Picture this. You’ve just finished watching Sex Education, and Amy’s room has inspired you to begin the hunt for your first (of many) sex toys. Only problem, turns out — there’s a lot on offer, and you don’t know where to begin.
When it comes to wanking, the possibilities are truly endless, which is why picking your first sex toy could feel like a pretty daunting task, especially as there are so many different kinds of toys on the market. From ones that rumble and vibrate, suck and lick, masturbate or thrust, to ones you can rub up against, it can all seem a bit overwhelming.
There are also a lot of toys that could be dangerous – a butt plug without a base can soon become a trip to A&E and dropshipped or duped sex toys for cheaper market prices can physically hurt you. Knowing which materials are body-safe, which lubes to use with what and how to properly clean your sex toy is also super important.
But, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or a little bit lost, don’t worry. We spoke to sexual health journalist and certified sex educator Gigi Engle to get the lowdown on everything you need to know about buying your first sex toy.
First stop? Get past the shame.
“It’s important to understand that we grew up in a very sex-negative world,” says Engle. She advises that if feelings of shame are inhibiting you from exploring sex toys, to remember that it’s actually totally normal, given the taboo nature that can still surround sex toys.
“You’re not like weird or lame for having feelings of shame around sex toys. A lot of people do, especially people who’ve never bought them before,” she reassures.
The truth is, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
“The way to alleviate shame and to feel more comfortable is to take that first step and actually buy one because the shame isn’t going to go away if you don’t face it,” says Engle.
She explains that the shame you feel might naturally dissipate once you’re holding your sex toy in your hands for the first time; “because you start to realise that you have more control and agency over your body and your pleasure, and that can be quite empowering.”
What if the postman knows I’m buying a sex toy?
If the thought of a vibrator landing on your doorstep gives you heart palpitations, it’s important to remember that most sex toy companies will usually deliver in discrete packaging.
And, if you’re worried about the buzz or rumble of a sex toy being overhead by a roommate or relative, try opting for something with a low volume.
Most sex toys will have some form of signage relating to how much noise it’s likely to make and you can always rely on the review section to gauge how accurate it is — you on the other hand, well, that’s up to you.
Where do I even begin?
Truth is, pleasure really is in your hands, and if you’re a little unsure about where to start when it comes to buying a sex toy, knowing what you like is a great jumping-off point.
Think about what sensations you like. Is it a deep rumble? Or a gentle buzz? — Maybe you’d rather have something that imitates oral sex? Or, something that has ridges that you can bump and grind along to your heart’s content?
If you’re a little unsure, Engle recommends getting back to basics with your hands.
“It can be really useful to like spend some time with your hands and just see what it is that you enjoy,” she encourages. “If you think you might be interested in anal play, try things with your fingers and — if you’re with a partner, then try rimming to see if that stimulation is actually something you like first.”
Engle advises to try and avoid panic buying. “You don’t want to go buy an anal dildo and then be like, I hate this and now you’re stuck with this anal dildo you’ll never use,” she says.
Prioritise finding body-safe toys
Listen, now you’re raring to go — it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of buying cheaper. And, while Engle says she’s all in favour of a budget sex toy, making sure it’s body-safe should be a priority.
Toys made from medical-grade silicone or body-safe silicone and Borosilicate glasses are all safe to use inside the vagina, the outer labia and anus. Other terms like ‘super soft’ can be misleading and harmful to the body. From leaving behind microplastics or being made with unsafe chemicals.
“We need to start taking care of our genitals the same way we take care of our face and not be putting a bunch of chemicals on it,” Engle laughs. “Your anus and your vulva are really absorbent parts of your body and you don’t want to risk introducing chemicals anywhere near there.”
And, while we’re at it, Engle stresses the importance of using a USB-charged over a battery-operated one. “They’re honestly janky and never waterproof,” she says.
What if I choose the wrong sex toy?
If you’re still worried about buying a sex toy, Engle reassures you that it’s not as big of a deal as it seems.
“It’s the same thing as when you go online and you’re like, unsure about that, like, you know, ASAP stress. It’s like if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But it’s not the end of the world, you know?”