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Thanks to the utter travesty that is sex education in America and the lack of realism in porn or really any media depictions of sex, sexual pleasure can be hard to come by without some serious research and exploration. If you’re interested in taking the steps to learn what you might actually like, it may be time to bring on the sex toys.
“We still live in a culture that tends to normalize certain kinds of sex and make that expected for everyone,” said Carol Queen, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, a sex-positive adult toy shop founded in 1977. “Many people don’t understand even now that the clitoris, for people who have one, is the focus of sexual sensation and the path to orgasm. Many people think it’s the vagina, and while plenty of people love vaginal penetration, it’s not the primary way most people with vaginas orgasm.”
In fact, a 2017 study of more than 1,000 people ages 18 to 94 published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that only 18% percent of people with vulvas could orgasm from internal stimulation alone. Aside from targeting the clitoris, there are countless other ways to arouse people no matter what lies below the belt.
“Our whole body is covered in nerve endings, so we can experience pleasure in our whole body, not just genitals,” Brooklyn-based sex therapist Carolanne Marcantonio explained. “Oftentimes we go right for the genitals, but there’s a whole world of pleasure to experience from head to toe.”
The number of nerve endings on your body vary, which is why some areas may feel more sensitive than others, but Marcantonio maintains that the brain is the largest erogenous zone.
How to find, choose, and use sex toys
“People’s erotic interests and curiosity are the biggest guideposts to what they might like,” said Queen, who has a PhD in sexology from The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, in discussing how to find props that work for you. “If you’re turned on to the idea of playing with just about anything, it’s a sex toy.”
That said, she emphasizes that it’s not safe to insert or use just any item you find around the house on your body. Instead, Queen recommends visiting sex toy shops that were founded to make better quality sexual products available, especially to women.
Marcantonio started her career on the sales floor at sex toy shop Babeland, which requires a monthlong training in the anatomy of pleasure and how to use appropriate language to respect customers’ genders, expressions, and sexualities.
Visiting a sex shop is a great way to find inspiration and consult with knowledgeable staff before making a purchase. If you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for in stores or want to compare different brands and types of products, you can then take your search online.
These days, you can also find sex toys at mainstream stores. In the two years since Erica Minor became the marketing and communications manager, intimate lifestyle company Lelo has partnered with brands like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Neiman Marcus.
“We really work hard, especially with our marketing campaigns, to break down the shame and stigma around sex and pleasure but also provide representation,” Minor said. “In the past, it’s only been socially acceptable for a certain minority of the population to talk about sex and express themselves sexually, so we really want to open that up to everybody regardless of their sexual expression, gender identity, race, or sex.”
“I love being able to introduce people to the many ways you can use these vibrators,” said Julia Lopez, lead product engineer at Dame. “People assume it’s just one way, but men love vibrators too.”
Queen agrees. “Whatever you got, whatever you call it — anybody might like vibration,” she said.
There are also toys that target multiple erogenous zones to help facilitate blended orgasms, which are not as likely to occur from penetration alone.
“Blended orgasms are when more than one erogenous area gets stimulated at the same time, and it can increase the odds of orgasm or strong orgasm,” Queen said. “That thinking allows for us to sort of normalize and explore toys during intercourse or other kinds of sex play to add to the experience.”
Not only can incorporating toys into partnered sex lead to more satisfying experiences, but stepping outside of your comfort zone in a safe space may also have the added benefit of strengthening your connection with a partner.
“Exploring the building of trust and bonding and communication is also a heightened way to experience and build your coupledom,” Marcantonio said.
What materials are best for sex toys
It’s essential for any sex toy to be made of something hypoallergenic and nonporous. Substances that are able to break down or contain irritants should be avoided.
That list may include jelly rubber, which is made from polyvinyl chloride, or other compounds that could contain phthalates, which are potentially carcinogenic chemicals added to plastics to give them flexibility and longevity.
“A lot of sex toys have been made with that [phthalates] and because sex toys aren’t regulated, there's no one telling companies not to use it,” Lopez said. “It’s kind of on the consumer to make sure they are looking up what material the product is made out of, and pretty much every website will tell you what material it is, and then making sure that material is a stable nontoxic one.”
Experts agree that silicone is the way to go, particularly medical-grade silicone, though borosilicate glass (which is shatterproof) and medical-grade stainless steel are also good options if you’re interested in temperature play.
However, keep in mind that some types of lubricants can break down sex toys made of silicone, so use a water-based product in those cases.
