LSU CASH’s Workshop Coordinator and volunteer writer, Megan McKone gives her guide on the range of sex toys available.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding sex toys, the first time I ever heard anyone talk about sex toys was on YouTube. Hannah Witton is a sex educator on YouTube, and she discusses the different types of sex toys and rates them based on her own sexual pleasure. The only time I have heard anyone discuss sex toys in person has been through CASH. This is why I think this guide is so important. Your sexual pleasure should not be stigmatised, you should be free to enjoy your sex life however you see fit (if everything is consensual of course). So, I am here to answer questions you may have about sex toys. The use of sex toys is personal to you, it is equally okay to not want to use sex toys as it is to use them. This article is a source of information for you to help you explore sex toys by yourself or with a partner.
What is a sex toy?
A sex toy is essentially an object that is designed for sexual pleasure, this could be during sex or masturbation, to use by yourself or with others. In case you did not know some sex toys can actually be used for medical purposes!
Who can use a sex toy?
Sex toys are for everyone. Some are clearly designed for those who have a vagina (such as a clitoral stimulator) and equally, some are clearly designed for those who have a penis (penis rings). Sex toys can be used during partnered sex or they can be used for solo sex. Sex toys are not a substitute for a partner but rather a happy addition and the stigma around couples using sex toys during sex needs to be challenged. Controlling and using a sex toy on your partner can be pleasurable for both parties. The biggest stigma about sex toy use generally surrounds males and toxic masculinity. Sex toys are often seen as something to laugh about and have negative connotations as some believe the misconception that it means their skills aren’t good enough and it’s not something they would use for their own pleasure. Normalising and breaking the stigma of the use of male sex toys is important, it is not shameful to use sex toys as a male and it can make your sexual experiences better. They are not there to replace you, but to work with you to make sex/masturbation a more pleasurable experience.
Should I use a sex toy?
If you want to, yes. Sex toys often come in discrete packaging so no one needs to know if you do not want them to. Masturbation or even sex using sex toys can be a way to control your orgasm, it is a way to set your own pace and to explore your body to find out what works for you as everyone achieves an orgasm differently. For those who have not had penetrative sex, sex toys are still an option! Some sex toys are designed slightly thinner/smaller for those who have not had penetrative sex such as some vibrators and dildos and not all sex toys require insertion into the vagina, for example, clitoral stimulators are a way to achieve an orgasm without penetration. Sex toys help you get to know your own body which will inevitably make partnered sex better as you can better guide them to what you like. In short, if you want to, then go for it.
How do I clean my sex toy?
Sex toys vary and there will be cleaning instructions on the packaging, so double-check if it is waterproof before cleaning. Cleaning your toys depends on the material you have used. In general, you should wash your sex toys in warm water using a small amount of soap. Silicone is a good material for sex toys, as is hard plastic, break-resistant glass, and aluminium, this is because they do not have pores to absorb germs – and as well, different materials can activate different forms of orgasms. They are also easier to clean. Some sex toys are made from other materials, these can absorb germs and may lead to infections regardless of if you have cleaned your sex toy. Once cleaned, leave your toys to dry where it is free of dirt and avoid using a towel because particles can get attached to your toy and you could be at risk of infection when you go to use it again. Then ensure you store your toy in a cleaned box/bag to prevent dust and other germs from sticking to your toy.
Can I share sex toys?
For safe sex, clean your sex toys before allowing another person to use them. For example, if a lesbian couple were to have sex and the sex toy e.g., a dildo was inserted into one female then the sex toy should be cleaned before being inserted into the other female to prevent bodily fluids being passed from one individual to another. This is because sharing sex toys can lead to sexually transmitted infections. Using a condom with sex toys can help to prevent the transmission of STIs from one partner to another but remember to change the condom between each person the sex toy enters.
Can I lose a sex toy inside me?
A sex toy cannot be lost inside a vagina, this is because the cervix will block it and prevent it from getting lost. However, anal sex toys that do not have a wide base could go all the way in and you may be unable to reach it. This would require medical assistance, so save yourself the trouble and make sure your anal sex toys do have a wide base or handle.
Should I use lube?
Lube is always your friend no matter where the sex toy is going. If you are using an anal sex toy then lube is essential, the vagina naturally lubricates itself, but the anus does not. The insertion of an anal sex toy into the anus without lube can be painful and unsafe. Ensure to check out the variation of lubes you can get, as anal lube is much thinner and more water-based which means it is less sticky so applies smoother.
