If you and I are friends, there’s a very good chance that at some point I have either given you lube or recommended lube to you. If we’re really good friends, you’ve probably received a bottle of Sliquid. Here’s why: Lube makes everything better.
Pictured: Kindle screen showing the cover of Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski & bottles of Sliquid (Silk, Sassy, and Sea) laying on a faux sheepskin.
“But I don’t need lube!”
It is possible that you don’t need lube. You really may not, especially if you’re never putting anything in your anus (or someone else’s). You may go through your entire life with a well-lubricated vagina, never needing to touch a bottle of the stuff. But you are actually in the minority and your experience is not true for everyone.
Let’s talk about the rest of us, though. Maybe you’re someone who generally produces enough lubrication on your own, but sometimes you need a boost. If you’re having penis-in-vagina sex (bio dick or dildo) and it lasts longer than 10 or 15 minutes, chances are good that you’ve experienced some friction. That’s perfectly normal – you are not broken – but it isn’t really ideal, is it? Enter: Lube.
If you’re having anal sex, you are really going to need lube. The anus isn’t self-lubricating in the same way that the vagina is and it’s very susceptible to tearing. No matter what you’ve seen in porn, spit is not lubricant enough for anal sex. When I talk to anyone who’s had anal sex once and will never do it again, the #1 thing I hear is that they didn’t use good lube and they didn’t move slowly. So, unless you are specifically after some (consensual) pain and discomfort, you’re going to want to pick up some lube.
“You only need lube if you’re not aroused!”
Nope! Not true. Simply not true.
Have you ever heard of arousal nonconcordance? It’s the best kept secret that really ought to be common knowledge. It’s not even a new discovery – it just heavily contradicts our cultural understanding of arousal. But once you know, it’ll change your life.
It is neither wrong nor uncommon for your physiology to not match your mental experience of arousal, and vice versa. What does that mean? In short, it is 100% possible to be mentally aroused and for your genitals not to be responding in the way that you think they should. Likewise, genital response (erection, lubrication) are not a reliable indication of someone’s mental arousal.
Let’s say that you’re making out with someone you’re really into and things are heating up. You feel relaxed with them but also very excited about what might be happening. You’re super enthusiastic, definitely turned on… and your genitals don’t seem to agree. You’re either not getting/maintaining an erection, or you don’t feel ‘wet’. What gives? Does this mean you aren’t into them after all? Does it mean there’s something wrong with you?
Nope. Arousal nonconcordance. It just is what it is. If you’re mentally a yes and your body isn’t doing what you’ve come to expect it to do, that’s actually perfectly normal. The more you stress about it, the harder it will be to relax and enjoy yourself. And sex really should be about enjoying yourself, right? I know that performance anxiety is a big issue for a lot of people, but it’s not a performance. It’s a collaborative experience of fun.
When you understand arousal nonconcordance, you can be easier on yourself and on your partners. You don’t have to worry when someone says that they’re really into you but their body isn’t doing what you’ve come to expect. Trust them. If you’re not getting hard or not getting wet, don’t stress. Create an environment where you can relax and explore.
What does this have to do with lube? It turns out that folks with vaginas tend to experience more arousal nonconcordance than folks with penises. According to some studies, their mental arousal and the genital response may only match about 10% of the time1. If you have a vagina and you’ve often experienced not ‘getting wet’ but being totally turned on and ready for sex, then you’re 100% normal. Better still, there’s a lube out there for you.
Shopping for Lube
Lube seems deceptively simple, right? You can get it at any drugstore, superstore, and even many grocery stores. But how do you know that you got a good lube?
There are three major categories of lube – water, oil, and silicone based.
Water-based is what almost everyone’s first lube is, and it’s the category that lubes like Astroglide and KY jelly fall under. So if you think you hate lube, you probably had a bad experience with a terrible water-based lube. Luckily, we have far better options to consider! Water-based lube is a great choice for playing with silicone toys, using with condoms, or for when you just need a little bit of extra help in the wetness department. Usually, water-based lube won’t last longer than 15 or 20 minutes, so you may need to re-apply it. In general, you want to look for a water-based lube that is free of glycerin, parabens, and propylene glycol. For help choosing a water-based lubricant, check out this awesome chart from The Smitten Kitten’s lube expert Sarah Mueller.
Oil-based lubricant gets a bad rap in some circle because it generally isn’t vagina-safe and is not safe with latex condoms. However, coconut oil or another good quality plant-based organic oil, plays nicely with most vaginas but still isn’t safe with latex condoms. Oil-based lube is also great for both anal play and masturbation for folks with penises. Looking for a condom you can use with an oil-based lube? Try nitrile or polyurethane, like Trojan Supra.
Silicone-based lube is incredible for longer sex sessions and for all kinds of lube hacks. Frizzy hair? Silicone lube. Chafing thighs? Silicone lube! If you just want to have a marathon sex session with or without a condom, silicone lube is a fantastic choice. It’s also great for folks with a lot of chemical sensitivities. It’s worth noting that most of the time, you don’t want to combine silicone lube with silicone toys. There are exceptions, though, particularly when a high quality silicone lube is involved. If you want to try a silicone lube with one of your silicone toys, test it in an inconspicuous area that doesn’t come into contact with your genitals, like the base of a dildo. If it gets gummy, it’s not compatible.
If you’re interested in geeking out even further, Sarah Mueller was recently on Sex Gets Real with Dawn Serra, sharing her original research on lube, BV, and STIs.
My Favorite Lubes
Sliquid makes my all-time favorite lubes and they have a lube for every occasion. In general, I tend to reach for one of the three pictured above: Silk, Sassy, or Sea.
Sliquid Silk is a hybrid lube, meaning it contains both silicone and water. It’s safe to use with silicone toys because its silicone content is relatively low. But, because it does have some silicone in it, it’s longer lasting than your average water-based lube. I would recommend Sliquid Silk for anyone who tends to be sensitive to water-based lubes but who want the flexibility of a long-lasting lube that’s safe to use with all toys.
Sassy is a water-based gel. It was designed for anal but it’s perfect for vaginal play, too. What I like about Sassy is that it’s thick enough that it really stays where you put it, but it never does that thing where it gets clumpy or sticky (something you often see with lower-quality gels). Its thickness also makes it just a tiny bit cushy, which is particularly nice for the butt.
Sea is a water-based liquid with – you guessed it – seaweed (sort of). There are 3 kinds of seaweed/algae in Sliquid Sea: Carrageenan, Wakame, and Nori. I really find that Sea lasts longer and feels more lush than regular Sliquid H2O, so despite the similar texture, I always reach for Sea.
- Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. Great read. ↩