Sex toys have come a long way in the last few years. No longer does the standard fake pink penis reign supreme (although there are plenty about if that's your preference). Instead, the thriving sex toy market is home to everything from the soft, discreet bullet vibrator that can be slipped into a pair of knickers, to imposing prostate toys that come with a remote control - and everything in between.
Sex toys are now more normalized and accessible to audiences that may not have previously considered them. While employees in sex shops are specially trained to assist customers in the most professional way possible, the advent of online shopping means purchasing these pleasure products is as straightforward and embarrassment-free as ordering groceries.
Traditionally, sex toys have been viewed very much as the domain of single women - something that's hidden in the bedside drawer for an occasional solo outing. And indeed, that's a role they still very much fulfill. However, the normalization of sex toys, plus a growing awareness of general sexual wellness, means they are now just as likely to be found in the bedrooms of couples and single men, too.
Curious? Read on!
Before we get into the many wonderful benefits of sex toys for both solo and partnered use, a quick note on health and safety. Used appropriately, sex toys are completely body safe and, provided they're purchased from a reputable brand, they'll have been rigorously tested. Nonetheless, keep the following in mind:
Whatever type of sex toy you use, be sure to clean it thoroughly after each use. You can buy special wipes from sex toy retailers, or if the toy is made from nonporous materials, wash it gently with warm water and soap (be careful to avoid any electrical element on battery-operated toys).
If you're new to sex toys, start with something on the smaller side of things, especially if anal stimulation is involved. Tempting as it might be to feed your kinkiest fantasies from the get-go, a lot of the fun is in building up to the big guns if that's where you're heading. And no matter what type or size of toy you begin with, be sure to have lots of lube to hand.
Sex toys are specially designed to complement the human body in a particular way, whether that's for clitoral stimulation, prostate stimulation or vaginal stimulation. Use them as they're designed to be used and don't approximate them with other things.
Using a sex toy by yourself can be a hugely empowering activity. It helps you better understand what you like in bed, offers a no-pressure environment to explore your own body and sexuality, and can give you the confidence to ask a partner for something different.
For example, while movies would have us believe that women should be able to orgasm through penetrative sex alone, very few actually do. A sex toy such as a clitoral vibrator can create powerful orgasms women might never have thought possible!
For men, meanwhile, the archetypal solo sex toy has for many years been the Fleshlight, a toy designed to replicate the look and feel of a woman’s vagina, bottom or mouth. Nowadays, however, male sex toys have expanded into categories covering everything from anal stimulation to perineum massage. Not only do these provide a pleasurable solo masturbation experience, but they can also help men overcome problems with erectile dysfunction.
And for both men and women, sex toys can be the perfect antidote for horny laziness, when you're feeling in the mood but can't quite summon the effort to get yourself off the more traditional way using manual stimulation!
Think about what might feel good for you or what you'd like to explore. Shop around, read reviews (although remember everyone's pleasure is different), take your time and most importantly, enjoy your special solo time.
Using sex toys with a partner can be an intimidating prospect. As already mentioned, sex toys have traditionally been seen as a female pursuit, so either partner could be worried about potentially offending the other.
Sometimes there are concerns that a sex toy will replace a partner, or be 'better' than they are. Or the suggestion of a particular type of toy might be met with shock or judgement.
However, there's no substitute for a real, human partner, and sex toys are designed to be a sexual enhancement, not a replacement. Plus, as well as adding a bit of sparkle to your existing sex lives, toys can help to promote a sense of intimacy outside of the bedroom, too. After all, intimacy is the idea of knowing someone better than anyone else in the world, and knowing about your partner's big turn-ons means you know them pretty well!
But as with all things, communication is key. You can't just foist a gigantic stainless steel vibrator on your partner during sex and expect them to happily go along with things. Instead, carve out some time to chat about the possibility of introducing sex toys to the bedroom, and explore what you might like to try together. You might start with a small clit vibe for a female partner to use during penetration (which can lead to an amazing 'blended orgasm' for some women), or go for a toy that a male partner can actually wear during sex, so he feels more involved.
The important thing is that you both know what to expect. 'Sex toy' is a very general term, after all. And there's a big difference between, say, a big g-spot vibrator and a discreet penis ring, so make sure you're on the same page.
Exciting as it is to bring a sex toy into the bedroom, be mindful that the novelty will eventually wear off if you're using them on a regular basis. So be sure to let your partner know when this happens in case either of you begin to feel resentful of the toy in question. It's also for this reason that sex toys very rarely 'fix' a troubled relationship, as issues in the bedroom often point to deeper problems.
Also, if your partner isn't up for trying something new, you must respect their wishes, or consider bringing the idea up again a bit further down the line. If they still refuse, you may have to reconsider how important bringing sex toys into your relationship is to you.