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Shop­ping for thrills: how to choose a sex toy

When it comes to sexy ac­ces­sories there’s a mind-bog­gling ar­ray of choices out there. Whether you want to start your col­lec­tion or add some­thing to your ex­ist­ing toy box, here’s our help­ful guide of things to con­sider.

WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR TOY TO DO?

Be­fore you get lost in the vast as­sort­ment of toys and gad­gets cur­rently on the mar­ket, have a think about what you know you al­ready like, and about new things you’d like to ex­plore. Do you want some­thing you can use for pen­e­tra­tion? Some­thing that vi­brates? Some­thing you can wear? Some­thing to stim­u­late nip­ples, cli­toris, G-spot? Some­thing kinky? Some­thing re­al­is­tic or some­thing fan­tas­ti­cal?

There are more choices than we can list, but here are a few dif­fer­ent types of toy avail­able: ■ Dil­dos: de­signed to look like a pe­nis/“re­al­is­tic” or not; to be hand­held or strapped on; small, medium, large or (gasp!) ex­tra-large; to be used for pen­e­tra­tion (vagi­nal, anal, oral), for vis­ual stim­u­la­tion, or for pack­ing. Vi­bra­tors: for ex­ter­nal use only or also for in­ter­nal use; shaped to stim­u­late the G-spot; to be held or worn; with or with­out ad­di­tional stim­u­la­tors (eg the “bunny ears” of the Rab­bit); vari­able speeds and rhythms or sim­ply on/off. Toys for im­pact and sen­sa­tion play: spank­ing pad­dles, whips, crops, or flog­gers; fur, leather or satin for stroking; feath­ers for tick­ling; nip­ple clamps. Re­straint toys: cuffs for re­strain­ing wrists or an­kles; spreader bars; bondage tape; rope; blind­folds. Anal toys: butt plugs; anal beads; dil­dos. Lin­gerie and dress-up: frilly undies; boxer shorts; corsets; body har­nesses; po­lice of­fi­cer’s uni­form; col­lar and lead.

WHAT’S IT MADE OF?

Sex can get messy – very messy – so think about how easy to clean your toy will be. This means think­ing about the ma­te­rial it’s made of and also the de­sign (you don’t want a toy that’s used for pen­e­tra­tion to have any nooks and cran­nies where bac­te­ria can lurk, for ex­am­ple). Ma­te­ri­als to avoid are ph­tha­lates and jelly toys. Sil­i­cone is a good ma­te­rial of choice for most peo­ple, how­ever, never use a sil­i­conebased lu­bri­cant with a sil­i­cone toy, and never use oil-based lu­bri­cants with la­tex. Wa­ter-based lu­bri­cants are the best all-rounders, safe to use with any toy, safe to use in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally, and eas­i­est to wash off of bod­ies and fab­rics. Flavoured lu­bri­cants are best avoided as they can cause yeast in­fec­tions. Check if you or your part­ner are al­ler­gic to any ma­te­rial, eg la­tex. And, if you are buy­ing any­thing made of leather, think about the pref­er­ences of you and your lover: a ve­gan may be to­tally turned off by your be­spoke leather body har­ness!

HOW IS IT OP­ER­ATED?

Does it need bat­ter­ies? Is it recharge­able? Do you need any ex­tra ac­ces­sories with it (eg a har­ness for wear­ing a strapon dildo)? Can you ac­tu­ally reach the but­tons, turn the dial, hold it com­fort­ably? If it has only one set­ting will that be enough for you? Or, if it has vari­able set­tings, are you likely to get con­fused in the heat of the mo­ment?

WHO IS IT FOR?

Will this be just for you or for shar­ing with a lover? Per­son­ally, I ad­vise against buy­ing toys jointly: who gets cus­tody if you split up? If you have your own toys they stay with you through thick and thin. You can also use them with a part­ner (or more than one part­ner) as long as you fol­low safer sex pro­to­col.

DO YOU LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?

