Tips for Choosing Your First Sex Toy: A Beginner’s Guide
September 3, 2023
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since our parents’ time openly discussing sex and pleasure. With a shift towards prioritizing self-care, which now includes sexual health and wellness, the once-judgemental eye of society has softened, allowing us to freely explore our desires without the fear of shame or stigma.
That said, there’s still a lot of progress to be made in terms of comprehensive sexual education and accessible resources. But we’re moving in the right direction — even major department stores are stepping up by offering a range of pleasure products in their health and wellness sections.
As the market expands and more options become available, choosing your first sex toy can quickly go from liberating to overwhelming.
If you’re starting to feel flushed or hesitant about purchasing a sex toy, remember that sex toys are just another way to show love and care for yourself. They aren’t reserved for “adventurous” couples or those in unconventional relationships; sex toys are for everyone. They can empower you to take control of your sexuality and pleasure in a way that’s safe and consensual.
Do I really need a sex toy?
While sex toys aren’t a must-have, they can definitely take solo and partnered play to another level. They’re not replacements for human connection or intimacy; they serve as tools to add extra excitement and pleasure to your sexual experiences with yourself or others. So, if you’re curious and open to exploring new sensations and experiences, a sex toy might be a great addition to your self-care routine.
This guide will walk you through choosing your first sex toy. You’ll also find valuable insights from experts and professionals in the field to help you make an informed decision.
Step one: Put yourself first.
Before you hop online or run to the nearest adult store, take some time to think about why you want to buy a sex toy in the first place and what your expectations are. Think about what turns you on, the sensations you like, and whether or not you’ll be using it solo, with a partner, or both. Being completely honest about your desires and intentions will help you find exactly what you want.
“If you don’t know what type of stimulation you like, you can experiment with your hands or a less expensive sex toy and try out nipples, clitoral, vaginal, prostate, penis, or anal stimulation to get an idea of what you find pleasurable,” says Sophia Turner, ALMFT, a relationship and sex therapist at The Center for Modern Relationships.
Once you’ve had a chance to explore what you like, Turner recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- Do I prefer internal or external stimulation?
- Do I enjoy vibration, rotation, or thrusting?
- How sensitive are my erogenous zones that are being stimulated?
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’ll give you a good starting point to understand your preferences and narrow down your options.
Step two: Get to know your sex toys.
Now that you have a better understanding of your wants and desires, you should familiarize yourself with what’s out there. You don’t need to become an expert or write a dissertation, but having basic knowledge can help you make an informed decision.
Some of the most popular types of sex toys include:
- Rabbit vibrators: HBO’s hit series Sex and the City (SATC) put the rabbit vibrator on the map in 1998, and it’s since become one of the most iconic and well-known types of vibrators out there. If you haven’t seen the episode or are just genuinely about the hype, rabbit vibrators are designed for internal and external stimulation. They typically have a shaft for penetration and a clitoral stimulator that resembles bunny ears. Femme Funn carries a variety of rabbit vibrators, including the Ultra Rabbit, Turbo Rabbit, and Booster Rabbit.
- Bullet vibrators: Bullet vibrators are the unsung heroes of the sex toy industry. Tiny but mighty, these little vibes are ideal for on-the-go pleasure, quick sessions, or more pinpointed stimulation. They can easily complement other toys (such as a butt plug) or stimulate other erogenous zones like the nipples or inner thighs. Femme Funn offers a selection of discreet and beginner-friendly bullet vibrators, including the Densa Bullet and the Versa Bullet, which can be paired with different sleeves for a variety of sensations.
- Wand vibrators: Wand vibrators, often called magic wands or massagers, are known for their powerful vibrations and versatility. “Wand vibrators are a great option for those who enjoy a general massage to their external genitals,” says Turner. “For vulva owners with extremely sensitive clitorises, this can be a good option that provides stimulation but not to a level that feels uncomfortable.” Some of Femme Funn’s wand vibrators include the Ultra Wand (available in Mini and XL) and the Diamond Wand.
- Dildos: Dildos are the OG of sex toys and come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. They can be used for both vaginal and anal penetration and are great for those who crave a feeling of fullness. Some have realistic features, such as textured veins and a lifelike shape, while others are more abstract and artistic. You can use a dildo alone or with a harness during partnered play.
- Anal toys: Anal toys (butt plugs, anal beads, etc.) are designed for anal stimulation. They come in various sizes and shapes to accommodate different experience levels and comfort. You can find vibrating and non-vibrating anal toys and some with temperature features for added sensations. “Start small and work your way up by purchasing an anal training set as your body adjusts to the larger sizes,” advises Turner. Femme Funn has a few anal toys, including the Funn Beads and Funn Plug.
- Cock rings: Cock rings put pressure on the blood flow around the penis, which can help sustain a firmer and longer erection. The most basic cock rings are flexible silicone rings that can be stretched over the base of the penis. Some cock rings have tiny vibrators that provide additional stimulation for both partners.
