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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Choosing a sex toy

Today, we return to one of my favorite topics: sex toys. And no, they’re not my favorite for the reason you’re thinking (and people say my mind is in the gutter). I love researching and reading about sex toys because to me, they highlight just how diverse and creative human sexual desire can be. Scrolling through pages filled with all manner of objects designed to tease and titillate, you realise that each one was created because someone, somewhere, found it pleasing.

Now, I covered sex toys in a column last year, and I don’t want this article to be a rehash of the same info. However, I do want to re-visit two myths commonly associated with sex toys. First, they are not restricted only to women. Regardless of your anatomy or your gender identity, there is a sex toy out there that you can use if you so desire. Second, they are not only for the frustrated, the lonely or the perverse. There is nothing deviant or “sad” in experimenting with new ways to please yourself or enhance the sex you have with a partner.

Depending on who you talk to, a sex toy can be anything from a “bullet” vibrator to a flogger made of recycled bike tires. So, I’m going to get academic on you for a moment and define my terms. For today, a sex toy is any object manufactured to provide erotic pleasure that is primarily used in the genital region. With that out of the way, we can focus on two dimensions to consider when picking out a sex toy: what it’s made of and its shape/size.

Most sex toys you encounter are going to be made of either a soft, “jelly” material, hard plastic or silicone. Jelly-like materials are more elastic, and therefore good if you’re not sure what size you need. However, the fact that they’re porous means that they’re difficult to clean effectively (it’s highly recommended that you use a condom every time on jelly toys), and they break down faster than other materials do. The other “soft” toy options are those made from elastomer, which is still inexpensive but more durable than jelly (many masturbation “sleeves” are made from this).

Plastic toys are what you’re likely to encounter when looking at relatively inexpensive vibrators. Harder plastics tend to create more intense sensations when they vibrate, which some people find thrilling but others find overwhelming.

Silicone toys are generally the most popular for several reasons. They’re hypoallergenic and non-porous, meaning that they can be easily cleaned with soap and water. Silicone is also very durable and adapts to body temperature quickly, making it more comfortable to use and a better investment (particularly if it’s an expensive/fancy toy). And, silicone toys tend to exhibit the most variety in terms of texture, with varying degrees of curves, bumps and ridges.

Speaking of curves and bumps, the next detail to consider when picking out your toy is the shape. Now, to make an educated choice, you’ll want to be at least a little bit familiar with your own body. Which areas of your anatomy generate the most pleasure when touched? Is there anywhere you find sensations too intense to be comfortable? If the toy’s being inserted or you’re inserting something into it, is there a size that feels just right?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, I recommend getting in (ahem) touch with yourself to figure them out. Feel free to get a helping hand from that certain someone, if you’re so inclined. Once you’ve got a sense of what you like, you can pick out a toy whose shape/size hits all your good spots.

If I’ve piqued your interest in sex toys, I want to recommend a few places to start your search. If you prefer to buy online, both Babeland.com and Goodvibes.com have a huge selection and provide information and how-to guides. If you feel like a field trip, Good Vibrations also has several locations in San Francisco and the East Bay Area (the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable).

Regardless of where you go, if you’re at all interested in sex toys I suggest you check out these resources. Because no matter how you get off, and what you and those you sleep with like to do to each other, there is a toy out there that fits your needs.

SAM WALL would rather not say how many puns she avoided writing this column, but you can email her at sewall@ucdavis.edu if you have other questions. Her earlier column can be found at theaggie.org/2012/01/31/column-good-vibrations.

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