Make It Slick: Marketing to the Male Lube Buyer

This article originally ran in the July 2019 issue of Intimate magazine. To see the digital edition, click here.

Sex educators, adult retailers and sexual wellness advocates have championed personal lubricants as a key ingredient to making intimacy more pleasurable. But while the focus is more often on formulas designed for women, manufacturers are increasingly exploring the virtues of lubricants for penis owners.

“A lot of penises like extra slip to their lube and I think everyone likes lube that doesn’t have to be reapplied constantly, especially for insertive sex and masturbation,” said Elle Chase, a certified sex educator, and body acceptance and pleasure advocate.

“In addition, people with penises and people with vulvas/vaginas use lube differently for masturbation,” Chase continued. “Penises may need more slip and lubrication to get that good friction going.”

A 2013 study from Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion found nearly 50 percent of men who greased up for sex or masturbation say it makes it easier to reach orgasm. The same study also found that not only does lubricant make it easier to apply a condom, but men who used a well-lubricated condom reported they became just as aroused as men who went bareback.

But while the general public might think that lube is lube is lube is lube, experts in the pleasure product field understand that there’s more to just slathering up with any old formula. Various types of lubricant—water-based, oil-based, silicone-based and hybrid—can be used in various situations and with different partners. While water-based is considered the most universal, since it’s compatible with most toys, condoms and people, it also dries out the quickest, so it’s not always the best option. Chemicals such as glycerin and paraben can be found in other lubricants, and some men and women can react badly to them. Add in the fact there are flavored lubes, and others that deliver warming or cooling sensations, and it’s easy to see how the average consumer can get overwhelmed.

And on top of what’s actually inside the bottle, the marketing that surrounds the products also is important. On retail shelves over the past decade, many lubes have emerged that address women’s health concerns specifically. But that doesn’t mean manufacturers were ignoring male consumers. And their efforts to cater to all types of consumers continue to gain traction.

“I think shoppers like to buy things that seem special, made specifically for them,” Chase said. “In a way it feels like self-care or a gift to themselves, especially when it’s something personal or intimate like lube. You want to know you’re buying something ‘for you.’

“From that perspective, I can see an argument to be made that there is a segment of the population that can be served by directly speaking to them,” she added. “Personally, as a sexual health professional, I would love to see products go in a more gender-neutral direction and give more options in one line as opposed to segmenting lines specifically. However, from a marketing standpoint, I can certainly see why they do. Financially, it may make sense.”


Left, Buck Angel, the inspiration for Sliquid's T-lube. Right, Dennis Paradise of Paradise Marketing. Photos by Rick Garcia.

One man who knows the scope and history of the lubricant market is Dennis Paradise, founder and CEO of Paradise Marketing—a leading distributor of lubricants and condoms for more than 40 years. Asked about products specifically targeted at male consumers, Paradise said, “I think that it’s a smart thing to do. One, to spread the brand. And two, to make someone in a particular niche more comfortable with the product. I certainly am enthusiastic and applaud the efforts that are being made to be more inclusive of various niches within the market.”

Some manufacturers have packaged lubricants with men in mind, such as Topco Sales’ AdamMale water-based and silicone-based glides, or Doc Johnson’s TitanMen range, Mood - Pleasure for Him collection or OptiMale water-based lube. But other companies have made concerted efforts to create entire product ranges or brand names dedicated solely to lubricants for penis owners.

Making a Splash

Rob Novinger of the adult boutique Chi Chi LaRue’s and pleasure product manufacturer Boneyard Toys knows a lot about catering to the male consumer. For the past decade he’s been involved with the operation of the West Hollywood boutique named after famed director LaRue.

“Obviously, Michael Trigg changed the lube industry for men by coming out with Wet,” Novinger recalled. Trigg’s company debuted in 1989, and Novinger says that the products became very popular in the gay community. “I remember when I was 20 years old, every gay guy got it.”

Particularly in the United States, Wet became a dominant brand quickly. “They did market to gays,” Novinger said. “They were at Pride; they hosted gay events. That was super innovative at the time. What a great idea!”

Another milestone was Eros, a silicone lube formulated in Germany in 1994. The following year saw the arrival of the pjur name—and more than 20 years later, CEO Alexander Giebel still runs the company out of its headquarters in Luxembourg. The products are widely distributed in the United States by Pjur Group USA, including seven SKUs in the pjur Man line: silicone and water-based formulas, including two specifically for anal sex, and specialty formulas one laced with ginkgo and ginseng, and another with paprika and menthol.

