It is the curse of the Bad Slasher to be confronted on a regular basis by the use of lubricants that defy common sense, logic and sanity. While some dubious lubes are merely ineffective, others may necessitate emergency first aid once the malign influence of the wraith has been exorcised.
All instances of dubious lube on this page have either been sighted by PPC agents or reported on LiveJournal's Fanficrants and Weepingcock communities and/or the GodAwful FanFiction Board. You are hereby warned that squickiness lies below.
Why Is This Lube Dubious?
It Is Not, Actually, a Lubricant
Lubricants can be dubious for several different reasons. The most important reason for a lubricant to be deemed dubious is that it would not, in fact, function (or function efficiently for the speed at which badslash sex usually occurs) as a lubricant.
- Saliva: probably the most common and least likely to actually work, although still better than the 'ah well, it'll be fine!' approach to teh gaysex. (Yes, it helps. But it isn't a miraculous biological WD40—to make it work you need TIME AND PATIENCE.)
- Blood: amongst the more disturbing, particularly when combined with the above approach, as in 'ah well, it'll be fine, there'll be blood in a few minutes'. (If things are getting to the stage where they're bleeding, it's probably going to hurt too much to have sex. Exceptions can be made for blood/pain kink, but it should be noted that blood/pain kink itself can be a charge depending on continuum.) And on a biological note, blood clots once it's outside of the body, meaning the blood will start to coagulate and turn sticky and distinctly un-lubricant-like shortly after the incredible pain caused by the dry penetration.
- 'They don't need lube, they're Elves!' is just odd. Despite anime-fangirl-turned-LotR-fangirl fanon, there is NO SUCH THING as a magical self-lubricating arse, EVEN if it's an Elven arse.
- Seawater: just plain wouldn't work; plus, adding an abrasive (sand) to the mix is no kind of fun the PPC want to be involved in.
- Fresh urine: yes, you read that one right.
- Ink: dries sticky very quickly.
- Dermabond surgical glue: to be fair, this was acknowledged as a Very Bad Idea within the fic, and the characters didn't get away with it, but it should still be noted as a bad move.
Most (but not all) substances deemed dubious fall into this category. Other categories of what those who use the charge frequently abbreviate to 'dubelube' are:
- Egg white: yes, technically it will work, but who wants to wait around while their lover separates an egg?
- And what about the 'light, scented oil' that Elves just seem to randomly carry around with them for no apparent reason? (It's not like they need to moisturise, so why would they carry it?)
- Why would you put something scented down there anyway? Natural odours plus scented oils don't make a very appealing mix.
Substances that would cause unpleasant reactions/sensations when in contact with mucous membranes:
- Alcohol products
- Alcohol gel: used by two characters who probably would know better.
- Tequila: amongst possibly the most harmful. (And least likely to work, given mucous membranes absorbing alcohol... look, it just doesn't work, and may end in chemical burns and alcohol poisoning, okay?)
- Whiskey/whisky: OW! OW! OW! Death by alcohol poisoning much?
- Barbecue sauce: now really... chili products? There?!
- Coffee: er, gritty? Hot? Acidic? Sound like something you want up your butt?
- Deodorant/antiperspirant: spray-on. Let me hear you say it... OW! Aerosol burn!
- Glue: terrifyingly enough, this has now been mentioned on Fanficrants twice; we can only hope they were both referring to the same fic.
- Gravy: hot, sticky when cold, potentially lumpy.
- Hot fudge sauce: Seen in "Little Miss Mary." To quote the Aviator, hot fudge does not go there.
- Hydrochloric acid: ARGH!
- Ketchup: do people not know the danger of putting acids and sugars onto unkeratinised epithelial cells?!
- Lighter fluid: OW!
- Melted sugar: sucrose melts at approximately 186 °C. The burning pain would put the unfortunate user in the hospital, never mind off the sex.
- Molten metal: HOT! PAINFUL! Vapourising the body parts in question is not a solution!
- Shampoo: would you put it in your mouth? No! Would you put it up your nose? No! Then don't stick it up your arse! A mucous membrane is a mucous membrane!
- Sunblock: as above.
- Vinegar: BAD. Stings like hell, and good luck getting sexy with that.
- Washing-up liquid: see 'shampoo', above.
- WD40: see 'shampoo', above.
Substances that are gritty or lumpy:
- Bat guano: apart from where it's come from, bat guano is caustic to the point that naturalists wear biohazard suits merely to enter a bat-populated cave, and many many many biting and stinging minibeasts of various types live in it. In fact, you'd have to be batshit crazy to try this!
- Sand: It's coarse, rough, irritating and gets everywhere.
