My narrow conception of a sex toy consisted of this, and only this, for much of my teenage years – what I imagined to be an enormous and confusing contraption, that was not going anywhere near my vagina. Not until last semester, after I met Meghan Andelloux, sexuality educator and certified sexologist, who founded and directs The Center for Sexual Health and Pleasure in Pawtucket, RI, did I have any idea of the array of sex toys that were out there.
My reaction was akin to when Carrie presented Charlotte with her first vibrator (in the long lost Sex and the City episode which made the rabbit infamous):
“Look! Oh, it’s so cute! I thought it would be all scary and weird, but it isn’t!”
Sex toys can seem scary. Who’s to say what feels good, and what’s just not going to work? Speaking from personal experience, I think that trying one or two (or five) might be worth the gamble. With enough information and some time, you might be able to find something that hits the spot – whether you’re going it solo, or with a partner or two (or five).
So I’m going to give you a run-down of the basics – What is that? Where should it come from? Where does it go? Does it need to be cleaned? (And the answer to that last one is a resounding yes)
There a wide range of sex toys available out there, but here are a few types that are most common:
Vibrators are electro-mechanical devices (battery-powered/plug-in) that are designed to help you (or your partner[s]) reach orgasm. They can be applied to the clitoris, vulva, vagina, anus, penis or most any other area that you find pleasurable. Vibrators range from cheap to expensive, teeny to the gigantic things that I had imagined earlier. If you are a newbie, I suggest starting small and relatively inexpensive, but still versatile (look for a range of speeds, sensations, etc.). It might take time to figure out exactly what works for you, so don’t be discouraged if your legs are not up in the air first time around. And don’t forget, these are sex toys! Vibrators come in an assortment of shapes and colors (some even glow in the dark) – so try to relax and have fun!
Dildos are penetrative objects that do not vibrate. These also come in an array of materials, shapes and sizes. They can come on their own or attached to a strap-on – and they do not all look like penises! They can be used in any sort of bodily hole – but are usually designed for the anus or vagina. When picking out any toy, you should make sure to be mindful of material, but this applies especially with dildos. Meghan recommends silicone, which can be easily disinfected by boiling in water. Another tip: try some lube – again, be mindful of what materials that you are working with (some products and materials might mesh a little too well*)
Well, these are somewhat explanatory. Anal toys are meant to be put in the butt. Dildos are an example, and another common type are butt plugs. When trying these out, again keep size and lubrication in mind – and don’t forget the flange! This is a base-like thing at the end of toy that ensures nothing is sucked up too far into the body. Some other fun things include anal beads and prostate stimulators.
Yes! Contrary to what a lot of people may think, sex toys are not just for vaginas or anuses. Masturbators are meant to enhance the hand job (whether it’s on yourself or someone else) – they are usually sleeves or tubes that have ribbing and different textures to provide a wider variety of sensations. Another example are Penis rings, which are placed at the base of the penis and constrict the veins, thereby increasing the blood flow to the penis – meaning longer and more intense erections.
These categories barely touch the surface of the range of toys that are out there, and these might not work for everyone. The best advice that I can give you is to do your research beforehand – whether you are a first-time buyer or a veteran – to ensure that you have a pleasurable and safe experience.
A few last things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you keep your sex toys clean – especially if these toys are being shared with partners, as you may be exposed to STIs. Each toy, depending on material and usage, has specific cleaning instruction, so make sure to look these up.
- When using a toy with a partner, have a conversation beforehand about what is desired and what feels good (and what doesn’t).
And of course, don’t forget to check out the Center for Sexual Health and Pleasure’s website (thecsph.org) for more information. There, you can find info on sex toy safety, cleaning methods, and recommended vendors.
-Radhika Rajan, Sex & Health Contributor
*Some lubricants can have certain chemical reactions with the materials that toys are made from. They can erode the top layers, or end up sticking together. Check out this article for more comprehensive info.
All images found on google images search.