We're always wondering how we can make our sex lives better. We could sleep more, talk about it more and we could certainly destigmatize pleasure less. But there's another simple thing we all could be doing to ramp up our bedroom activities. We can even do it today.
We're talking about using lube.
Personal lubricant remains one of the most underrated, maligned and overlooked products in a sexually active person's toolkit — even if you don't think you actually need it.
The stigma: Lube exists for a reason. Using data from a 2012 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported in a 2014 study that of the surveyed women, 65.5% had ever used lube, while only 20% had use it within the past 30 days.
In a similar study, it was found that 70% of men used personal lubricant, while 1 in 4 used it within the last 30 days. Not surprisingly, the highest amount of lube usage was among gay and bisexual men — over 90% reported using the slippery stuff to increase comfort and sensation during sex in a third study.
So why aren't more people, especially women, using it? Partly because there's a lingering sense of shame around what the need for lube might say about our bodies and our sex lives.
"There is definitely lube stigma ... I often hear, 'Oh I don't need that!' or 'Why would I use lube? My partner gets me wet enough!'" sex educator Kait Scalisi told Mic.
"Many folks have the attitude that if they need to use lube, they are somehow sexual deficient," sex educator Kate McCombs and self-proclaimed "lube evangelist" told Mic. "They erroneously assume that vaginal lubrication is in direct proportion to someone's arousal. This isn't always the case. Someone with a vagina can be super turned on, but not super wet. It's not always linear."
The truth is, a lack of lubrication can mean a number of things, from high stress, dehydration, amount of foreplay, a health condition or medication usage, Scalisi said.
A sexual game-changer: Regardless of the reasons you might need it, lube can be a game-changer. "Lube can dramatically upgrade your sex life if you're using condoms or other barriers," McCombs said. "When you add additional lube to the outside of a condom, it transmits sensations so much better. It keeps the condom from drying out too, which helps prevent breakage."
It also helps women who suffer from vaginal dryness, a 2012 study found, and lessen the risk of damage from sex. "By decreasing friction it decreases the risk of microtears in the vagina or anus and subsequently the risk of infection," Scalisi said.
And unsurprisingly, studies have shown lube can enhance sexual pleasure for women. In a 2011 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2,453 women tested out one of six water or silicone-based lubricants over five weeks and kept a daily diary. The results showed that using lube was associated with higher pleasure and satisfaction during both masturbation and penile-vaginal sex for women as compared to lubeless activity.
As one 26-year-old woman told Mic, "It makes the implausible, plausible."
Stock up, shame-free: To get the benefits, you need to choose the right one for you. Water-based lubricants are great for both toy and condom use, while silicone-based lube can last longer but aren't toy-safe, according to Planned Parenthood.
But knowing can only start with talking — aloud. Writer Kelsey Miller, who worked at sex toy shop Babeland, found that people who want lube are often not ready to admit it. "'I mean, I don't need it!' they insist, desperate to let me know they can self-lubricate all night long; their mucus membranes are fucking HUGE thankyouverymuch. 'But, uh, what kind do you have?'" Miller wrote on Refinery29.
We don't need to be so sheepish.
"Lube is a tool and we are tool-using primates," McCombs said. "Why not use the tools at our disposal to make our lives easier and more pleasurable?"