When you're shopping for sex toys, you're faced with a huge array of choices - shapes, colors, materials, sizes and, perhaps most vexing for many consumers - price points. Looking around a sex shop , you'll see everything from $10 plastic bullet vibes that run off watch batteries to $175 rechargeable waterproof silicone "pulsators" with multiple speeds and settings. When you are shopping for a bargain, the choice can seem simple.
"I don’t need all those bells and whistles," you might say. But what about when you are comparing a $20 rubber dildo and a $90 silicone one? Or if you have a $12 jelly butt plug in one hand and a $125 glass one in the other?
What are the differences? Is it just a fancy name and a higher price? Is it a better product? And how can you know that pricier toys will actually give you more bang for your buck?
I talked to several high-end toy manufacturers - and the Grand Poobah of sex toy critics - to get the skinny on what’s behind a fat price tag. (You might also want to check out one of the most expensive toys out there in Say What?! A $15,000 Vibrator?!)
What's In a Price?Why do some sex toys cost next to nothing while others cost so much?
"Those toys have the most potential to be well-made, innovative, unique and ultimately worth the extra cash. Usually with a higher price tag, you get rechargeability, a warranty, and 100 percent silicone," veteran sex toy reviewer Epiphora told me. "Sometimes you even get a toy that will last you the rest of your life."
Not sure if a luxury sex toy is right for you? Here are a few tips that it might be.
5 Signs That You'd Love a Luxury Sex Toy
1. You frequently ask waiters about meal ingredientsIt’s nice to know what you’re putting in your body, isn’t it? In the sex toy industry, that’s weirdly hard to do. This industry is completely unregulated, which means that not only can companies make toys from unsafe materials, but they can also lie about it pretty freely. This is where small, reputable companies, like Tantus - the maker of ultra-premium silicone toys - come in.
"Tantus' goal [is] to spread the benefits of silicone sex toys and quality-made toys to the world," said Tantus president Metis Black. "Education has been a high priority since day one."
Tantus and other smaller companies provide an added benefit: They are usually in control of their own manufacturing process, which means that they control the quality of the products they make. As a result, you don't have to worry about third-party factories cutting corners (which happens - a lot).
According to Valérie Palmiéri, head of sales at FUN FACTORY, "All the products of FUN FACTORY are made in Germany, and every step, from design to production to packaging to shipping and distribution, are not only supervised at our headquarters in Bremen, but are actually taken care of right here on our premises. This way we make sure that all of our products live up to the quality standards set by the FUN FACTORY team." (To learn more about the importance of materials in sex toys, check out Sex Toy Safety: A Guide to Materials.)
2. You know what works for your bodyLet’s face it, dropping more than $100 on a sex toy is an investment and it would really suck to make that investment only to find yourself with a toy that does nothing for you.
"Something could be, objectively, a very nice object, but it could be the worst shape for your body," Epiphora told me.
In that case, you’ve got what may be a really great sex toy, but for your purposes, it's just a $145 paper weight. This is why if you already know that you like G-spot play with a hard, curved toy, or clitoral stimulation from a vibrator with a broad surface, you’re a step ahead of the game.
3. You have strong feelings about the environment and/or workers’ rightsBeing able to make a toy purchase secure in the knowledge that the company you are buying it from treats its employees well and cares for the environment is awesome. This extra perk is usually delivered by small, reputable companies, thanks to their ability to control their manufacturing facilities.
"Your money could be going to a great, small manufacturer who pays their employees well and treats their customers with respect," Epiphora says.
Crystal Delights, a maker of glass dildos and other fine sex objects, for example, uses only U.S.-based labor.
"Our glass is hand-blown by skilled artisans right here in the U.S. We never have and never will sell any imported design," said a company representative. "These tend to be manufactured with very little quality control by underpaid or unpaid workers in unsafe working conditions."
By keeping production at home, companies are more able to control whether their products are responsibly and ethically produced. FUN FACTORY produces all its products in its hometown headquarters in Bremen, Germany.
"Since all the toys are manufactured right here in Bremen, we can guarantee that the items are produced in a most responsible, environment-friendly manner," said Valérie Palmiéri of FUN FACTORY.
4. You still have the mug you got at your senior promDo you like to hold onto stuff for a long time? Well, luxury sex toys are frequently built for the long haul.
"Our surveys prove that consumers are ready to spend more money on a quality product. The general way of thinking is that paying a bit more once is better than having to buy several products because they give up the ghost so quickly," Palmiéri said.
Plus, with high-end toy companies, you are more likely to get a toy that is backed by a warranty. FUN FACTORY, LELO, We-Vibe and Fucking Sculptures are just a couple of companies that back up their products.
5. You LOVE your smartphoneGadgets are cool, no? This has not been lost on the high-end toy market. So what nifty things are you are more likely to get with a luxury vibrator? FUN FACTORY's Deluxe VIBES line is a good example. All of the toys in the line come with long-lasting power packs, and are rechargeable and 100 percent waterproof.
Plus, when was the last time you owned a phone that only called people? Take that same idea and apply it to your vibrator. Sure you could have one that just, you know, vibrates, but what about a toy that vibrates at three different speeds with six different patterns?
You’re not going to get stuff like that from a $20 vibrator.
Look Before You LeapSo, that’s a bit on what might turn you on about a luxury sex toy but remember, there’s more to look at than just the price.
"Something could also cost a load of cash but not actually be well-made," Epiphora said. "It's not so much that a high price indicates quality, but that a low price tends to indicate lower quality. This is where (honest) reviews are so vital. Reviewers can tell you whether the price tag is legit or a farce."
She’s not kidding, folks. Even a toy snob like me reads the reviews before I buy anything these days. Better to be safe than sorry. (Find the cream of the crop in Our Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2013.)