Picture it: You’re with a partner, it’s late at night and things are getting pretty hot. You’re kissing, you’re touching, you’re sizing each other up for the next move. So you decide to make one: You reach under the bed and pull out ... your favorite sex toy.
Now here’s where things get interesting. Because while some people (both men and women) will jump at the chance to play with something new, others will, well, freak right out.
Men often worry that that big 'ol purple dildo has appeared to replace them; women may feel embarrassed by those anal beads, or maybe just plain worried about where they’re gonna go (and how that's going to feel).
Those feelings are common - and worth exploring - but they miss the point. Sex toys aren’t about replacing a partner or making them uncomfortable. They’re about fun! And they can be a lot of fun. The key is to apply the very same rules you’d apply to any other sex play. And by that we mean communication, consent and care.
Want to bring a little adventure into the bedroom? We talked to sexuality educator Charlie Glickman and sought some advice. Here are five things to know about playing nice - with toys!
They Aren’t a Substitute
You might use sex toys more often when you’re lonely or single, but even when you’re in a super-hot relationship, a little toy action on the side can be a beautiful thing. It’s a way to de-stress. It’s a way to learn. Heck, it’s a way to pass an otherwise uneventfull Saturday afternoon. What it isn’t is a replacement for a sexual relationship.
"One of the great things about sex toys is that they give you ways to create sensations that human bodies just don’t do. They’re not a substitute, just an add-on. Sex without a toy is fun and I’m not knocking it, but you can do things with a vibrator or dildo that human bodies don’t do. Toys just give you more possibilities," Glickman said.
So rather than thinking of that vibrating dildo as your partner's silicone stand-in, think of it as you would a blender: It can help make a great dish, but it doesn’t replace the cook!
They’re Nothing Special ... but What You Do With Them Might Be
With the exception of a few toys designed specifically for couples, such as the We-Vibe, vibrating cock rings or a strap-on, many "couples'" toys are really just the same old sex toys you might use solo. What’s special about bringing a partner in on the action is that it might enable you to use the toy in new and different ways (we only have two hands of our own after all!). (A strap-on's a great couple's toy. Learn more about how to choose one in Strap on the Fun?)
You Have to Tread Lightly
If you want to use a toy with a partner but have never brought it up before, the time to do it is not in the heat of the moment. Seriously. While some people will see that introduction as super-sexy, it’ll make many other people cringe. Plus, it’s a bit of an ambush. Sex makes us vulnerable. Ambushing someone in a vulnerable position is, well, not very nice.
"I think you’re better off introducing the topic before you take your clothes off," Glickman said. "That way if your partner says 'tell me more,' if they have question or feelings, you haven’t just dumped a cold pitcher of ice water on your sexy Saturday night. It’s better to introduce it rather than pull your vibrator out from under the bed. Because you might be surprised how someone reacts to that."
If you want to play with toys, test the waters with your partner first - by talking it over. (Get some tips on how to discuss and negotiate consent in Yes! Why Consent Is Totally Sexy.)
You Have to Experiment
Sex toy retailers tend to bombard people with sensory adjectives. It’s called marketing, and while Glickman says it generally isn’t inaccurate, it tends to lead to one very inaccurate assumption: That all those words will describe your experience with a toy. You know what they say: One person’s leg-shaking orgasm might be another person’s onerous and unsuccessful attempt at sexual stimuation. That's just the way it is with sex toys because our bodies are so different. (You can read more about that in5 Things to Know When the (So-Called) Best Sex Toy Doesn't Work for You.)
"Nothing works the same for everybody," Glickman said. "If a toy really isn’t any good, they’ll stop manufacturing it very quickly. So, if you’ve seen a toy around for a while, chances are it works for a lot of people."
Of course that still doesn't mean it'll work for you. In order to find that out, you’ll have to try it ... and possibly practice a little at using it.
"Sometimes a toy works and sometimes it doesn’t, but try it again another day," Glickman said. "You might need to try something a couple of times to figure out how to make it work for you."
And don’t assume that bigger or harder or stronger is better. What’s better is what feels best to you. Find out what that is, and branch out from there.
Toys Widen Your Sexual Repertoire
"Sex is a lot like food," Glickman says. "You never know what you’re going to like until you try it. So sometimes it pays to be a little adventurous."
Sex toys are a great way to bring a little adventure into the bedroom, to experiment with new experiences and to share them with your partner. Plus, having a few around can really expand what’s on the menu - and that means you and your partner are more likely to leave the table feeling satisfied.
So bring a spirit of imagination and possibility to your sex play. Oh, and bring some toys too. Just be sure to share. And be sure to check out "The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Sex Toys!"