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Lubricant (not diamonds) is a girl's best friend.

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Meg asks:

Every once in a while I will have a problem staying wet when I'm having sex with my boyfriend. I'll start out wet, but then will dry up and we will have to stop because the condom will break or it becomes painful for him? Is this normal? What can I do? Please help, I love him so much and I definitely love having sex with him, but I don't know what's going on? Thanks!

Heather Corinna replies:

LUBRICANT! Lubricant, lubricant, lubricant!

(Sorry, I just had to stand up and shout that. There was also a song and dance number involved, which is why I had to repeat it a few times, but you obviously could not have seen my little lube dance from your side of the screen. Consider yourself very, very lucky.)

A store-bought sexual lubricant is what you need, and it's something everyone -- of every gender and orientation -- should have on hand for most kinds of sex, especially when latex barriers are involved.

You can get good sexual lubricants in the same aisle of the pharmacy where you buy condoms (which is one big clue that it's needed with condoms), or you can order lube online from various sources where you order condoms online. Some of the most common lubes you'll see pretty much everywhere in the States are KY brands, Astroglide and Wet. Some brands I personally recommend which can be a bit tougher to find, but are worth it, are Liquid Silk, Emerita and Pink, but Astroglide, which is easy to find, is good stuff, too. If you're inclined to yeast infections, look on the box or bottle for lubes that say they have a low glycerin content. Avoid lubes with additives or bells and whistles -- if it says it's warming or numbing, don't get it, you're warm enough, and numb genitals don't feel good for anyone -- get yourself a bottle and keep it handy.

When you're having intercourse, your partner can put a drop or two inside the tip of the condom before he puts it on for his comfort and pleasure, and then you can more generously apply it to your vulva and around your vaginal opening. If things get dry during sex, you just add a few more drops. Doing both not only makes things feel nicer for you both, it does a great job of preventing condoms from breaking. It's dryness and friction which breaks condoms: use lube, and you limit both those things.

Some people (usually folks who have never experienced how awesome some extra lube is) affix a status to not needing lube, so they do everything they can to avoid it, but if you ask me, that's pretty silly. If I'm having breakfast and it tastes way better to me with a few shakes of hot sauce, it's not because my potatoes are somehow deficient: it's because they're even better with the hot sauce and it pleases me. Same goes with your body and lubricant. Lube makes things feel better, and it helps your condoms work better, so if you feel like something is wrong with you if you "have" to use it, I'd suggest you toss that idea in the rubbish bin, pronto. An idea like that is only going to be a drag in your bedroom. Women also self-lubricate sometimes the way men can get erections: very randomly, and outside sexual situations altogether, and some medications -- like hormonal methods of birth control, such as the pill -- and health conditions can also inhibit self-lubrication. So if we think to ourselves that if we're not lubricating enough, it's because we're not normal, or our partner isn't sexy enough, that's flawed thinking. (If you do want to bump up your own lubricating, though, and you're not on a medication that inhibits that, you can also just be sure that you're getting plenty of sexual stimulation before and during intercourse that's not just intercourse or not just vaginal, such as stimulation of your clitoris with your or your partner's hands and fingers.)

We can also safely say that human evolution has yet to incorporate latex into the deal. In other words, self-lubricating without condoms is one thing, but it's a different ball game when they're in the mix, and our natural lubrication isn't designed to work with them. Heck, even men who are circumcised change the landscape, since uncircumcised men self-lubricate in an additional way those who have been circumcised don't, and a lack of foreskin during intercourse changes things on your end, too. It should also be noted that overall, vaginal intercourse is not all that physically pleasurable, especially all by itself, for a majority of women. After all, the vagina is adjacent to our big, genital sexual pleasure center, the clitoris, parts of the internal clitoris surround it, and we do have some sensory nerve endings in the front of the vagina, and can feel a sense of general fullness from anything past that first inch or two, but when it all comes down to it, vaginal intercourse alone works much better for men than it ever has for women when we're talking about physical pleasure and physics.

So, to keep self-lubricating, you're likely going to need more than just vaginal intercourse. But even then, when you want to keep intercourse going for a while, especially with a condom, you're probably going to need some lube. That doesn't mean anything is abnormal: even before lubricants were something we could just pick up at the store, people have been using various different kinds of lubes for a lot of our history. For the record, ad-hoc lubricating agents of yesteryear -- things like kitchen or body oils, Vaseline, body lotions -- will degrade latex condoms, and some will irritate the heck out of your vulva, so you don't want to be DIY about lubes. You want to buy lube made for use with sex that is also made to work with latex: they'll say they can do both on the box or bottle.

Okay? So, go on out and get yourself a nice bottle of lube. You can use it for intercourse, for manual sex, and for your own masturbation alone (it also makes a great quick fix for a rusty bike chain, for the record). Chances are pretty good that once you start using lube, you'll find yourself doing the little lube dance, too.

Here are a few more links to round out some of what we've talked about here:

written 05 Jan 2008 . updated 27 Jan 2014

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