By Rachel Gelman
May is a great month. Summer is starting to creep in, which in San Francisco means more fog, but if you are a sex nerd like me then you know that May is Masturbation Month. An entire month dedicated to self-love and pleasure. In a prior post, I talked about masturbation in general, including the benefits and a basic “how to guide,” which if you missed it you can check it out here. When one discusses the topic of masturbation, it makes sense that another subject will pop up: vibrators!
The world of sex toys can seem overwhelming. You may not know where to start or what to look for. You may feel embarrassed. You need help, but are unsure who to ask. If you tried asking Alexa or Siri and found that they weren’t up to the challenge, fear not, because I decided to breakdown the different types of toys for self titillation so that you can celebrate Masturbation Month year round.
First, let’s dispel any concerns that no one uses sex toys. A study by Herbernick et al in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that in a sample of women age 18-60 approximately 52.5% reported vibrator use. The study went on to say that these vibrator users scored higher on most sexual function domains, which may mean better sexual function overall. For those business minded readers, reports indicate that the sex toy market in North America is predicted to exceed $6 billion by 2020. So, unless someone is making a pretty awesome sex toy museum, people are buying these things!
Ok, so I am not the only one buying a vibrator; how do I pick one?
It is important to note that not all sex toys vibrate. Some products that vibrate can also be used in other ways without the vibration feature. For example, a dildo is a sex toy that is phallic shaped and is typically used for vaginal or rectal penetration during masturbation or with a partner. Yet, some dildos may have the ability to vibrate. The vibration feature may be a consideration when trying to select the right sex toy for you.
Another factor that may influence your sex toy selection is its material. Some common sex toy materials can be: glass, plastic, silicone or metal. Most vibrators are made of the last three materials. The material is important for many reasons. First, certain materials are more porous than others. The more porous the material the easier for bacteria to set up a home and reproduce. Your sex toy should be for your pleasure; not for germs! Certain types of plastic and rubber are more porous whereas stainless steel is an example of a non-porous material.
What a sex toy is made out of is also important because certain materials may contain chemicals that can lead to skin irritation. Some toys, primarily those made out of plastic, may contain phthalates, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled as a potential carcinogen. Don’t let that scare you; it is just important to look at the package the product comes in to determine what the item is made of. Try to look for something made with high quality materials like medical grade silicone. If you already have a device and aren’t sure what it is made of or it is made out of a porous material, you can place a condom over it to act as a barrier. Regardless or the material, it is always important to clean and properly store a sex toy after each use.
Another factor to consider is the shape/style of your good-time gizmo! There are many options, from a “rocket,” which is a small, battery operated device, a “bullet” which is small, oblong and considered the most basic option. There are some that have a slender, shaft-like appearance. Some are designed to only be used externally; whereas some can be inserted vaginally or rectally, and some are dual stimulators, which are often referred to as “twice as nice.” There are vibrators that fit in the palm of your hand. Some that can be worn over the finger-tip. There are even some that look like ordinary items like lipstick or even a rubber ducky! The possibilities are endless!
The Silver Bullet by Pleasure Works
A Dual stimulator by Je Joue
The Fin Vibrator by Dame Products
The intensity of vibration is also a consideration when shopping for a device. Many sensual sidekicks have options that allow you to change the intensity and in some cases the rhythm of the vibration. Think of it as being a vibration DJ. There are some products on the market that connect to your phone and change vibration to match the beat. What a time to be alive.
As mentioned earlier, sex toys don’t need to be reserved for solo stimulation. There are many options that can be used with a partner. Vibrating rings worn at the base of the penis is one example. There are some gadgets that come with a remote control that allow one person to control the vibrator while the other person uses it. Many of the options described earlier can be used with a partner as well, but keep in mind that sharing toys can increase the risk of transmitting an infection.
Finally, if a person has sexual dysfunction, a sex toy can be used as part of the treatment plan. However, during treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction a healthcare provider may recommend not using a certain device. Vibration may irritate nerves or the pelvic floor muscles being addressed during treatment. Always ask your provider if you want to use a product, but aren’t sure how it will affect your symptoms. Recently, writer Nicole Guappone has been sharing her own experience with pelvic floor dysfunction and sex toys. You can read about her experience here.
Still unsure if a toy is right for you or where to start? There are some great resources out there including the shops themselves such as Good Vibrations or Smitten Kitten. There are also subscription box companies like Unbound or What’s in Your Box that allows you to try out new products which can have you using #treatyoself on a monthly basis!
Bottom line, there are many options out there to allow you to feel good and embrace your sexuality. Either way, have fun and Happy Masturbation Month!
Other Resources and References
Queen, C., Rednour, S., & Lafrenais, A. (2015). The Sex & pleasure book: Good Vibrations guide to great sex for everyone.
Featured image posted with permission by artist Ben Cameron