Sex Toys 101

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Sex Toys

In partnership with The Pleasure Chest

Shopping for your first sex toy can be an overwhelming experience. There are so many different shapes, sizes, and kinds to choose from! And once you’ve found a toy you like, how do you use it and who do you use it with? Sex toys can be a great tool for exploring your own sexuality, experiencing your first orgasm, or getting closer to your partner. We’re here to walk you through the basics of sex toy types, tips and toy care!

Choosing the Right Toy

Sexuality is wide and varied, with the sex toy industry adapting to every preference and fantasy out there. Here’s a rundown of the usual suspects you’ll encounter when shopping for sex toys:


Buying your first vibrator can be an overwhelming experience: there are literally thousands of different kinds of vibes to choose from. At the Pleasure Chest, we try to simplify this search with a few basic questions.

First, do you prefer internal or external stimulation?

For first-time toy users, we recommend that you start slow and work your way up: maybe try a low cost vibrating bullet with variable speeds to get a sense of the sensation you like. While some folks love the pinpointed pressure of a bullet, others enjoy a larger toy that covers more surface area (like a wand). If you enjoy penetration, then an internal vibe with some curvature is a great option with versatility, since they can double as an external vibe. If you discover that you don’t enjoy internal stimulation, you can still use these toys externally.

Are you looking to use something with a partner increase sensation for both of you?

Stretchy vibrating cockrings are great for all kinds of play; they can be worn on a penis, dildo or on you or your partner’s fingers during penetrative play to create “hands-free” vibration.


Do you enjoy penetration or the full feeling of internal stimulation?

If so, dildos can be a great vibrating or non-vibrating option. You can use dildos on your own or with a partner, and you can even strap them into a harness for strap-on play. Finding the right size is key with internal toys. Think about what has comfortably been inserted before and do some measurements before making a purchase. For instance, if you know that you like the feel of two fingers fully inserted, measure around your two fingers for the diameter and find a length similar to the length of your fingers, or a little longer if you will be using it in a harness, as the harness eats up some of the length.

Are you trying to stimulate your G-spot or prostate?

Find a dildo with some curvature or a bulbous head to help you access these pleasure centers on the body.

Butt Stuff

In recent years, anal sex has gained more acceptance and attention. While it is fantastic that the genderless sex organ is getting the attention it deserves, it is also very important to know how to engage in anal play safely. One fact everyone should know is – the ass does not self-lubricate. If you’re interested in anal play a good, thick, long-lasting lubricant is the key to a safe and pleasurable experience.

Silicone lube is great because it lasts a long time, but it can be expensive and can also stain the sheets. Water-based lube is the most versatile and works with all toys; just make sure you get a thicker formula or be prepared to re-apply. And don’t forget the golden rule of anal toys: without a base, without a trace! Never put anything up your butt without a base or a flange to keep it from getting pulled into your body by the contractions of your sphincter muscles, or you could find yourself in the emergency room! We would also recommend a nonporous toy for easy cleaning and sterilization. Something like the Fun Factory Bootie butt plug is a great first-time toy: it’s small, comfortable, and easy to insert.

Masturbation Sleeves

Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of great toys designed for penises! Masturbation sleeves, range in shape and function from the classic hyper-realistic Fleshlight to the vibrating Hot Octopuss Pulse, which can even be used without an erection. Simple and versatile open-ended sleeves, like our favorite the Sidekick 2, are made of super soft materials that combine tightness with texture for an enhanced erotic experience, and can also be incorporated into partner play.

Also Important!


At the Pleasure Chest, we believe you can never have too much lube. Contrary to what you may have heard, lube isn’t just for older folks, or people going through menopause, it’s actually great for enhancing sensations and reducing friction for all kinds of play. It keeps things slick, comfortable, and slippery while helping to prevent chafing and microabrasions that can make you susceptible to infection. Some lubes come in fun fruity flavors or create a heating, cooling, or tingling sensation, for added stimulation.

We highly recommend water-based lubes because they can be used in any part of the body and with any toy material. Always make sure you check the ingredients of your lube before you buy it. Keep an eye out for glycerine, which is a sugar derivative and can feed yeast and lead to infection, and parabens, which are chemical preservatives that can absorb into the skin.

Silicone lube tends to be a little more slick and last a lot longer than water based lube, so it doesn’t need to be reapplied as often. It’s also water resistant, so you can use it in the shower. However, it can stain the sheets, and it’s not compatible with silicone as well as some other more sensitive toy materials.

Oil-based lubes are usually recommended for external use only, though for some folks, coconut oil lubricant in particular is safe for internal use. There are two key things to remember about oil-based lube. First, oil is not compatible with latex. If you’re using latex condoms or gloves, avoid using oil because it will cause latex barriers to break. Second, oil is difficult for our bodies to breakdown, so if used vaginally, oil can coat the mucus membranes and create a welcoming environment for bacteria, which can lead to infection.

For more on lube, check out the lubricant basic!

