The sex lube artisan – Interview with Jerome Nichols
Remember what I wrote a few weeks ago about the Magic Wand vibrator? Since I focus on the uncommon parts of sexuality, I generally don’t get to play the sex blogger game where some company sends you a sex toy (and, very occasionally, paltry hush-hush pocket money) and you rant ecstatically about the wonders of yet another rubber cock or a vibe that is identical to millions before it. That sort of stuff is just off the scope of this website, so I was really surprised when a perfect stranger wrote me offering a free sample of his product even if he knew I wouldn’t review it – just to let an influencer know about it.
Now, to say I was skeptic is a gross understatement. Reading the guy’s website it turned out he had merely been working on an artisanal – or possibly homemade – sex lube, so the result could hardly be innovative or any better than the high-tech, silicone-based stuff created in big pharmaceutical labs with millions of R&D money thrown at it. My initial mental picture of a delusional maker however faltered as I researched his endearing quest for the perfect lubricant.
In a nutshell, Nichols wanted an inexpensive and natural substance to make his intimate encounters smoother. So he scoured all the traditional herbal recipes for homemade skin moisturizers, and using them as a basis settled on the ideal mix. Here is how he describes it himself:
Each ingredient is used for their unique properties. Aloe provides pure, easy to absorb moisture and prevents The Butters from feeling oily. Apple cider vinegar balances pH, manages bacteria, prevents yeast infections, and gently cleanses. Arrowroot prevents drips, increases the feeling of softness, and helps mix any lubrication your body makes with The Butters. Coconut and grapeseed oil give your skin essential vitamins and lipids, while offering immediate lubrication. Shea, palm, and lipid emulsion condition tissues, melts into slick long lasting lubrication, and offers healing properties for delicate areas.
The more I read, the more I admired his indomitable underdog spirit and his optimism. Mr. Jerome Stuart Nichols surely believed in his product, so who was I to deny him a chance? I remained far from convinced, but after making clear once again that I probably wouldn’t write more than a colorful tweet about his lube, I provided him with a delivery address. And promptly forgot about it all, sucked into many other pressing obligations.
Things got serious when the parcel with an unassuming jar arrived all right, containing The Butters. It looked… butterish; it smelled as advertised (a very faint cocoa nut aroma); it presumably contained the eight all-natural listed ingredients – and I was terrified at the thought of putting it anywhere my privates or my partners’.
What if it wasn’t tested for safety, if it caused allergic reactions, if it contained any of the nasty stuff in the rather paranoid and ever-growing list I suddenly had in mind? Come on: a stranger offering you a free, mysterious cream to grease your genitals with? The one thing separating this from a Tales from the Crypt screenplay was just the lack of a cackling witch!
I will spare you from the long and sometimes surreal tests I ran before giving The Butters an actual try. Let’s just say I am now pretty sure that this particular sex lubricant is also an excellent leather conditioner and it is safe for dog consumption, ok? The heart of the matter is that I finally got around to use it with an especially fastidious partner of mine, who somehow manages to find water-based lubes irritant and barely tolerates silicone-based ones.
My neighbors from the floor above can confirm the results were unquestionably positive. Her verbatim comment was: «dump all those other lubes and don’t you dare come near me with anything else unless it is for punishment!»
Fact is, she wasn’t joking. The difference between The Butters and other sex lubricants is similar to that between water- and silicone-based ones: the purpose remains the same, but the feeling is very different – and much better. This odd cream lasts longer, is easier to clean and has no unpleasant taste (no taste at all, actually) should it end somewhere close to your tongue. Oh, and it costs way less than high-end lubes.
If you are thinking that this is sounding a bit too much like an advertisement, let me just say I won’t earn one cent for this post but the pleasure of giving an unusually decent guy a hand in promoting his business. I believe he deserves this: if more people were as nice and committed as him, the world would be much better off.
Having said this, of course this whole story piqued my curiosity enough to make me want to learn more about Nichols’ strange endeavor – so I let my journalist’s instinct take over and interviewed him. Here is our chat:
Hello, and thank you for accepting the interview. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, I’m Jerome Stuart Nichols. Most people will know me from my website on sex, relationships, and getting your shit together: LTASEX.com. These days I’m podcasting and vlogging instead of blogging traditionally, but there’s still over about 700 blog posts from my 7 years doing that. Plus a new podcast every week and two vlogs on YouTube a month, with more on the way. LTASEX also home to the Sex Positive Professionals of Color Directory. These days, though, my new and most popular venture is The Butters. Handmade hygienics without the bullshit is my working tag line. I make body butter, perfume, bath bombs, face scrubs, pomades, etc. Even with all that, my number one seller has always been The Butters Lube. It’s actually the first thing I made.
I guess the first question is pretty obvious: how in the world somebody decides one day to become a sex lube artisan?
Well, firstly, I love that you called me a lube artisan. I never thought of it like that but, yeah, I totally am! Lol!
I decided out of necessity. That’s how I decide most things. I was really effing tired of paying for expensive lube that only worked kinda okay. I was tired of using vaseline, Crisco and anything else more affordable than $3 an ounce lubes usually cost. I did that for a long time, but there was a point where I simply was too broke to pay for the legit lube and got too tired of the drawbacks those alternatives have. So, there was nothing left to do but see if it were possible to make one for myself.
