Ditch the Roses
A Valentine’s Sex Toy Gift Guide.
It’s that time again. You’ve just barely recovered from the shit-storm that was Holiday Season 2013, your New Years hangover has faded, and the time has come to deal with Valentine’s Day. If you’re anything like me, you’ve accepted that this holiday is bogus. But maybe you just want a good excuse to buy some sex toys. In my humble opinion, there is never a bad time to buy a sex toy, but if you’re seeking an enabler, St. Valentine has got your back.
Whether you’ve never had a vibrator before or you’re running out of storage options for your collection, there are some important things to know when purchasing sex toys. Lucky for you, I’ve taken all of the guess work out of sex toy shopping and made a handy-dandy guide to all of the things you should keep in mind. All in a day’s work.
The first thing to consider when buying a new toy is material. This is because the sex toy industry is completely unregulated, so manufacturers can get away with making toys out of toxic materials without having to reveal what is in them. At the very least, you want a toy that is odorless; a strong smell is a good indicator of toxicity and porosity. Steer clear of toys made out of “jelly,” as this material is full of toxic chemicals called pthalates. It is also porous, so it traps bacteria and can’t be sterilized.
The best system for sticking to body-safe toys is to look for the same materials that you cook on and eat off of. 100% silicone, glass, and stainless steel are all great materials, as well as hard plastics and sealed wood. Do your research. Learn about the manufacturers and suppliers you are buying from. If a toy sounds iffy, has a scent, or is suspiciously inexpensive, avoid it. And if you already have a toy made out of a questionable material, put a condom on it during use. We’re talking about bodies here – you might want to pay attention to what you put in yours.
Next, figure out what you want this thing to do. Do you want something that vibrates? Something you can put in your butt? A really small (or big) insertable toy? Get a good idea of what you want so that you can better navigate through the possible options. If you are buying a toy as a gift for someone else, don’t assume what they want or what they might be into unless that is something that has been discussed beforehand. Just because you really want to get them a butt plug doesn’t mean they’re into anal play. Only you can decide what type of toy and function sounds good to you, but here are a couple tips for narrowing your search.
The vaginal canal has one closed end (the cervix), so nothing can get lost in it. The rectum, however, leads straight to the colon and then the intestines. This means that any toy used anally needs to have a flared base to keep it from getting lost inside the body. Look for butt plugs, dildos, vibrators with defined bases, and those labeled ‘anal safe.’
Size is important. Unless you absolutely know that you or your partner want a really huge dildo, don’t get the biggest dildo in the shop. You’ll be super bummed if the toy you just dropped 80 bucks on hurts too much to use. In contrast, longer toys can be great for those with limited mobility or bigger bodies, because they offer more room to thrust and manipulate.
Vibrators with elongated handles – as opposed to those that fit in the palm of your hand – tend to transfer less vibration into the hand. This might be important to you if you plan on using the toy for long periods at a time and don’t want numb fingers, or if you have any limitations on your ability to get a strong grip on something (such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel, or arthritis).
If you or the person you’re shopping for don’t have a lot of experience with toys, look for something versatile. Don’t get the knock-your-socks-off vibrator that only offers extra-strength vibrations, or the one that has only one speed. Try to find something that offers a range of vibration intensities and patterns. You might want to find something that can both be inserted and used externally to get a feel for what sensations really work. Waterproof is great, too, because that widens substantially the range of places and situations in which the toy can be used, as well as making it easier to clean.
The factor most likely to limit your options is cost. It isn’t hard to find body-safe, versatile toys. But finding them at reasonable prices can be difficult. The best advice I can give is to regard a quality toy as an investment. Buying a cheap toy isn’t always the worst thing, but they do have a tendency to stop working much earlier than higher-quality toys. Rechargeable toys are also usually more expensive, but it might be worth it not have to buy new batteries all the time.
Now that you’re armed with a critical eye for quality toys, here is my rundown of the best ones you can buy.
Vibrators, external and insertable
Nothing beats the Lelo Mona 2. It is great for g-spotting, external and clitoral stimulation, offers a wide range of vibration speeds and patterns, and is waterproof and rechargeable. The We-Vibe Touch is a powerful external vibrator with a shape that is great for pinpoint, as well as broad stimulation. The Lovelife Adventure by OhMiBod is one of the most unique vibrators on the market. It has three motors and a three-pronged build that stimulates the clitoris, g-spot, and anal opening. This one is not ideal for someone who has never had a vibrator before, but a nice option for anyone curious about anal stimulation but not seeking penetration. It is strong, quiet, and rechargeable.
