Welcome to the Leveller’s newest column focussing on sexual health and pleasure. We’ve teamed up with our good pals at Venus Envy and are providing you, our valued readership, with a forum to ask questions related to those quirks, queries, and curiosities you’ve always harboured and didn’t know whom to ask. Well, now is your chance! Please submit your questions to email@example.com.
Q: Dear Venus, as a cis-gay man, safer sexual practices are very important to me. Unfortunately, most organizations around Ottawa think that condoms are the only freebies worth distributing. As such, I often have to resort to buying lube. Could you elaborate on the importance of lube and what each kind is for?
— Chafing in Chinatown
A: Dear CiC, thanks for the opportunity to talk about lube, it’s one of my favourite topics! Like many people, the first lube I ever used was a bottle off the drugstore shelf that enticed me with its promise of exciting new sensations. My partner and I eagerly added some, hoping it would bring sex to a new level. Instead we were left with a gross, sticky, burn-y mess. I put it back in the cupboard and didn’t touch another lube until I started working at Venus Envy.
Here, I discovered that a good lube was a world away from the irritating kind of my past. A great lube can enhance all kinds of sex and change the way things feel for the better. For bodies and body parts that aren’t self-lubing, adding some slip is necessary for safe and pleasurable play. Practically-speaking, lube reduces friction and the chance of anal and vaginal tearing, meaning it also decreases the chance of STI transmission and condom breakage.
Of course, not all lubes are created equal – so how do you pick the one that’s right for you? Here are some things to consider:
Oil-based lube can include everything from organic, fresh-pressed coconut oil to good ol’ canola oil. Oils are handy because they’re long-lasting and easy to find, making them great for a handjob on a student budget. Unfortunately, they aren’t always body-friendly, and they will definitely eat through latex. So oil should be avoided when you’re using latex barriers.
Silicone lube is a nice alternative to oil because it’s as long-lasting and latex-safe. Its staying power is great for anal play or a marathon sex session. It also stays slippery in water, so you can use it during an extra steamy shower. Of course, it’s not always the best choice for a quickie and it will damage your silicone sex toys.
Water-based lube is the most common kind of lube and varies widely in flavour, texture, thickness, quality and staying power. Some even have a little silicone added to make them last longer than other water-based lubes. These hybrids are white and have a lotion-like feel – so they look a little bit like cum. I mention this because it’s as much a turn-off to some as it is a turn-on for others!
Make sure to read your lube’s label and check out the ingredients. When practicing safer sex, you may want to be especially wary of propylene glycol. This ingredient sometimes causes irritation and small tears in the vaginal or anal canal and both of those can increase the risk of STI transmission.
This column just skims the surface of what we know and lube research is getting better every day. To geek out more about lube, visit any education-oriented sex store with knowledgeable staff.
This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 9, No. 2 (Oct/Nov 2016).