- Soil: ditto.
- Vegetable soup: er, lumpy and HOT?
Substances that are sticky and/or likely to solidify mid-coitus:
- Cement: not unless you want to turn to stone in a very awkward position...
- Honey: ew, sticky.
- Latex-based wall paint: gooey and sticky when wet – we don't even want to think about what happens when it dries – and potentially toxic.
- Maple syrup: seen sadly often in Hetalia fandom with the character of Canada; nation-tans do appear to canonically have some magic, but probably not the power of making syrup non-sticky.
- Melted chocolate: hot, gritty, sticky... what's worse is many fics that use chocolate in this way then have one or both protagonists CONSUME it afterwards. One doesn't even want to think about the issues surrounding hygiene in this regard.
- Molten cheese: this resolidifies very quickly. Think about when you leave a pizza sitting too long.
Substances that are not even liquid:
- Bamboo shoots: not sap, actual shoots, which should by rights be solid.
- Chocolate products that were designed to be eaten rather than placed in other orifices: yes, they'd probably melt while up there. But even so, chocolate can be gritty, and chocolate doesn't melt that fast at body temperature, and the lumps would surely be uncomfortable.
- Lollipop, half-eaten, cherry-flavoured: disgusting AND ironic!
- Mango pulp: sticky and acidic, ow.
- Peanut butter: sticky, probably too stiff to work, and let us not consider the 'crunchy' variety...
- Rosin: which is used to increase friction.
Many of these have not been verified, but nobody dares to go looking to find out if they're true.
Lube choices can also be charged as dubious if it's extremely unlikely that the canon character in question would be carrying them around. Even if they work. For instance, KY Jelly on Pern is dubious.
- Flavoured lube for things that aren't external. The flavoured component of the lube can cause yeast infections in people with vaginas.
- The wrong type of lube for the wrong type of toy or condom – if in doubt, just use water-based lube. Oil-based lubes are a bad idea for condoms and toys and just about anything that isn't a massage. Silicone-based lubes are bad with silicone-based toys.
- Not exactly a lubricant, but someone on Fanficrants once mentioned a fic featuring a hot wax enema. Anyone who cannot see why this is a bad idea deserves to be made to test it.
- The author of the fic 'Passion Night' (link NSFW) was told by a reviewer on a previous fic that lube should be included. She did include it in 'Passion Night', but was inexplicably under the impression that it was an activity rather than a substance, resulting in a disturbing mention of Sirius 'doing lube on Remus'. We don't want to know what she thought that involved.
- One fic, MSTed here (NSFW), featured an empty bottle of lube lying around where someone could walk in on the characters who'd just finished having sex and see it. In the words of the MSTers, the lube 'was conspicuously absent during the sex scene, so what the hell is it doing there now?' Since later on in the fic a character produced a shotgun apparently from Hammerspace, presumably the bottle came from the same place...
- Worth noting again, though mentioned earlier, is the mistaken impression that some authors (and published yaoi manga creators) apparently hold that the anus, human or otherwise, is self-lubricating. While remarks by characters on increased dampness in the vicinity of a vagina may be technically correct during explicit scenes, similar observations about the anus are contrary to biology unless the character in question is undergoing a bout of diarrhea or similar. (This is not generally considered sexy.)
NOTE: For the sake of completeness, let it be noted that lubricant-less mansex can occur with only limited discomfort. However, it takes a lot of time and patience, both things that are in extremely short supply in bad slash. We call it dubious for this reason.
So, What Can We Use?
With so many dubious lubes out there in the fan-o-sphere, one may begin to wonder if there are any plausible lubes, particularly for a historical or fictional culture that doesn't have access to modern medicine-approved commercial lubricants (or just for a horny couple in a hurry). Fear not, there are!
Please note: This is writing advice, not personal advice. "Plausible" does not necessarily mean "safe." Do not try this at home. If you do anyway, we never met you.
There are a few substances confirmed or strongly implied to have been used as lube by historical societies:
- Olive oil
- The philosopher Aristotle actually touted olive oil (incorrectly) as a contraceptive, writing in The History of Animals that "if the parts be smooth conception is prevented." It was likely used with the padded-leather dildos that were in use at about the same time. Sex scholars believe olive oil was the go-to lube for the ancient Romans, as well.
- This may be plausible in any society where olive oil is commonly available. Other relatively stable vegetable oils, such as coconut oil, may also be plausible where available. They should not be used in conjunction with latex condoms, however, and may increase the risk of bacterial infections in the vagina.
- Carrageenan is traditionally derived by boiling red seaweeds for an hour or more, retaining the mucilaginous liquid and discarding the rest. It is still used as an ingredient in water-based lubes today and may actually help reduce the transmission of HPV.
