Buying Toys: A Beginners Guide

Sex toys can be a confusing or loaded topic for many. You might have had partners who feel threatened by the idea of toys, worry that using them will mean you can’t enjoy “regular” sex without them, or simply feel overwhelmed by figuring out where to start. For some of us, it may also just feel embarrassing.

But you don’t have to be intimidated or uncomfortable – toys are just one more tool for pleasure and connection, whether that’s with a partner or yourself. Exploring toys solo or with a partner is fun, exciting, and can open up useful conversations about what feels good and what you’d like to try. Here’s how to start thinking about what role toys could play in your sexual life:

Who Uses Sex Toys?

Some of us may have preconceived ideas about who uses toys or what it “means” to own them – in reality, roughly 65% of women own some kind of toy, and it’s slightly more common for women in relationships than single women.

That said, using toys can be a great part of working on your self-acceptance as a single person; integrating toys into your solo sex life can be a way of reminding yourself that sexual pleasure and fulfillment aren’t dependent on having a partner. It’s also a great way to get in touch with your body and what you like so that you can better communicate about it when you do get into a relationship.

Overwhelmingly, people in relationships who use toys find they serve as a supplement to the rest of their partnered sex life, not a substitute. Adding toys to your relationship can increase the range of activities and sensations you can enjoy together; they can also make connecting more possible in long-distance relationships, and broaden what’s accessible and pleasurable in bed for disabled partners.

Where Should You Start?

In 2022, there are more (and better!) options for dipping a toe into trying out sex toys for the first time than ever before. Do you want something that uses batteries, recharges from a USB, or plugs in? Something that’s quiet? Easy to travel with? Waterproof? Eco-friendly? Bright colors or stylish black? There’s a choice to fit your lifestyle at multiple price points. Make sure you’re choosing something made with body-safe materials – translucent “jelly” plastic, for instance, isn’t safe; medical-grade silicone or stainless steel are.

Dozens of online outlets (many of them women- and queer-owned) offer tons of choices, user reviews, and discreet shipping. Alternatively, if shopping for something so personal online doesn’t feel right, most major cities have reputable independently-owned sex shops, often staffed by queer people with experience as sex educators, who can make custom recommendations and let you compare products in person. If you just need a starting point, here is a range of reliable options to consider.


The most popular kind of toy for American women, vibrators are a classic for a reason; they feel great to a lot of people, and they’re a flexible and forgiving option. Vibrators can offer a range of sensations, be used on multiple parts of the body, and be used on their own or during other sex acts.

Vibrators are often described as having either “buzzy” or “rumbly” sensations, referring to whether they feel more surface-level or create a deeper sensation. The gold standard for rumbly vibrators is still the tried-and-true Hitachi Magic Wand – worth it to spring for the rechargeable version so you aren’t stuck using it next to a wall outlet. If either the price point or the intensity doesn’t feel right for you, there are plenty of other great wand massagers.

Penetrative toys

The second most popular toy among women, penetrative toys come in a huge variety of options, from realistic dildos that can be used with a harness for partnered sex to beautiful abstract shapes designed for sensation.

Most dildos will be made with silicone, a durable material that’s easy to sterilize and can range from very firm to very soft and squishy – some will also have a dual-density core, combining the best of both textures. Other insertable toys might be ceramic, crystal, wood, stainless steel, or even glass.

Blush products are a great starting point for penetrative toys, with the PleasureWorks Siren as a good upgraded option and the Pogo somewhere in between. For something firmer (or prettier), try Unbound’s Gem or Stellar, both gorgeous glass toys. If you struggle to find penetration enjoyable and want to change that, you might try using dilators, specifically designed to shift your body’s capacity over time.

Suction toys

A newly popular category of personal toys is suction or air vacuum toys – designed to simulate the sensation of oral sex, the feeling is totally unique and for many women who try them, suction toys are an immediate favorite. Satisfyer Pro products are a reliable option.

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