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Choosing a Sex Toy the Right Way

May. 9, 2017
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You’re curious. You can’t help it. Sex is everywhere: on TV, online, in movies and shows, even in books. It’s hardwired into your biology to want sex (with respect to the asexual folks out there) and it’s even healthy to orgasm regularly.  

As far as buying a sex toy … it’s a buyer’s market out there, and more gender-friendly than it was ten years ago. You don’t have to walk into a backroom shaded with a curtain, next to peep show viewing boxes. You don’t even need to step outside your door to buy a sex toy. And many places send you your purchase in discreet brown packaging with practically anonymous company names to protect your reputation (and theirs.) Best of all, niche companies have developed a keen sense of a consumer’s needs and desires to provide a safe and fun environment to buy toys in. But before we get into where to buy, let’s talk sister to sister.

Everyone is different, therefore it makes sense that all sex toys vary: a sex toy can be an all-in-one like a smartphone, or it can just be singular like a toaster. It’s up to you, and you alone, to decide what works for you the best. Take this article with a grain of salt and use it strictly as a guideline, and just have fun. Sex toys aren’t meant to cause stress . . . just the opposite actually.

BASICS

Let’s get down to brass tacks: there are three basics you must keep in mind when selecting a sex toy. Material (what it’s made out of), power source (batteries or no batteries - that is the question), and appearance. This last one seems a little odd because of the novice mistake: “Don’t they all look the same? Why does it matter?”

Appearance

It matters a great deal, my dear. Some sex toys are cute and small, like a pocket rocket (around 1 ½” to 3 ½” long), some are shaped like a little rabbit, like the infamous rabbit vibrator, and some are iconic, like the Jimmyjane. Some are familiarly long and phallic, some are stout and metallic, some are made specifically for your butt, some cover your vagina and vibrate, and some fit around your partner’s genitalia for dual fun. 

The curved ones are the best to hit the ‘g’ spot, a vaginal orgasm center, while ones with girth stimulate the vagina and stretch it out, providing a different sort of pleasure. Clitoral stimulation can be done best by flat/cylindrical/domed surfaces (like the Hitachi wand), or surfaces with soft and interesting textures (like the rabbit vibrators and some pocket rockets). Vibrating ben wa balls (which strengthen kegel muscles inside your vagina) are another interesting option for orgasmic delight. And then there’s the classic phallus, in its many reincarnations: long (or short), cylindrical, varying in width and girth, in every color known to (wo)man.

It can make your head spin with the amount of choices just in appearance alone. It’s like dating: you take out your sex toy on a one-on-one private date a la Bachelorette style and in the aftermath decide if this is The One for you. It isn’t foolproof just by going off of reviews, unfortunately, so we’ll get down to materials next.

Materials

Your insides are delicate. You must treat them kindly; the vagina is sensitive to the environment it’s put in. Just as you wouldn’t wear underwear without a cotton gusset (hellooo yeast infections) you shouldn’t stick any sort of sex toy up there without knowing what it’s made of. 

A bit of bad news: the majority of sex toys out in the market made for women are made of a harmful material called ‘jelly’, a mix of PVC (pipes) and rubber (tires). What’s dangerous about it is that it’s porous, which means it can pick up bacteria, residue, and other yucky things. Another bigger risk is ‘phthalates’, a chemical substance that makes the sex toy more flexible (which is good) while exposing the user to a variety of health risks (the bad: harmful to fertility and sexual development, and cited to be "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”). A way around this is to just use a condom with it, but why waste the money and time? 

Rubber and TPR (thermoplastic rubber) is a non-phthalate choice, but they’re still porous and require the use of a condom for safe, repeated use. Elastomers, made from an entirely different chemical than vinyl and created through a different, safer process, seem to be a great option to these three; the downside is that they are rarely used in comparison and are not cheap.

The better alternative is to stick with toys made out of silicone: hypoallergenic, non-porous, easy to clean, no toxic smell, soft and lifelike, and easy to warm up. Downside? The price tag. CyberSkin is a more expensive option, but offers a more realistic, lifelike feel if this is what interests you in a sex toy.

Other alternatives are steel and glass; both of these materials are more popular in the last few years because of their sleekness and ease of care. Glass can be warmed or cooled, while steel can be cleaned easily. Both are non-porous and take on body temperature quickly. Be sure to only get glass toys made from Borosilicate; it is lead-free and the same type that Pyrex uses for their kitchenware.

One thing to remember: lubrication affects the chemical composition of some sex toys. Here’s an easy guide to the materials and what they require, ranked according to safety and comfort.

Power Source

This is the heart of it: how does your sex toy power itself? Do you want mobility, flexible movement? Or do you know you’ll be in one spot reliably, no matter what?

If it’s the latter, heavier toys and toys with electrical cords are the better option. These are more durable and have more juice than smaller mobile toys. If you prefer a toy that you can sit on or that does work for you, a sex saddle like the Sybian is an excellent option. It comes with a variety of attachments and was initially developed to be an orgasm trainer for women and couples. Another cheaper option is the Hitachi: on two settings you can get either an intense orgasm or an even more intense orgasm. On its own, it gives clitoral stimulation but attachments are available for vaginal and anal stimulation (but sold separately).

The portable side is more fun with infinite options for public and impromptu playtime (vibrating panties, pocket rockets, and clitoral stimulating ‘butterflies’) or to hide discreetly.

Or, you could do it the old-fashioned way without any power source. There are many types of dildos on the market. 

Where to shop?

I highly encourage everyone to go in person to a sex-wellness store, not the seedy type of place where lurid DVDs flank the walls, and ask a sales representative what they can recommend. Unfortunately, this is a sensitive issue for many and ultimately embarrassing - that’s okay! 

Here are a few of the gender-friendly sex stores that also have online catalogs: (Seattle, New York) Babeland, (Portland) She Bop the Shop, (Toronto) Come As You Are, (Northwest Coast - 21 locations) Lovers, (Southern California - 13 locations) A Touch of Romance, (Midwest America - 9 locations) Christal’s, (Orange County, CA - 4 locations) ConRev, (Baltimore) Sugar, (Toronto) Good for Her, (New York, Los Angeles) The Pleasure Chest.

Last bit of advice…

Have fun! Don’t be sad, scared, or anxious about this. There is no wrong way about it other than following your heart (and some other body parts … ;))