- This may be plausible anywhere species of red seaweed may be gathered. It is known to have been consumed as a food of last resort by the Irish during British occupation, so it's not much of a stretch to imagine them using it for lube in happier times. Its safety in traditional form is not known to us at this time.
- Tororo is a substance made by grating Chinese yams (Dioscorea polystachya). Primarily used as an ingredient in soup today, its mucilaginous texture also makes it functional as lube. The Japanese of the Edo period are said to have used it with condoms made from animal intestines. According to sexologist and sex counselor Eric M. Garrison, who made some himself, "The consistency is very similar to applesauce, the taste is sweet and earthy. But it has a beige creamy color. When I taste jicama, it reminds me of that. It is not anything that most Westerners would recognize as lubricant."
- This one is probably not the best idea, since Chinese yam skin may be irritating to human skin; the tuber is typically peeled and treated with lemon juice or vinegar before grating. Yams also naturally contain sugar. As discussed above, it's a bad idea to introduce anything containing sugar to the vaginal or anal cavity. We warned you that "plausible" doesn't always mean "safe."
These lubes are known to be used by modern people as alternatives to commercial lubes and may be plausible in historical or fictional settings where the plants they come from grow. Again, this is writing advice, not personal advice. Just because people do it doesn't mean it's a good idea for you to do it.
- Coconut oil
- As suggested above, pure coconut oil is suggested by many sources as a great natural lubricant. It is believed to be among the most safe natural oils for vaginal and anal use, and is widely considered pleasant to smell and taste.
- Other vegetable oils and butters
- Cocoa butter, shea butter, sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil, and avocado oil may all be plausible where and when available, and are considered generally safe in their pure forms. Grape seed and sesame oils sometimes make the list, too.
- However, there are caveats with any oil-based lube. Heavier oils may be more preferable for anal sex than vaginal sex, all may carry an increased risk of bacterial infections if not thoroughly washed away after sex, and all can degrade latex condoms and silicone toys.
- Aloe vera gel
- Pure aloe vera gel is one of the most widely mentioned natural lubes; it appeared on almost every list we found when searching. It is generally considered safe for vaginal and anal lubrication. However, it may irritate some folks.
- Chia or flax mucilage
- While not as well attested as the previous entries, mucilage from chia or flax seeds may be plausible as lube. This is not the most convenient of choices, since the mucilage needs to be prepared ahead of time and doesn't keep well, but is attested to be safe. In fact, organic chia seed extract is a primary ingredient in at least one next-gen commercial lube.
- Other mucilage-bearing herbs include psyllium husk, slippery elm bark, and liqorice (or licorice) root. Mucilage from okra has also been proposed as the main ingredient for a bodily lubricant. We don't know that it's a good idea to put any of those on your most sensitive and absorbent bits, though.
- Cactus juice
- Cactus juice may have been an ingredient in an ancient recipe for lube. We don't know which cactus species, or if this is safe, but any cacti that are considered safe to eat (and non-psychoactive, please) may be a plausible source of lube.
A convenient lube is one that is there if you need something in a pinch and probably won't damage you or your partner in the short term. Here we once again remind you that this is writing advice, not personal advice. Although people do use these entries as lube and they probably won't raise eyebrows in the sort of fictional setting where STIs and bacterial vaginosis are unheard of, some of them are very definitely not a great idea in real life.
- Petroleum jelly
- Most of us are probably familiar with petroleum jelly in the form of Vaseline. It's great for chapped lips! It makes for a convenient lube because it's something many people keep handy in their medicine cabinet and it's cheap. It's also a go-to lube, particularly for anal sex, for people who may not have financial access to commercial lubes, as noted in studies of female sex workers and men who have sex with men in Africa.
- This also qualifies as a more recent historical lube, since Vaseline (the first commercial petroleum jelly) was introduced in the 1870s. It was marketed as a cut and sore ointment and general cure-all, but, as noted by Scarleteen, "it did not take long for everyone to figure out what else they could use it for."
- Petroleum jelly is not friendly to latex condoms or silicone sex toys. Because it's a heavier substance that hangs around for a long time, it may not be the best inside vaginas, either. It's probably fine for penises on their own or penises in butts.
- Mineral oil or baby oil
- Products marketed as baby oil may be based on a number of vegetable oils or on mineral oil. For vegetable oils, see above, but note that vegetable-derived baby oil may also contain preservatives you might not want on your bits.