Walk into any sex toy store, or take a browse on­line, and you’ll quickly dis­cover that there are all sorts of weird and won­der­ful sex toys out there. Some peo­ple find play­ing with a pow­der-blue, dol­phin-shaped vi­bra­tor a turn-on, while oth­ers may find it more laugh­able than letch-wor­thy. Equally, “re­al­is­tic” ap­pendages may not be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. Thank­fully, there truly is some­thing for ev­ery­one if you take the time to look. Ask your­self if you like the colour and the shape; is it beau­ti­ful and ex­quis­ite enough for you; do you want some­thing play­ful (tick­ling bunny ears), life­like (right down to skin-tone and tex­ture), or sleek and stylish? In short, is this a toy you want to take to bed or would you not even stop to buy it a drink in a bar?

HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO SPEND?

By and large, you get what you pay for in the world of sex toys. Buy some­thing cheap and cheer­ful and it will be just that. If you are able, and will­ing, to spend a bit more, the toy will likely be a bet­ter qual­ity, last longer, and be a more sat­is­fy­ing pur­chase. Some com­pa­nies, like Babes n Horny, of­fer a bud­get/value range that still as­sures good qual­ity.

If you are on a tight bud­get, have a think if you could make an equiv­a­lent toy your­self. En­sur­ing what­ever you come up with is safe, think about wooden clothes pegs in place of shop-bought nip­ple clamps; a wooden spoon or spat­ula in place of a spank­ing

DIVA’S GUIDE TAKES THE CON­FU­SION OUT OF SHOP­PING FOR SEX TOYS WORDS ANNA SANSOM

pad­dle; a con­dom-cov­ered car­rot as an im­pro­vised dildo.

There are also lots of ways to in­tro­duce nov­elty with­out spend­ing any money: an ice cube trailed over an erect nip­ple; a sen­su­ous mas­sage with sun­flower, jo­joba or co­conut oil; a scarf tied over your lover’s eyes.

CAN YOU TRY BE­FORE YOU BUY?

There are a few ac­tual sex shops still around: Sh! Wom­en­store and Coco de Mer have venues in Lon­don, and there are some other high street sex shops you may want to visit. How­ever, most of us are more likely to buy on­line. Some on­line sites like Wet For Her of­fer com­pre­hen­sive siz­ing guides for their dil­dos and har­nesses (Wet For Her sizes dil­dos ac­cord­ing to a novel “num­ber of fin­gers” size-rat­ing), and most will give some de­scrip­tion of mea­sure­ments.

Check out the re­turns pol­icy be­fore buy­ing on­line: ob­vi­ously, any­thing that has been used in­ti­mately is very un­likely to be re­turn­able (un­less faulty).

It can also be help­ful to read prod­uct re­views by other cus­tomers. You’ll find th­ese on most rep­utable web­sites and also on help­ful sex blog­ger sites (a quick in­ter­net search for item name + re­view should iden­tify some but just be aware when click­ing onto a sex blog/ re­view site that there may be con­tent and images that you may not like).

DON’T FOR­GET…

Other use­ful things to add to your toy col­lec­tion are con­doms, den­tal dams, un-fl avoured, wa­ter- based lu­bri­cant, la­tex or vinyl gloves. Also con­sider how and where you will store your toys.

FI­NALLY…

If all th­ese ques­tions and things to con­sider have turned you off choos­ing a sex toy, don’t worry. There are ab­so­lutely no rules that say we must play with sex toys. Think of sex toys as added ex­tras, not pre­req­ui­sites. And know that your feel­ings and pref­er­ences may well change over time. In­tro­duc­ing sex toys can hap­pen at any stage of a re­la­tion­ship or for your own solo plea­sure. Most im­por­tantly, choose how you want to play and have fun.

There’s a new dildo on the block de­signed to give the wearer and the re­ceiver si­mul­ta­ne­ous plea­sure! Visit tinyurl.com/ Di­va­fu­sion­re­view to find out what hap­pened when our Sex/ Life edi­tor Anna road-tested it and read an in­ter­view with its les­bian...

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