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Lube Up for Better Lovin'

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Not for Sex

Toys in Babeland doesn't carry any oil-based lubes. In fact, the massage oils they sell are kept on the opposite side of the store from the lubes, so as not to confuse anyone. For many years, health officials have discouraged people from using oil-based lubes because oils break down latex rubber, causing condoms to fail. Only silicone- and water-based lubes are safe to use with latex condoms. What's more, there's not much point in using skin lotion, petroleum jelly, or cooking oils when so many products are made specifically for sex. Oil is awfully messy, and it's really not meant to be put in someone's vagina or rectum.

One other important warning applies to sex lubes: Avoid anything that contains the spermacide nonoxynol-9. CDC spokeswoman Jessica Frickey writes in an email, "It boils down to this: Studies have shown that N-9 can cause genital lesions and damage to the rectal lining, providing a possible entry point for HIV and other [sexually transmitted diseases]."

Of course, not everyone lives near a sex shop, and some folks wouldn't venture into one if they did. But most drug store chains and mom-and-pop pharmacies carry the water-based lubricants K-Y jelly and AstroGlide. Cavanah says that of the two, AstroGlide is the best choice. "That is far better than the K-Y jelly their mother in law has in the cabinet," she says. K-Y is meant for clinical uses, like inserting a rectal thermometer. It doesn't stay slippery for as long those designed for sex do.

Sex lubes are also easy to find on the Internet. Toys in Babeland has an online shop (babeland.com), as does another prominent sex boutique, Good Vibrations (goodvibes.com), based in San Francisco. The two enterprises don't share ownership, but they're partners in the same mission. Unlike seedy "adult entertainment" establishments that also sell lube, they promote positive attitudes about sex, with an emphasis on women's sexual health and pleasure. A quick Web search will pull up a number of other e-stores that sell lube, too.

Learn to Love Lube

You may wonder why you should go out of your way to get sex lube. If you're not having anal sex, shouldn't a woman's natural lubrication be enough? Not always. Many people, especially men, think that if she wants to use lube, she's not properly turned on. But a woman can be burning with desire and still not have enough natural lubrication to make things go smoothly. "We're not always wet on cue," Cavanah says. Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, smoking, antidepressants, and antihistamines can cause vaginal dryness. Many women also have less lubrication after menopause.

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