- Mineral oil is usually derived from petroleum, like petroleum jelly. Insufficiently refined mineral oil is a known carcinogen, so this one may not be the best idea unless it comes from a reputable source, but people use it nonetheless. It has even been recommended as a vaginal lubricant by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine for people wishing to get pregnant, since it does not appear to decrease sperm motility.
- Crisco vegetable shortening in particular is a long-time favorite of gay men and straight fetishists. It was originally made from cottonseed oil, and modern versions are made from a blend of other vegetable oils.
- Lard and tallow are also used as shortening and may also be plausible, especially in older historical settings, but we definitely consider them to be a bad idea IRL. Animal products go rancid quickly. There may also be religious or other social barriers in place against their consumption, which could rationally extend to using them as lube.
- We know, we know. Butter is convenient in many times and places, and people have and probably will continue to use it to lube up. However, it is a dairy product and therefore contains proteins that can easily go rancid, so it's really not a good first choice. If you must write about it, clarified butter (e.g. ghee) has fewer of those nasty proteins, making it more shelf-stable and therefore theoretically safer. But we're just speculating at this point. Please don't actually try using it.
- As butter above, lots of people keep margarine in their fridges, and people do report using it as lube. Nowadays most brands are plant-based, so it's a better idea than butter. However, some may contain dairy (bad idea), and historical margarine was made from beef tallow (again, bad idea), so be aware of where and when your story is set if you choose to write your characters using this. Also be aware of the variable content of salt, sugar, color, stabilizers, and other additives that may be undesirable in a lube.
- Plain yogurt
- Yes, people use yogurt as lube. We were surprised, too! Some claims exist that it may be beneficial for vaginal health because it contains compatible types of bacteria, but these claims are unsubstantiated by science. Sexologists and others advise that, if you do use it, be sure to use only plain, unflavored, sugar-free yogurt. It's still a dairy product, though, so the same risks apply. We can't speak to how well it works, either.
It should go without saying that most if not all of the following links are NSFW, but we've said it anyway. Click at your own risk.
- "Bad Trigun smut makes Wolfwood want to take vows of celibacy" by Pretentioustfu, Weepingcock LJ community, Dec 21, 2006
- Untitled comment by pretentioustfu, Weepingcock LJ community, Dec 22, 2006
- "I will never be able to eat a Tootsie Pop again... (Gundam Wing)" by Sarajayechan, Weepingcock LJ community, Jul 23, 2006
- "4 Outlandish Things Our Ancestors Used as Lube" by Carrie Weisman, Salon, Oct 15, 2015
- "A Brief History of Lube" by Kim Wong-Shing, Men's Health, Apr 2, 2019
- "The History of Personal Lubricant" by Suzannah Weiss, Swell, Aug 22, 2019.
- "Lube 101: A Slick Little Primer" by Jenna and Claire, Scarleteen, updated Apr 24, 2018
- "Medicinal Uses of Seaweeds" by Ryan Drum, updated c. 2008
- "Chinese yam § Uses," Wikipedia, accessed Jan 20, 2021
- "An In-Depth Look At Personal Lubricants: Safety, Science, and Lube Ingredients § Plant-Based Lubes" and "§ Household Lubes" by Sarah Melancon, Ph.D., Dec 17, 2019
- "10 Best Natural Lubricants for Better, Safer Sex" by Ellis, Eco Ever After, Oct 5, 2019
- "The Best Lubricants for All-Natural Sex § Cooking Oils" by Taylor Kubota, Men's Journal, Jul 13, 2015
- "Bedroom MacGyver: Household Items You Can Totally Use as Lube" by Sarah Murrell, Thrillist, Dec 10, 2015
- "Natural Lube Alternatives" by Jessica Caporuscio, Pharm.D., Medical News Today, Apr 22, 2020
- "The Superfood That Helped Us Develop a Super-Lube" by Pulse Team, Aug 1, 2018
- "Bodily lubricating and moisturizing compositions containing plant mucilage" by Peter Angia Pham, patent claim originally filed Mar 31, 2016
- "Condoms and condiments: compatibility and safety of personal lubricants and their use in Africa" by Scott Geibel, J Int AIDS Soc., July 9, 2013
- Condoms, Lubricants and Rectal Cleansing: Practices Associated with Heterosexual Penile-Anal Intercourse Amongst Participants in an HIV Prevention Trial in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe by Zoe Duby et al, AIDS Behav., Apr 2016
- "13 Natural Lube Alternatives for When You Can't Make It to the Drugstore" by Samantha Vincenty, The Oprah Magazine, May 29, 2020
- "Optimizing Natural Fertility" by Samantha Pfeifer et al, Fertility and Sterility, Sep 2013; archived Nov 11, 2013