Q&A: Do Condoms Reduce Vaginal Wetness?

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QUESTION: I’m having a debate with my girlfriend. I feel that condoms take away from the wetness from the vagina. My girlfriend feels that she’s naturally lubed enough to out-last the condom with no additional lube needed. I beg to differ. Any answers?

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No matter how well lubricated your girlfriend may feel, it may be a good idea to keep some water-based or silicone-based lubricant on hand.

You both make good points about condoms and lubrication. Rather than focusing on who is right, let’s take a step back and talk about condoms, vaginal lubrication and store-bought lube.

The Benefits of Using Condoms

Using condoms – as you pointed out – can have significant benefits. Using a condom during sex can greatly reduce the risk of passing several but not all sexually transmissible infections (STI) including HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Condoms also offer good protection against pregnancy as they prevent sperm and egg from meeting.

But you’re right that as protective as condoms can be, they sometimes make sex feel more dry. After all, sexual intercourse involves a great deal of friction as your penis moves in and out of her body.  Over time, the lubricant that comes on many lubricated condoms may not feel as though it is quite enough. If the condom gets to dry, there may be an increased risk of the condom breaking.

Affect on Lubrication

That said, many women – and young women in particular – lubricate sufficiently for comfortable, pleasurable vaginal sex.  But that doesn’t mean that there are never times when adding a little store-bought lubricant to her genitals or to the outside of the condoms can help sex to feel better for one or both partners.

Sometimes vaginal lubrication feels reduced if a woman is on a low estrogen birth control pill, if she is taking certain medications or if she has just taken a warm bath or shower, which may slightly dry the vagina.  Other times couples don’t spent a lot of time in foreplay, or they decide to have a quickie, which may not leave sufficient time for a woman to produce much natural vaginal lubrication.

Also, sometimes sex lasts for quite a long time – so long that most women would not keep lubricating in amounts sufficient for comfortable sex or to protect against condom breakage.

Adding Extra Lubrication

As such, no matter how well lubricated your girlfriend may feel, it may be a good idea to keep some water-based or silicone-based lubricant on hand. Then, if sex feels as though it is becoming dry and you are worried about condom breakage or just feel that lubricant would make sex more pleasurable, you can add a small dab of lubricant to either one of your genitals.

There are a variety of lubricant types on the market. Some adult stores and web sites sell sampler packs of water and silicone based lubricants so that women and men can find a lubricant that they like the feel of and that they don’t find irritating.

Also, if condom safety is your main concern, you can also keep a second condom on hand. That way, if the first condom appears to dry out, you can stop intercourse, remove the first condom, put a new condom on, and then resume intercourse.

More Information

To learn more about sexual play involving condoms and lubricants, check out my book, Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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