All About Sex

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Lubricants: Not Just for Women

They enhance sex for men, too.

Mention intimate lubricants, and most people envision older women bothered by vaginal dryness. Lubes are, indeed, a quick, easy, inexpensive fix for dryness, but they’re much more. Lubricants boost the pleasure of sex to lovers of all ages—including men. “Wetter is better for men as well as women,” says Palo Alto, California, sex therapist Marty Klein, Ph.D., “I recommend lube for all couples every time.”

Lubricants Improve Sex

It takes only 10 seconds to demonstrate that lubricants enhance lovemaking. 

• Close your mouth and dry your lips.

• Run a finger lightly over them, paying attention to how it feels.

• Now, lick your lips and your fingertip.

• Run the moistened finger lightly over your moistened lips.

Notice any difference? I bet you experienced more pleasure with a moist finger and lips. That’s what Indiana University researchers found in a survey of 2,500 women of all ages who rated sex with lube more enjoyable. A similar survey of 1,874 men linked lubricant to longer-duration sex, another measure of pleasure. Even better, lube improves sex immediately.

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Oddly, only a small proportion of American lovers use it. Annual U.S. lubricant sales total just $165 million. The nation spends more than twice that on condoms ($430 million) and six times as much on vibrators ($1 billion).

How Lube Helps Younger Men

Young men often rush into intercourse before women feel ready. Men should ask women if they feel sufficiently aroused for intercourse, but few do. Lube helps in two ways. When women apply it to the penis and give men lubricated handjobs, the pace of sex slows, which allows women more time to warm up to intercourse. In addition, whether or not the vagina has been lubricated, a well-lubricated erection slides inside more comfortably for both lovers, especially if the man wears a condom.

Speaking of condoms, many men complain that they dull sensitivity. If this is an issue for you, place one drop of lube on the head of your penis before donning the condom. The lube enhances sensitivity, so you should experience greater pleasure. Note: Placing a condom on a lubricated penis also increases the risk that it might slip off, so be extra-careful to hold the condom onto the base of the penis as you withdraw.

How Lube Helps Older Men

Older men face two sexual challenges: erection and arousal. The media focus almost entirely on the former, but arousal difficulties are often equally problematic. Until around 50, many (most?) men feel horny much of the time. But after 50, the sight of a shapely waitress with a low-cut top and inviting cleavage no longer automatically excites, and men become confused and apprehensive. Confused because this is a big break with the past. And apprehensive because they fear for their sex lives.

Relax. Arousal is still quite possible, just no longer instant. As men age, their genitals become less sensitive to erotic touch, so arousal requires more extended caressing. Lube to the rescue. It intensifies the sensations of erotic touch so older men can become aroused and enjoy sexual pleasure.

Better Sex: Just a Squirt Away

In the finger-on-lips test, the lubricant was saliva, the world’s most popular lube. It’s effective, always available, and free. But saliva is more watery than slippery, and it dries quickly. Most lovers find that commercial lubricants work better.

Four types are available over-the-counter at pharmacies (near the condoms):

Water-based lubes are the most popular. They’re inexpensive, don’t stain linens, and small amounts can be ingested safely during oral sex. In addition, if you’re involved with a pre-menopausal woman, they’re safe to use with latex contraceptives (condoms, diaphragms). But during extended lovemaking, water-based lubes dry out. Apply more, or refresh them with water or saliva. They rinse off easily with water.

Oil-based lubricants include vegetable and nut oils available at supermarkets. They’re safe to ingest and safe with latex contraceptives. However, some find them greasy, and they may stain linens. They wash off with soap and water.

Silicone lubricants are an intimate adaptation of WD-40. They feel silky, are not messy, are safe with latex, and retain their slickness longer than water-based lubes. They don’t stain bed linen or clothing, and wash off with soap and water. It’s not clear how safe they are to ingest, so it’s prudent not to.

Petroleum-based lubricants (Vaseline and baby oil) are best avoided. Don’t use them inside the vagina. They are difficult to wash out, may cause irritation, and change vaginal chemistry, increasing risk of infection. Petroleum lubes should not be ingested, and may stain bed linens. Finally, these lubricants destroy latex and should never be used with condoms or diaphragms.

Don’t apply lubricants directly to the genitals. Squirt a small amount into your hand, warm it by rubbing with your fingers, and then caress your lover or yourself with lubricated fingers.

Whatever your gender or age, lubricants are the fastest, easiest way to enhance sex immediately. Try lubricated lovemaking. I bet it adds to your enjoyment.

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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