Women's use and perceptions of commercial lubricants: prevalence and characteristics in a nationally representative sample of American adults

J Sex Med. 2014 Mar;11(3):642-52. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12427. Epub 2014 Feb 13.


Introduction: Use of commercial lubricant is common in the United States among adult women. However, little is known about the sexual behaviors for which women use lubricant, women's perceptions of lubricant, or reasons for use, particularly in a nationally representative sample.

Aim: The aim of this study was to document the prevalence and characteristics of lubricant use among adult women in the United States and their perceptions of lubricants in relation to subjective sexual experiences.

Methods: Data are from a subset of individuals who were sampled as part of the 2012 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which involved the administration of an online questionnaire to a nationally representative probability sample of U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Main outcome measures: Sociodemographic characteristics, recent and lifetime commercial lubricant use, lubricant use during specific sexual behaviors, frequency of lubricant use, and reasons for lubricant use of participants were studied for the article.

Results: Of the women who participated in the study, 65.5% (n = 1,021) reported ever having used lubricant and 20% had used a lubricant within the past 30 days. Across age groups, lubricant was most commonly used during intercourse (58.3% of women) or partnered sexual play (49.6%). Common reasons for lubricant use included to make sex more comfortable, fun, and pleasurable and to decrease discomfort/pain.

Conclusions: Most American women have used lubricant. Also, lubricant is more common as part of partnered intercourse and sexual play or foreplay compared with other solo and partnered sexual behaviors. Clinicians may find it helpful to broaden conversations with patients to include questions about their sexual behaviors, comfort and/or pain during sex, and lubricant use and to share, particularly with younger women, that lubricant use is prevalent and commonly used for reasons related to pleasure as well as comfort.

Keywords: Lubricant; Sexual Pleasure; Vaginal Lubrication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Coitus / psychology
  • Emollients
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lubricants*
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prevalence
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Partners
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Women / psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Emollients
  • Lubricants