Did you know that sex toys have been around for about 30,000 years? In her book Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy, author Hallie Lieberman reveals that “our ancestors had been hunched over carving eight-inch-long penises out of siltstone.” Luckily, sex toys have evolved quite a bit since then—and so have attitudes towards them.
Sex toys have been more or less taboo until the last few decades, but today, they’re more acceptable than ever. This can be put down to several factors, clinical psychologist and sex expert Carla Manly, PhD, tells Health. “Society has a more open attitude toward sexuality as a whole, which has helped to destigmatize their use,” she says. “As sexual awareness increases, we are creating a more open, natural attitude toward formerly secret or off-limits sexual practices––including the use of innovative sexual toys. Plus, there’s an ever-increasing availability of sex toys online and in local stores.”
The surge in popularity of sex toys is partly due to women being more vocal about their desire––and need––for pleasure, Tiffany Alyse Yelverton, sex coach and founder of sex education site EnticeMe, tells Health. “Sex toys enhance pleasure and greatly amplify foreplay, which is necessary for most women to enjoy intercourse,” she says. “Most women need to have clitoral stimulation to orgasm, especially during penetrative sex.”
In her work as a sex coach, Yelverton finds that men are more open to using sex toys with a partner than in the past—especially young men. “The newer generations of sex toys are beautiful and not phallic,” she explains. “They are a complement to sexual activity, not in competition to it.”
If you’ve never used sex toys before––or have had a quick look at an online store and are intimidated by all the options, Yelverton has some tips. First of all, she encourages her clients to “think of sex toys as an accessory to their sex lives, like a necklace is an accessory to an outfit.”
She recommends starting with something that’s attractive to you and feels comfortable, and she suggests a vibrating "bullet" or "egg," a wand, a rabbit style vibrator, or a vibrating penis ring. And don’t forget a high quality lube (“it makes everything better”) and toy cleaner (for obvious reasons).
Also, if you're curious about vibrating sex toys, Yelverton advises to opt for a rechargeable model. “The vibrations are stronger, and there’s no extra cost (or waste) associated with batteries,” she explains.
A rabbit-style vibrator is a great way for a woman to achieve orgasm with a partner, says Yelverton. “It provides external clitoral stimulation along with internal vibrations.” But it’s not only for solo pleasure. “We don’t typically don’t think of rabbit toys to use with a partner, but this type of toy is perfect,” she says. “When a woman can be brought to orgasm before intercourse, it’s easier for her to orgasm a second time, so using a toy that will pretty much guarantee an orgasm, like a rabbit, is a great option.”
You can’t go wrong with a bullet vibe as a first vibrator. It’s small, discreet, quiet, and inexpensive, yet really powerful. Primarily used for clitoral stimulation—but as with all sex toys, you’re really only limited by your imagination—it may have various speed and pattern settings, depending on the model you choose.
“A bullet vibe can be really helpful to hold against the clitoris during intercourse for additional stimulation, and it can easily be placed between two bodies during sex,” says Yelverton. Plus, it’s not phallic or threatening to men, she adds.
A wand can be intimidating to sex toy novices—it’s usually much larger than a regular vibrator and a bullet vibe. But if you’re ready to move on to something bigger and more powerful, its enlarged head and long body (its design actually evolved from neck massagers designed to ease achy muscles) can take things up a notch.
“A wand can be used in multiple ways with a variety of body types, and is a good all-round product to own,” says Yelverton.
Vibrating penis ring
The penis ring, also known as a vibrating cock ring, is the most highly recommended sex toy for couples, says sex toy site Lovehoney––for a number of reasons. First of all, it helps to restrict blood flow to the penis for harder erections, can delay ejaculation, and is really simple to use. Yelverton points out that it’s a good investment, as it can give pleasure to two people at the same time, and can also be used at the same time as another toy for even more sex toy pleasure.
No sex toy roundup is complete without the good old-fashioned dildo. Americans certainly enjoy this particular toy. According to The Sex Toy Census 2017 from Lovehoney, shoppers in the US are more likely to buy a realistic dildo than consumers in the UK, Australia, or Germany.
In fact, sex toy shoppers from all over the world still can’t get enough of the dildo, which unlike a vibrator does not actually vibrate or have a motor and instead is operated by hand (the user's own or a partner's hand). Some dildos are smooth and cylinder-shaped, while others are designed to look like a real penis. “Some women like a realistic dildo because it looks and feels more like the a penis, and so it isn’t like using an inanimate object,” says Yelverton. “I find that men are not so receptive, as they may see the dildo as a competition.”
Ultimately, like all sex toys, it comes down to individual preference. Enjoy figuring out what works for you—that’s part of the fun.
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