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).
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.
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...