Lube can easily be incorporated into someone’s sex life, but it’s also one of the most underutilized sexual tools. Why? Stigma. Lube shame runs deep, and many people think that using lube is a sign that something is wrong — especially for people with vaginas.
It’s a myth widely-believed that if you have a vagina and are aroused, you’ll get wet easily. For some people, it’s as simple as that, but for a large number of people, it isn’t. Rather than acknowledging that vaginal dryness is a common (and easily managed) concern, many folks opt to ignore it, pushing past pain and discomfort all in the pursuit of seeming more “normal.” Lube is an essential tool for both pleasure and health, but many people are more afraid of the friction potentially created by asking their partner to use lube on them than they are of the friction caused by dryness.
Just to be clear, lube isn’t just a tool for people with vaginas. If you’re engaging in anal play, lube is a pre-requisite. If you’re giving a hand job, lube helps the task slip right through your hands. Lube can even play a helpful role during oral sex, especially for those moments when you find yourself a little less hydrated than usual.
Why Lube Is Necessary
Lube serves two purposes: To increase sexual pleasure and improve sexual safety. Those might seem like two lofty goals for one small bottle, but it’s true. As a sexual tool, good lube has an outsized positive impact on people’s sex lives.
First, lube does exactly what its name says: It lubricates. By reducing the friction between someone’s skin and another surface, lube reduces the risk of minor skin tears. The word “minor” here belies the reality, which is that even a small skin tear on your genitals can be both painful and difficult to heal. Your skin is at the highest risk of tearing during penetrative anal or vaginal play, with the receptive partner being much more likely to experience a tear. This isn’t just a factor for skin-to-skin contact — using lube also reduces the risk of barrier methods (like condoms) tearing.
Those tears can make you more susceptible to STIs. Plus, the tears can get infected on their own and lead to further discomfort.
When it comes to anal play, lube simply isn’t negotiable. Unlike the vagina, the anus doesn’t self-lubricate. The anal and rectal tissues are incredibly thin and sensitive, which means not using lube can result in a lot of pain. Anal play shouldn’t be painful, and using a long-lasting lubricant can help make sure it’s not.
Lube is also crucial for vaginal play. While most vaginas can self-lubricate, many of them don’t produce enough fluid to make sex enjoyable. A whole host of things can contribute to vaginal dryness, including:
- Anti-histamines (allergy medication)
- Hormonal birth control
- Testosterone therapy
- Depression (and anti-depressants)
- Sexual trauma
- Cancer treatment
- Arousal non-concordance
…and that’s only a small portion of the things that can contribute to intermittent or chronic dryness. The variation on this list goes to show that vaginal dryness is a side effect of many different things, so there shouldn’t be any shame in dealing with it.
As lube reduces friction, it allows you to more directly experience the good feelings that your body might be experiencing. Rather than focusing on unwanted pain or discomfort caused by lack of lubrication, your body can pay attention to the other factors and sensations coming into play.
When you can reduce sexual stress and anxiety, the possibility for pleasure increases. Lube isn’t a one-drop-cures-all solution for all types of sexual stress, but if you’re experiencing stress or anxiety about sexual pain or an inability to reach orgasm, lube is a good starting place.
The lube you choose to use can be affected by many different factors, and you might find that you opt for different types depending on the type of sex you’re having. Ultimately, lube is something that should be used abundantly. Use it during solo sex, vaginal sex, oral sex, hand stuff, anal play — whatever. When you choose the right lube for you and the type of sex you’re having, it can only help you feel more pleasure (once you get over that initially awkward bump).
I dive deeper into lube (including ingredient safety and compatibility, choosing the right lube for you, and more) in my Lube-a-Palooza workshop, which you can buy a recording of here.