Selecting Sex Toys: The Basics

SheSaid, Tshegofatso Senne

The first time I used a toy with a partner was an interesting time. He decided to name my cute little yellow clitoral vibrator ‘Stranger’, not exactly a good sign but we sure had amazing times. Him, Stranger and I.

Stranger went on to please me (and other partners) for months to come. Pun intended. I’ve since been given the pleasure of exploring and being pleasured by so many types of toys that when someone asks me which to try first I probably wouldn’t have an answer. What I do have, is some things to think about first if you’re trying to find a toy that works for you and how to introduce them to a partner for the first time.

Here goes.

How to search for a sex toy

Firstly, ask yourself what it is you want to get out of your experimentations.

Is it just about shaking things up?

Are there new sensations you feel you’d like to try?

Did you watch it somewhere and now you’d like to know it’s for you?

Are you trying to please yourself and/ or your partner in a new and interesting way? Are you bored and looking for something to get you excited again?

Yes? Yes. Yes!

We obviously know that the best way to try new things, whether you’re exploring new pleasures alone or with a partner, is by having that conversation) first. You can’t just whip out a dildo and hope for the best. When having this chat with a partner, make sure you’re not having a one-sided conversation (i.e. is this solely for you or is it for mutual pleasure?).  The focus here shouldn’t be about how bored you are, what they’re doing wrong, or looking into the negatives. When you’d like to get someone to try something new and exciting, pose it as exactly that.

Exciting. Enthralling. Toe-curling. Lit, babes.

        “I want to make you orgasm more.”

        “I love it when you’re _____ So I’d like to ______”

        “It feels so amazing to do _____ this to me, could you also use this?”

        “I know it’s new, but I’ve always wanted to try this with you”

Once you’re able to open up the conversation to trying new things, it’s a great way to start speaking on the sorts of things you’d like to try. Something that vibrates, something that tickles, something that binds you or something that penetrates? Butt plugs, vibrators, ball gags, handcuffs, strap-ons, bullets, nipple clamps – the possibilities (and orgasms are endless! Pick the sorts of sensations you’re looking to try and then a toy that could meet that very pleasure principle.

Doing the damn thing together

Learn to use the toys together. Unless you’re already familiar with a particular toy that you’d like to try with your partner, there are few things more fun that trying to navigate what goes where and how with someone you’re experimenting with. Try it on yourself while your partner watches, how sexy is having someone pleasure themselves in front of you while you watch? Create a scene where they aren’t allowed to touch you, while you pleasure them. Masturbate while watching each other, then come together for more fun. There are so many ways you could do this. While it may seem nerve-wracking at first if this isn’t something you’re used to doing, the best thing to keep in mind is that this should be fun! Laugh together, make mistakes together, pleasure each other and make it an unforgettable experience. Remember that the first time isn’t a movie scene, it probably won’t be perfect, but you are doing it together so you might as well enjoy the ride.

Remember! Stay healthy by making sure you keep all your toys clean. If you aren’t a monogamous person but you love using your toys with your partners, keep sexual health in mind at all times. Even if you’re using your toys alone or with only one partner, keep everything hygienic. Always.  

Take turns and check each other

When using toys together, take turns, watch each other and enjoy the pleasure being exchanged between the two of you. Place the vibrator on different parts of your bodies, guide each other to wherever feels the most amazing and check in with your partner as you do this.  One of the best things about agreeing to explore as a couple is that you have nothing but time. There is no rush in getting to the best toy that gives you the best orgasm. You’ll rarely get there on the first try. What you will have to do, and what you’ll enjoy doing the most, is finding that fit. A huge part of being a queer people enjoying and exploring pleasure together is that there are few limits to what you can do and enjoy together.

Basics of picking sex toys

So where to begin when seeking a toy? Anywhere. Here are some to consider:

  1.   Lube: NB. NB. NB Lube isn’t just for when you’re doing things to your butt. This is one of the most important tools to have on hand, especially when you’ll be playing with toys. You can get flavoured lubes as well as ones that heat up and cool down. Whichever ‘special effect’ you choose, keep in mind that water-based and silicon-based lubes have their own pros and cons, so do a little research depending on the toys you choose.
  2.   Finger sleeves: Starting off easy? This is your answer. They come in different colours and some come ribbed, giving you and your partner some extra fun for clitoral and penetration play. Taking it up a level? You can get ones that vibrate!
  3.   Kegel balls:  Oh, you know about all these, right? They not only strengthen your vaginal walls but the sensory play happening all while you’ve got them inside of you? Oh. My. Word. (These are also a great way to train yourself for fisting, if that’s something you feel you’ll want to try some day.)
  4.   Vibrators:  Do I even need to say much here? Do your research, go into a shop to get a few for some of the different types, textures and sizes.
  5.   For the kinkier ones – Listen. LISTEN. The world is your oyster. There paddles, crops, floggers, restraints, clamps, all of which you can also recreate in a DIY manner.
  6.      Strap-ons:  There are a few things to consider when you’re looking to strap it up. Picking between a leather or cloth harness, the underwear that acts as a dildo holder, then you look into the dildo you’ll be using, the appearance, the material it’s made out of and whether you want it to be double-sided or not. Pleasure awaits!

For more check out this piece on sex toys and self love and this one on how Africans really love their sex toys. There is also this piece about how sex toys are necessary and our safe sex and pleasure manual that also chats about sex toys. Also here is a piece on the different types of orgasm you can have and another one about how to turn that kitty purr into a roar (basically spice things up).

For more posts on sex toys click check out sex toys and self love  and also this post about African’s and their sex toys.

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Tshegofatso Senne is a Black, queer, feminist writer, speaker and digital content creator. She writes and speaks on issues concerning sexual and reproductive health and pleasure, consent, rape culture, race, intersectional social justice and pop culture. A creator at heart, she is happiest when she’s bringing creativity in service of work that supports structurally marginalised communities. She is the magical founder of Thembekile Stationery and co host of feminist podcast Frank.
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