I even felt like after having sex I could have more because it was not painful, [because] it is slippery

I even felt like after having sex I could have more because it was not painful, [because] it is slippery

Smooth sex

After describing the gel as making sex hot and tight, its lubricating impact was the third most commonly reported positive attribute. This reference to a preference for ‘slippery’ or lubricated sex only emerged in relation to gel use, and yet was not divorced from the ideal of sex being tight or dry. The quotes below highlight the reasons why some women liked the lubricating effect of the gel:

Eh I can say that after having sex I experienced pains, but since co je get it on I have been using the gel I have been okay and sex is not painful. (Ntombi, 22-year-old trial participant)

If I have inserted the gel and by the time we are having sex, he usually feels it being very hot in a pleasant way and that nice slipperiness. Everything is just nice for him. That is why he would just say, ‘my darling, insert your thing’ [gel]. (Lungeleni, 26-year-old trial participant)

I was expecting the gel to be slippery [kuyashelela] as it is like Vaseline, but only to find out that this gel tightens [kuyabamba]. (Nompumelelo, 43-year-old trial participant)

Dry sex

The trial gel is obviously a lubricant, yet the fact that the gel ‘dried’ the vagina was the fourth most frequently reported positive attribute, after hot, tight and lubricating:

When I did not use the gel I got wet, but when I used the gel it made me dry. … It was more enjoyable. (Thobile, 19-year-old trial participant)

[Before] there was just water coming out of the vagina, but now that I’m using the gel I feel alright and dry [ngizomele]. (Senzile, 26-year-old trial participant)

Only one of the eight male partners interviewed commented that he preferred sex without the gel, because of the increased wetness. He described the gel as being like ‘water’ and stated that a woman using the gel is:

Like a person who is using contraception [injectables], you have one sex act and the next she is not the same [becomes too wet]. (Siboniso, male partner of 40-year-old trial participant)

Social acceptability

Respondents stated that intravaginal insertions were generally used secretively without the knowledge of the male partner. The majority of female respondents talked about women using products for sexual enhancement without expressing either positive or negative attitudes. However, the majority of all the male respondents viewed the use of insertions negatively and were suspicious of women who used them. There were a number of negative connotations associated to the use of intravaginal insertions. These included assumptions of sexual inadequacy, infidelity and promiscuity if a woman had to use a product for her or her partner to enjoy sex:

There is my friend, who inserts [intravaginal insertions]. She says that she does that because she wants to be enjoyed during sex. Maybe her partner told her that she is not great at sex. (Busisiwe, 23-year-old trial participant)

I have heard people at school saying that snuff is useful when one has been cheating so that the real partner does not feel that you have been cheating. (Samke, 21-year-old female FGD participant)

Conversely, over half of the trial participants disclosed gel use to their partners. Gel use was viewed positively by both women and men, although men from the general community were adamant that they would want to know if their partner was using the gel. However, the common belief that men could ‘feel’ if a woman had had sex with someone else made some men suspicious of the gel. One male partner of a trial participant reported that the only thing he did not like about the gel was that he could not tell if his partner had been unfaithful: