Insider Advice: Navigating the Sex Toy Store

Insider Advice: Navigating the Sex Toy Store

This article was originally published 2/13/20 by the Eugene Weekly.
Written by As You Like It Employee, Melissa Padgett

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and you may be tempted to buy your sweetheart something sexy — but what? Chocolates? Massage Oils? Lingerie? Sex toys? All are excellent choices. But while some are easy to shop for, some are more of a challenge — especially if you want to surprise your sweetheart.

My suggestion, especially if you’re leaning toward toys, is to surprise your lover with a gift certificate to your favorite locally owned sexual health resource as part of a date night to go shopping and pick something out together. That way you can take in all the decadent delights and decide as a team what seems most sexy to you both.

Lingerie can be an exciting option, as most items can be tried on to ensure a perfect fit. From silken slips and robes to latex and leather, the wares are a tactile dreamland. Touch everything to find out which materials you like best. Think about whether the lingerie is the wrapping or the main event. Plenty of items are designed to be worn before and during the action. Plus, since lingerie is designed to delight and excite both the wearer and the viewer, you will both appreciate this gift choice!

The more challenging arena is the toys themselves: What goes where? And why? And for how much? A good retailer will have a wide array of questions for you to ponder.

The first thing to consider is materials. Always insist on all body-safe and nontoxic materials. These are intimate items being used in delicate places, and not all adult toys on the market are actually body-safe.

The top three body-safe materials are medical grade silicone, glass and stainless steel. They all share the incredibly important property of being nonporous. There is literally nowhere for bacteria to hide and grow with these materials, making them not only safe for your body, but also easy to clean and care for.

Silicone is possibly the least intimidating and most versatile, because it can be molded into so many shapes and come with so many different densities and finishes. It is also the most likely to be motorized.

Glass and stainless steel share the stage in terms of being smooth and almost frictionless. This makes these materials in particular very popular for butt play. They also hold temperature well, making them great for sensation play. Using hot or cold water, you can heat up or cool down your toy. Just remember to test it against your cheek or wrist first.

Next, think about whether you want to use your new device internally or externally. Most external devices have motors that will provide a wide variation of sensations. The bestl known is the vibrating bullet, most often using a higher frequency for a buzzy effect. For a long time, that was the standard for all vibrating toys. But some folks prefer the rumbly or thuddy sensations created at a lower frequency, so be sure to test out your vibes before you buy.

The newcomer to the race is the air-pulse technology, aka “air sucklers,” that don’t vibrate or use suction at all. Those little “sucklers” actually pulse a controlled burst of air across your skin through a small mouthpiece nestled snugly against your (soon to be) tingly bits.

    On the other hand, internal devices come with or without motors, and with or without a flared base. If you are contemplating any toys for anal play there is one hard and fast rule: flared base. The same rules for vibration apply to internal toys as external toys, but the shapes and sizes vary wildly. There really is something for everybody and every body! Slender and smooth, girthy and textured, egg shaped or phallic, or the famous “rabbit style.”

    Think about your anatomy and whether you will be using the toy on or with each other. Since toys don’t give us biofeedback like our own parts do it is important to consider all of your wants and needs. And those are all up to you and your partner!

    Toys can be reasonably priced, anywhere from $25 for the most basic basic to $200 for some serious bells and whistles. The best toys also come with one- to five-year warranties when purchased from an authorized retailer.

    Finally, the last and possibly most important item to round out that gift certificate fueled shopping spree is lubricant.

    There are infinite variations, but the most popular and versatile is water-based. Water-based lube is safe to use on all toys and with condoms. The best water-based lubes were actually created with post-menopausal vaginal rehydration in mind. They actually help keep those mucous membranes in good working order and your PH balanced.

      The one drawback to water-based lubricant is that it tends to soak into your skin after prolonged exposure. The good news is a little spritz of water will refresh the slippery factor.

      Not far behind in popularity is silicone lubricant, which is particularly helpful for anal play. Silicone molecules are physically too big to absorb through our skin, so the lube lasts a lot longer and stays slippery the whole time. Because the butt doesn’t self-lubricate, silicone lube can help make anal play go a lot smoother.

      One thing that you do need to watch out for is using toys with silicone lube. Those molecules do an interesting thing when they run into more silicone molecules, like your silicone toys: they try to rebond together. The only way to safely use silicone lube with your silicone toy is to put a condom on the toy to protect it.

      If you can’t decide, there are also hybrid lubes, designed with just enough silicone in them to provide extra cushion and longevity. The rest of the formula is water based, keeping your toys in perfect shape. Hybrid lubes are kind of the best of both lube worlds.

      Lastly, coconut oil is a wonderful lubricant because it is antimicrobial, it is organic and it will not go rancid. It will however, like any oil-based lube, break down a condom. You should also never use an oil-based lube on a motorized toy, as it could damage the mechanics of the toy, or even void the manufacturer’s warranty.

      That was a lot of information, but don’t worry: Any community sexual health resource will be happy to help you break it down.

      So with all of these things in mind, you are now ready to scout out a safe space, get your gift certificate and make the Valentine’s date night the most exciting one yet!

      Melissa Padgett is a certified sexual health resource with a background in sales, botany and biology.

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