There are so many toys out there that we didn’t cover above, including prostate massagers, masturbation sleeves, remote-controlled vibrators for long-distance play, pussy pumps, nipple clamps, kegel exercisers, and so much more. But this list should give you a general idea of what’s available.
Step three: Use the following guidelines to help you make a final purchasing decision.
OK, we’re finally at the part where you can start browsing. However, as you’ve likely figured out by now, this isn’t about simply picking the first thing that grabs your attention (although, if you’re experienced and know your preferences, that can work, too). Buying your first sex toy is a personal, intimate, and memorable decision that’ll shape your feelings about pleasure and sex toys for the rest of your life. Below, we’ve compiled a set of guidelines (with the help of the experts) to take you through choosing your first sex toy.
Materials and Safety
The first thing to consider when buying something that’s going on or near your intimate areas is the material it’s made of. You want to make sure it’s body-safe and non-toxic.
“Sex toys are an unregulated market, which means there are no laws or guidelines that say which materials can or cannot be used,” says Sarah Melancon, Phd, a certified sexologist and the lead researcher and medical review board member for Women’s Health Interactive. “Unfortunately, this means there are many unsafe toys on the market that can increase the risk of irritation, inflammation, and infection.”
To ensure your safety, Melancon recommends looking for sex toys made from body-safe materials such as medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, or glass. These materials are non-porous, easy to clean, and hypoallergenic.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid porous materials like jelly or gel. These materials can harbor bacteria and be difficult to keep clean. They’re also toxic and unsafe for your body. Melancon notes that latex, phthalates, and silicone “blends” or “silicone-like” materials should also be avoided, as they may not be body-safe.
- Non-toxic doesn’t equal safe. Rubber, vinyl, PVC, TPE, TPR, elastomer, and Cyberskin are non-toxic but cannot be sanitized and may potentially cause infection due to their porous nature. “If you notice any itching, burning, or physical discomfort, stop using the toy immediately,” says Melancon.
- If you prefer crystal, proceed with caution. According to certified sexologist, relationship coach, and inclusivity consultant Lilithfoxx, natural and semi-precious stones such as jade eggs and crystal dildos have risen in popularity, but it’s best to proceed cautiously. “Stones may have impurities with other potentially non-safe materials and natural deformities that can cause injury,” Lilithfoxx advises. “Research the type of stone and its porosity; the softer and more porous a stone, the more difficult, if not impossible, it is to clean,” Lilithfoxx continues. “Jade is a very soft stone that’s quite porous and harbors bacteria. Because of this, I don’t recommend using it. On the other hand, Quartz is harder and not as porous, so it’s safer.”
- Look for toys made of medical-grade silicone, ABS (hard) plastic, stainless steel, anodized aluminum, ceramic, or borosilicate glass. “Some inexpensive sex toys claim to be made from silicone but are often mixed with other materials,” says Melancon. “This is another reason purchasing from a reputable company is recommended.” Be weary of anonymous sellers on eBay or other unauthorized retailers.
- Don’t forget to read reviews. Melancon also recommends reading reviews to see what others have to say about the toy you’re interested in. “Sex toy reviews are your friend! Look for sites that feature real individuals who have actually tried the toy,” says Melancon. “You can trust the reviews if they provide benefits and drawbacks — if anything is too positive, consider it marketing and move onto a more balanced perspective.”
Cleaning and Storing Your Sex Toys
Safety isn’t just about the materials; properly cleaning and storing your toy is important, too. “Always clean your toys before you put them away — storing toys while they’re still dirty can lead to bacterial growth and damage the material,” says Lilithfoxx. ” Using specially designed sex toy storage bags or boxes can help protect your toys from dust and other contaminants,” Lilithfoxx continues. “Look for options made from breathable materials to prevent moisture buildup. Use a clean, dry cloth bag if you don’t have a dedicated storage bag.”
Here are a few tips for cleaning your sex toys based on material:
- Silicone: Clean with soap and water, or use a toy cleaner designed for silicone toys. Boil it for five minutes to sanitize it if it’s not motorized or battery-operated.
- Plastic: Clean with soap and water.
- Glass: Clean with soap and water. Pyrex toys can be cleaned in the top rack of the dishwasher (do NOT use Windex!).
- Stainless steel: Clean with soap and water and boil for five minutes. Make sure it’s cool before touching it to avoid burning yourself.
- Porous toys: Clean with soap and water, but remember they can’t be thoroughly sanitized due to their porous nature.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve never used a sex toy before, it’s best to start with something that can be put to multiple uses (e.g., a classic vibrator that can be inserted, used clitorally, used with a partner, and so forth). Even if you’re all about size when it comes to your flesh and blood lovers, resist the urge to snap up the biggest dildo or vibrator you can find right off the bat.
It’s easier than you think to wind up with something that’s more toy than you can handle as an absolute beginner. There’s plenty of room to size up later on once you’re sure that’s what you want and need.
Once you’ve been using it for a while, you’ll discover a thing or two as far as what feels good and how you like to use your toys. Use this to help you determine what toys you should look for next.