How to clean sex toys
Another perk of silicone is that you can sometimes boil them once you remove the motor for maximum disinfection, though in most cases a sex toy cleaner or mild soap and warm water will be sufficient. If you do choose to opt for a toy cleaner, Queen advises against using any with triclosan, which is an antibacterial compound that can be absorbed through your skin or mouth.
Toy cleaners are usable on those made from stainless steel or shatterproof glass as well, but the soap and water method should be sufficiently effective for any kind of waterproof sex toy.
Vibrating cock rings are a great choice for couples looking to take penetrative sex up a notch. They allow both partners to benefit from vibration, and they’re more multifunctional than you might think. Marcantonio recommends this one by Screaming O because it has a lot of stretch and can be used solo, with a partner, on a penis in the direction that it stimulates the clitoris, anus, or flipped around to vibrate on the testicles. You can also wear it on the fingers or wrist for more control and additional sensation in other kinds of play.
What else to consider: Though it looks a bit intimidating, the flutter tip is ultra-soft so it won’t feel too abrasive. The battery in the vibrator lasts for about 45 minutes and is replaceable. You can also easily swap out the included vibrator for one you prefer as long as it fits (see next product on the list). This toy is water-resistant, so you can pretty much use it anywhere, and it’s extremely affordable for a highly recommended, good-quality sex toy.
Best for: early exploration in coupled sex, especially for those who may be worried about figuring out how to properly use or seamlessly incorporate a toy into partnered play.
You can buy the Overtime Cockring by Screaming O at Babeland for around $22.
Marcantonio specifically suggests getting this lipstick vibrator to use with the Screaming O cock ring since it fits perfectly in the appropriate space. She says that it’s the smallest, strongest vibrator out there — almost as strong as the Hitachi despite being about the size of a tampon. It has eight different vibration modes, so it can range from gentle to super powerful, and the tapered tip is ideal if you plan to use it for targeted stimulation.
Promising review: “This was a great buy. It did what was expected quickly. It is very powerful for some of its settings. It is very small and discreet. I included a writing pen next to it in my photo so you can get a size reference. It arrived already charged. I usually have problems with these items not having strong enough vibration but this one does the trick. I love it!” —Lynsey
What else to consider: This vibe is rechargeable via USB cable and should last for about two hours on a single charge. Some reviewers note that theirs died after years of frequent use, but while functional it got the job done, which feels acceptable at this price point.
Best for: an extra boost to use in conjunction with other toys for targeted stimulation, or for something discreet and small yet mighty to keep with you on the go.
You can buy the We-Vibe Tango Mini Bullet Vibrator at Amazon for about $50.
This U-shaped toy gets high praise from both Marcantonio and Queen as one of the best and most versatile vibrators, particularly for partnered sex. The intended use is for the thinner end to be inserted vaginally while the other lays externally on the clitoris. The shape is easily adjustable so you can position it precisely where it feels best. The Chorus is designed to be worn during penetration, whether that’s in the receptive partner or underneath a harness in a penetrating partner using a strap-on. It also features unique touch-sense receptors that allow your movement to control the vibrations, with modes for different experiences that you can control via the app as well as a separate remote that strengthens the power with every squeeze.
Promising review: “Chorus gets two thumbs up from me and my partner. I adore the extra oomph during sex that gets me over the edge, and he loves teasing me with the remote controls.” —muriel99
What else to consider: The free app allows you to share control of the toy from anywhere. However, since the Squeeze remote is the anchor between the vibe and the app, the user of the vibe must keep it close by in order for everything to function properly. You should get up to 90 minutes of play per charge.
Best for: a handy companion to seriously elevate any kind of penetrative sex so that both partners can enjoy the experience equally.
You can buy the We-Vibe Sync Chorus at We-Vibe for about $199.
If you’ve only seen or heard about one vibrator, it’s probably the original Le Wand. Wands in general tend to be the most powerful style, and this one has remained popular for good reason, but the newer petite version adds some necessary convenience. It’s smaller and sleeker than the original, hence “petite,” yet still features 10 rumbly speeds and six different patterns. The larger version also has to be plugged in, while this one is rechargeable via USB.
Promising review: “Pros: Performs well, strong vibration & the flexible head is sturdy. It’s also good at double duty like back or shoulder muscle soothing. Rechargeable is a plus too, it gives plenty of warning by blinking when battery is low, then just USB charge till it stops blinking. Then it's good for 10 or more thorough sessions.
