Choosing a sex toy is kind of like dating; there are seemingly countless options and you can’t tell what you’re going to get based on just pictures. But unlike dating, many people won’t ask for recommendations from their friends.

So where do you start?

First, it’s important to understand that playing with sex toys is OK! There doesn’t have to be something wrong with you, (or your partner, if you have one.) We’re tool-using primates, after all, and sex toys are simply tools. They can provide us with sensations we just can’t achieve with our hands, and many people find heights of sexual pleasure with toys that they never thought possible.

Sounds pretty good, right? Here's how to find one that's right for you.

Step 1: Know What You Like

To know what kind of toy to start with, you need to know what kind of sensations your body enjoys. And this can be tricky if you’ve never explored with toys before. Some of the most common toys are vibrators, and you’re not going to know if you like vibration until you give it a try. So it’s best to start with something inexpensive as an experiment.

Next up, penetration. Whether vaginal or anal (or both,) there are lots of products to choose from. It’s easy for your eyes to be bigger than your body, so to speak, so start small. You can always upgrade later!

Step 2: Avoid Toxic Sex Toy Materials

Make sure you’re paying attention to materials and only choosing body safe toys - such as toys made from silicone, glass, steel, and other materials that are non-porous and can be sanitized.

Step 3: Buy Lube. Lots of Lube.

For the best chance of success with a toy, make sure you’re using plenty of body safe lube. This is especially important for any kind of penetration, but it’s often useful for external stimulation too. (If you’re using a silicone toy, don’t use silicone lube, it can degrade the toy.)

Step 3: Read Sex Toy Reviews

Approach toy shopping like any other important purchase, and read reviews online. Some websites have a review system built in. There are also many websites and blogs dedicated to sex toy reviews, and over time you’ll be able to figure out whose opinions are most in line with your own - just like with movie reviews!

Step 4: Release Your Fears

One concern I’ve heard time and again is that people fear using sex toys will harm their body in some way. Everything from causing physical damage, to “ruining” themselves for partnered sex.

To avoid physical harm, you certainly want to be careful and know what you’re doing. But if you’re using a safe toy in a way that’s appropriate for your body and with lots of lube, there shouldn’t be any problem. Simply listen to your body and if something hurts, stop! Especially when it comes to penetration, there’s a lot of cultural expectation around pain. But penetration is not supposed to hurt, not even the first time you try. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Either you’re not aroused enough, or you haven’t done enough warm up, or there isn’t enough lube. Don’t try and push through pain. Instead, stop and see what you can do differently, or try again another time.

As for spoiling partnered sex, this is also a misconception. Yes, there is a possibility that you can become so used to a certain kind of stimulation that you need to re-acclimate to a partner’s touch, but this is an extreme case. Bodies are incredibly flexible and plastic, and even if you spend a whole day playing with sex toys until you’re worn out, it's nothing that taking a day or two off won’t fix.

Toy Recommendations for Beginners

So what toys should you start with? Here are a few ideas:

For Anal Play

For beginners' anal play, consider a small butt plug. You can always get something larger later, but start with something small that’s also tapered, so that you can slowly work up to insertion, rather than something bulb style where you have to insert the widest part almost immediately. With all anal toys, make sure there’s a large, flared base so that the toy can’t be fully inserted inside you. Toys can get lost and require a trip to the ER!

If you have a prostate, a toy designed with prostate play in mind can be great. Here you should be looking for a lot of the same features of a standard butt plug, but with some added shape elements that will allow you to stimulate your prostate. Like the butt plugs, make sure there’s a wide base.

If You're Looking for a Vibrator

To figure out whether you like vibration, start simple. An inexpensive plastic bullet style vibe is a simple and effective first choice. One that’s 6-7 inches and takes larger batteries should provide enough strength to let you know if you’re on the right track. If you’re willing to make a larger investment, wand vibrators, like the classic Magic Wand, tend to be enjoyed by a lot of people, and are my personal favorite.

Avoid anything too fancy, like suction toys or rabbit style vibes, until you have a good sense of what kind of sensations your body enjoys.

If You Think You Want a Dildo

If you enjoy penetration, a simple dildo can be fun to try. You can use it on its own, or along with clitoral stimulation, either with a vibrator or your hand. Start with something on the smaller side until you get used to the feeling of having something inside you, and work up from there if something larger sounds appealing. Again, remember to shop for body safe materials; silicone, glass, etc. Avoid jelly toys and anything porous.

Another style of penetrative toy is that made with the G-spot in mind. G-spot dildos are similar to standard dildos but have a curved shape, or curved tip. If you know you like G-spot stimulation from trying with your fingers, great! Otherwise, be sure to start very slow as this kind of stimulation can be overwhelming or even painful at first. You need to be very aroused for G-spot play to feel good.

If You Have a Penis

For folks with penises, you might like to try masturbation sleeves. They can add more unique sensations than you get from your hands and they range from the basic and inexpensive to the more elaborate toys like the Fleshlight.

Whatever toy you start with, just remember to start slow and to give yourself time to relax and explore. It can take a little while to get used to something new. And if a toy isn’t a good fit for you, don’t worry - there are lots of different options!