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Why don't I self-lubricate enough?

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Anonymous asks:

I am 22 and had my first sexual experience with my boyfriend 6 moths ago after a year of dating. We have a very nice relationship and love each other. I have taken pills and we always use a condom. For some reason, even though it doesn't hurt, many times I am very turned on and have natural lubrication but end up drying up completely after a few minutes. It is very frustrating for both of us because KY is not the same, plus I'm too young to be dry. I want to be with him and we make love at least 2 or 3 times a week. This problem has been going on for months now and it has been more noticeable lately. It has happened while I have been in and out of the pill. I feel we have enough foreplay, if not why do I start very wet? Is there any reason why this is happening? I don't see any signs or have ever had an infection... Can stressful situations in life bring this at all?

Heather Corinna replies:

You know, KY is really one of the lower quality lubricants out there. If you're using the jelly, it really isn't going to help much, but even their liquid lubes aren't as good as a lot of others in my opinion. An excellent lubricant is not only as good as "natural" lubricant, sometimes it's even better because it can tend to last a lot longer. Some brands I'd personally suggest are Liquid Silk, Pink, Emerita, and Astroglide.

There are a lot of reasons why a woman either may not self-lubricate very much, or why her own lubrication may not be enough, and I'm seeing at least two of them right in your post.

Birth control pills are a biggie. One of the ways the pill works is by thickening cervical mucus, and so it's very normal and common for women on the pill to self-lubricate less, or for that self-lubrication to not be that helpful since you've got thicker discharge in the mix. The pill can also have sexual side effects and dull sexual desire some, and less physical arousal also often equals less self-lubrication.

Too, our natural lubrication isn't really designed for use with condoms. Heck, even if and when we take condoms out of the equation, if you have a circumcised male partner some natural lube is going to be lacking because the glands of the foreskin also lubricate. Condoms create extra friction, and when they get a little drier through that friction, or by not being used with additional lubricant, they also can become porous. That not only makes it more likely they may break, it's going to make you drier.

If you're stressed out or depressed, that too can dampen libido, and again, if you're less excited, you'll tend to self-lubricate less.

What are some other reasons? Well, age, when we're talking about post-menopausal women, can be an issue, but you're right: you're much too young for menopause. Some medications besides the pill can cause vaginal dryness, like anti-depressants. Vaginal infections or imbalances and some STIs can make the vagina drier (so if you're not up-to-date with your pelvic exams and STI tests, taking care of that would be a good idea, period) Breastfeeding women often have issues with dryness. Using tampons can also increase vaginal dryness, though that's usually only around the time they're being used, not in any permanent way. As well, if you're in a headspace where you're all freaked out or angry about not lubricating enough, that's also going to dampen your arousal and reduce lubrication.

Lack of other sexual activities before or during intercourse are also a common culprit. You say you feel you're having enough foreplay because you're wet at the start, but being wet at the start can happen just by having strong desire without any sexual activities whatsoever. So, rather than looking to if you're lubricated to determine if you're engaging in enough sexual activity that isn't about vaginal insertion, I'd look to your own satisfaction. Are you often reaching orgasm, even before intercourse starts sometimes? Are you reaching orgasm during, either through intercourse alone or, as is far more common for women, because you and your partner are combining intercourse with another sexual activity which stimulates your more sensitive parts better than intercourse tends to, such as engaging in manual sex or masturbation during intercourse? Are you feeling very physically -- not just emotionally -- satisfied and satiated after the sex you're having? Are you ONLY having intercourse when you ARE very turned on (you say you are often, but I'm looking for always). If you answered yes to all or most of those, then you probably are doing just fine when it comes to being sure sex isn't just intercourse; if you answered no to all or most of those, then you could probably stand to incorporate other activities more, both when it comes to lubrication as well as your overall satisfaction.

But I'd encourage you to also just get a bottle of really good lube to have around, and I'd encourage anyone to do that, including people who aren't having any issues with vaginal dryness. It's just not very sensible to get all hung up on the idea that our bodies have to do this thing or that naturally, and if and when it doesn't, rather than doing something easy to fix it which we know will, we should grin and bear it or get frustrated about it. Your birth control isn't natural; the condoms aren't natural. Driving a car isn't natural. You probably eat and use things every day that aren't natural. Let's also bear in mind that when it comes to female physiology, it's probably more natural to have intercourse just to reproduce, and not for pleasure -- having other kinds of sex for pleasure instead, since the only organ on any human body that exists solely for that is your clitoris, which isn't all that engaged with most intercourse.

We have some really excellent lubricants out there right now, which I think is awesome.

They're awesome for intercourse -- for you, but if your partner puts a couple drops inside his condom, it's going to feel better to him, too, and if you engage in any receptive anal play for either of you, they're a must-have -- they're awesome for manual sex, they're awesome for slipping and sliding on each other (they're even awesome when you misplace the grease for your bicycle chain, I've discovered, so if you bike, there's that). I know from working in women's sexuality for years that a lot of women, usually heterosexual women, can get really hung up on the idea that somehow needing or even wanting extra lubricant is some kind of weakness, or an indication that they aren't working right. Not only is none of that really so -- even when it happens with menopause, it doesn't mean we don't work anymore, just that age has changed our bodies -- but to let ideas like that keep you from having fully enjoyable, pleasurable sex strikes me as seriously counterproductive. When something isn't just as you want it to be, just as it feels best, and there is a very easy, cheap and excellent solution which benefits everyone, why not seek that out rather than make yourself unhappy by avoiding it?

Okay? So, get some good lube for yourself, and use it as often as you need and want to. Be shameless about it: it makes sex feel great, so delight in that. Engage in more non-vaginal sex, or add more non-vaginal sex to your intercourse, as much as you want to, and with the aim of having sex feel delicious and dizzymaking. Talk to your partner about doing that if need be, reminding him that even when lubricated, most women will not be satisfied or reach orgasm with intercourse alone. Take care of your general health -- physical and mental -- and if the pill isn't working for you -- you say you go on and off -- have a chat with your healthcare provider about other possible methods you may prefer. Be sure you're up-to-date with your sexual healthcare. Above all else, remember that everyone's sex life should be designed around them and their unique bodies. In other words, about being tailored to us, rather than us trying to fit into someone else's shoes or sex life: about honoring our bodies by giving them what they need, rather than being frustrated with them when they don't fit our ideals.

Here are a few more links for you to round this all out:

written 02 Feb 2008 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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