Bring on the toys

Sex sells. Nothing demonstrates this truism quite like the sale of sex toys. In 2011, it was estimated that the sex toy industry made about $15 billion, and the volume of sex toys sold actually increased as the economy got worse over the following years. This is because sex toys are fun. If you haven’t given them a try, you really should, whether you’re with a partner or flying solo.

The variety of sex toys on the market is staggering; everything from gentle floggers, tame handcuffs and blindfolds to rather terrifying toys that kind of look like a cowboy’s spurs and can easily draw blood. Now, this overwhelming variety, as well as the fact that scary toys do exist, can often be intimidating to people who have never used them. While that is understandable, the amount of selection is a good thing, because it means there is definitely something for you.

Introducing toys into a sexual relationship can be stressful the first time. Based on conversations with people, including somebody who worked at a sex shop, the three biggest fears about toys are: It means you/your partner aren’t good enough, you or your partner will become addicted to toys, or that toys are for screwed-up kinky people or sluts. Let’s go over these point by point, shall we?

First, while the idea is totally understandable, introducing sex toys does not mean one’s partner is no good or not good enough. When bringing up the idea of introducing sex toys, make sure to tell your partner that. Don’t overdo it though, or else your delivery may make them say “methinks thou doth protest too much.” Instead, it is good to think of sex toys like unusual sex positions: They are a fun addition to spice things up periodically.

Second, just about anything can become addictive when done to excess, including reliance on sex toys such as vibrators. However, let’s be honest, the odds of that are very low. Again, if you or a partner are concerned about this, talk about it and make sure to emphasize that the toys are like dessert or a side-dish—not there to replace the main course. My girlfriend and I were initially nervous about this one ourselves and therefore put off buying our first vibrator for a really long time, but we survived the experience and were fine (more than fine). You almost certainly will be too.

Third, this is silly. Sex toys are like anal or oral sex; they are often socially stigmatized despite the fact that statistically they are the norm. Using sex toys does not make you a freak or anything. Even if you are a freak, that’s fine too! Kink can be a ton of fun and is itself statistically normal. If either you or your partner are worried that wanting sex toys makes you weird, talk about how it’s actually normal, possibly talk about any underlying issues there and feel free to bring up the $15 billion number to support your argument.

Now, let’s assume you and your partner have decided to get something, where do you start? My girlfriend and I discussed this one, and we are in slight disagreement here. I would say that vibrators are always a good, simple start. Small, bullet-model vibrators are unintimidating and inexpensive. Vibrator play for couples is a really wonderful thing and can open the doors to a lot of great times together.

My girlfriend thinks that handcuffs are a better first buy because they are likewise simple and unintimidating, and they are also completely free of any lingering doubts about whether a partner is being replaced by a toy. I think it’s a sound argument she makes, so depending on what fits you and your partner best, I’d say go for one of those two.

On the topic of handcuffs: I would suggest getting leather handcuffs rather than metal ones. I personally think the metal ones usually seem kind of cheap. Beyond that, leather is way more comfortable than metal or cheap fuzz-covered metal. Also, especially if one of you is nervous, go for a type of handcuff where the one being cuffed can get out themselves. It’s often a nice little way to ease any worries, knowing that you are not totally immobilized.

I recommend heading down to your local sex shop to take a look in person. Lovers is my girlfriend’s preferred shop, but there are plenty of other good ones. If the idea of going out in person terrifies you, that’s understandable. Fortunately for you, the whole of the Internet exists, so you can go take a look at things online. The Google incognito window is your friend if you are especially paranoid.