You walk into Rite Aid on West End with the intent of picking up toothpaste, body wash and maybe a bag of halloween candy since its on sale. On your stroll to the checkout line, you notice the brightly labeled KY Intense Pleasure Gel and the Love Couples Lubricant. You randomly pick a bottle and bring it to the register, but by the time you get to the counter, the bottle of lube is sitting in the basket on the floor because you couldn’t face the judgmental stares of the store associate.
Lubricant is a liquid or gel that reduces friction and irritation by making the vulva, vagina, anus or mouth more wet and slippery. Sounds fun enough, right? So why is it such an uncomfortable topic to talk about? In many sexual encounters, broaching the subject of lube is almost forbidden because of what it implies about our bodies: that they’re somehow dysfunctional.
By attaching stigmas and shame to someone’s inability to become “wet enough,” our culture frames an entirely natural situation as a problem. After all, lube exists for a reason. While many believe that people with vaginas always experience wetness when they’re sexually aroused, causation does not equal correlation, or in this case arousal does not equal wetness. Vaginal dryness can occur for a number of a different reasons including stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, health conditions and even the amount of foreplay (or lack thereof) involved. In college, we deal with all of these things often at the same time, so if you’re experiencing this, one of these things just might be the cause.
There’s a common misconception that lube is just for anal sex or for same-sex partners, but this is not the case. In 2014, one study found that 65.5 percent of the women surveyed had used lube. In another study, 70 percent of the men reported using it, with one in four using it in the last 30 days. A lot of people are using it for vaginal intercouse; we’re just not talking about it. Even if you don’t need it, you still might like it. But how would you know if you never tried it?
A few drops of lube inside the condom, insertive or external, can increase the sensation felt by those with penises. A flavored lube can also be used to make oral sex enjoyable and prevent tiredness in the jaw. Finally, if you’re having anal sex, generously applying lube can prevent tears in the anus, which does not produce sufficient lubrication. Lube can be used to spice things up with a partner, it can be used for alone time, it can relieve discomfort and it can upgrade an old favorite! Even if you don’t use it all the time, it might come in handy in the future, so educate yourself about what’s out there.
While baby oil, body lotion, vaseline, and yes, your spit, are easily accessible, they should not be used a substitutes for lube because they can lead to infections and might decrease the effectiveness of condoms, if used. No one type of lube is recommended for everyone. The best thing to do here is to try them and use what works best for you, so here’s a quick list of the different types of lubes available:
- Water-based lube: This is the most common type of lube available in drugstores. They are very slippery but need to be reapplied. They’re easy to clean up because they’re water soluble, and if you have skin sensitivities, this is as natural as it gets!
- Silicon-based lube: These are well-known for their silky texture. These last longer and can be used in water such as showers or hot tubs without the need for reapplication. They’re also hypoallergenic! However, you’ll need soap and water to clean these up. If you’re using a silicon-based sex toy, avoid using a silicon based lube because the material will deteriorate.
- Hybrid lubes: This type is often described as the best of both worlds! Combining aspects of silicon and water based lubes, they last longer than both of the two and are often more oily and creamy.
- Oil-based lube: These are seriously long-lasting, very slippery and can double as massage oils! However, oil-based lubes are not suited for use with latex external condoms because they cause the condom to become porous and tear. They also require a little extra clean up and people with vaginas may acquire yeast infections as a result of bacteria build-up.
You can find water and silicon based lubes on campus at The Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center and at the Student Health Center. For more information about lube, click here.