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Friday, July 11, 2014

SMART Youth Answers: What’s All the Buzz about Sex Toys?

Let’s talk about toys! Ahem…not children’s toys. We’re talking sex toys. Sex toys are tools that we use to give us sexual pleasure. We've talked about how self-pleasure and sexual exploration are healthy, and sex toys are a great start to that journey; but they don’t always have to be used for masturbation. Sex toys can be used with your partner as well and be a healthy way to find out each other’s likes and dislikes.

So you want to try a sex toy, but you don’t know where to start? If you’re new to the world of sex toys, here’s an introductory guide to help you navigate!

Ye Olde History of Sex Toys

Sex toys have a very long and funny history. Dildos have been around since the Stone Age…literally. They were made from polished stone! Many ancient civilizations used sex toys for purposes ranging from religious ceremonies to a soldier giving his wife a dildo to ensure she will be faithful while he’s fighting in a war.

Vibrators have a much shorter, yet more bizarre history.  During the Victorian Era, there was a supposed illness [that strangely only affected women…hmmm] called Hysteria, which had symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, and depression. The prescribed treatment was pelvic massages, which doctors would perform manually, until patients had a hysterical paroxysm (re: ORGASM!) This was at a time when female sexuality and pleasure was not considered at all, therefore there was very little known about it! Doctors complained about doing these very popular procedures because their hands got tired and it sometimes took patients long time to reach orgasm hysterical paroxysm, so companies started making electric vibrators for home use! It’s no shock that these devices flew off the shelves…that was until everyone caught on that women were using these devices sexually. Sales of personal vibrators dropped until they reappeared in the 1960’s!

Scene from Hysteria. You should watch this movie!
The Sexual Revolution was the time when vibrators and other sex toys made a comeback. The Sexual Revolution started in the 60’s and was a time when Western heteronormative views on sex and sexuality were challenged. With the popularization of sexuality in media throughout the 90’s and 2000’s (re: Samantha from Sex in the City and the Fifty Shades of Grey frenzy), sex toys are back and more popular than ever! And although the history of sex toys has been mostly focused on women, there are all kinds of sex toys that serve the pleasures of all genders, sexual preferences, and tastes! Sex toys are not just for cis-hetreosexual women, they’re for EVERYONE!

So now that you have your history down, let’s get to the nitty gritty!

Types of Toys

There are so many different types of toys out there, ranging from the type of material it’s made out of, to if it vibrates or doesn’t; but we’re going to break it down into a few different categories based on the toys’ functions. It’s important to note what these are not rigid categories; you can use a sex toy for any body part you wish, as long as you use it safely and hygienically! (Links to pictures are NOT SAFE FOR WORK!)

As stated before, dildos have been around since the Stone Age. Today, they come in all shapes, sizes, textures and materials [though not in stone]! Dildos are toys that rod-like (most times phallic) in shape and are used for sexual penetration. They can be used for both vaginal and anal penetration, although it is important to note that dildos without wide bases should NOT be used in the anus. Dildos can also be double ended, which is great for simultaneous partner pleasure. The defining characteristic of a dildo is that they do not vibrate! If you’re looking for a vibrating dildo, take a look at the Vibrators section further down this list.

Although dildos can be used for the anus, there are some toys that are just made specifically for anal penetration and designed to make it more comfortable and pleasurable. Some of the types include butt plugs, anal beads, and prostate massagers. Butt plugs are shorter and differently shaped than dildos. Most of them are conically shaped, with a very wide base to prevent the plug from getting lost in the rectum. Anal beads are a toy with a series of different sized balls attached to each other that is inserted and removed from the anus to enhance pleasure. Prostate massagers are specifically shaped to stimulate the prostate.

Long gone are the days when vibrators were attached to large machines that had to be powered by coal. Nowadays, vibrators can be plugged into outlets, can be battery-powered, or even be wireless. They can be the size of personal massagers (Hitachi Wand) or be the size of your thumb (bullet). Many vibrators have different speeds and variations of vibrations to choose from. Some vibrators also have attachments to them to further enhance pleasure, whether it’s an attachment to stimulate the clitoris or an attachment to stimulate the g-spot or prostate.

Suuuuper discrete! 
If you want to be able to use a dildo without using hands, then a Strap-On Harness may be right for you. A harness is something you wear around your hips that you can attach a dildo to penetrate a partner.

Toys for the Penis
There are a few toys that are made to enhance pleasure for the penis. Masturbation Sleeves are toys that are used on the penis and simulate penetration similar to a mouth, vagina, or anus. Sleeves can come with features such as vibrations, liquid, suction, and different textures throughout the toy in order to accurately replicate these body parts. C-Rings are rings that either go around the penis or scrotum to slow blood flow to the penis. This allows erections to last longer. They also delay orgasms and can cause orgasms to be more intense.

This is not an exhaustive list of toys, given that there are so many ways to give and receive pleasure. Taking a virtual trip to a sex toy website (or physically going to a sex toy shop) will introduce you to more options!

Lube it Up!

When using your sex toys, water-based lubricants are best! Although they don’t last as long and do need some reapplying, you can be sure that it’ll be safe for your toy! If you have a silicon or non-glass sex toy, do not use silicon-based lubricants. Silicon loves to bond with silicon, so when you use a silicon toy with silicon lube, they join together and become gummy and tacky…which is not what you want your toy to be! Stay away from oil-based lubricants also, as they are harder to clean and may deteriorate the outside of your toy depending on what material it’s made out of! If you’re using a condom on your sex toy, the rules for lubricant and condoms still apply

Safety’s First!

It is super important to clean your toys before and after use! To clean your toys, wash with antibacterial soap and warm water or wash with hydrogen peroxide and rinse with warm water. Some toys require you to boil them or put them in the dishwasher to ensure cleanliness. Make sure you read the cleaning instructions when you purchase your toy. Do not wash a toy while it’s still on or plugged in, nor submerge the mechanical parts in water. The more porous the toy (jelly toys tend to be porous), the harder it is to clean. If you’re using a sex toy between partners or using one between different parts of your body (especially switching from anal to anything else), it is especially important to keep your toys clean between use. Using a condom with the sex toy is a great alternative, too. Just make sure you use a new condom with each sex act and each partner!

Make sure you’re buying from reputable places! Sex toys are not government regulated, so makers of sex toys do not have to use materials that are suitable for bodily use. When you buy from a well-known or reputable store, you can be mostly assured that what you’re buying is okay to put inside of you.

So there you have it! Now go out there and have some hysterical paroxysms!

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