Sex Toys 101: Factors To Consider When Buying A Sex Toy
Congratulations – so you’ve made the decision to get your first sex toy! Before you head down to your local boutique or start browsing into the wild wild West of online sex toy stores, here’s a checklist of things to consider when making your purchase. We don’t mean to sound like a nag but since you wouldn’t buy a car without knowing what to look out for, don’t reach out for your wallet yet if you haven’t figured out what you’ll be using on your body!
Ladies and gents, being a nerd and doing your due diligence is always sexy in this case…
This is our personal shopping checklist whenever we’re eyeing something new to spice things up. Some of these factors may be more important to you than others but we’ll never compromise on anything less than body-safe materials and purchasing from reputable brands. Let’s go through the list:
1. Who’s Using it?
2. The Type of Pleasure You Seek
3. Materials & Durability
5. Size & Looks
6. Special Features
8. Ethical and Reputable Brands
1.Who’s Using it?
You might look at this and go “Duh, me of course!” Just like the car-shopping analogy though, we need to know who’s steering the wheel 😉 Sex toys in general can be used for both solo play or couple play. However there are some pleasure aids that are more suitable during couple play or by your partner. This means that the first question you’ll want to ask is: Will I want to enjoy using this toy by myself, with my partner or just only for them? Sexual pleasure is about mutual giving and receiving so don’t feel awkward about getting your partner’s thoughts and being open to exploring their pleasure as well.
2.The Type of Pleasure You Seek
This may sound like the opening line to a quest game and honestly, it’s true to a certain extent. We strongly believe that sex is better when you take it less seriously where it matters: playfulness, exploration and (un)learning what your body enjoys. Our tastes and preferences in life are shaped by our experiences so don’t feel guilty for seeking out the same knowledge in your sex life!
Some vagina-owners prefer penetrative stimulation but majority of women can only orgasm from clitoral (external) stimulation. *raises hand and nods vigorously* Once you’re aware of the sensations and stimuli you prefer, you can look at the following types of toys:
Internal: As the name suggests, these sex toys are used for vaginal and/or anal penetration. (E.g. Dildos, rabbit vibrators, G-spot vibrators, anal beads and plugs, etc)
External: These toys are used mainly for clitoris stimulation (e.g. vibrators, clitoral stimulators).
Have you read or seen 50 Shades of Grey? While we don’t condone the storyline or actual sex in the narrative, for most it was their introduction to the world of Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission, Sadism & Masochism (BDSM). The following are toys that may fall into this category but we recommend checking them out to introduce different sensations and potential role play:
Impact Play: If you enjoy the feeling of being smacked on the butt, you’ll probably appreciate an impact play toy. They include tools like floggers, whips and paddles. While we know they sound like items that belong in a medieval dungeon, there are beginner-friendly versions and remember to have a partner who is trustworthy and have a clear conversation on soft and hard limits before exploring. Ideally with both your pants on before the actual sex happens so no one gets too carried away in excitement!
Sensory Play: If you really think about it, we’re just a bunch of walking nerves connected to pain and pleasure points. So fun times don’t have to be limited to just the genitals. There are sex toys for the obvious erogenous body parts like nipple clamps but you also have metal pinwheels, feather ticklers and similar tools that are used on those with sensitive skin for pleasure. Lucky them! You don’t necessarily have to make a trip down to the toy store for sensory play as you can improvise with safe everyday items.
Restraints: It’s pretty common in TV and movies to have the bedroom trope of handcuffs and silk blindfolds when showing sexy times. However other forms of restraints like ball gags, bed restraints and rope play also fall into this category. The appeal behind them is that you’re giving total power to your partner or vice-versa to dictate the pleasure received with the element of surprise in some cases. Just remember the two C’s: Consent & Communication and go slow!
This isn’t an exhaustive list of sex toys categories (Hello sex dolls and chastity cages…) but we hope it gives you an idea on where to start when it comes to figuring out what you’ll want to try. We’re not going to lie, once you purchase your first toy – there’s a high chance that it won’t be the last! Don’t feel guilty about adding to your collection. There are so many variations of pleasure and sensations so feel free to try out different categories for whatever mood you’re in.