Dildos are great for thrusting and achieving a feeling of fullness, and they are a go-to when it comes to g-spot and prostate stimulation. The Njoy Pure Wand is arguably the biggest celebrity of the non-vibrating insertable world. This gorgeous toy is a full 1.5 pounds of hand-polished stainless steel. Its curve is excellent for connecting with the g-spot or prostate. Its weighty, rigid material is unrelenting and can be heated or cooled with water. This is the toy that people find their g-spots with and learn to squirt with. It is just ridiculously good. Jopen makes a somewhat similar toy called the Comet G wand. It is a glass wand dipped in smooth matte silicone. It has a lovely curve, and hooks into the pelvic bone and against the g-spot. My absolute favorite silicone toys are made by Tantus. Their silicone is the highest quality, they are super savvy about education, and their toys are really built to work well with bodies. A vast majority of their toys are also anal-safe and can be worn in harnesses. My favorites are the Cush, Vamp, and Echo handle.
The Njoy Pure Plug, like its cousin the Pure Wand, is a beautiful, hefty piece of stainless steel. It comes in three sizes; the small is great for those new to anal play, the medium is a size for those with some anal experience looking to take the next step, and the large is best for those more experienced with anal play. The weight and firmness creates a feeling of fullness even in the smaller sizes, and the base fits snugly between the cheeks and stays out of the way. The Fun Factory Bootie is a plug that is great for beginners. It is small, with a cozy base and a curved tip that makes it a lot of fun to wear. If you have a prostate and want to explore prostate stimulation, Aneros makes really incredible massagers. They are built to be controlled by the sphincter and pelvic floor muscles, so you can experience prostate massage on your own, without having to awkwardly reach around.
Last year, Tantus released a full line of silicone paddles, and I can’t praise them enough. Because they are made of silicone, they are fully sterilizable, making them great for play parties and use with multiple partners. Plus, The Plunge Paddle has a dildo for a handle, so you can multi-task like nobody’s business. If you’re looking for restraints, but don’t want to turn your bedroom into a dungeon or learn to tie knots, Sportsheets makes the Under the Bed Restraints. This is a set of cuffs for the ankles and wrists with a tether that slips right under your mattress. When you’re done, you can just tuck the tethers right under the bed. So you can keep them out of sight until you flip your mattress, which you probably don’t do anyway. Another awesome way to explore restraint is bondage tape, which sticks only to itself. Just make sure you’ve also got a pair of safety scissors, as this stuff is not easy to tear. If you’re interested in rope bondage, stock up on some quality rope, and a great instructional book.
Toys for couples (or singles!)
We-Vibe makes toys marketed as “couples’ vibrators,” but they are quality toys no matter how committed you are. The We-Vibe 3 and We-Vibe 4 are inserted into the vagina and have an external arm that grabs against the clitoris. The toys are slim enough to be worn during penis-in-vagina intercourse, so they vibrate and press up against both partners. The vibrations are controlled by a small, hand-held remote. Though these toys are marketed for penile-vaginal intercourse, there is no reason why you can’t use them alone or during strap-on sex. Minna makes toys that are perfect for partnered sex or use alone, and they demonstrate some of the most interesting technology I’ve ever seen in a sex toy. The Ola and Limon are equipped with squeezable touch pads, so the harder you squeeze, the more they vibrate. Not only that, but you can design your own vibration patterns using the squeeze pads, and the toys *remember them *and play them back for you. So maybe you want to re-think buying that loop pedal for your shoegaze band and invest in a loop pedal for your genitals instead.
If you’re not using lube yet, you should be. Lube makes for a much smoother, comfortable experience during sex and with toys. Seriously, if you only buy one thing this year to enhance your sex life, make it lube. The three main types of lube are water-based, oil-based, and silicone-based. Oil-based lubes feel great and have a moisturizing effect. However, they break down latex, so they can’t be used with latex condoms, dams, or gloves. Silicone lubes don’t evaporate and sit right on top of the skin, so they last a ridiculously long time. Silicone lube has the potential to bond with silicone toys, so avoid mixing the two unless you’ve done a little patch-test on your toy first (the toy will get gummy quickly). Water-based lubes can sometimes evaporate quickly, but can be re-hydrated with a little spit or water, and they are safe to use with everything! Sliquid makes all different kinds of lube, and I haven’t tried one that I didn’t like. Überlube is my absolute favorite silicone lube; it feels silky and is surprisingly great for frizzy hair. Good Clean Love is a thick, all natural water-based lube that works great for anal play, and smells delicious.
There is nothing more romantic than being proactive about your safety and that of your partner, so be sure to load up on condoms, dams, and gloves. Be prepared, kids.
So there you go. Hopefully the world of sex toys just got a little bit more manageable. Now you’ve got no reason to just buy last-minute gifts of vegan truffles or pink sparkling wine for Valentine’s Day.
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