube is unquestionably a must-have.
As for the clit, countless studies show that from 70% to 80% of people with vulva’s need clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm during intercourse. For that stimulation to be pleasurable, lubricating the clit and the surrounding area can be crucial.
Plus, when it comes to vaginas, ‘getting wet’ doesn’t always happen exactly the way we think it ‘should’. There are heaps of very normal reasons that the level of self-lubrication might not match desire for sex. It could be where you are in your menstrual cycle, your age, how hydrated you are at the time, how much time has been spent on sexual foreplay and the context of that foreplay, or even no reason at all.
The autonomic nervous system that controls vaginal lubrication has a surprisingly low accuracy rate, meaning you can be really horny but really dry, or wet but not horny at all. It’s called arousal nonconcordance and it’s a very compelling reason to have a little lube tube in your sex toy drawer for when the mood strikes but the juices ain’t flowing.
Introducing Lube Is Not Criticism Of The Sex You’re Having
While introducing lube, sex toys, or anything new into the mix of sex with a partner (or multiple partners) should just feel fun and easy, that’s not necessarily always the case. Understandably, sex is a vulnerable space and people can feel very sensitive about whether they’re doing it well. Unfortunately, that can mean people interpret the suggestion to add something new (like lube or sex toys) as criticism.
But wanting to use lube isn’t an indication that the sex you’re having is bad or that anyone’s ‘performance’ isn’t good enough. It says you’re comfortable and keen to explore new and potentially more pleasurable things with someone. It’s not so different from suggesting to try a new sex position.
“It’s really OK to have that conversation outside of the bedroom, or wherever you’re having sex as well, it’s not just in bedrooms.” Liz said. “Like, you know, if you’re sitting on the couch after watching a movie, being like ‘Hey, if we end up banging later, I’d really like to try this new lube that I bought.’ Or, you know, ‘I’ve been reading about this lube stuff, it sounds kinda interesting, I think it could be a lot of fun. Why don’t we give it a go?’ And so then you’re both kinda primed when you go into a sex situation you’ll be like, ‘OK, let’s have a…let’s try this out!’ Rather than being, like, in the middle of something and being like, ‘Hey pause everything. This is fine, this is fine, but what if…’”
If you’re sensitive about how you go about it, introducing lube into sex should be something exciting and erotic for everyone involved.
We’re Missing Out
By associating lube with sexual dysfunction and deficiency, we put a wall of shame and embarrassment between ourselves and our potential for increased sexual pleasure. Basically, entrenched misinformation about lube and our bodies is in the way of us having a good time and that’s a damn shame.
According to a recent study of more than 1200 UK adults conducted by Durex, 73% of women have experienced sexual discomfort. And to relieve that discomfort, nearly 10% have faked an orgasm with a partner and a further 15% have intentionally hurried their partner towards finishing. One third indicated that the pain hinders their libido and one in 10 said it has an adverse effect on their relationship with their sexual partner.
Pain and discomfort absolutely should not be considered an endurable, normal part of sex for anyone, but for a lot of women that is their reality. Sadly, the study also showed that only a third (34%) would use lube, even though nine in 10 admitted that sex feels better when they do.
Whether it’s lube, sex toys, different positions, specific directions or anything of the like, everyone has the right to ask for what they need to feel pleasure during sex. And if the numbers are anything to go by, it seems lube could be the thing that transforms your sex life past the point of no return.
So What’s On The Lubricant Menu?
OK, so even if you’re ready to fully embrace lube into your collection of sex toys and tools, the final barrier is knowing which ones to use when and where. There is a constantly-increasing world of lube-choices out there, but most fall into three main categories.
First up, we’ve got water-based lubricants. These lubes have a thick watery feel to them that eventually absorbs into your skin. That means it can feel nice and natural but you may need to reapply if you’re playing a long game. Water-based lubes are safe to use without causing damage to sex toys or latex contraceptives like condoms and diaphragms, and they shouldn’t stain your sheets (though that’s never guaranteed, so maybe put down a towel if you want to be extra careful).
Because these lubes are water-based, they’re no good for any kind of play in the shower or tub as they’ll wash away. Watch out for any lubes (water-based or otherwise) that contain glycerin or propylene glycol, as they can cause yeast infections.
Next up, we’ve got silicone-based lubes. This was the first mass-produced lube option and it’s stuck around for a good reason – it literally sticks around during sex. Silicone-based lube is not absorbed into the skin so it lasts a long time and can even do its job if used in the shower. You can (and should) wash it away when you’re done with some gentle and scent free soap.
The cons include the fact that it can’t be used with silicone sex toys (which is what most dildos are made from), as it will deteriorate the materials. If you want to use a sex toy and lube you can either pop a condom over the toy or maybe opt for a water-based lube. Silicone-based lube is also difficult to get out of fabric, so put down a towel or something to avoid staining the sheets. It’s hypoallergenic but some people experience irritations so, as with all lubes, test it on a patch of normal skin and maybe a small, edge patch of genital skin before going all in.
Hybrid lubes do exist that are primarily water based with a bit of silicone added into the mix. They are meant to last longer without damaging your silicone sex toys so they’re a lube worth considering.
Finally, we have oil-based lubricants. These are not safe to use with latex products like your contraceptives or rubber sex toys, as they’ll break down the materials. They’ll also likely stain your sheets. Oil-based lubricants can include a whole host of things that you find around the household, like coconut oil, olive oil, and Vaseline, but be careful what you read on the internet as you absolutely can not just use any slippery house-hold liquid as lubricant for your genitals. Just don’t do it.
Oils can be great for outercourse play and massages and for some people, intercourse. However, everyone is different and these oils can be unsuitable for the natural pH levels of some vaginas. Things like coconut oil can create the perfect environment for unwanted bacteria to breed, so can cause yeast infections (thrush). For some people they will be the perfect lube, and for others you’ll be heading straight to the chemist after use. Unfortunately, that’s just a risk of using those ‘natural’ oils as lubes.
Picking the lubes that work for you isn’t nearly as much work as it might sound, and introducing it to sexual partner(s) doesn’t need to feel nearly as scary. It’s just a sex-ccessory that can make the action feel that much better for everyone involved.
So really consider why you’re sleeping on lube, and if you’re open to potential improvement, give it a go.