3.Materials & Durability
Let’s get to the actual specs when it comes to a sex toy. This might sound like the boring part of the lecture but there’s a reason behind always checking the materials. The global sex toy industry is worth US$28.64 billion in 2019 and expected to grow US$52.7 billion by 2026. Unfortunately the sex toy industry still remains unregulated so with such a tempting honeypot, manufacturers can pass them off as ‘novelty items’ to avoid costly testing and often use cheap, toxic materials.
What does this mean for you? That first dildo you bought off AliExpress? That might end up melting in our humid Singapore weather, let alone in your body!
“Mmmm… they all can’t be that bad just because it’s cheap?” you wonder. We’ll let Jennifer Pritchett, the owner of notable US sex toy store Smitten Kitten share her horror story of the melted box of toxic toys:
“Ok, ok I get it…no cheap plastics! So what should I look for then?”
A good rule of thumb is to avoid purchasing from market places that sell brandless toys, especially if you’re unable to find any further information about them like their manufacturing and origins. Then you’ll want to look for descriptions like body-friendly or medical grade materials that are non-porous. Non-porous materials are important as you want to be able to sanitize the toy as thoroughly as possible. Forget Covid-19 paranoia, toys from porous materials may allow for bacteria and mould to build up even as much as you may clean and sterilize them.
Adapted from Kinkly’s helpful sex toy guide, this is the list of materials you want to look for:
• ABS Plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
Some other suggestions are natural materials like varnished wood and crystals. Personally we love them for their looks and some have been used for centuries in sexual wellness like jade eggs. However we recommend always checking with the brands about the durability and maintenance as micro cracks may still appear after use and be difficult to clean as they’re unseen.
Now this is the list of ‘NO’s when shopping. The list of materials to avoid may either be due to either being porous or having toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process:
• Thermoplastic rubber (TPR) & thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)
• Jelly rubber
• Polyvinylchloride (PVC)
• ‘Real Feel’ combinations of rubber, PVC, TPR, and other porous materials
Note: When using silicone toys, please do not use them with other silicone toys and silicone-based lube as they react chemically and degrade over time.
We’re putting this factor relatively higher up on the list just because we know most of our Asian readers may live with family or in extremely close quarters. One (wo)man’s quiet hum is another’s (wo)man’s buzz chainsaw! That’s why we prefer to head down to the local store or look out for online video reviews of sex toys that mention the how quiet or loud a toy is. Certain toys are quieter than others (e.g. a clit stimulator vs.wand vibrator) but technology has certainly improved in this field since the days of the obvious ‘Bbbbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’ morse code one may overhear beyond their roommate’s walls.
You may ask, “But why would I even care if the neighbours can hear?” Well if it’s your first toy and you’re still feeling a little shy, having an obvious rhythmic buzz late at night will definitely increase the self-consciousness and won’t allow you to enjoy the experience uninhibitedly.
5.Size & Looks
After my first little keychain blue bullet vibrator, the next toy that I added to my collection was a much bigger rabbit vibrator. It was a big deal for me because I remember walking into a chic sex boutique that was right next door to a cafe where I had an important meeting. The meeting went really well and I wanted to reward myself so – lo, and behold, I walked right out with a bright blue Rabbit.
But boy did I regret that rabbit! I was still learning to rate and enjoy the different pleasure I could achieve on my own. While I appreciated the flutter from the rabbit’s ‘ear’s externally, the vibrator was way too noisy and clumsy when used penetratively. Looking back, I should have tried a smaller G-spot vibrator where I could still experience internal pleasure but have more autonomy over using it externally. I couldn’t help but think it was also my Asian-auntie mindset that played a part: “Hey, if I’m going to spend that much, let’s get something that will feel substantial!” But ladies, we’re buying pleasure aids, not the biggest catch at the fishmonger’s. So while it’s tempting to get the most bang (pun intended) for your buck, we suggest starting with something reasonable to kick off your collection.
