What month-long focus on sex would be complete without a roundtable on sex toys? Other WWACers and I dished about what works for us, what doesn’t, along with some helpful tips thrown into the mix.
What was your first sex toy and how were you introduced to it?
Romona Williams: When I was nineteen one of my friends moved into an apartment around the corner from a sex shop. We went in on a lark one day, thinking it was all kinds of funny to go into a sex store. We had pictured it being madly funny and were disappointed when it turned out to be like any other store. But they did sell “Grab Bags,” and we each bought one, assuming it would still somehow be a laugh riot. Instead the bags were full of a variety of cheaper vibrators/dildos along with some penis shaped gummies. We ate the gummies, and then both tried out the toys on our own at some point in the near future. Any remaining nervousness or hesitation about sex toys were gone for the both of us. We started going to that store for serious, and she even applied to work there as a part time gig during college.
Cathryn Sinjin-Starr: I’m envious of Romona living near a sex shop! I would have blown my wad (all the puns intended!) if I had that situation. The first toy I had any interaction with was a cheap-o vibrating cockring for my then-boyfriend, which was just a freebie for ordering condoms. The first toy for me we bought was a pink knock-off Rabbit vibrator that we had sent to my house when we were long-distance. I held off on toys for a while because I held off on sex in general until I was 19, but the toys didn’t take long to follow after that.
Kate Tanski: The woman I was seeing at the time was very into sex toys, so she and I took a trip up to the infamous Lion’s Den on highway 65 between Chicago and Indiana. It was about a two hour drive, but she and I each picked out a couple vibrators to play with–and I’ve never been without one since.
Where do you prefer to get your sex toys: physical stores and/or online stores?
Al Rosenberg: Definitely walk-in stores. I like to be able to hold the things I am thinking of buying. And if I do buy online, I always shop a feminist sex shop.
Romona: I prefer websites, mainly Babeland and The Smitten Kitten. Both of those tend to run promotions on other sites I pass through, their web designs are very well organized and easy to navigate, and their offerings are progressive. Physical stores would be fun to go to, but the places near me are chain stores that don’t offer much variety. Also, the last few times I went to walk-in stores, the employees were very high pressure about upselling the merchandise. Maybe they mainly work on commission?
Cathryn: I’ve used online so far–I believe Bondara and probably Ann Summers. I’ve never gone into an actual shop though. I don’t know of any decent shops I’d go to anyway. They’re either chains (as Romona said, not much variety) or sketchy back-shops. If there was a decent shop though, I’d love to have the nerve to go in! Would I? Oh, I don’t even know. Anyone want to go with?! [Editor’s Note: Yes! – Gin]
Kate: I like both in person shops and online, but I only go to physical stores if I’m with a friend. I like browsing online with friends, too. Buying sex toys is a very social thing for me. I once even decided I would try to run one of those private sex toy parties! Like Mary Kay or Tupperware but with sex toys–but then I ended up moving away from that circle of friends, so I never got my chance to be a sex toy party hostess.
Romona: I don’t have any particular reviewers, but I always scroll through the ratings and reviews on products before buying them.
Cathryn: Seconding Al–definitely Oh Joy, Sex Toy by Erika Moen.
Kate: At this point, I know what I like, and I can usually tell by the product description if I’m going to enjoy this particular toy or not.
Do you use toys with your partner(s)? Do you use toys on them? Do they use toys on you? Do you both use toys on each other?
Al: I definitely have done all three options with previous partners. It depends on each person. Now they’re mainly for my solo game.
Romona: My partner and I incorporate vibrators in sex, but only for my enjoyment. We’ve never experimented with toys for him, mainly because he has never shown any interest in them.
Cathryn: Not so much toys on partner, but that’s his preference. Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind both on each other.
Kate: Same as with Al–I’ve definitely used them with partners in the past, but I’ve been single for quite some time, so it’s definitely just a “for me” solo play situation now.
Are there some sex toys that work great when you’re working solo but don’t work out so well in a team effort? Likewise, are there some sex toys that work great with another person(s) involved but not on your own?
Al: For me, a lot of it comes down to creativity. I just read Broadly’s piece on “Why Girls Hump Pillows and Stuffed Animals” and found it to really ring true, even though I’ve never done either of those activities. We use what is available to us to get the results we want.
