Indiana U. at APHA: Studies about why men and women use lubricants during sex

November 09, 2009

An Indiana University study involving 2,453 women ages 18 to 68 found that lubricant use during sexual activity alone or with a partner contributed to higher ratings of pleasurable and satisfying sex.

Personal lubricants have long been recommended to women to improve the comfort of sexual intercourse and to reduce the risk of vaginal tearing, yet strikingly little available data is available on women's use of lubricants or associated vaginal symptoms.

The study, conducted by Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, involved women who used one of six different water- or silicone-based lubricants.

The study also found that side effects were rarely associated with lubricant use; vaginal tearing occurred during less than 1 percent of vaginal intercourse events and genital pain was reported in less than 5 percent of intercourse acts when lubricant was used.

Herbenick will present her findings at on Monday, Nov. 9, at 3:10 p.m. during the "What's Sex Got To Do With It?" session. Co-authors are Devon J. Hensel , IU School of Medicine; Kristen Jozkowski, Center for Sexual Health Promotion; Michael Reece, CSHP; and J. Dennis Fortenberry, IU School of Medicine.

Researchers from the Center of Sexual Health Promotion conducted more than 15 studies being presented at the APHA conference. Public health professionals routinely recommend the addition of lubricant to condoms during sexual activity, yet virtually no research has assessed the sexual situations during which the recommendations are followed. The following two CSHP studies help fill in the gaps.

A CSHP study involving 2,453 women examined their use of water-based or silicone-based lubricants during sexual activity. The use of lubricants during sexual activity has been recommended as a strategy to reduce the likelihood of vaginal tearing, which can increase risk for HIV and other STI. The study participants strongly endorsed the notion that lubricant use improved the sexual experience; in more than 70 percent of events, women indicated that using lubricants made sex feel very pleasurable and more comfortable (65.5 percent). The women in the study primarily were heterosexual (85.6 percent) and married (56.4 percent), with an average age of 32.5. Other findings: When applying lubricant, 58.4 percent of events involved application to the woman's genitals by their sexual partner, 54.7 percent involved women applying lubricant to their own or their partner's fingers, and 53.4 percent involved women applying lubricant directly on their partner's genitals. Most frequently reported reasons for lubricant use included the desire to reduce the risk of tearing (22 percent) and to make sex more comfortable (21.8 percent). Co-authors include lead author Jozkowski, Herbenick, Hensel, Reece and Fortenberry. The research was supported by The Patty Brisben Foundation. Jozkowski will present the findings on Monday, Nov. 9, at 2:30 p.m. during the "Women and HIV: Emerging Issues" session.

A CSHP study involving 1,834 men examined the use of lubricants during vaginal intercourse. The study involved 8,876 coital events, 46.8 percent of which involved the use of a latex condom and 24.7 percent of which involved the use of a lubricant. Additional results: most frequently, lubricant was added to the external tip of the condom after penile application (22.5 percent), directly in or around the partner's vagina (16.2 percent), and to both the condom and vagina (16.2 percent). The addition of lubricant to condoms was more likely during intercourse with a spouse than with a non-committed partner, during intercourse events of longer duration, when a female partner applied the condom to the partner's penis, and when a female partner used Nuva Ring, IUD or spermicidal jelly/foam as a method of contraception. The research was supported by The Patty Brisben Foundation. Co-authors include, Reece, Hensel, Herbenick, Fortenberry, and Brian Dodge, CSHP. Reece will present the findings on Monday, Nov. 9, at 10:30 a.m. during the "Innovative Research on Sexual Health" session.
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Herbenick can be reached at debby@indiana.edu. Reece can be reached at mireece@indiana.edu.

Indiana University

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