Cons: a bit bulky for couples play but still manageable. Ideal for solo.” —fastvtwin
What else to consider: It may be a go-to for solo play, but this wand can also serve other purposes. “The thing that maybe not many people know is that wands are encouraged to be used to stimulate the shaft of the penis,” according to Lopez. “A wand can help stimulate the vulva and stimulate the penis, and then it’s also just like really great for body massage because it’s a higher power product.”
Best for: wand vibe fans looking for a more portable, wireless option that doesn’t sacrifice any power.
You can buy the Le Petite Wand at Amazon for about $103.
Carol Queen praises the G-Kii by Je Joue as a terrific, versatile toy. The unique and customizable shape is perfect for G-spot or prostate stimulation, with locking adjustable joints that can be angled up to 60 degrees. There are two independent motors, one in the head and one in the body, with variable vibration in each, offering a total of six speeds and five vibration patterns. It’s engineered to be ergonomic with a concealed USB charging point and easy-to-use plus/minus controls.
What else to consider: When the toy is being used for anal play, the manufacturer suggests bending the G-Kii to the maximum curvature and locking it into place to keep it from slipping all the way into the anus. The extra body motor allows this toy to stimulate both the clitoris and G-spot or prostate and perineum for lots of blended orgasm potential.
Best for: those who already know that they like or are curious about exploring G-spot or prostate stimulation specifically.
You can buy the Je Joue G-Kii at Good Vibrations for about $119.
“The njoy Pure Wand is a classic among G-spot fans,” Queen said. Why, you ask? According to her, toys that are too soft don’t always stimulate sufficiently. A firm, smooth toy like this stainless steel wand can really add to the degree of stimulation. Reviewers seem to agree that it’s well worth the price and despite the weight, it remains one of their favorite toys for both G-spot and prostate-focused play, either solo or with partners.
Promising review: “Other dildos made me have to arch my hands and wrists in very weird positions, which I often couldn’t stay in for very long, or thought about it too much to where I couldn’t enjoy the rubbing. This however has the weight and curve to make it much easier and make me more focused on the pleasure. It is a bit hefty, especially on the thicker end, but that actually makes for a great handle if you’re using the smaller end inside you. It isn’t tiresome at all to me. The steel also allows for an easy to clean, very temperature adapting surface, that is extremely slick and doesn’t require a lot of lube. Highly highly recommended. Please don’t do what I did and try others, just to be disappointed, buy the wand everyone is talking about, there’s a reason for it!” —Jack Stretch
What else to consider: This stainless steel toy has a nonporous finish, meaning that it’s body-safe and built to last. I highly recommend reading all of the reviews to fully grasp how much people love this thing and to get some helpful tips.
Best for: women on a mission to achieve the elusive female ejaculation or anyone who enjoys a substantial amount of internal pressure.
You can buy the nJoy Pure Metal Wand at Amazon for about $72.
Ever wished you could control the depth of penetration? With these, you can. The OhNut is designed specifically to help people enjoy penetration without pain. One set comes with four soft, flexible rings that interlock so that they can be stacked to achieve your desired depth. They’re condom-compatible and phthalate, latex, and BPA-free. They can be used with water or silicone-based lubricants. This innovative technology may be particularly useful for those with endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome as well as people who have had a vaginoplasty or experienced any other stress or trauma to the genitals. They even come in a wider version to fit girthier types.
What else to consider: Don’t worry — these guys won’t minimize either partner’s pleasure. They simply create a comfortable “stopper” so that everyone involved can enjoy penetration.
Best for: anyone who has experienced pain from the depth of penetrative sex but wants to give it another shot.
You can buy the OhNut Classic Stackable Rings at Good Vibrations for around $85.
For beginners looking to experiment with anal plugs, this mini silicone version is designed for easy insertion. The tapered tip, cradle-like base and long neck make it comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. It also features wings to keep it nice and snug even when you’re on the go. It’s great for partner play, as a warm-up for anal sex, combined with other toys, and even for double penetration. The festive confetti also makes it feel a bit more approachable for any wary first-timers.
Promising review: “Best starter anal plug! I love the confetti pattern on this toy, it makes it so fun. This toy is small and safe for anal play. If you are looking to get into anal play for the first time, I’d recommend this toy paired with a nice and thick water-based gel. This toy is great for experienced users as well as it can be inserted and removed for textured stimulation.” —Cam
What else to consider: The makers and reviewers seem to agree that this toy is great for anal amateurs, but don’t count it out just because you’re a pro. It’s quite functional and fun for people at any experience level, especially if used with other toys. Anyone can appreciate a toy that’s flexible and compact enough to pop into your pocket.
