Lubricant helps to keep things wet, and for many kinds of sex wetness is important. So this post is all about lube and whether you need it or not. Also what kinds you can use and where to get it.
What does lubricant do?
Lube is a liquid that you can use to keep sexy times wet (I’m not saying ‘moist’). Lubricants designed for sex usually come in little sachets or in pump bottles in different sizes. Lubricants don’t prevent pregnancy or STIs, they just make sex more comfortable and pleasurable.
Lube prevents friction from rubbing and so it is useful for lots of different sexual acts. You know, massaging, humping, stroking, and masturbating. It can be used for sex with someone but also sex with yourself. Some lads I used to work with called it bashing cream. As well as preventing friction (and damaging skin) it can also make this kind of sex feel more pleasurable.
For entry sex wetness is actually pretty important. Vaginal and anal sex involves fingers, toys, or penises coming into contact with some pretty delicate bits of the body. So it’s important that this kind of sex doesn’t have too much friction or it can cause damage. Being relaxed and sexually aroused is important but so is being wet. The vagina can get wet when aroused (more on this below) but the anus doesn’t really. If you are going to have anal sex you should probably get some actual lube (more on where to get it below).
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Vaginas and lube, it’s a little complicated
Many people who have vaginas (that they were born with) will find that when they get sexually aroused their clitoris gets hard and throbs on the inside. The internal vagina stretches, and wetness starts to happen a lot inside the vagina and a bit outside. So vaginas can create their own lubricant – sometimes this is a lot and sometimes it’s just the right amount.
Sometimes, even when the vagina is aroused, it’s not quite wet enough to make entry sex comfortable or pleasurable. So in these cases people find that a pump or two of lubricant can help to get the juices flowing. That’s all good.
However, it’s also important to pay attention to our bodies. Because of what we’re taught, we might feel under pressure to have entry sex even if we don’t like it. It’s not a good idea to force yourself to have entry sex by using lubricant, if that’s not really the kind of sex you want.
If you have sex with someone with a vagina, do not just use lubricant to ‘make’ them get wet enough for sex without their consent. That’s not cool, and that’s not how arousal works. Let’s not make anyone do anything shall we? Okay thanks.
You might have a neovagina, that has been wholly or partially constructed by surgery. Even if you experience a lot of sexual arousal you might find that you need to use some extra lubrication if you want to have entry sex.
What kind of lubricant is okay to use?
If you are going to be having vaginal or anal sex, then it’s good to use water based lubricant. These are mostly made out of water and so are easier to wash away. So they are less likely to cause the problems I mentioned above. The other kind of lube you could try for this is silicone lubricant. Don’t use that with a silicone sex toy, as it can damage the toy.
These are both safe to use with latex condoms. As I mention below, oil lubes break condoms. Water based lubricants are actually also pretty good for condoms, because they are also more likely to break if they get dry.
Have a look at the ingredients of the lubricant before you put it in your body or in someone else’s. It’s recommended that you don’t use lubricant that contains spermicide (ie it kills sperm) because studies suggest it can increase the risk of HIV transmission. Other people suggest that parabens are bad in lube (more about that here). Also some people find that their vaginas don’t respond well to lubes containing glycerine. See also or flavours, or whatever it is that they put in those cooling, warming, or tingling lubes.
If you don’t have any actual lube to hand but are determined to go ahead and have that vaginal or anal sex you could try to use other water based products around the home, such as water or saliva. However these might not work as well, particularly with condoms.
Oil based lubricants
You can use oil based lubricants for external stimulation, but not for internal stimulation. Baby oil, massage oil, moisturiser, vaseline are all okay for things like: massages, stroking, grinding, rubbing on the outside of the body. They are harder to wash off than water based lubricants so it might be a good idea to have a soapy wash after using them.
It’s important not to use oil based lubricants inside the vagina or anus because it’s thought to create a breeding ground for bacteria (study). It is also not recommended to wash inside the vagina as this can upset the pH level and also lead to infections such as bacterial vaginosis or Candida infections – remember the vagina cleans itself people. So the best lubricant to use internally is water based, because it’s easier for the body to expel it through the natural self cleaning processes it already has.
The other problem with oil based lubrication is that if you were having sexy times with that oil (mmmmm oil) then you would have to wash it off all off if you then wanted to have sexy internal times. This is because what I said in the last paragraph (pay attention) and also because (as I said a few paragraphs ago, pay attention) oil based lubricants can break latex condoms (study).
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Where to get lube?
If you are in the UK you can get your free lube where you get your free condoms, either at a local sexual health service or at your nearest condom distribution scheme (also known as C-Card schemes in many areas). The lube will probably be in little 5ml sachets and you can probably use more sachet more than once (just carefully fold the top down with a paperclip or something).
You can also buy lubricant from supermarkets and chemists, near where you get your condoms. They’re also in sex toy shops in town. You can also buy it from online shops if you like, I like Freedoms.
© Justin Hancock, 2021.
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. Find out more about Justin here