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Ask Anouszka

‘My girlfriend wants to use lube – do I not make her wet enough?’

Our sex positivity columnist Anouszka Tate answers your problems in unflinching, inspiring style - this week, questions about lube and being gay but not liking anal...

I’ve been having sex with a woman for a couple of weeks now, and she wants to use lube when we have sex; do I not make her wet enough?

Use lube. That’s it. Send answer.

Really, I don’t care how old you are, what genitals you have, or whether this is the first, tenth, or seven thousandth time you’re having sex with someone: USE. LUBE. Lube makes everything even better. I’ll come back to that, but first, I want to tackle your concern that you’re not making your partner wet enough, because I sense a bit of insecurity about your own performance. Sit down and strap in; I’m about to make science sexy.

Physical arousal and subjective arousal aren’t the same thing. Physical arousal is your genitals responding to something they deem sexually relevant – a naked body on a screen, say, or vibrations against the skin. Subjective arousal is your brain’s judgement of whether you desire that sexual stimulus.

Arousal non-concordance refers to the times these two things don’t match up. It might be that your genitals seem to be responding to something (the vibrations from the bus you’re sat on) but your brain is mortified, screaming ‘good lord I’m surrounded by OAPs on their round trip to Sainsbury’s, this is not the time or the place pal!’ Or, you’re feeling super turned on by a sexy scenario, but you’re not necessarily hard or wet.

Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are, explains that cis men experience complete concordance around 50% of the time, while physical and subjective arousal in cis women only match up 10% of the time. To cut a long story short, if this woman is telling you she’s turned on by you, she’s turned on by you. Listen to her words, her subjective experience of the situation.

On the flip side, it’d be remiss off me not to point out that this also means that a vagina being wet (or indeed a penis being hard) does not equal wanting sex, and therefore does not equal consent. Again, listen to your partner’s words, not the state of their genitals.

Back to lube. I don’t understand why anyone would actively fight against using it. I think there’s a feeling that lube should only be used to ‘fix’ certain sexual problems, but even if you think you’re having the most mind-blowing sex of your life, it’ll likely be even better with lube. Is some bizarre sense of pride going to make you cut off your nose to spite your face? Please use lube.

A speedy lube crash course for you… Water-based lubricants are the best place to start; they can be used with condoms and sex toys, and won’t stain clothes or sheets. But because they soak into the skin easily you might have to reapply a fair amount. Silicone lubes are better for those marathon sessions because they’re thicker, although that does mean you might have to get the washing machine fired up to sort the stains. Also, experiment with lubes that double as sensual massage gels. Trust me. Thank me later.

(Just use it. Use lube.)


I’m a gay man but I’ve never liked the idea of anal – either giving or receiving. I’m otherwise a very sexual person, so I’m always up for exploring and experimenting, but men seem to be turned off when I say I don’t like penetration. Should I just learn to like it?

This feels like a classic case of how insidiously society – some unknowable outside force – dictates and shames our innermost desires. Liking anal doesn’t make you gay (as I tell straight people all the time) and being gay doesn’t automatically mean you like anal. Neither your butt nor your penis has a sexual orientation. They’re body parts that either do or do not respond to certain touches, strokes, and sensations. Your sexual orientation refers to who you’re attracted to, not what sex acts your body craves.

Sexuality is so much more complex and beautiful than shallow stereotyping would have us believe. Effeminate? You’re a bottom. More masculine? You’re a top. Job done. In reality, our infinite, messy, imaginative desires can’t be neatly packed into a single box, and you should never apologise for that.

If you do want to put a label on it though, it sounds like you’re a side. That’s a gay man who doesn’t partake in any kind of anal penetration. We have a bizarre idea that real sex must include a dick being put in a hole, but if it helps, you’re absolutely not alone. A study* of 25,000 men who have sex with men found that less than 40% of them had anal sex with their last sexual partner.

You say you’re always up for exploring. Great! Why would you actively diminish the importance of all the things you genuinely get off on just to follow a stereotypical script that doesn’t work for you? To impress who? People who aren’t even in the room? Who’s winning here please?!

To pre-empt your clapback that the person you want to impress is in the room – one of those delightful, empathetic sounding men who say they switch off when you tell them penetration’s not an option… Sod them. If your partner – your one night stand or your ride and die – isn’t willing, no, excited, to listen, learn, and grow with you, they don’t have enough respect for you to be having any kind of sex with you.


* Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2011

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