Fucking Shopping: A Guide to Buying Sex Toys

sex toy gifAbout 10 years ago, when I was living and studying in Dunedin, my flatmates and I decided it was time to go and buy our first sex toys. Our closest (and probably only) sex store was Peaches and Cream. We hovered outside for a few moments, before pushing past the R18 sign into the store. We were guided by a wonderfully open assistant, dressed in a kilt and black leather corset, through the aisles of costumes, porn and giant dildos to the vibrator section.

This was an ultimately positive experience, but if I could go back, I’d tell myself the crucial things I now know about the importance of materials, lube and types of toys. So, this article is for past me, and anyone else who is interested in buying their first sex toy, or expanding their collection.

Material is everything.

Pay attention to the material your toy is made of. The best, body-safe material is 100% silicone. Body-safe means that it’s hypo-allergenic and non-porous: it won’t leech any chemicals, absorb body fluids or bacteria. It doesn’t show signs of wear, lasts a long time, won’t smell funny or discolour and it warms and moulds to your body. The downside is that silicone can be expensive.

Cheaper toys tend to be made out of soft plastic or jelly rubber. Soft plastic (elastomer, TPR and TPE) and jelly rubber IS porous so must be washed thoroughly and can take on smells, change colour and show wear. Since it’s porous, if you’re sharing it between people it’s best to use with a condom (even after cleaning it), because it can transmit bacteria. Jelly rubber toys contain phthalates, a chemical used to soften plastics, and are not recommended to put inside your body.

Hard materials are all non-porous and body safe: stainless steel, glass, acrylic and hard plastic (ABS). These materials can have a nice weight to them and (particularly steel and glass) hold body heat for a while. Hard plastic is the most affordable, found on a range of vibrators.

Lube is your friend.

Lube makes everything easier: stroking and sliding, penetrating, increasing sensitivity and pleasure. The three main bases for lubes are silicone, water and oil. Silicone lube is slippery, lasts forever and doesn’t get sticky. However, if you have a silicone toy, then don’t use a silicone lube. Oil based lubes are thicker, and best for penis-only masturbating. Vaginas don’t tend to like oil (although some people swear by coconut oil as a vagina friendly alternative!). Importantly, oil interacts with latex, making condoms ineffective. Oil lubes also can’t be used with silicon sex toys.

Water-based lubes are compatible with everything: condoms, bodies and all sex toys! They’re not as thick or durable as oil or silicone, but are easily refreshed with a few drops of water (or spit). Water based lubes tend to be simply made with few ingredients, which is great for people with allergies.

Steer clear from lubes with glycerin in them. Glycerin isn’t a great substance to be putting into our bodies, and most supermarket-bought lubes contain it. Buy a good quality water based lube from a sex toy store, or online.

What kind of toy?

There are insertables: dildos and vibrators for the vagina and prostate massagers, plugs, beads and vibrators for the butt. There are external toys for clitoral stimulation: vibrating bullets, magic wands. There are things to put in or around your penis: cock rings, masturbation sleeves. There are toys for people transitioning/transitioned from one gender to another: such as strokers for trans men to jerk off with. There are toys you can wear to fuck other people: strap-ons, with or without harnesses.

Then there are the endless amount of toys for sensation and bondage: nipple clamps, floggers whips and paddles, blindfolds, gags, collars, hoods, electro-stimulation, spreader bars, handcuffs. The intersections between sex and technology is where the most exciting work is coming out of now, and essentially, if there’s something you’re craving you’re likely to find it. My advice: google what intrigues you.

Where to buy?

Once you’ve figured out what you’d like to buy, research it. You can find reviews easily on blogs and YouTube videos. My favourite sex toy review blog is Hey Ephiphora. It’s hilarious, informative and in-depth. But, it’s a US blog, so where to actually buy the toys in New Zealand? I recommend two retailers: D.Vice (online store only) and Peaches and Cream (for the walk-in and ask questions experience). Both of these retailers have a wide range of products and D.Vice also makes their own toys which these tend to be cheaper than the luxury toys.

My friend and sex educator Kate McCombs succinctly says: “Sex toys and lubes are tools, and we are tool-using primates. Why not use all the tools at our disposal to make our lives easier and more pleasurable?” I love this, and wholeheartedly agree. You deserve all the pleasure, and the tools that allow you to find it. Go fuck yourself!

This column was originally published as “Go Fuck Yourself” in AUT University Students’ Association Debate Magazine, Issue 7, May 28 2017.

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