“We try to stock pretty much every lube at the store,” Novinger said. “Not that they all sell the same, but it makes people feel like you’re the authority.” In that spirit, Chi Chi’s offers all the biggest brands—Astroglide, ID Lubricants, Intimate Earth, pjur, Sliquid, System JO, Swiss Navy, Uberlube, Wet and Wicked Sensual Care—as well as some brands with a specific focus on male consumers, including Boy Butter, Elbow Grease, Gun Oil and J-Lube.

Also on the list is a product designed by Boneyard Toys: the “O” Award-winning Snake Cum Lube. “It just continues to sell really well for us. I think the packaging is pretty unique. People think it’s clever and cool-looking and that helps it more than anything,” Novinger said.


Above, Sliquid's Ride Stroke Oil, Gun Oil's silicone lubricant, Boneyard's Snake Oil Cum Lube, and a warming formula from Elbow Grease.

Targeted Marketing

The importance of packaging can’t be overstated. Take the bullet-shaped bottles used by Gun Oil silicone lube. “They made a real male, butch-looking product which was great,” Novinger said.

Scott Fraser, the founder of Empowered Products, recounts the inspiration behind Gun Oil. “I based our first two Gun Oil lubricants on my experience in the Persian Gulf as a U.S. Marine deployed just south of the Kuwaiti border preparing for Desert Storm. In 1990, in the middle of the Saudi desert, me and my fellow Marines were denied traditional sources of fun and frolic such as alcohol and dirty magazines by our Saudi hosts. Yet, we did have our hands, our imaginations and bottles of a slippery lubricant, nicknamed ‘gun oil,’ in the butt-plates of our M16 rifles. Now, just add a secluded place to use it, nicknamed the ‘whack shack,’ and the legend of our Gun Oil silicone lubricant was born!”

In March 2002, Fraser brought his “manly-man lubricants” to the market, which prior to that was dominated by options “with extremely feminine packaging or with chemically preserved and petroleum-based formulas.” Neither was appealing to Fraser, who said, “I believe that a man and his penis have a sacred bond that demands a lubricant that both looks good and is made with nurturing ingredients.”

He elaborated, “To look and feel manly while lubing up is why I chose the copper and black color scheme with the bullet-shape bottle for Gun Oil’s packaging. To promote both sexual and physical wellness is why we use natural preservatives and no petroleum products throughout our wide scope of lubricant formulas. And, as the men’s lubricant market continues to expand with new formulas of questionable quality, I want to remind everyone to practice ingredient awareness by reading the labels and avoiding such toxins as petroleum-based components and parabens to ensure your own wellbeing.”

When contemplating masculine branding, it wouldn’t do to overlook the twin flexed biceps that make up the Elbow Grease logo. The lubricant was created in 1979 by David Mazer, founder of B. Cumming Co. “When the company began, it was the second lubricant on the market targeted toward the gay community,” Mazer told AVN in an earlier interview. “Elbow Grease Cream is our original lubricant.”

The manufacturer’s offerings have branched out to cover every gender, lifestyle and sexual orientation. In addition to the original formula, Elbow Grease Creams also includes Light, Hot & Cool formulations. In addition, B. Cumming also offers Fusion Silicone Bodyglides and Encounter for women.

Sometimes the name says it all. Boy Butter, founded in 2003 by Eyal Feldman, originally white-labeled its products from Mr S in San Francisco. But within two years, Feldman came up with his own idea: an oil-based product that easily washed away with water. The formula is a coconut oil-based cream that has since become a hit in the gay market.

“This was a product that I thought was absolutely amazing ... it was an oil-based product, but it came off with water. And most oil-based products on the market were messy,” Feldman told AVN in previous company profile. “I thought that was my biggest selling point.”

He broke away and found a laboratory that produced a formula he was even more pleased with. He convinced his dad to invest in the company in April 2005 and started to offer smaller sizes.

“The people who use Boy Butter absolutely love it,” Feldman said. “A lot of people were buying it as gag gifts at first, and then the people who it was given to used it and actually kept re-buying it. The word of mouth has spread.”


Erik Vasquez and Colin Roy of Sliquid at ANME; photo by Rick Garcia.

Let It Ride

Another component just as important as packaging is marketing. More than a decade ago, Sliquid released its first Ride Dude Lube, which eventually became the Ride Bodyworx brand.

“Male customers are different than female customers. They shop differently. They think differently. They have different needs. For that reason, Ride was created to appeal to the male customer who is conscious about the quality of product they use,” said Erik Vasquez, marketing director for Sliquid and Ride Bodyworx. “Not all men care about ingredients, but they should … and of course they all want a product that performs well.”