However if you know exactly what you want and how you want it, the sky’s the limit. Apart from the regular dildos and toys you find in most stores, there are specialty brands like Bad Dragon and Self Delve that produce custom toys in fantasy shapes like tentacles, vegetables and even candy!
On a more Safe-For-Work note, looks and size could also just be about portability and personal preference. It wasn’t until I amassed my own personal collection after a few years that I realize I love buying pleasure tools in black and gold just because of how chic and luxe they look! They’re also small enough to be tucked away in a handbag or weekender just because….
Sex tech is such a fascinating field as there’s always something new to keep an eye out for. As sex toy consultant Pea describes in our upcoming interview, Sex Toys are just like mobile phones with the constant upgrades in hardware and software. You could be on the lookout for straightforward features like being waterproof for usage in the shower or heat resistant for sensual play. Whether a toy is chargeable via USB or requires regular batteries will also help inform how well it would fit into your current routine.
If it’s for couple play and keeping things spicy in the relationship, check out couple toys that come with remote controls or bluetooth connected apps! We’ve come a long way from just vibrating panties, these high-tech tools are especially helpful for navigating long-distance relationships.
Another personal favourite of mine to look out for are Sex Toys that are wearables. As the name suggests, these pleasure aids come in the form of jewelry and may blend right into your outfit and feels like you have a naughty secret that’s just between you and those in the know.
My go-to and the OG of desirable sex tech wearable is Crave’s Vesper. This gorgeous necklace is a bullet vibe in disguise and comes in Silver, Rose Gold, and 24kt Gold. The best part is it can also be engraved so you can really hold the secret close to your heart. What does mine say? Let’s just say I’ve an affinity for puns and Nine Inch Nail’s sexy anthem Closer.
Here’s a factor that’s just as subjective as well but be prepared to spend between S$100-200 for a good quality toy from a reputable brand. A simple bullet vibrator that’s considered as an entry-level sex toy may start at S$40+ and the popular Womanizer clitoral stimulator starts at S$140 for the basic Liberty model. A body-safe, ethical dildo may start from S$100 and a penis masturbatory toy like a Tenga may start from $50+. There are also brands like Smilemakers that aim to make sex aids approachable and can be found at drugstores like Guardian. When in doubt, just head down to your friendly local sex toy boutique and be upfront about your budget and the type of toy you’re seeking for and they’ll be more than happy to help with recommendations!
8.Ethical and Reputable Brands
This is a relatively new factor that I’ve personally started to incorporate when I go shopping for Sex Toys. I used to prioritize pleasure types and budget but as more sex toy companies that celebrate diversity, inclusiveness and body-positivity appear in the industry, I prefer to vote with my dollars.
Why is this important? Women’s pleasure is still a topic that’s discriminatory, even within the sex tech industry itself. Even though we’re the ones spending, the industry is dominated by men and our efforts are often dismissed as unimportant or insignificant. A case that happened as recently as last year, Lora DiCarlo – a sex toy company that uses biomimicry and robotics in their inventions to help women achieve orgasm had their innovation award revoked from the Consumer Electronics Show because it wasn’t considered ‘important’ enough. After outcry from fellow sexual wellness founders like Ti Chang of Crave, the award was reinstated and sexual wellness gadgets were allowed at CES 2020. It’s always good to do your research whenever you’re about to make a purchase – we recommend women-led companies that are blazing the trail for others like Crave and Dame Products.
Phew! We’ve reached the end of the shopping list checklist and we hope it’s been a useful place for you to start browsing or window-shopping. If some of the terms mentioned make you wonder if you need a whole other glossary to comprehend, we absolutely agree with you and will be adding one to the site as we go along. In the meantime, have fun with your retail therapy!
Special thanks to Alice Maple for a wonderful interview and images. Look out for an upcoming interview with Pea, a sex toy consultant!