Best for: beginner anal play, in case you were still unsure.
You can buy the Gala Confetti Mini Anal Plug at Good Vibrations for around $12.
Finally, bondage! In case you weren’t aware, not all sex toys have to vibrate or be inserted. You can have plenty of fun with accessories like this blindfold and handcuff set. Blindfolds are a particularly popular sex-essory because removing one sense (your sight) can heighten others (like touch). This one is lightweight and ergonomically shaped for complete blackout. If you’re also interested in exploring restraint, these comfortable, faux fur-lined Velcro handcuffs are an easy-to-use entry point. All in all, this bondage kit is nonintimidating and a great choice for beginners looking to spice things up.
Promising review: “It made a new experience comfortable for both of us. The cuffs were soft, yet secure.” —Verified customer
What else to consider: Reviewers agree that this kit is a good entry point for bondage, though one noted that while the handcuffs were great, the mask felt a bit cheap. Many others loved the mask, but if you’re not a fan, you can always swap it for your favorite bedtime eye mask. Really, any eye mask will do the trick.
Best for: couples looking to dip their toe into the world of BDSM before making a more substantial investment.
You can buy the Bondage Boutique Temptation Soft Bondage Kit at Love Honey for around $25.
The Arc is categorized as a G-spot vibrator, but it’s actually a great option if you like internal and external stimulation separately. Made from medical-grade silicone, it has a strong motor that adjusts to five vibration patterns and five intensities, plus an easy-reach curved handle for a comfortable grip. The soft bulb makes it easy to slide inside for some G-spot action, while the clit-stimulating ridge really steps up the external game.
What else to consider: Arc is one of Lopez’ go-to Dame products to give as a gift because it can kind of work for everyone. It may not be mind-blowing or super out of the box, but it’s a great quality, versatile vibrator that will surely get the job done.
Best for: anyone with a clitoris.
You can buy the Arc at Dame for around $115.
Hands-free vibrators are a must-try for anyone interested in external stimulation during penetrative sex. The flexible wings tuck snugly under your labia so it can stay in place no matter what shapes you’re contorting your body into, making it a particularly great option for those with vaginas. It has three intensity levels and can run for about an hour on the highest setting before it needs some more juice. It also comes with an inductive charging case and happens to look pretty cute.
Promising review: “Definitely give this a try if you have trouble orgasming with penetration alone. It’s a game changer for my sex life. It does slide a little bit during sex especially if you get really wet but it’s not been too big of an issue with me. Works great whether you’re on top or laying down. I would definitely test it out on yourself before having sex just to get the hang of how it sits.” —Corinne M.
What else to consider: Again, these tiny vibrators tend to offer less power than wand-like options, which is always important to note. It’s also not going to actively provide a ton of pressure if you’re using it completely hands-free without another body pressing against it; however, it is another great option to use under a harness since it’s petite and stays fairly secure.
Best for: hands-free stimulation during penetration.
You can buy the Eva at Dame for around $135.
Aside from a wand, rabbit-style vibrators are the other best-known and most efficient options in this category. What sets apart the Ina Wave is that the internal component doesn’t just vibrate — the patented Lelo wave technology allows it to curl up and down in a finger-like motion to massage your G-spot while the external piece vibrates against your clitoris. It promises blended orgasms with intense stimulation from two pleasure points, plus long-lasting charge, 10 vibration settings, and extra soft silicone.
Promising review: “This is the best purchase I’ve ever made. It makes me sad that someone would waste their money on another brand. This vibrator has made me feel things I have never felt before and didn’t know was possible. I can’t wait to try another one from this company.” —HelloKitty
What else to consider: Minor recommends the Ina Wave for those looking to explore the rabbit category before they commit to one of the higher-priced options, but it still isn’t cheap. You can get similar products for less, but reviewers rave about the quality and power of Lelo products, so it’s definitely less of a risk than going with an unverified brand.
Best for: those interested in a luxurious rabbit sex toy that’s slightly less expensive than tippy-top tier options like the Soraya Wave.
You can buy the Ina Wave at Lelo for around $199.
When it comes to solo sex toys for people with penises, the options tend to veer toward kitschy or a bit outlandish. That is not the case for the Manta. It’s basically the equivalent of a standard vibrator that’s catered to users with a penis, or anyone who is specifically looking to stimulate a penis. Customers discuss using it alone and on partners for extra sensation, which can be especially helpful for those experiencing erectile dysfunction. If used during intercourse, it kind of turns your penis into a gentle vibrator, so the receptive partner may be a fan as well.
