Updated 02 June 2015

Lubricants: the basics

Lubrication plays an important role in sex. This article covers the basics of lubricants and why they are important.


Lubrication is an integral part of sexual expression and pleasure. Natural vaginal lubricant, secreted as a woman becomes sexually aroused, facilitates comfortable vaginal sexual intercourse.

A woman’s hormonal cycle will influence the amount of vaginal lubrication she produces. The quantity of lubricant produced usually decreases with age, and pregnant women often complain of reduced levels of vaginal lubrication. Chronic illness such as sugar diabetes also negates vaginal secretions, as do some medications. Many people attempt to augment vaginal lubrication with saliva, which provides short-term comfort before drying out. Commercially manufactured lubricants contribute to both a functional and pleasure-enhancing dimension to sex. They add to the comfort of vaginal penetration – with fingers, toys or a penis – and facilitate anal penetration for both women and men. Many people also use lubricants to enhance sensitivity and sensation during masturbation.

Different types of lubricants
There are many lubricants available on the market, few of which are manufactured in South Africa. Generally, lubricants fall into three categories:

  • Oil-based
  • Water-based
  • Silicon

Oil-based lubricants are not compatible with latex condoms – they literally dissolve condoms, and are thus not indicated where safer sex needs to be practiced. These lubricants are also often difficult to clean, requiring soap and water, and can stain bedding or clothing.

Water-based lubricants are totally compatible with condoms, and are therefore ideal for safer sex situations. Since they don’t contain any oils, they are easy to clean and don’t stain. They are also ideal for use with sex toys and are generally very affordable.

Silicon lubricants tend to be very expensive. They are compatible with condoms, but cannot be used with any sex toys containing silicon. These lubricants are not water-soluble and can be difficult to clean.

Some manufacturers also produce flavored lubricants, which can be either oil or water-based. Most lubricants are safe for oral sex.

Increasing pleasure
Lubricants add a fun and pleasurable element to masturbation, foreplay and sex for both men and women, heterosexual or gay. Stimulating your own or your partner’s clitoris, vagina or penis when it is ‘lubed’ adds to the sensations experienced and avoids the discomfort of dry friction. Penetrating your own or your partner’s vagina or anus, with a finger, toy or a penis is also made far more comfortable if lubrication is used.

Almost all lubricants, including water-based lubricants, are ideal for massage. However, do not use massage oils as a sexual lubricant – these are not condom-compatible and often contain perfumes or other essences that could irritate delicate mucous membranes.

Safer sex
Lubricants play an essential part in safer sex . It is important to use a condom-compatible lubricant. When using a condom, lubricant should never be applied to the penis directly – it should only be applied to the outside of the condom once it is placed over the erect penis. Also, sufficient lubricant should be placed on the vagina or anal opening in order to facilitate entry. Adequate lubrication is essential to prevent excessive friction, which could cause the condom to tear.

People should shop around for lubricants and experiment. Various lubricants have different consistencies and viscosities, and provide various levels of sensation-enhancement. Some lubricants are formulated to provide a slippery sensation for a longer period, while others may dry out sooner and require frequent replenishment. Many lubricants greatly enhance foreplay, and facilitate the use of sex toys.

This information is brought to you by tatt2, manufacturers of ASSEGAI water-based lubricant.

(Picture: lubricating jelly from Shutterstock)



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