So where did you actually start? I suppose there’s lots of research involved before getting down to mixing stuff…
Actually, I did very little research initially. I’m a pastry chef. So, I started with that knowledge. My lube and moisturizer is made a lot like cake frosting. So, all I really had to do was start there and swap a few things. That’s where the research started: what can I add to make this smoother, plushier, affordable, healing, and doesn’t have anything unnecessary. It took like a year to figure that out.
And what was the invention phase like? Reading your website I kinda pictured you stirring up pots after pots of slimy substances in your kitchen, but things were probably quite more technical, weren’t they?
No, the visual of pots everywhere is surprisingly accurate. The pots were oily, not slimy, but the idea is the same. I essentially kept melting down different ratios of fats to liquid in small batches. I’d review it based on my personal preference, then try again when we ran out. It was very casual, like everything I do. Eventually, I did have to sit down and figure out ratios and crap like that but, that wasn’t the fun part. The mad scientist part is really where I get the most joy. I love whipping up something new, trying new ingredients, getting to design the labels, all that stuff.
I really love how the recipe you published for The Butters reads like the kind of old-fashioned salve my grandmother could have concocted, yet it’s also the apex of hipsterism with its all-vegan, fashionably semi-exotic ingredients. Was there a conscious effort to strike this kind of balance? And how did you decide that the recipe was ready for production?
I’m not particularly hipsterish, I’m more practical. I also come from an African-American household. In my culture, it’s not unusual to make up a salve or use items for health and beauty purposes that are more commonly found in kitchens here in the US. Shea Butter, the core and eponymous ingredient in The Butters Products comes from Nigeria and is the fat of a specific type of palm tree. It’s normally made by specific villages as a group effort. You should see their skin, it’s glowing.
Old cultures know the original skin care tools. The ones that haven’t changed in hundreds of years because they work. I just trusted in that knowledge and the culinary knowledge which started at home to make something amazing and unusual.
All right, so you eventually had your skin and hair product… How did the jump to “personal lubricant” came about? Was it a goal from the start?
Oh, lube was core to what I wanted originally. For sure. I’d found suitable care options at my local dollar store for everything, but lube. Without lube, there’d be no Butters right now. I guess more specifically, if it wasn’t for my incredibly horny hubby, there’d be no Butters. I mean, I like my hair but his sex drive really amped up the need to cut down on costs. I was fucking myself into the poor house.
Luckily, I’d spent the past 7 years running LTASEX.com and learned a lot about what makes lube great. So, I had an idea of what I wanted from the start.
I wrote it above, and I am not afraid to repeat myself: The Butters is hands down the best sex lube I have ever tested – except for one thing. The oils among its ingredients wear latex down, so it is not recommended for use with condoms and some toys – not to mention around fetish clothes. Do you have any plan to make a latex-friendly version too?
Yes, definitely. Unfortunately, latex and oil simply will never work together. So, I’d have to start from the ground up. I did try a while back but was left with a bunch of cold gooey pots. It didn’t seem like I was going in the right direction with that. The result was far from The Butters standards so I had to put it on the back burner for some more research. Instead I added a version of The Butters Lube that features Cocoa Butter and Honey, removing the soy oil and palm oil. It makes it more hipster vegan sustainable hypoallergenic, but also makes something of a different end product. Slicker, lighter. Still just as hydrating.
I noticed you have two distinct website to sell your product. One is geared toward its erotic uses, and the other is “family oriented”, with no mention of that. Could you elaborate on the need for this? Are there really people out there that would feel offended by a multi-purpose lube? Vaseline and Crisco never had this problem…
Vaseline has never been marketed as lube, to my knowledge. Neither has Crisco. LTASEX.com existed long before The Butters. When I started selling, I just figured it’d be smart to add the lube for sale over there, too. Although at this point I have one site, then the lube was always available on the general site.
A ton of people would be offended or turned off to know their body butter is also lube. It’s silly, but it’s also a known way that people express their disgust for sexuality. I don’t actually market to those people. I market to the people who want something multi-purpose. I market to people who are tired of bullshit, veiled ads about products we all need. I market to people like me.
Honesty and compassion are the two key components of my “brand.” I would prefer to say they’re two of my guiding principles. I guess I’ve been among the blogosphere too long.
You also won me over with your extremely affordable and honest pricing policy. Can you explain the reasoning behind it? And, by the way, did any Giant Evil Corporation try to buy you out of your invention or to appropriate it yet?
I live in Ypsilanti, MI aka nofuckingwhere, MI, USA. Here we have a huge maker community. Lots of people are out here with their scented soaps, their beauty brands, their run of the mill products and market average pricing. When I started making The Butters, I couldn’t afford and don’t like much if that stuff. No one ever thinks about people like me. I want good stuff and I don’t want to pay an hour’s wage to get them.
It’s a fabrication that products must cost as much as they do. It requires more leg work to find the best pricing on everything, but the payoff is incredible – financially and spiritually. It’s fulfilling to be able to help people own luxury for a truly fair price. Fairness is important to me and my definition is a little different than the common idea.