Promising review: “Not too many toys like this on the market for us guys. Instead of a sleeve or fleshlight, this concentrates more on your glans penis and shaft. You can use it with spit but I’ve found it works better with water based lube. My only gripe is the charge time, but once it’s charged it lasts a long time. Lots of vibrations and intensities.” —Playswithtoys
What else to consider: As noted in the review, it does take a while to charge, but that’s an easily solvable problem if you think ahead.
Best for: anyone with a penis.
You can buy the Manta at Amazon for around $145.
This candle is a safe, low-risk way to experiment with temperature play. It has a low melting point, which just means that it doesn’t take as long for the wax to liquify to facilitate dripping on skin. Simply light the candle for 10 to 15 minutes, blow it out, and then use the melted wax as warm, sexy massage oil. It’s made with skin-softening jojoba and soybean oils that create a light and silky texture for a quick-absorbing, moisturizing effect. It comes in three scents (including unscented) and two sizes, plus it’s cruelty-free and paraben-free, so you can feel good about using it all around.
Promising review: “We LOVED this! I got the smallest size because I wasn’t sure if I would like it but just get the big one! You’ll use it. Even the unscented feels so smooth on your skin, it doesn’t leave any weird sticky feeling afterwards either.” —Laura W.
What else to consider: Reviewers had very different opinions on the scented versus unscented options. Some who opted for the unscented wished it had more of a fragrance, and others who chose a scented variety noted that it was too much for those with allergies. You know your fragrance preferences, so just keep that in mind when making your decision.
Best for: erotic massage and an easy intro into temperature play.
You can buy the burn no. 0 candle at Maude for around $30.
So you’ve used wands, anal plugs, maybe even some bondage and now you’re looking for something new and fun that’s not too kinky. Enter the Club Vibe 3.OH. It’s a music-motivated vibrator that uses sound-activated technology to buzz along with the beat. The compact design nestles close to the skin and fits discreetly inside your underwear for hands-free functionality. It features three modes of operation and comes with a remote that a partner can control from up to 20 feet away.
What else to consider: This little vibrator packs a punch, though it’s not designed for power so it may not be the top pick for those who need substantial strength. We cannot speak to the quality of the black lace thong that comes with a special pocket to carry it, so maybe plan to wear your own undies.
Best for: voyeurs, portable play, teasing, people who are obsessed with their sex playlist or anyone looking to step outside their comfort zone and try something a little scandalous.
You can buy the Club Vibe 3.OH at Good Vibrations for around $130.
This wireless, rechargeable masturbator for people with penises has a multiple sensation sleeve with 360-degree contractions. It has an adjustable air vent that lets you control the suction and is compatible with local or long-distance Bluetooth control using any smartphone as a remote. It’s also water-resistant and body safe. Truly, what else could you need?
Promising review: “I bought this toy about 2 months ago, and instantly fell in love with it. It provides wonderful, very strong vibrations, and life-like contractions. With multi-weekly use, I have seen no wear-and-tear in the sleeve. Also, It is super easy to clean! Just use warm water, and it'll clean right up. My favorite part is the long-distance/bluetooth control. It is a lot of fun to be able to have a partner control you from anywhere in the world! I would 100% recommend this product to anyone debating whether or not to get it.” —Sam
What else to consider: If you’re someone with a penis who is seeking the feel of being in a vagina while masturbating, Lovense also makes a vagina sleeve that you can buy and use with this toy.
Best for: people with penises looking to step up their masturbation, particularly if you like the idea of a partner controlling the show from anywhere in the world.
You can buy the Max 2 By Lovense from Amazon for around $129.
If you’re someone with a vagina who enjoys simultaneous dual stimulation, both internal and external, you have to try the Womanizer Duo. There are interchangeable stimulation heads depending on whether you prefer something more focused or broad with 12 different air technology settings for the clitoral stimulator, plus 10 different vibrations patterns for G-spot pleasure. It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t be able to customize this toy to their ideal specifications.
Promising review: “This thing is amazing. I have health problems that makes having an orgasm difficult on a good day and toys aren't always that great either. This one however does the trick!!!” —Beth C. via Lovers Stores
What else to consider: Reviewers say this product is great to use alone or with a partner. They acknowledge that it’s expensive, but it gives them the most explosive orgasms they’ve ever had, so it may be worth the money.
Best for: anyone with a clitoris who enjoys dual stimulation and particularly intense orgasms.
You can buy the Womanizer Duo from Lovers Stores for around $219.