Because the needs of a penis and a vagina are different, Vasquez said, including using lubricants topically as opposed to internally, people will look for different qualities in their lubricant. Whereas a woman might want one that is thicker for more comfort, a man usually wants something that lasts longer and is ultra-slick. It’s for that reason, he said, Ride Lube is formulated for the male anatomy.

“Case in point, Sliquid’s hybrid lube in their men’s line Ride has 12 percent silicone and Sliquid’s hybrid lube Silk has 9 percent,” Elle Chase said. “It’s that extra silicone may make a difference to a consumer with a penis. The same principle is applied to Ride’s water-based lube—it contains ingredients that makes it more slippery than a straightforward water-based lube.

“This is why Ride has Stroke Oil made specifically for masturbation, where Sliquid doesn’t offer an oil-specific lube because they don’t recommend using oil internally/vaginally,” she added.

Vasquez said everything from the ingredients used to the manufacturing process makes Ride products among the best. Ride Water-Based uses purified water filtered five times. Ride Stroke Oil uses a proprietary blend of high quality nut and seed oils, silicone and shea and mango butters. The higher concentration of silicone in Ride Silk Hybrid delivers less friction and better slip.

But it’s not just Ride that focuses on men. Recently, Sliquid partnered with FTM performer and activist Buck Angel to create T-lube.

“Our owner, Dean Elliott, has been good friends with Buck Angel for many years. Buck mentioned to Dean that he was experiencing uncomfortable, physical issues due to his transition, so they began to brainstorm how a lubricant (Sliquid’s wheelhouse) could be of assistance,” Vasquez said. “Being that Sliquid is a huge champion of the LGBTQ+ community, we saw an opportunity to offer FTM persons an accessible, affordable way to address the dryness and discomfort that is associated with transitioning. From this collaboration to address the needs of Buck and others in his community, T-Lube was born.”

Vasquez admits some might see T-lube as a niche product for a niche market, but said Sliquid sees it as a chance to deliver a product to a consumer base largely ignored.

“While it may be niche in the grand scheme of things, the fact is that there are millions of transgender people across the globe,” he said. “These people, much like cisgender men and women, want a product that specially addresses their needs and that speaks directly to their community.

“I always like to remind people that FTM are men and can’t be left out of the conversation when it comes to men’s products.”

Finally, there’s a brand-new name just hitting the market: Bucked, a new line from lube giant United Consortium, parent company of System JO.(The name is, as Buck Angel does not hesitate to point out, close to two of his own brand names: BuckShot CBD-infused drink and the Buck-Off FTM stroker from Perfect Fit Brand.)

David Greer of System JO was at the Adult Novelty Manufacturers Expo in January for the big product launch, which featured sexy male models and drew a lot of attention during the show. “We’ve been working on this for about a year and a half,” he told AVN at the show. “We did a lot of market research. I interviewed a lot of gay men, gay groups, and there’s not a lot of lube on the market designed for the gay man—specifically the bottom. The ingredients are healing—there’s aloe and vitamin E, which is great for penetration, right? Heal and go. The number-one SKU will be a hybrid of silicone and water. … The packaging is very masculine—it’s unique. It’s for the gay man. We’re excited about it.”


Lubricants in the new Bucked line, featureed at the Januarhy ANME. Photo by Rick Garcia

Greer added, “There’s a cool product called a masturbation cream. … They have it in two different flavors: unscented and leather.”

And not surprisingly, Novinger of Chi Chi LaRue’s will introduce the brand to his customers. In fact, Bucked made its official bow before consumers at the West Hollywood store during Pride weekend in June. Shoppers at Chi Chi LaRue’s were able to buy one full-size product and get a travel size for free, and they also could enter a social media selfie contest to win an iPad.

But despite all the marketing efforts and all of the excitement about new brands and niche products, Dennis Paradise likes to remind people about the bottom line. “It’s extremely important as to what’s in the bottle,” he says. Quality lubricants serve all consumers, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. And stocking the major players is key, because then retailers can benefit from those brands’ name recognition and customer loyalty.

“The No. 1 selling water-based lubricant in the country is Astroglide,” Paradise said, adding that the brand’s silicone lubricant is also very popular.

“Adult stores should carry Astroglide,” he emphasized, noting that new brands are not big enough to do mass advertising to the consumer. “By putting Astroglide at eye level on your shelf, you’re adding credibility. … A guy asks for Astroglide, you want to convince him that you’ve got the stuff that he came in for.”