Got Dat Weed Lube In My Bag, Swag!
“Suddenly, he pulled his mouth off my wet shaft, got up off his knees and hurried to the front of the store. He promptly returned with a short stack of grocery bags, newspapers, and a small jar of Vaseline. “You’re gonna fuck me,” it wasn’t a statement or command from him, it was a fact neither of us could turn away from…”~Essex Hemphill, Ceremonies
I remember the first time I read the account quoted above where Essex Hemphill shares the gory details of losing his virginity. With confusion, possibly even shock, I paused: Vaseline as anal lubricant, what? Before this story, it never crossed my mind to even fathom how gay men engaged penetrative intercourse prior to the introduction of safer sex practices in response to HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s. All the safe(r) sex lessons I received during my teens stressed the importance of using water, or silicone, based lubricants. An oil based lubricant would break down the condom rendering it ineffective as a protective barrier from possibly infected bodily fluids. Since then, I’ve had many conversations with my gay elders about the varying sex practices they practiced before, during, and after the plague (HIV) arrived onto the scene. Many regularly share how gay sex has become, ‘artificial’. Everything now, they say, is mediated through a filter: condoms mediate the touch of flesh and exchange of fluids, realtime desire is mediated through the touch of screens, physical representation is mediated through photo retouching software. Where is the real?
Another day on social media brings another meme to side eye. Today I stop scrolling to stare at one in particular. A bottle of body oil, maybe baby, maybe cocoa butter oil, contrasted next to a bottle of Platinum Wet, a brand named, more expensive, recognized silicone lubricant. The message atop this picture reads, ‘fellas, only one of these is lube.’ By definition, this statement was true. Silicone lubricant is produced primarily for use in sexual activity, it is not an after shower moisturizer to moisturize ash away. While cocoa butter oil is not readily produced for use as an anal sex lubricant. Something about this meme, however, did not come across as simple statement differentiating the use of personal hygiene products. This meme was not a new public health campaign raising awareness about healthful approaches to pleasurable anal sex. No, this read as yet another way gay men were anointing themselves superior using concepts and ideologies that don’t hold, serve, or free our sex, bodies, or larger queer communities (of color).
‘If I’m a black queen and you’re a black queen we can’t call each other black queens that’s not a read that’s a fact,’ Dorian Corey proclaims in the seminal visual text, ‘Paris is Burning’. This phrase highlights the ways black queer bodies existing, hopefully thriving, in this racist, heterosexist society are often pinned against each other. There can only be one token black new hire, or only one gay friend. We are expected to attack and fight each other for the spoils of whiteness and tolerated entrance into the nuclear, heterosexist family. These bodies, however, cannot rely on the easy tropes of racism and heterosexism for diminishing one another. Calling another black as a slur, when you are black, reflects more on one’s antiblackness than as shade. To call one a queen, when one also is a queen, is simply to respond, “I know you are, and I am too”. We are left, as Dorian Corey later details, with going to the finer points of deciphering greater extrinsic values between the two black queens. Many in the community often rely on mainstream capitalist ideas of reaching these finer points of being better than. A gay man that can afford designer clothes and VIP club entrance, supposedly, is better than ones dressed in apparel from low-end retailers cruising the club’s let out because it appears he earns more money. A gay man that can afford to leisurely travel is better than those who may have never left their childhood neighborhood. These ideas trickle down until we reach points where gay men that can afford purchasing a 15.7 oz bottle of Platinum Wet silicone lubricant, which retails at $42.89 at Amazon, feel they are materially, and personally, superior to men using a dollar jar of Vaseline or body butter. These men are able to place themselves higher on this spoken into existence lube industrial complex that slicks and shimmies the friction of varying classes of gay men coming together during intercourse.
The read becomes men who opt out of using water, or more expensive silicone, based lubricant do so because they cannot afford luxury sex products. They are broke, horny homosexuals with empty schedules, buzzing hookup apps, and full bottles of cocoa butter oil. They are too cheap, and foolish, to know what’s best for their health as dictated by a medical system, almost always, completely removed from all of our lived realities. What makes these attacks worst is that they are often grounded in the same medical discourse historically used for suppressing and policing queer sexuality. We live in a country that does not value comprehensive sexuality education for its youth, especially its queer youth. Only 22 states, and the District of Columbia, even require fact based human sexuality education. Many young gay men have recounted to me learning about anal sex between two men from porn or other media images that present inaccurate information as it relates to empowering them around their sexual health choices and practices. The men who are informed often use their knowledge base as another finer point when attacking their fellow (black) queens. Knowledge becomes a personal marker of wealth that can be flaunted for the shock, or gag, of an audience. This ‘lubeshaming,’ thus moves from simply establishing one’s wealth in proximity to another’s poverty to an even more powerful dialectic of being more informed, and sexually liberated, via said information. What goes unsaid is due to the discrepancies in effectively dispersing comprehensive sexuality education that addresses topics concerning men who have sex with men (MSM) much of the knowledge shared is often community-driven conventional wisdom opposed to accurate, research driven, data. Off the cuff brags about someone not knowing community recognized sex practices can quickly become a dunce cap crowning ceremony, possibly isolating the village idiot from seeking or further information.
