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COLUMN: Kinsey Confidential answers a question about "dry sex"

Is it true that dry sex can affect a man using a condom and how?

It depends on what you mean by “dry sex.” For some people, especially Americans, “dry sex” simply refers to sex that does not involve adding additional lubricant. In that case, no — not adding lubricant won’t affect condom-use for most people. In part, this is because condom manufacturers generally add lubricant to most condoms anyway. A small amount of lubricant on the condom can help sex feel more comfortable and pleasurable and may also help reduce the risk of condom breakage, though this is less clear (as condoms rarely break anyway). 

Condoms have been repeatedly shown to be highly safe and effective at reducing the risk of both pregnancy and some sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. Even unlubricated condoms are safe and effective and, for some people and for some sex acts, adding extra lubricant can contribute to condoms slipping off. Finding the right amount of lubricant that people prefer and that works well with condoms sometimes takes time and practice.

If, however, by “dry sex” you’re referring to the practice of intentionally drying the vagina or anus (by using herbs, plants, or powders, for example) in order to create a particularly dry experience, then, yes, there may be a greater risk of condom breakage. Some research suggests people are less likely to use condoms during dry sex (perhaps because of the greater amount of friction, though other research has found that some people believe that condoms may interfere with the “magic” of vaginal drying agents), which can contribute to greater risk of STIs including HIV.

If you would like to use condoms to reduce your risk of pregnancy or STIs, it’s important to learn how to use condoms correctly and to use them every time you have sex. Also, although talking about sex can feel uncomfortable at first, it gets easier with practice. Talking with your partner about safer sex, about why condoms are important to you and ways to make condom use more pleasurable and fun can help make sex (and condom use) a better experience. 

Kinsey Confidential is part of a joint partnership between the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington (IU SPH) and The Kinsey Institute. The column is written by Dr. Debby Herbenick, professor in the IU SPH. Read past Q&A or submit your own question at KinseyConfidential.org. Follow us on Twitter @KinseyCon  

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