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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Column: Good vibrations

Fleshlights. Battery-Operated Boyfriends. Vibes. Whatever your type and whatever you call it, there’s no denying that sex toys are a flourishing industry. But all the variety can make finding the right toy for you quite a chore. Not to mention that some of you may find the thought of some of those objects near tender parts of your body quite terrifying. Have no fear, grasshopper, for I am here to guide you.

First, some vibrator basics. Remember that conversation about masturbation? Well, here’s an instance where the knowledge gained by that activity comes in handy (pun, as always, intended). Because many vibes are designed to focus on specific spots, you want to have a good sense of whether you prefer clitoral stimulation, G-spot action or something else. That way you can narrow down the types you have to choose from.

Even with that knowledge, many of you may find vibrators a little scary. To be fair, some of them do resemble alien torture devices (although their effect is anything but painful). That’s why if you’re even a little curious about toys, I recommend beginning with a mini-vibrator (try a small “bullet” type for the most straightforward shape). Its size makes it less intimidating for a first-time user and easier to store discreetly in small living spaces such as dorms. Also, you can get a decent mini-vice for about $20, so if you dislike it, it’s not a total waste of money.

Increasingly, sex toys are thought of as a female-only area. The common image is of a candle-lit woman in the bath using her Hitachi magic wand to have exploding-petal orgasms of joy. Not that there aren’t some women who do this, but it leaves an awful lot out (other than the fact that Hitachi wands aren’t waterproof). Vibrators are not just for the solo girl. They can be an excellent addition to partner-play, whether you use them to give a massage or to get your lover off. They even make vibes that one partner can manipulate via remote control, which can be quite an exciting exercise. In the non-vibe world of couple’s play, there are toys such as strap-ons, which can be used for any type of intercourse as well as foreplay. As with vibrators, some pre-purchase research and body exploration is wise.

The standard view of sex toys assumes that a man wouldn’t use them and, if he does, he is frustrated and lonely. This is unfair. Yes, due to the mechanics involved, male orgasm may be less complicated to achieve than a female one. And yes, I am aware that in many cases masturbating for men is purely utilitarian (though this is not an male-only phenomenon). But that does not mean that men shouldn’t explore their sexuality to the same degree that many women do. For men who would like to explore, there are vibrators tailored to the typical male anatomy, as well as sleeve toys, like those made by Tenga, that vary in texture and fit.

A big component of sex toy satisfaction is doing your research. I advocate browsing sites like babeland.com. When you see something you like, look closely at the comments section or search for reviews of the product online. If the negative reviews mention qualities that would bother you (uncomfortable, difficult to get into a good position), then that toy is not the right choice no matter how appealing it looks.

When it comes to research, nothing beats going into a store and talking to the people behind the counter. Depending on where you live, this tactic isn’t always feasible. Luckily for us, we live near that den of sin and inequity commonly called San Fransisco. S.F., along with Berkeley and Oakland, is home to several Good Vibrations stores that are clean, well lit and staffed by friendly and knowledgeable people. You can find all manner of toys there, as well as porn and informational books. They are also very LGBTIQ friendly, so you should be able to find something fun no matter who’s involved in your relationship. Field trips are always a good time, especially when toys are involved.

SAM WALL wants to help you pick up some good vibrations so contact her at sewall@ucdavis.edu for product suggestions.

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