Some people fantasize about being tied up, while others get worked up for a babysitter role play. Still others prefer something a little more, ahem, extreme. In a new survey from the Sex Expo, 26% of respondents said they’d like to try erotic electrostimulation. (For context, 500 people over the age of 18 were included in the survey.)
An Intro to E-Stim - and Toys!
“If you're looking for new and different erotic sensations, electrostimulation offers next-level stimulation,” says Good Vibrations resident sexologist and all-around sex expert , Carol Queen. “Playing with electrical stimulation can yield tingly, sensual sensations all the way to substantial intensity.”
“E-stim” or “electro sex,” as it’s more casually known, tends to focus on providing electrical stimulation to the penis, scrotum, clitoris and vagina. It’s done via a variety of toys and objects, including vaginal plugs, vibrators, anal plugs, clamps and just about any other sex toy you can think of.
Electrostimulation isn’t anything new, although the trend between the sheets is. Before the 1950s, it was touted as a medical treatment to help alleviate health ailments, from pain to muscle problems. It was then repositioned as the Relax-A-Cizor, a slimming tool, but was ultimately pulled from shelves because of safety risks. You may recall the appearance of the device on "Mad Men" when Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) had to come up with an ad campaign for the “Electrosizer.” Fast forward to the 1970s, when Medical TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) and EMS (Electro Muscle Stimulation) units were approved by the FDA to block nerve pain and cause muscle contractions. It wasn’t until The Titilator, and the Pleasure Box (PES Power Box) were released in the 1980s that these devices were manufactured with sexual pleasure in mind.
Read: Shock Your Sex Life: Electrosex for Couples
So how does e-stim work?
It’s pretty simple, really. Basically, our bodies produce a nonstop stream of electrical impulses that are a superhighway of messages between our nerve endings and our brain. Small, safely-administered doses of electricity induce a positive reaction in the brain. The typical set-up usually consists of a box and wired electrodes powered by batteries. This is called a TENS or e-stim unit. The most popular one on the market is made by Mystim. The width (how long a single electrical impulse from the device lasts), rate (aka “frequency,” measures the electrical impulses in Hertz), and intensity (how strong each electrical pulse is) of the electrical pulses are controlled either via a remote control, computer or radio frequency key fob.
How to Explore E-Stim
Like most sexual activities, it may take some time and experimentation to figure out what you like. There are various ways to explore. “Neon wands create an electrical discharge across the surface of the skin – you can enjoy a broad range of stimulation, from pleasurably warm tingling, to a more intense, focused sensation that some BDSM fans find pleasurably painful,” says Queen.
Before you apply an electrical current to a partner's body, practice on a hand, thigh or forearm to get a handle on the device and its power settings. “It's an electricity toy – that is, turning it up causes the sensations it produces to range from a sexy tickle to a zap to an intense bite,” says Queen. “Start mild and see what you like.” Nobody wants an unpleasant surprise on their erogenous parts.
Address Concerns and Boundaries Upfront
It’s imperative that you have a conversation with your partner about any concerns or boundaries you may have. This is a good rule of thumb when it comes to embarking on any new sexual adventure, really. Also, make sure you and your partner remove any metal jewelry.
Once you get started, go slowly and communicate. It may take some time to dial in what feels best for your sweet spot(s).
It should be noted that any use of electricity has a risk of danger. Please practice e-stim with extreme caution. Only use toys designed for e-stim. Do not apply electro nodes to the chest under any circumstances, as it can disrupt heart function. Ditto for the throat, eyelids, piercings, broken skin, or anywhere on the head. E-stim should never be practiced if you have seizures, epilepsy, heart issues, an EKG monitor, implanted medical device, or are currently pregnant. Also, don’t use makeshift power sources or toys that appear damaged. Be sure to turn off your e-stim device before you put it down. It may sound like a laundry list of stuff to keep in mind, but the alternative could include burns, electrocution or even death. If you make safety a priority though, e-stim can deliver some amazing - and hands-free! - orgasms.
Ready to give it a go? Here are a few basic toys to try.
Kinklab Neon Wand
When it comes to delivering a tingling, sexy charge, the Kinklab Neon Wand is a classic choice. This toy's specially designed glass attachments and multi-level control dial allow you to harness the sensations it creates any way you like. This one's also a great choice for electro-sex beginners because its low setting can be set to deliver little more than a warm tingle.
Mystim Tension Lover E-Stim Unit
The great thing about the Tension Lover kit is that it presents so many options! Yes, you can attach electrodes to your or your partner's body, but you can also pair this toy up with other products from the Mystim line to power dildos, butt plugs, clamps and just about anything else your kinky heart desires.
Kinklab Electro Erotic Power Tripper
This super-cool accessory to the Neon Wand allows you to electrify your entire body so that you spark when you're touched. If you're into it, the Power Tripper will make you feel like sexy dynamite.
Mystim Tickling Truman
This very popular e-stim vibe vibrates, tingles with electricity and pulsates all at once. Along with eight vibration modes and five e-stim levels, it also includes a training function for the pelvic floor.
Mystim Flexing Flavio
This prostate stimulator is designed to be paired with any of the Mystim powerboxes. The Flexing Flavio's small, narrow dimensions make it perfect for anal play beginners, but its electric charge will ensure it delivers plenty of sensation.
Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.
She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says