Romona: Yes. The Magic Wand. I bought it because reviews said it vibrates, how to put it, with the most oomph, but it is ridiculously giant. It’s like busting out a power tool to get off. It’s loud, bright white; it is the most practical of all the sex toys. It’s great on my own, but a major distraction when I’m with my partner. On the other end of the spectrum, my Moka G Vibe is fun and doesn’t make a ton of noise, which allows it to be incorporated with a partner without a ton of commotion. But, on it’s own it doesn’t have enough, how to put it, gusto to get the job done.
Cathryn: It depends on what you’re doing with a partner, really. If you’re looking for toys to use during sex, then things like bulky dildos and vibrators aren’t going to work so well. I always find it disappointing when the stuff with the strongest vibes can’t be used during sex and both partners can’t experience the sensation together.
I don’t know about anything for partner play that I couldn’t use solo in the way of toys. Maybe some foreplay things? You can’t really tickle yourself with a feather so well…
Kate: I think it depends on your definition of toy! Like, I’ve had partners who were really into shibari and D/s scenes, and while my imagination is great, a lot of the props and accessories for that kind of play are difficult to use on your own–especially if you (like me) were the party who enjoyed doing the restraining.
What comics out there depict sex toy usage in a realistic way?
Al: Again, I’ll have to say Oh Joy, Sex Toy. Otherwise, I am waiting to find a comic that depicts sex the way I have it.
Romona: Yeah, there’s Oh Joy, Sex Toy, but I can’t think of another comic that incorporates sex toy usage to the same extent.
Cathryn: I’m with Al – it’s Oh Joy, Sex Toy. I don’t know if I’ve read a narrative comic that uses them realistically, to be honest.
Kate: I’ve never read a comic that shows someone using sex toys the way that I use them, or even discussed them, really. I have memories of hentai and yaoi manga and doujinshi, but that’s searching way back, and I don’t think they were even translated works. They might have just been fan-scanlations. But anime was definitely my first exposure to seeing sex toys used in media.
What was your least favorite product (or type of product) you ever tried?
Al: I’m incredibly picky when it comes to lube. My skin is very sensitive, and I don’t like artificial stickiness. So, most lubes turn me off.
Cathryn: I’ve not had great luck with pre-lubed condoms. For one thing, I don’t really need them. They just make things way too slick if you’re not knocking on the back door. Secondly, after you’ve used them, it makes your lady parts taste AWFUL, so making your partner go down on you is a form of cruel punishment (and not in a sexy way). I’d rather get some condom-safe lube that’s either flavourless or maybe something more appetising?
Romona: I hate when lube gets all over things. As soon as it gets brought out, my ick-factor kicks in. “Don’t use too much! It’ll get all over everything! Great. Now we have to clean the sheets. Let’s just not do this.” And I don’t like it when it has a smell. Like fruit. It has to be completely odorless. Stopping to apply lube is an overall mood-killer for me. Even the word “lube” can ruin the atmosphere. They should rename it something else.
Kate: Lube is a necessary evil, but can be super gross if it’s bad lube. I’ve also had difficult with toys that promise to stimulate the g-spot.
Have any advice to share?
Al: If you haven’t bought toys before, buy the cheap toys first, off Amazon. Sometimes these things only cost a couple bucks and you can start to gauge what kinds expensive, better quality items.
Cathryn: I just keep agreeing with Al–start small and cheaper, but not SUPER cheap. You don’t want anything that’s going to break in you. Also, don’t misuse anything if you’re trying things in your rear. A lot of the plastic bullets, for instance, are not made for the butt, and can easily break or not come out. So for the bum, only use things made for the bum! Invest in a cleaning spray and USE IIIIT. It’s for your health, people–keep your toys clean.
Romona: While lube application and smells are a turn-off for me, it is highly advisable to use lube on vibrators when you’re working on your own. Otherwise the vinyl might start to chafe. Just make sure not to use too much, OR IT WILL GET ON EVERYTHING.
Kate: Seconding what everyone else said and also adding–if a toy doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. And I mean that in both a technical sense and a body positive sense. I had a rabbit vibrator that was super uncomfortable for me to use, and then I tried a different kind and it was AMAZING. Sometimes it just takes a little trial and error.