Never put a sex toy that has been into the anus into a vagina without it being washed and thoroughly cleaned first. Germs from the anus can enter the vagina and potentially cause vaginitis. If you are using any other sex toy, then lube is always a good option and can make masturbation and sex more pleasurable. If you are using a silicone-based sex toy, then do not use silicon-based lube as it can damage your sex toy. If in doubt always use water-based lube with sex toys and condoms. Oil-based lubes can react with latex condoms and cause them to break.
Which sex toys are directed to those with vulvas and vaginas?
Vibrators are sex toys that vibrate as the name suggests, most sex toys have different levels of vibration. Always begin with the lowest setting and work your way up to higher settings, explore where the vibrations feel the most pleasurable but for those with vulvas generally the sex toy is used around the clitoral area. Vibrators can come in different shapes and sizes and some can be inserted into the vagina or even the anus while others are meant to remain solely outside of the body. Vibrators could also be used to stimulate other areas of the body such as the nipples. Bullet vibrators are one of the most common starting sex toys, they are small and designed for clitoral stimulation. When using vibrators, you may want to be aware of the noise it may make if you want to be discreet, try reading reviews to determine if the level of noise is manageable for you, if in doubt using lower settings and using it under covers can help to mask the vibrating noise.
Dildos are probably the most thought of sex toy. Dildos are specifically meant for insertion, they can be inserted into the vagina, anus, or mouth. Dildos again may come in different shapes and sizes, but they are generally to designed to mimic the shape, look, and feel of a penis, you can even get mould your own dildo kits. Dildos are often curved too; this is to allow for the stimulation of the G-spot or prostate and can also be used as strap-ons.
Rabbit sex toys look a bit like rabbits, hence the name. It is also a two in one as it can serve as a dildo and vibrator. Rabbits are designed for insertion and have two shafts. The large shaft is for vaginal insertion and mimics a penis whilst the smaller shaft is for clitoral stimulation. These often are seen as the ultimate stimulation tool, that allows you to orgasm from both penetration and clitoral stimulation.
Which sex toys are directed to those with penises?
1. Penis rings
Penis rings are designed to go around the scrotum and/or penis. They reduce blood flow from the penis while it is erect, allowing the penis to stay harder for longer. This also increases the sensation of sex. Penis rings should be flexible and easy to remove, penis rings made from silicone or rubber are the safest to use. Some may have vibrators attached which will further increase stimulation. However, it is very important to not wear penis rings for long periods (generally more than 10 minutes) because the blood flow is reduced. Penis rings should never be painful or uncomfortable so if you start to feel that way remove it immediately. It is also worth noting that those with any kind of bleeding disorder or anyone taking medication such as blood thinners should consult a medical professional before using penis rings.
2. Masturbation Sleeves
Masturbation sleeves are tubes, typically made from soft materials such as silicone that the penis is inserted into. Sleeves – like all sex toys – come in different shapes and sizes. Different sleeves can also have different textures for increased stimulation. Sleeves could also have a vibrating or suction element to them. Strokers are like masturbation sleeves but are more suited to those with smaller penises or trans men on hormone therapy. Masturbation sleeves are designed to mimic the sensation of sex.
3. Penis Pumps
Penis pumps create suction around the penis thus driving blood flow to the area, increasing the sensation. Penis pumps can be beneficial for those who struggle to become erect, it is again important to consult a medical professional before using a penis pump if you are on blood thinners or have a blood flow related disease.
Which sex toys are genderless?
Some dildos and vibrators can be used by anyone regardless of gender as they are inserted into the anus. When using anal sex toys always use lube. Those who use anal sex toys often work their way up to using anal sex toys by first penetrating their anus with their smallest finger and working their way up to larger or multiple fingers before inserting any kind of sex toy. Remember to always wash your hands and any toys used after and can be advised to have a shower before and after to ensure your anus is clean. Do not put a sex toy that has been in the anus into the mouth or a vagina without it being washed first. Anal toys such as plugs, anal beads or wide-based dildos are made specifically for anal stimulation and can be used by anyone with an anus, all having different levels of penetration.
Using anal sex toys as a man does not make you gay, despite what stigma, stereotypes and insecurities might tell you. It is completely okay for males to enjoy anal stimulation. Taking ownership of your sex life is powerful.
Remember to wash your sex toys, keep them in a dry/clean space, use lube and happy exploration!
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Header image designed by Annabel Smith.