Toys: fun! Sex: usually great! But put those words together and you run the gamut of reactions from clueless blank looks to passionate enthusiasm to terrified images of spikes in places where there should NOT be sharp objects.
But as millions of people know, there is very little to fear and a lot of fun to be had. Half of women who use sex toys purchased their first toy in their 20s, which as you may notice, is the age of most Literally, Darling readers. Therefore, it is my journalistic duty as Health Editor to report on such important matters, because I know in the age of online review overload, there are lots of questions.
Adam & Eve, the nation’s largest marketer of adult products, has offered up a great infographic as starting point—and reassurance that sex toys are quite common (and have been around for 28,000 years!). They also granted us access to their resident sexpert, Dr. Kat (yes, she actually has a PhD in Human Sexuality/Clinical Sexology from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality), to answer some of LD’s most pressing questions about sex toys.
1. What should beginners look for in a sex toy?
Dr. Kat: “Think about how you masturbate and what stimulation feels the best. Clitoral, vaginal, G-Spot, anal? Then begin looking at toy categories that target these areas.
Read reviews. There can be a wide variety of power options and intensities. Some people prefer stronger vibration so they may want to choose a vibrator that plugs in; others might like indirect or mild stimulation. Choose a rechargeable vibe if you don’t want to deal with batteries. Many better products have USB options. Avoid plug ins if you don’t like wires.”
2. What kind of price range should we be looking at to be sure we get something high quality (like, is the material of an $8 vibrator eventually going to give me cancer or something)?
Dr. Kat: “Although research has been inconclusive on the direct relationship between sex toy material and cancer, it is assumed that there are materials that are more body friendly than others. Silicone, glass and certain metals are considered higher quality [If you have sensitive skin, you probably want to shop in this category]. Granted, some people don’t mind using lower grade plastic sex toys as they will probably not be coming into continued contact with the vaginal membranes—you won’t be wearing it all day. Lower priced toys may be a good way to initially figure out what stimulation works well for you; then you can upgrade later on. If you want to start with quality, there are plenty of mid-range products ($25-45) that can meet your needs.”
3. Do you have any lube advice?
Dr. Kat: “Use lube! Lubricant makes everything more slippery, and will undoubtedly make any sex toy experience more enjoyable. A toy that feels too big or vibrates too strongly might feel just right with the addition of a little lube. The main thing to remember is to test it on your skin to be sure you don’t have any reactions to it, preferably on the inside of your wrist versus the sensitive skin in your vagina. Although water based lubes seem to do the trick for most people, make sure that if you are sensitive that there are no additives like dyes, colors or alcohol. You can also go organic if you prefer. Be aware that some oils and silicone lubes may make some sex toy materials break down, especially if they aren’t cleaned properly.”
4. Speaking of, can you tell them more about keeping toys clean—especially keeping in mind most of us have roommates?
Dr. Kat: “Keep a good anti-bacterial soap near your sink. There are also specialty toy cleaners on the market. You can use condoms on your toys if they are easier to dispose of versus clean. If your bathroom isn’t en suite, keep a small clean towel to wrap your used toy in to take it to and from the bathroom for cleaning. Air drying toys tends to be best, but if you don’t feel comfortable keeping them out in your room, make sure you dry them completely (every nook and cranny) with a clean towel.
Store them in a cool, dark and dry location. Make sure you don’t allow your toys to touch in storage. Sometimes the materials may interact with one another and cause them to break down. There are even anti-bacterial bags and incognito storage units designed specifically for this purpose. Take the batteries out if you don’t use your toys regularly. Batteries can corrode, ruining your toy.
Also, don’t forget that you can transfer certain STIs via unclean sex toys. Try not to share them with your partner unless you use a condom or wash them thoroughly. Never transfer your sex toy from your anus directly into your vagina as this may cause an infection.”
5. Do vaginal toys interfere with an IUD at all?
Dr. Kat: “Typically vaginal toys do not cause any issues with IUDs. However, if for some reason your IUD wasn’t placed properly or dislodges, I could see how there might be an issue. Also, if you are more prone to infections, make sure you keep your toys very clean so that additional pathogens don’t make their way up the string.”
6. When and how should beginners incorporate sex toys into a relationship?
Dr. Kat: “You may not want to break out your vibe the first time you have sex with someone, but I do suggest that you introduce your partner to it within the first few times you have sex. This way, they’ll know that you already incorporate the use of a toy and may be less intimidated by it. If you wait too long, you run the risk of your partner thinking you are hiding it from them. Plus you will potentially miss the opportunity to be more orgasmic.
You may want to purposely leave your toy out one night so it is readily accessible and/or ask them if you can show them how to use it on you. Too many women don’t do this and then their partners end up never learning how to pleasure them with their own toys.”
7. Any other advice for sex toy beginners?
Dr. Kat: “Go solo. Play with your toy alone before introducing it into couples play, this way you learn what feels good and can show your partner.
Try one toy that does several things. Instead of committing to one type of toy, try a toy that vibrates and is insertable, or one that can be used in a harness and for anal stimulation. You might find that you really like to use your new G-spot vibrator for stimulating your nipples.
Start small. When buying a toy for insertion, it’s better to err on the small side. If it’s too big you probably won’t play with it, but a toy that’s a little too small can still bring hours of enjoyment.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If one sex toy doesn’t thrill you, use that experience to decide what you do want the next time around: different size, stronger vibration, softer material. Testing several different toys is the best way to find what works.”