I recently did an awesome interview all about lubes and v health with Sarah Mueller, an employee at progressive sex toy store The Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
While I am super excited to share this interview with you, I realized that a discussion of the important role that lube can play in dealing with v pain would be a worthy preamble...
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Our bodies make our own natural lubricant as part of our sexual arousal response.* If you are enjoying sexual activity and you aren't "wet," it could mean a couple of different things. The most common is that you aren't yet fully aroused. Most women need 45 minutes of "outerplay" before their bodies will find vaginal penetration enjoyable, so even if you are having a good time, if you're not good and juicy after only fifteen or thirty minutes, that is not a sign of pathology. (And remember, humans are endlessly variable, so that 45 minute estimate may be shorter or longer for you personally and depending on that day's circumstances. If you've been feeling happy and sexy all day, you'll probably lube up faster than if you are feeling miserable and stressed.)
What if you are not lubricating sufficiently even after 45 minutes or more of outerplay? In some cases a lack of vaginal lubrication can be a sign of hormonal imbalance. It is very common for menopausal women to have difficulty lubricating, for instance. Regardless of whether the cause is menopause or some other underlying issue, hormonal medications may help. These could be topically applied low-dose estrogen creams, or oral hormonal therapy. Your gynecologist is the person to ask for advice and a prescription if needed.
If our bodies lubricate on their own, why use a personal lubricant product? Many reasons:
(1) Lubes can be useful in non-sexy medical situations in which you may not lubricate on your own. This includes gynecological exams, and any time a medical provider needs to insert something (a speculum, ultrasound wand, dilator, etc) in your vagina. If you are working with a physical therapist to reduce your v pain symptoms, they may teach you self-massage or exercises with a dilator to do at home, both of which can be made more comfortable with lube.
(2) Lubes can be useful if you do not produce as much of your own lube as you would wish, and in some cases a little bit more can mean the difference between toe curling pleasure perfection and "this isn't doing it for me."
(3) You can use lube on a body part that doesn't produce its own. A common example would be for anal play, but here's another one: if your partner is a man and you would like to avoid vaginal penetration (or simply would like to expand your repertoire of clitoral enjoyment), an option for outercourse is to lube up your inner thighs and have him "penetrate" the space between your v and thighs. Slide his cock up close to your v so you enjoy the clitoral stimulation. You can do this either spooning or face-to-face. This is nice because it mimics the physical, full-body closeness that some intercourse positions bring, but oral sex doesn't usually provide. Tip: your pubic hair may chafe his delicate man parts, so he may be more comfortable wearing a condom for this technique.
(4) Lastly, you and/or your partner(s) may simply enjoy or prefer the particular sensation a lube product provides. There are many different types of lube and each one feels a little different: some are thick and gooey, others thinner and more slippery. Some people may have only one that they swear by, while others may keep a number of lubes on hand because they enjoy the variety.
So to sum up: lube can be quite helpful both in terms of your self-care (dilators and self-massage) and your sex life. It can be a useful tool for anyone, but especially so for folks with v pain.
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So now that you know why you might be interested to learn more about lube, what lubes are out there? And does it matter which one you use?
The answer to the first question is there are tons of options, from olive oil and coconut oil at the supermarket to KY at the drugstore and a whole host of brands you can find online or at at your friendly neighborhood sex toy store.
And to answer the second question, yes, it sure as heck does matter which lube you use! Our mucous membranes (including our vulvar and vaginal tissues) are delicate, and poor hygiene habits and yes, suboptimal lubes, can disrupt your genital ecosystem and lead to such nasties as yeast infections, contact dermatitis, and BV (bacterial vaginosis.) Which means that heck yes a crummy lube - instead of supporting your healing - could actually set you back.
Listen to the interview next week for the scoop!
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* important side note: Sometimes female rape victims do lubricate while being raped. That does not mean they consent, or that they are enjoying it, or that the act is not a rape. Lubrication in this instance is part of the body's self-protective mechanism; a lubricated vagina will suffer less damage than a dry one.
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PS Did this post get your brain gears crankin'?
Feel free to start a conversation below (it's okay, you can be anonymous)!