The Sex Toy Buyers’ Guide

Don’t get lost in the clutter; know what you’re buying before putting it inside you

Adult shops are becoming increasingly less scary—that is, they are looking less like the Crypt Keeper’s cobwebby lair and more like regular stores.

Don’t get lost in the clutter; know what you’re buying before putting it inside you

Adult shops are becoming increasingly less scary—that is, they are looking less like the Crypt Keeper’s cobwebby lair and more like regular stores.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the superlative assortment of dildos, vibrators, lube, plugs and other accessories. It’s easy to get lost in the fray, considering you likely drove there to buy one item and instead found yourself met with hundreds of variants. How do you know which vibrator is right for you? How do you know which dildo works with your new strap-on harness? The clerk can only help you so much; after all, it’s your body.

First thing’s first: Let’s get over the inherent taboos of acquiring sex toys. They’re perfectly acceptable forms of self-gratification, many people have them (more than you assume, trust me) and they can last forever with just a little care.

Here’s how to pick one:


Both men and women can benefit from a vibrator. Women primarily use them for clitoral and some penetrative stimulation, while men use them for prostate stimulation, or at the base of the testicles or, hell, on the testicles themselves.

Obviously we cannot test the toys before buying. One thing we can do, however, is use our noses. The tip of the nose has, conditionally, the second highest concentration of nerve endings in our entire body (second only to the clitoris in women). Ask the clerk to open the toy for you, insert the batteries and let ’er rip.

Gently touch the tip of your nose with the business end of the toy. This will tell you more or less what the toy will feel like on your sensitive bits. And if the toy’s default setting is too much for your nose to handle, try something with a little less power. Try, try again until you find the right toy for you.

Dildos and butt plugs

Here are your material choices: rubber, metal, glass and silicone. Glass and metal are about as cut-and-dried as it gets. You use them, you clean them and they don’t feel very realistic. They will, however, last forever. You can also heat them up or cool them down before play for an extra sensation.

Rubber dildos are still the norm. They are cheap, come in varying degrees of softness, retain lubricant well and feel somewhat like the real deal. The key feature of rubber dildos is that silicone-based lubricant can be used on them. Of course, everything else works, too, but more on that later. Rubber dildos, it must be said, will wear out faster than the rest.

Silicone is an up-and-coming (no pun intended) dildo material. It’s more expensive to manufacture, but it can last for a long time with proper care. If you are experimenting with sex toys, buy the rubber dildo to see if it’s for you. A good silicone piece should be an investment. A note on lubricants for silicone toys: You cannot use silicone lube. It seems like a match made in heaven, but the lube will gum up your toy and render it worthless.

Sizing guide: Go with what you’re used to. If your partner in the past has had a medium-size penis/toy, and you’re accustomed to it, don’t jump straight to the monster-size dildo. If you’re interesting in taking bigger, start with what you’re used to and move up from there.

A note on cleaning: Boiling water can do the trick, but for a bit more discretion, every shop sells a specialty toy cleaner. And on this note, clean your toy after every use. No exceptions.

Strap-ons and anal play

Only use toys with a flared base. Simple cylindrical designs will slip out of the harness and into the orifice. If you’re using the strap-on to perform anal sex, this is especially important. If you’re not careful, the next person that sees the toy will be a doctor. In an x-ray.


Here are your three choices:

Oil-based: for masturbation only. Oil in a vagina may cause infection, and oil in the rectum feels uncomfortable and goopy. It also has a tendency to heat up and break condoms.

Water-based: the perfect all-purpose lube. This can be used anally, vaginally and manually. It washes off quickly and easily and is sinfully slippery.

Silicone-based: the Grand Poobah of lubricants. The Pjur company figured out that silicone will stay wet for years. The molecules of silicone are larger than that of skin cells, so the lube floats on the surface. Because of this, you can use it vaginally, but proceed with extreme caution as it can be difficult to remove. Silicone is perfect for anal sex, though, as your body eliminates the excess naturally.