Condoms, Dams, & Gloves

Choosing the right supplies for safer sex doesn’t have to be daunting. Condoms can help prevent STIs and pregnancy, and they are available in a broad range of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Latex condoms are the most commonly available, but some people are allergic to latex. Non-latex condoms made from polyurethane or polyisoprene are a great alternative for people with latex sensitivities, and are just as effective as latex condoms. Dental dams, which are thin sheets of latex or polyurethane are great barriers to use for oral sex and anal rimming. Latex or nitrile gloves are also helpful if you’re using your hands for penetration. Besides preventing fluid exchange, they also make for quick cleanup, and many people especially like to use gloves if they’re exploring the backdoor with their fingers.

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How do I choose the right sex toy?

Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to sex toys. Everyone has different tastes and different needs. Find a local sex-positive retailer, where you can touch the toys and get advice from knowledgeable staff. Also, think about the sensations your body responds well to (internal versus external stimulation, firm pressure rubbing versus rapid motion rubbing, etc.) If you have an idea about what you like, you’ll know what to ask for or what to look for in online reviews. If you don’t know what kinds of sensation you like, try to find a toy with some versatility such as variable speed vibrations, the option to use the toy in different ways, like a vibrating dildo, and start with something simple and low cost so the toy can help you learn what sensations your body responds well to.

Pro tip: Warming a toy to body temperature by holding it in your hands or between your legs and using lubricant with your sex toys will enhance the experience you have with the toy.

What makes a toy “body-safe”?

Body-safe simply means that the materials or ingredients are not harmful. There’s two main factors to think about in sex toy materials: porosity and chemical softeners. If something is going inside you, you want to consider if the material of the toy can harbor bacteria. Nonporous toys (like silicone, metal, and glass) do not trap bacteria. You can clean them completely with toy cleaner, gentle soap and water or by boiling them if there are no electrical components. Meanwhile, porous toys (like plastic, cyberskin, TPE, elastomer and jelly rubber) can trap bacteria into the pores of the material and are not safe to share with partners or to use both anally and vaginally unless you put a condom over them. Phthalates in soft plastic toys are also something to be aware of, as these chemical softeners can leach from the toy into your body. An easy way to tell whether a toy contains phthalates is to smell the toy. If it smells like a new shower curtain, it contains phthalates. Confirm a product is Phthalate-free or nonporous to ensure you are purchasing a body-safe toy.

Do I need to/how do I clean my sex toys?

In short, yes! You should always wash your toy right out of the box with warm water and soap, and after every subsequent use. If your toy is non-porous and doesn’t have a motor, clean up is easy. You can boil it for 3-5 minutes or wash it in the top rack of your dishwasher (without soap). You can also use anti-bacterial toy cleaners and wipes on any non-porous toys, which are available online and in any sex-positive retail store. Porous toys can also be cleaned with toy cleaner, or warm water and soap, but know that you cannot fully clean these toys, as the pores in the material can trap microscopic bacteria, so the safest bet is to only use them externally or to put a condom on them for internal use. If you’re sharing a sex toy, make sure it is sanitized between users. If it can’t be sanitized, the safest way to share a toy is to put a condom or latex glove on it, so any areas that are touching or entering the body are fully covered.

Can I use a sex toy with a partner?

Using a toy with your partner for the first time can be intimidating, that’s for sure. If you think about toys as a way to enhance sensations and make sex better, they can become your sidekick in pleasing your partner. Since toys do not have the same biofeedback as skin on skin, introducing a toy into partner play requires more communication both before sex to find the right fit for you and your partner and during sex so you know how your partner is responding to the toy. A surprising number of people are unfamiliar with the idea of using vibrators during partner sex, and also the fact that most folks with vulvas do need some form of clitoral stimulation to orgasm. Using a toy together, like a vibrating cock ring or a butt plug can be a great way for you both to get off, have stronger orgasms, and explore something new together. And no, a sex toy won’t replace your partner. Until they invent toys that cuddle, talk to you, and drive you to airport, your partner has nothing to worry about!

Will my sex toy desensitize me/stretch me out/ruin partnered sex for me?

The short answer is no: your sex toy will not damage your bits or ruin analog sex for you! While you can’t get addicted to your sex toy, you might become dependent on it for quick and easy orgasms or if you exclusively orgasm in the same way repeatedly. If you find yourself in a toy rut, it’s okay to take a break, change up how you are using the toy, or kick it old school by using your hands.

If you’re worried about a toy stretching you out, as long as you are using your internal toys safely, meaning using lubricant, staying in a sober and aware state of mind, and not numbing your body in any way so that you are fully aware of what your body is telling you, you will not harm yourself with a sex toy.


For more information visit the Pleasure Chest website, where you can browse our wide variety of products and curated categories, read toy reviews, and explore our PleasurEd blog for free tips, tricks and educational videos.

tabú tip

No matter what toy you’re interested in, you can increase sensation and comfort by adding lube! Try a water-based lube without glycerin, like Sliquid or Good Clean Love to amp up a self pleasure session or partner play.

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