How do I ask for lube?
Heather Corinna replies:It's been a bit since my long-term boyfriend and I (girl) broke up, and I think I'm ready to start dating. The problem is that even though I love sex, I have trouble staying wet enough on my own that penetration doesn't feel uncomfortable. We sometimes used lube, but it was hardly a *sexy* aspect of the sex. We were both 16 when we started dating and each other's first time, so I have no experience outside him. If I want to have a one-night stand or just casual sex with another guy, how can I work lube in or just not need it at all?
I'm always so sad to hear anyone who has the idea that needing -- or just plain wanting! -- lubricant is some kind of problem, means something is wrong with someone, or that that need is unusual. I also always find myself struggling to understand those feelings, even though I have heard many women voice them so many years, so you'd think I'd have it figured out by now. I do, a little, but we'll get to that in a second. Let's get the more basic and practical stuff sorted first.
You suggest there's a problem. I don't see a problem. I just see a very common, no-big-whoop thing. The way our bodies are and work, we often -- and for plenty of people, always -- will need or at least want to use a lubricant with any kind of sexual activity where there's friction and delicate tissue (like genitals) involved.
People just usually need to use lube of some kind for those activities to feel good in the first place, to keep feeling good, or to feel awesome instead of just good. And that's nothing new: this has always been the case so far as we know, including way back when when the only lubes available were things like oils or animal fats. This wasn't ever and isn't now about anything being wrong with someone or their body. It's just about the fact that our bodies can't always feel the ways we want them to, do all the things we want them to do or stay feeling well sometimes without adding something to the mix, whether that's about sex and lubricant or needing a stepstool to reach the kitchen cabinet.
Using lube in long-term, ongoing relationships is common. Using lube with one-night-stands or other kinds of casual sex is also common. That's because using lube is common. Using a lubricant with activities where friction and delicate tissue like genitals is involved typically feels better for people than not using it. For plenty of folks, it's just essential.
It shouldn't be at all complicated to work lube into any sexual situation or social sexual context. Think of it just like you might think of offering or asking for a glass of water. If and when you want or need lube (and pro-tip: using it right from the start instead of after you're already dry or raw is the way to go), just pull your bottle or tube of it out, be like, "Need some lube!" and put it on. If you can't reach it, or would like your partner to apply it because you or they like how that feels, you can ask them to pull it out. "Can I get little lube, please?" is really all anyone should ever have to say, just like if someone is asking a partner to move their hand a little quicker, or go down on them or hold up for a second so they can go pee or just because they want a break. Lube is a super-basic thing, and if you just treat it like it's as basic as it is, it'll usually be that basic.
I suggest you get your own lube to have with you for sexual situations -- especially if you prefer or need a certain kind -- but it's ideal if everyone involved always has it handy. Lots of lubes come in small sizes or in sample packs that make even just keeping some in your bag easy.
Bear in mind, that in order to protect your health, you're likely also going to need to be able to ask for safer sex practices and barrier -- like condoms -- use, too. Sometimes a partner will initiate that, but sometimes it's going to have to be you. Getting more comfy with this ask for lube can also make it easier for you to do other kinds of asking for things that can feel even more loaded.
I'm not sure why lube seems automatically un-sexy to you. Obviously, what any of us find to be sexy varies wildly, and I'm not here to decide or say what is or isn't sexy for anyone else. But if everyone being as slippery and not-ow as they wanna be so sex can feel extra-good is someone reading as not-at-all sexy to you, I'd suggest that maybe you've managed to get yourself some baggage around lube you'd probably feel a lot better dropping. Sometimes the body does produce enough lubrication for intercourse or other kinds of sex where we need to be slippery for our sole or mutual comfort and pleasure, so every now and then you might not have a need for lube. But if you don't hold the idea that there's something problematic, burdensome or less sexy about lube, it won't likely make any difference to you when you or a partner want or need it and when you don't.
There's not just one thing that gets someone to thinking something is problematic with their body if it doesn't self-lubricate enough for anyone's wants or needs. Sometimes it's just someone having an unrealistic idea about how the body works -- like the false idea that if someone is turned on and wants sex, they will magically create all the lubrication needed for anything and everything.
But one big thing that I often see with this issue is that so often women and straight men have the sense that the body -- and women's bodies, especially -- is somehow supposed to accomodate whatever the person whose body it is wants for or from it, and whatever anyone else, even everyone else, wants it to do or provide. That's about internalized sexism (and ableism), not physiology. That's also simply an impossible scenario for any body.
If you find yourself thinking about your body as something broken or somehow necessarily problematic because it won't accomodate all your or someone else's wants, I'd encourage you to recognize that way of thinking isn't kind to yourself or your body, not to mention that it's just a crap way of thinking. You or your body cannot possibly accomodate all the often wildly divergent wants of yourself and everyone else, and when it can't or won't doesn't make it broken. It just makes it, and you, merely mortal and human. Even the most able of bodies and the people who inhabit them have a lot of limits, things they can do and can't do, things that happen sometimes but not others, things that are as you want them at a given time and things that aren't; things that are as someone else might want them to be and things that aren't.
Your body being unable to magically always accommodate you and any partners when it comes to lubrication is not a problem or an indication something, anything, is wrong with you. And, just in case you don't know or feel this, your body doesn't have to do things like that -- it doesn't have to accommodate anyone in any way, ever, honestly -- for it to be a good body.
I hope you also know there's nothing wrong with you wanting or needing something for your own comfort and pleasure. Sometimes that's somewhere else internalized sexism can screw up our sex lives and how we think about them. The idea that women shouldn't be asking for, or "need to" ask for, something they want or need sexually for themselves is still very common. Or, even worse, the idea women shouldn't even have any of their own wants and needs in sex at all, let alone ask for them; that all women's pleasure and comfort needs to come only from or come second to whatever a man wants for his pleasure. Barf. If you have anything like that in your mind, I encourage you to just burn that all the way down. Consensual sex that's emotionally healthy and generally beneficial for everyone involved is supposed to be about everyone's wants and everyone's pleasure. Women deserve comfort and pleasure as much as anyone else. And my goodness, at the very, very least, women deserve a little lube, for crying out loud.
Lastly, it might help to recognize that your future partners may already use lube with partners or their own masturbation, or be the ones asking for the lube themselves (or not asking, and just getting it out and using it). It sounds like you expect the entire lube situation to be precarious or awkward or unexpected, and I don't think that's warranted. By and large, I'd say people who have some sexual experience being part of sex that's been truly pleasurable for themselves and others often already use lube as a practice or are used to partners using it. I'd also say that you should generally figure that if anyone is new to it, they are mostly going to be happy to have it introduced, especially once they experience how much better it usually makes things feel for everyone.
Because you talked about seeking out sex in more casual, or less romantic, contexts, I also wanted to leave you with this link to what I think is a pretty good starter guide if you're new to exploring sex in those contexts: Casual...Cool? Making Choices About Casual Sex. You might also appreciate more information about barriers, period -- All the Barriers! All the Time! -- and this piece about lube: Lube 101: A Slick Little Primer.