Lube 101: How To Use Lube With Condoms, Toys, and Your Partner

Mike Givens

At some point, when you’ve had enough experience with sex, things can come naturally. Kissing, caressing, massaging, and other small but pivotal acts that go into sex become second nature. No matter whether you’re with one sexual partner or many, the act of sex is something that relies on nature taking its course. 

But, there are aspects of sex that can be tough to figure out. How does a person like to be kissed? What do you say to someone who tells you that they want you to talk dirty? When is it appropriate to transition from foreplay into another sexual activity? How aggressive should you be with someone who’s bottoming (if at all)?  

We all develop a rhythm with our sexual partners, particularly when we’ve had sex with them a number of times. With a new partner(s), there’s always that bit of guesswork that goes into making the experience a success. 

Lube is very similar: It’s a natural part of the sexual experience, but it takes some learning to master its use. Think about that one time you hooked up with someone, and they used enough lube to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Or think about that hot and heavy moment when you’re making out with someone only for them to want to take it to penetrative sex, and they believe that the tiny bit of lube left in that bottle next to the bed will be enough. 

Well, dear reader, let’s learn a bit more about why lube—and its proper use—is vitally important. 

Using lube

Lube remains an important staple for queer people. For those who engage in anal sex, it’s clear that lube is a means to make the act easier as an anus does not produce the amount of sweat and moisture as a vagina. Not using lube can increase the risk for tears inside the anus, exposing you to more risk of transmitting HIV. To account for this risk during sex, we recommend you look into obtaining PrEP in Canada.

That being said, lube isn’t solely purposed for use by queer people. Straight, cisgender people experience dryness too, and no one particular identity has any exclusive claim on lube or how—or with whom—it’s used. 

Regardless of who uses lube (even if you use a lube substitute), there are some pretty basic dos and don’ts to using it, particularly if you want to remain safe and optimize your sexual experience, whether you’re pleasuring yourself or someone else. 

Using lube with condoms

Condom use is totally up to the individual and their sexual partner(s). However, if you do decide to use condoms, there are some pretty basic rules to ensure that you’re lubing it up properly: 

  • Make sure the condom is being worn before adding lube. Once the penis is erect and the condom is safely on, apply a bit of the lube up and down the shaft to ensure that the surface is thoroughly lubricated. 
  • Remember, water-based lubes will dissolve quicker, so be prepared to lube up periodically to keep things moist. 
  • Avoid using oil-based lubes with latex condoms as they may cause the material to degrade. 
  • There is such a thing as too much lube. Be generous while also exercising caution. Too much lube can make the experience super wet and slippery, but too little may lead to friction and anal tears, which increase the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

Using lube with toys

Toys are an excellent way to not only have fun between the sheets but also explore your body. Toys provide an opportunity to play solo, explore likes, dislikes, and burgeoning areas of interest regarding sexual preferences. 

When applying lube to toys, keep in mind the following tips: 

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Use different amounts of lube with various toys. Figure out the amount that provides you with the most pleasure when you’re playing with yourself or with your partner(s). 
  • Remember, oil-based lubes can degrade latex, so consider an oil- or silicone-based lubricant if you’re using latex-based toys. 
  • Wash toys carefully after use. Residue from lube can adhere to sex toys and could possibly cause damage in the long run. 
  • Keep in mind that there’s a difference between a toy and a human. A dildo, for example, may take more or less lube than an actual penis. 

Using lube with your partner(s)

When playing with one or multiple partners, it’s important to make sure there’s ample lube and an understanding of preferences. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when using lube with one or more partners: 

  • Respect preferences. You might hook up with someone who’s had a bad experience with oil-based lube or just prefers to use water-based lube because it feels more enjoyable to them. There’s no harm in asking if they have a preference and keeping multiple kinds of lube to be accommodating. 
  • Be generous in applying lube to whatever hole is being penetrated, whether a vagina or an anus. You’ll be able to identify the amount that’s needed to make the experience pleasurable. 
  • Applying lube can be erotic. Don’t treat the task like it’s an algebra exam. Be playful and sensual with the lube. Ask your partner(s) to put some on you and you on them. Kiss, touch, caress, and incorporate the act of lubing up into the overall intensity of the experience. Consider talking dirty while applying the lube, or maybe use a little to massage your partner(s). 

The most important thing to remember is that the purpose of lube is to facilitate a healthy and sensual sexual encounter. It’s a tool that you use not only to make the act of sex mechanically easier but also to heighten the experience and enhance its pleasure. 

If you can keep this in mind, stay informed on the basic facts about lube, and prepare yourself, the sex will only be that much better. 

Written by:
Mike Givens

Mike Givens received his bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and English Literature from Virginia Tech. He has a master’s degree in investigative journalism from Boston University. He is a social justice advocate and is the full-time communications director for an international human rights organization in New England. He spends his spare time writing on a range of issues, from LGBTQ+ rights and income inequality to sexual health and politics. He is also a freelance copyeditor.

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