Lube: The Slippery Superhero That Can Save You From Painful Sex


Sex shouldn’t hurt. Some of us like sex with a side of pain, like spanking, biting, or wearing nipple clamps. But the act itself – from hand sex to oral to penetration – should be pain and injury free.  

“The main cause of sexual injury? Shower sex,” writes Natalia Lusinski for Bustle. Speaking about his experiences as clinical director of the Perfect Balance Clinic, Dr. Stephen Makinde explains, “When it comes to sex, we see everything from neck injuries to wrist fractures, ankle sprains, and, of course, back problems.”

Slipping, straining, and spraining are all risks inherent to slippery sex – but there are ways to reduce your chances of an unhappy ending. One way is by utilizing safer shower sex positions, as Tawney Seren illustrates in her SFW video for Peepshow Toys. Another is by being specific about the sex toys you bring along. In her Shower Sex: 5 Essential Tools for Steamier Solo & Partner Play, Felicity recommends several waterproof, easy-to-hold vibrators and dildos with strong suction cups. 

Another way to avoid ooh! turning to ouch! in the shower? Lube! “Water sounds so hot in theory, and feels great on your skin. It can also dry out your mucous membranes,” Felicity writes. Dry mucous membranes means painful friction that can cause rawness or tears, which is about as unsexy as it gets. “Especially if your shower play involves penetration, a longer-lasting lube is essential.”

In fact, a lot of pain and injury relating to sex can potentially be avoided with lube. 

Take everybody’s favorite subject, for example: sex toys. Lube can reduce friction from the subtly draggy texture of many silicone toys, or from unique tactile surfaces like the suckers on an Uberrime tentacle. This is particularly important when using self-propelled sex toys like the Velvet Thruster Teddy. Lube can also buffer intensely pinpoint toys like the Zumio which can cause discomfort or rawness to particularly thin or sensitive skin.

There are numerous sex acts that require lube. Fisting, for example, requires slow, methodical build-up and lots of lube, whether you’re fisting an ass or a vagina. Lube helps the glide of skin-on-skin (or glove-on-skin), and lessens the abrasive pressure of knuckles. The same goes for large or deep-reaching object insertion, like SquarePegToys Acorn Plug or the Slink Training Probe. “Lube is your friend in many situations, but this is doubly true for times when you’re moving beyond your comfort zone,” Felicity emphasizes in her Sizing Up: How to Push Your Sex Toy Limits Comfortably and Safely

“Anal sex is itself not a painful act. If you’re in pain or causing a partner pain, you’re either rushing things, or you’ve missed a crucial step during preparation,” I explain in How to Have Safe, Pleasurable Anal Sex. “Anal sex requires lubrication, especially if you’re involving any kind of penetration.” The butt doesn’t produce lubrication on its own, and the tissue is incredibly delicate and thus sensitive and easy to tear. 

According to a survey conducted by EuroClinix, one of the most common sexual injuries is vaginal tearing. Small cuts near the entrance of the vaginal wall “usually heal on their own,” but larger tears require a visit to a medical professional. “One way to prevent future cuts is to use lubrication during intercourse,” NY Post points out

In a 2009 study of cisgender women, 70% of participants said that lube improved sex. “Most frequently reported reasons for lubricant use included the desire to reduce the risk of tearing (22 percent) and to make sex more comfortable (21.8 percent.)”

There are many things that increase the chances of vaginal injury and pain when lube isn’t used. Vaginal atrophy, for example, is when the lining of the vagina thins out and becomes prone to dryness, and can be caused by a myriad of things such as menopause, cancer, or taking testosterone. Vaginismus (which severely limits or prevents penetration) and other pelvic floor dysfunctions create tension and strain and can impact self-lubrication. Most neovaginas don’t self-lubricate at all

Lube is widely-used and can help prevent accidental harm… as long as you utilize it properly. Here’s some tips: 

  • Not sure what kind of lube is best suited to which sex acts? Check out Kate Sloan’s Guide to the Best Lubes for Anything You Want to Do for Peepshow!
  • For the best results, use a liberal amount of lube. “Fully coat the toy or body parts you’re penetrating with,” I explain Pleasurable Anal Sex, “If uncomfortable friction persists or your session is running long, it’s important to stop and reapply lube.”
  • “If you don’t like how quickly water-based lubes dry up, just remember that you can add a little water (rather than applying more lube) to re-hydrate the lube that’s already there,” says Kate
  • Don’t use oil-based lubes with latex condoms, dams, or gloves. The oil thins out the latex and can break it. 
  • If you’re going to use silicone sex toys, avoid silicone-based lubes! For more on lube compatibility, see Are You Confused About Lube? by Dizzy for Peepshow. 
  • “I personally recommend that water-based lube with glycerin, propylene glycol and parabens be avoided.  It is thought that glycerin can cause yeast infections in those who are prone to them,” writes Dizzy in Are You Confused About Lube? for Peepshow. 

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