Lubricant use is common among American women, especially during partnered intercourse and sexual play, researchers have found.
Their study, published recently in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, looked at the prevalence and characteristics of lubricant use. When and why did women use lubricants? And what were their perceptions about these products?
The researchers gathered data from 1,559 women between the ages of 18 and 91 (mean age 46.8 years). The women were participants in the larger National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior 2012, a survey of adult men and women in the United States.
For the present study, the women answered questions about their lubricant use via an online questionnaire. Lubricant was defined as “any personal lubricant or vaginal moisturizer that you can purchase in a store marketed to enhance the sexual experience and/or increase lubrication.”
Sixty-six percent of the entire group had used a lubricant at some point in their lives. Over 20% had done so within the previous 30 days. Partnered intercourse and sexual play were the most common scenarios for lubricant use, but about a third of the women reported using lubricant during solo masturbation. Between 20% and 30% said they used lubricants with condoms, vibrators, or dildos.
Over half of the women had used a lubricant between one and five times over the previous 90 days. Nineteen percent had used one more than 10 times during that time period.
The women cited a number of reasons for starting lubricant use. The following reasons were most common:
• To make sex more comfortable (43%)
• For fun (32%)
• To enhance foreplay (27%)
• Curiosity (26%)
• To add pleasurable sensations to sex (22%)
• To make sex feel more wet (22%)
A distinction was made between first use and first use during sexual activities. For the latter, the most common reason was “my partner suggested we use lubricant.”
Most of the participants agreed that lubricants made sex more comfortable. Only 14% said they felt lubricants were only for older women.
The researchers pointed out that while partner suggestion was the most common reason for lubricant use during sexual activities, clinician suggestion ranked fifth. “That so few women begin using lubricants because of clinician recommendations is notable,” they wrote, adding that healthcare providers may consider asking their patients about sexual comfort and lubrication during office visits.
“Such conversations may also expand opportunities for clinicians and patients to discuss uncomfortable or painful sex, which appears to be a common experience for American women and one still not often talked about,” they said.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Herbenick, Debby, PhD, MPH, et al.
“Women's Use and Perceptions of Commercial Lubricants: Prevalence and Characteristics in a Nationally Representative Sample of American Adults”
(Full-text. First published online: February 13, 2014)