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A beginner’s guide to buying sex toys

Words: Eva O’Beirne

Being a sex toy newbie can be really hard. Seeing these devices with so many bells and whistles may put you off, but sex toys are a great way to investigate what you’re into.

No matter what genitalia you may have, you’ve definitely had moments in your sex life that you wish you could change.

We all have different preferences – and having a handy device in the bedside drawer will empower you to find out what really gets you going.

Whether you’re in a relationship, single or just seeing where things are going, here’s a handy guide to picking out your first sex toy.

1. Realise it isn’t a negative to have a sex toy

If you’re in a relationship, suggesting bringing a device into the bedroom routine can be incredibly daunting. People will often assume that the relationship or the sex is boring, which is the furthest from the truth. It’s simply adding variety to the relationship, it doesn’t matter what your skill set is.

Rose vibrator from Better Love. Image by Ella Paradis

To make the idea of a sex toy more exciting, perhaps shop for one together to hype up the upcoming experience for you both. Even starting the conversation about toys can be a great way to get to know what gets your partner going and eases them into the concept. You can’t just be in the middle of riding and present them with a surprise dildo.

If it is introduced as a negative, it will always be perceived as one. You should be saying that you’re going to experience this together and it’ll be an interesting if not amazing experience.

Sex is often framed as an act that happens between people who know how to satisfy their partner in every way – but this is extremely reductive. There is no “perfect” or “right” way to have sex. Sex toys are meant to add to your experience, not make you feel inadequate or greedy.

But what about the singles or casual daters who may feel like buying a sex toy is a cop out?

Again, a sex toy is nothing to be ashamed of. Not only will it help you with body confidence and getting to know your preferences, it can be a solid guide to sexual experiences especially if you’re nervous about getting intimate.

And being sexually active boosts your immune system – what’s not to like?

2. What do you want to try out?

A common misconception with sex toys is that they’re only for those who like being penetrated in some way. There can be an association of roughness or kink. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Toys such as those from Oh Nut can be used to ease yourself into sex, especially if you’re finding it uncomfortable or recovering from a medical issue. The set of rings allows you to explore what depth suits you, without any pain or fuss.

Image from Oh Nut’s Instagram

But kink and sexual expression is also important. Sex toy stores such as Love Matic and Sex Siopa both offer sex toy kits and packs for you to splash around in the shallow end and get used to the idea of different ways of having sex.

A word of caution – if you want to investigate anal toys and anal play, get a buttplug where the base is bigger than the plug’s widest point. Otherwise you’ll have a lovely trip to A&E, which isn’t that sexy.

LoveBoxxx – I Love Red Couples Box from Love Matic

3. Consider where you’re buying from and what you’re buying

You may think that purchasing a sex toy guarantees a good time but you’d be wrong. Unfortunately in Ireland, the sex toy industry is terribly regulated which has allowed sub-par toys to sneak into the market.

But how can you spot what is bad to put into your body? Well, what you should be looking out for is cheap materials like PVC. You can test the quality of most toys by the smell. If it smells like heavy plastic that means it is probably made of PVC.

If you’re not completely sure, a good old boil test will determine the quality of the toy (as long as it isn’t electrical). If the toy is silicone nothing will happen, but if it’s PVC an oily film will rise to the top of the pot.

Image from Sex Siopa

PVC is porous in nature and will literally degrade in your bedside drawer. Stick with silicone for a good time. A great place to shop for guaranteed body-safe toys is the Ireland-based Sex Siopa. They have a specific section just for newbies.

An area that is often forget about is sex toy maintenance and cleaning. Make sure to give your toys a good scrub, even if you only have one partner. It’ll prevent irritation like UTIs in the long run.

If it’s a hard plastic vibrator, just remember to take out the battery before you wash. Warm soapy water and a towel is all you need. The vast majority of toys just need gentle cleaning.

4. Realise that you don’t have to buy a standard vibrator

I’m not vibrator-shaming, but a bullet doesn’t work for everybody. Not only are some people not into penetration but a lot of people cannot climax from it either.

Not to sound like the Government, but feel free to shop around and observe all the different sizes and shapes sex toys can come in. You don’t have to go for a classic vibrator shape, instead you can go for one small enough to fit in your wallet.

Alternatively, think about what you like in the bedroom and apply it to what you’re searching for. Sucking vibrators and maturbation sleeves are both trending toys in the sex toy community because of their ability to simulate a more intimate feel.

5. Don’t forget the extras

Using a sex toy can be scary, but using lube can make it less-so. If you didn’t know already there are two kinds: water and oil. If you can, stay away from sugar-based products as they can cause bacterial vaginosis, thrush and yeast infections. 

Image from Sex Siopa

Another thing to flag is that oil-based lube cannot be used with condoms, so if you’re planning on having sex after using your toy, keep it in the side drawer. Silicone oil doesn’t degrade latex condoms but it cannot be used with silicone toys. When in doubt, use water.

Image from Sex Siopa

Not only will lube make your experience more enjoyable but it can also assist those who have issues with dryness. Oil-based lube can be a great aid for those who suffer from vaginismus, endometriosis and have recently undergone cancer treatments who want to have comfortable and fun sex.

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