“I am a gay man, I get fucked in the ass, and I would like my doctor to ask me about it!” I am sitting at a gay men’s health conference in San Francisco. This breakout session hopes to focus on the ways gay men’s (sexual) health care is almost always reduced to HIV and the transmission of other STI’s. I am personally always of the belief: sexual health is more than the absence of sexually transmitted disease. The man next to me has made it more explicit. He is discussing how while his doctor continuously addresses, and surveillances, his sexual practices in relation to transmitting disease he is not concerned about his anal healthcare as it relates to cancer or its long term uses as a conduit for his sexual pleasure. What are the chemicals he’s using when being penetrated doing to his body? Beyond contracting HIV, he has growing concerns about colon, prostate, or anal cancer. These concerns went unaddressed in the meme mentioned earlier, as, again, too often gay men’s healthcare becomes reduced to HIV, and other STI, prevention.
Argument about lubricant use stems from HIV panic. Using oil based lubricants with condoms breaks down the latex, rendering them ineffective. But, what happens in a world where PrEP is being used as a barrier and/or the growing HIV rates are now creating spaces where more gay men are deciding to forgo condoms because HIV+ men are penetrating, and ejaculating inside, each other? How does a simple meme about using water/silicone vs. oil based lubricant reveal the deeper ideas about community driven self-surveillancing of queer sexuality ensuring it remains contained within CDC designated acceptable limits? How are we honoring the multiplicity of sexual realities converging together for heightened intimacy? How are we creating space for medical providers to work with clients around sexual health as new biotechnologies create a hybrid of sex practices blending the old with the new? With the growing use of PrEP and Treatment as Prevention (TAP), the high rates of HIV positive, undetectable especially, and HIV negative men are forgoing condoms more and more to explore being vessels of each other’s orgasm. One of these realities is the widening definition of what applies and works as lubricant. If a couple forgoes condom usage, for whatever reason, an oil based lubricant option becomes available. If the partners are economically limited a cheaper oil based lubricant may be more accessible than an expensive silicone lubricant often only sold in certain venues. The obsession with projecting water or silicone based lubricants be used solely pivots on a need to ensure condom usage during MSM anal penetration. For many MSM, condom usage is becoming more a thing of the past than oil based lube.
Enter weed lube. I knew it was a thing. A thing I wanted to make and use with a partner. After months of having it on my fantasy to do list, I finally made the concoction infusing coconut oil with marijuana. I also had a guy eager and willing to try out my first batch with me. There were several accounts of women using weed lube vaginally online, but few including MSM experiences. (There are entire rabbit holes to fall down online about ciswomen switching to coconut oil as a lubricant due to its anti-fungal properties being useful for preventing yeast infections.) I imagined it wouldn’t be much of a difference, as the substance was being received by a mucous membrane; but I grew more curious as the play session grew closer.
(I am not advocating the abandonment of condoms, however, this lubricant, should you decide to use it, is oil based and does not function with condoms.)
First, it’s important to think about insertion of the weed lube. If the goal is to get high before penetration then the lube must be inserted ten to thirty minutes prior to penetration. Tying your bottom, the person the weed lube will be lovingly applied into, into a static and accessible position could make it easier for the lube insertion. Coconut oil hardens in cooler temperatures, thus it must be warmed a bit to reach flowing viscosity. I scooped large spoonfuls into a sandwich bag. Using my hands I warmed the oil between my hands. After it liquefied, I cut a hole in one corner to pipe the lube inside like a cake icing tube. I’d advise going into a weed lube session with the mindset it’s a fun way of engaging in foreplay and sexy communication. Often the application of lube can be a quick intermediary action that occurs before insertion during penetration, and not a moment in and of itself. Weed lube spreads the attention given in its application further than the standard water or silicone based lubricant. After getting in a healthy tablespoon of weed lube, lie down, cuddle, and chill.
Waiting for the lube to take effect is a chance to get your partner talking. Tell me what you’re feeling in your body? Do you feel it starting to take effect? What does the high feel like? Do you feel you need more lube? How does the consistency feel? Discussions about sensation and asking one to narrate personal familiarity with their body can be a practice in getting them to use during intercourse, or in regular conversations about feelings.
When asking my partner about the lubricant I was not only interested in if the marijuana had any effect. I was curious about the friction from the lubricant itself. Similarly to a process of making marijuana edibles, too often the functionality of the weed concoction becomes superseded by ingesting marijuana. Many will scarf down a disgusting weed brownie, for instance, because they’re not eating the brownie for its decadence but it’s high. I wanted to ensure the lubricant was pleasurable, or at least, functional. Twenty minutes or so after introducing the weed lube into his body he shared feeling tingly. I kept asking him to describe the tingle. “What kind of tingle? I don’t know if that’s good or bad.” (I feared sharing the sensation being tingly would sound similar to certain STI symptoms.) We laughed a lot. He said the feel of the lubricant was enjoyable, but he wouldn’t switch to it regularly due to what he was describing as it’s high. At least now we both know a novelty sex toy to use if things get dry. I find myself approaching a hybrid of sexual literacies that blend practices from the past with present technologies inspiring future sex.
A KY Jelly commercial has just ended. The heterosexual couple raves about how discovering lubricant has revolutionized their sex lives. “Straight sex looks so complicated, yet boring,” I say, as the next commercial flashes on the screen. “I know, right,’ he responded back, as we lay in bed considering how a staple of our sex lives could be a new discovery for an entire mainstream population.