Maybe you found it as a young child on your parent’s bedside table. Maybe you got a free packet in your Frosh kit. Maybe you never leave home without a bottle of your favourite brand. Everyone has a different relationship with alubricant. Alas, like many fun things about sex, it’s not commonly mentioned in health class (if sex-ed is taught at all), and for many it remains in the shadows of the semi-taboo.
One of the main reasons we don’t talk about lube is because we don’t like to talk about body fluids. From a young age, we dismiss talk of body fluids as “potty mouth” or “bathroom talk,” leaving little room for people to talk about the fluids going in and out of their bodies. Think: pee, poop, blood, cum, puke, tears, lube. These can be hard to mention to a doctor, let alone a partner.
The absence of lube in our education and casual conversation creates an unspoken, unrealistic standard about how “normal” bodies are supposed to function. For example, a common myth is that vaginas naturally create all the lube they need when the person is turned on. FALSE. Some vaginas do and some don’t. This is when communication becomes important, and when lube can lend a helping hand.
Another common misconception is that lube is only for certain types of sex (read: penis-vagina intercourse). In reality, lube can be used everywhere and with everything: toys, masturbation, anal sex, massage, handjobs, blowjobs, fisting, fingering, spanking, frottage. You name it, you can probably lube it.
Bodies do create their own lube, but some places do more than others (i.e. vaginas vs. anuses), and this means different lubes can be better suited to different places. Water-based lube absorbs into the skin with use, which means no mess later on. If the lube dries up, simply add water to the area; only the water content of the lube has disappeared, not the ingredients that make it slippery. Silicone lube lasts longer and won’t be absorbed by the skin, which is helpful in places or parts that don’t naturally create their own. Remember, silicone lube should never be used with silicone toys, as the friction will melt the toy!
For oral sex, try out flavoured lube (peach, mint, pina colada, et cetera), but be wary of squirting it directly into your mouth, as the taste may be stronger than you think. There is also warming lube, tingling lube, organic lube, and vegan lube. If using a condom, put a little lube on the inside before using it in order to increase sensation for the wearer. Lube is also a great way to make sex safer: it will decrease the risk of a condom breaking, or without a condom, it will decrease the chance of micro-tears in the skin, which STIs like to invade.
A few things to be aware of when choosing a lube are glycerin, parabens, and oil. Water-based lubes often contain glycerin, a sugar alcohol that can lead to yeast infections or irritation, and parabens, which have been found to be carcinogenic – though this is still controversial. While some prefer oil, it should never be used with condoms (it weakens latex), it has a tendency to stick around longer than expected (increasing risk of infection), and it will stain your sheets. Like anything you put in or on your body, check the ingredients before use.
It’s also important to keep in mind lube’s limitations. Bodies like to communicate in different ways, and producing lube can be one of them; a lack of natural lubricant might signal somebody isn’t feeling the situation or isn’t quite ready. Whether it be with words, hand signals, or a secret code made up of pelvic thrusts and grunts, communicating with your partner about what you’re into and what you’re not, as well as asking them about their wants and needs, creates a space of trust and experimentation.