The Lube Job
by Daniel Vaillancourt
"Lube is one of the great under-explored pleasures of gay sex," declares Daniel
Wolfe, author of Men Like Us: The GMHC Complete Guide to Gay Men's Sexual,
Physical, and Emotional Well-Being. "There's such a wide variety."
Indeed, the array of available products is so vast that shopping for a
personal lubricant can be confusing. Three basic categories exist: oil-based,
water-based, and silicone-based. Factor in differences in texture, scent,
flavor, quantity needed, durability, and ease of clean-up, and there's literally
something for everyone.
"Taste in lube is very personal," says the Brooklyn-based Wolfe, 39, former
communications director for New York City's Gay Men's Health Crisis, the largest
AIDS service organization in the United States. "As with wine or anything else,
if you haven't tasted all the varieties, it's difficult to know what you like."
The first thing to know is that there are health risks associated with lack
of lube, especially during anal sex. Excessive friction caused by dryness can
trigger condom breakage, potentially exposing you to HIV. Insufficient
lubrication can also make intercourse uncomfortable or even painful, and may
lead to infection by irritating sensitive skin.
Women may also benefit from using lube, especially when inserting sex toys.
In addition, some women may experience vaginal dryness during menopause or
during different stages in your menstrual cycle. This can interfere with sexual
pleasure and lube may help.
The Right Stuff
"You can always use anything wet and slick," says Daniel H. Bowers, MD, a
partner at Pacific Oaks Medical Group in Los Angeles, the largest private
practice specializing in HIV in the United States. "But the rectal vault is an
absorptive surface, so you should not put anything on the penis that goes into
the rectum that may be harmful to ingest." Butter, Crisco, and extra virgin
olive oil are fine choices if food-as-lube turns you on. But WD-40 may not be
such a good idea.
"I hope people know that oil-based lubes are incompatible with latex condoms
and other latex barriers," warns Wolfe."I do not advocate oil based lubrincants
because they can plug anal glands and follicles around the anus. They can be
irritating and promote fungal and bacterial infections, if you are not careful,"
warns GayHealth.com medical director, Dr. Stephen Goldstone.
It's wise to avoid lubricants containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9, says
Wolfe. "There's increasing evidence that nonoxynol-9 can actually inflame your
mucous membranes and make you more susceptible to STDs or HIV." Spermicides have
also been shown to deaden sensation in certain individuals.
"You should also look out for fragrances and flavors you may be allergic to,"
continues Dr. Bowers. "As a rule, stay away from them because you can get into
As for using a partner's cum as lube, Dr. Bowers thinks it's risky business,
in terms of HIV transmission. Should the opening of the penis be exposed to the
HIV virus via infected ejaculate, transmission could take place. Semen on the
shaft, however, is not a hazard unless there are sores, cuts or openings on the
shaft of the penis.
- stay wetter longer
- are ideal for solo activity, mutual masturbation, and anal sex between
HIV-negative monogamous partners
- can be heated for ten seconds in the microwave to add another dimension of
- are non-compatible with latex condoms
- are often greasy, can stain sheets, and are hard to wash off
- some, such as petroleum jelly, can clog glands in the rectum
- Mens Cream: It has a Vaseline-like consistency without the greasy
mess. Completely taste- and odor-free, it wipes clean with a dry cloth.
- are compatible with latex condoms
- are easy to wash off
- come in a variety of fragrances and sugar-free flavors
- dry out, necessitating reapplication or reactivation (by adding water)
- some are as sticky, messy, and hard to wash off as oil-based lubes
- those containing glycerin taste slightly sweet and bitter
- Aqua Lube: Sweet but less bitter than most, the new and improved
formula comes with a disclaimer stating: "Should Aqua Lube's silky feeling
decrease during use, apply more…or add a few drops of water."
- ForPlay Lube de Luxe: This impressive brand comes in formulas of
varying viscosity: liquid, gel, and cream. Plus, its "Succulent" line includes
seasonal flavors such as Candy Cane and Passionate Pumpkin.
- ID Glide: No frills, but great thrills. Simple, slick, reliable.
"Juicy Lube" flavors include the unusual Chocolate-Raspberry, Caramel Cream,
and Bubblegum Blast.
- K-Y: Billed as "#1 doctor recommended," K-Y is what a lot of gay
men grew up on. Mainstream manufacturer gets bonus points for special outreach
to the gay community via its "H2Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh!" ad campaign for the new
- Sex Grease: This is a dependable, pleasantly scented lube unique
for its natural ingredients, which include herbal extracts of marigold, myrrh,
carrot, chamomile, and elder.
- Surgilube: Reputedly "used for more in-hospital procedures than any
other surgical lubricant," this sterile substance may not ooze sexiness in its
name or packaging, but its gelatinous texture and complete lack of sweetness
and/or bitterness more than make up for it.
- Wet: A popular gay-owned brand known for its great packaging,
marketing, and community support, this ubiquitous lube has a seemingly
infinite number of flavors and recipes--including a "Pheromone Formula"
guaranteed to "drive your lover crazy!"
- do not dry out, even under water
- are compatible with latex condoms
- are not absorbed by the body (silicone molecules are larger than skin
- are more expensive
- are often greasy and hard to wash off
- some users find them too slick and friction-inhibiting
- Eros: German-born. Europe's #1. The best. It's velvety yet
non-greasy, has no taste, is odorless, and washes off easily. Plus, it
performs triple duty as a moisturizer and massage lotion.
- ID Millennium: A welcome addition to ID Glide's first class line,
despite a slightly chemical smell. While not oily, it moonlights as a massage
- Wet Platinum: It won't quit because it's by far the greasiest and
quite tough to wash off. Thankfully, its makers have created a companion "Afterwash"
to ease clean-up. Some may find its taste unpleasant.
Wetter is Better
Wetter is not only wilder. It's healthier. Armed with the above basics, it's
time for you to get out there, test-drive these and other products, and find the
personal lubricant for you.
"People are as passionately devoted to their brand as they are to their
favorite television show or sexual fantasy," concludes Wolfe. "If you haven't
experimented, you're probably missing out on a pathway to pleasure."
Updated: Wednesday, July 3rd 2002