So much of sex is about smell and taste — from the way a partner’s lips feel when your tongue grazes them, to the musky scent of someone’s underwear right before you tug them off. These senses can have such a big effect on human sexuality that some people report losing interest in sex when they lose their ability to smell and/or taste, due to COVID or other factors.
One way that the connection between sex and taste has been explored is through flavored lubes. These aren’t like regular lubes — their aim isn’t so much to grease the wheels of penetration, but more to get your mouth watering and your taste buds excited while you do the deed.
If you already love the flavor of genitals à la carte and can’t imagine wanting to sully it with other tastes, maybe flavored lube isn’t for you. Conversely, if you’re expecting this type of lube to totally mask the taste of someone’s genitals, you should know that it probably won’t. As my friend sex educator Bex Caputo often says in his blow-job workshops, a dick drizzled in strawberry lube is going to taste like dick and strawberries, not just strawberries.
That said, flavored lube can be useful for some people, in some situations like these:
- If you’re giving oral sex through a condom or dental dam, flavored lube can help cover up the often-overpowering taste of latex, so you feel less like you’re licking a balloon.
- If you have a dry mouth — due to a medication you’re on, a recreational drug you’ve taken, sheer nervousness or anything else — flavored lube can help kickstart saliva production while also providing the slickness that spit normally would.
- Some flavors have an erotic or aphrodisiac quality, and can make you feel deliciously hedonistic, especially in combination with sex.
- Experimenting and mixing things up can be fun in and of itself, and adding interesting flavors into sex is one way to do so.
- Dripping chocolate sauce or whipped cream all over a partner, so you can lick it up, is a hot and common fantasy — but not the wisest thing to do in reality, both because of the mess and because the sugar content can cause yeast infections. You’re better off using a flavored product designed to be genital-safe, and it may be just as yummy.
Speaking of yeast infections, they’re an unfortunate risk with flavored lubes, even though these products are ostensibly made to go in and on your genitals. Many contain sweeteners, like glycerin and aspartame, which feed the naturally occurring yeast in the vagina and can cause infections. To be on the safe side, you’ll want to use these lubes in moderation and only use them externally, not internally — they’re generally fine on dicks, butts and clits, which is probably where the bulk of your oral attention will be focused anyway.
You can also look for flavored lubes that are sweetened with ingredients not known to cause genital health issues. For example, stevia — yep, the stuff that well-stocked cafés keep next to the Splenda and agave — is non-fermentable, so it shouldn’t cause yeast flare-ups or other infections. Xylitol is another sweetener known to be relatively genital-safe.
What about the actual flavors, though? Are they good enough to make this type of lube worth trying? I knew I wanted to consult a great culinary mind (and someone who wouldn’t bat an eye at the idea of fruit-flavored genitals), so I reached out to Eric See, chef and owner of Brooklyn-based café and bakery Ursula.
See interned under a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and went on to work as a pastry chef himself for about a decade before opening Ursula, where he serves New Mexican-inspired desserts as well as savory delicacies like green chile cheeseburgers and breakfast burritos. Needless to say, he knows a thing or two about flavor — and luckily, he was more than willing to talk lubes with me.
In discussing some of the flavors already on the market, I asked See what he wishes was out there, in addition to the pretty generic options you’ll see on sex shop shelves. He mentioned bergamot, saffron, lavender, rosemary, lemongrass and more. He wishes lube companies would stop focusing on flavors right out of “Starbucks drinks or cocktails from TGI Fridays, and start working on a high-end culinary lube adventure.” I have yet to see these more exotic flavors pop up in lubes, but how amazing would it be if giving head tasted like a Michelin-starred meal?
Instead, the flavored lubes that are out there right now are largely one-note, inoffensive and conventional. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad. When we talk about flavored lubes to pair with sex, we’re mostly looking for flavors that complement the musk and saltiness of the human body, especially the genital region — and there are plenty of uncomplicated lube flavors that work well enough for that purpose. It’s all about experimenting and finding the ones that make you salivate.
Feeling hungry yet? Here are some of the more sophisticated flavored lubes available today — and some thoughts from See on why they work.
This flavor combo evokes a “quintessential aphrodisiac Valentine’s Day romance” vibe, See says — like a box of white chocolates and a dozen red roses laid out on a clean white hotel bedspread. It’s a bit of a dated combination — See says it reminds him of desserts that New York restaurants might have served in the 1980s or 1990s — but some old-school classics are classic for a reason.
This lube contains both glycerin and sucralose, so you’ll probably want to skip using it on vulvas or vaginas — but if you’ve ever wanted to suck a dick that tastes like a white chocolate raspberry truffle, by all means, go for it.
“Vanilla’s long been thought of as an aphrodisiac,” See tells me. It’s also the world’s most popular flavor (not just for lubes, but for everything), so it makes sense that it shows up frequently in flavored lubes.
The vanilla plant is usually pollinated by hand, See explains, since it’s often grown in areas where its natural pollinators don’t exist — so a human being has to go out into a vanilla orchard at night and manually rub stamens against pistils. (Here’s a video of the process, if you’re in the mood to watch some plant porn.) Some people think vanilla sex is boring, but it sounds like it can get pretty wild!
This lube contains glycerin but is sweetened with stevia, so it should be fine on both dicks and clits, but shouldn’t be used for vaginal penetration.
It’s not exactly practical to scoop out a ramekin of crème brûlée onto your partner’s body so you can lick it up, but See thinks that’s what this lube is trying to evoke: the eroticism of whipped cream and vanilla custard, blended with the earthier, saltier flavor of human skin. Sometimes classics can be kinda boring, though. “These all sound like we’re at a fine-dining restaurant in Tribeca in 1992,” See jokes. “It sounds like they need to update some of the flavor profiles.”
If you’ve ever craved a Creamsicle — or if you’re craving one now, having remembered that they exist — then you know that the flavor combo of orange and vanilla can be tantalizing. “There’s a sweet bitterness to the orange that’s really rounded out and softened by the vanilla and the cream together,” See says. “It’s a very balanced flavor combination, and that’s why it’s worked so well throughout history.”
This aloe-based lube is sweetened with stevia and natural flavors. The company claims it’s pH-balanced such that you should be able to use it vaginally without issue. But if you’re not sure how your body will react, maybe just use a little bit the first time and see how it goes.
A few years ago, salted caramel took the culinary world by storm — the flavor suddenly seemed to be showing up everywhere, to the point that HuffPo ran an editorial provocatively titled “Pumpkin Spice is Dead, Long Live Salted Caramel.”
“These are flavors that we find at Starbucks, and they’re comfortable and non-offensive,” See explains. “Part of the allure is that people like consistency and comfort — they like to know what they’re getting.” So if you ever wish your sweetheart’s junk tasted more like a grande caramel macchiato (or a venti — hey, I’m not judging), give this lube a shot.
One of the flavors See wishes could be a lube is pomegranate molasses, a reduction of sweetened pomegranate juice. “It brings in all the richness of the flavor of the pomegranate, and gives it tartness and sweetness and bitterness all at once,” he says. Since it’s often served on meat or other savory dishes, he thinks it would complement bodily flavors well, too.
But you’re never really gonna find gourmet-level tastes in a flavored lube, so you have to make do with what’s out there. Sliquid’s strawberry pomegranate lube at least has some of that tart-sweet thing going on. It’s made with aspartame, so it shouldn’t be used inside the vagina, but can make your external bits taste like a nice juicy pomegranate.