Dear Level

Don’t Miss Out on the Joy of Sex Toys

She might be hiding them in the closet. But she likely does own a few.

I’m not a sexpert. Not by any means. Yes, this column delves into sex more weeks than not. But it’s generally a healthy dose of my own experiences mixed with some reporting and a little women’s intuition.

That said, just because I’m in a committed relationship with a healthy sex life doesn’t mean I can always use my own experiences every time I sit down to write.

Like, say, this week. We all know that experimentation is the key to avoiding boredom, which can be the death knell of any relationship; we also all know that sex toys are a big part of that. But my own history with toys is limited at best. I own a lipstick-sized vibrator for solo use; it gets the job done, and that’s it. Nothing mind-blowing whatsoever. It’s the orgasm equivalent of getting a piece of crab meat out from between your molars: Feels better, moving on.

Between replies, DMs, and texts, more than 100 women had weighed in — and they were all rhapsodizing over their vibrators, dildos, cock rings, suction cups, and whips and chains. (Yes, really.)

I also own a purple dildo that’s more than a decade old. For at least half that time, it’s been wrapped up in an old sweatshirt somewhere in a box stuffed with books and magazines. When I told my partner I had a dildo, he wanted to see it; when I told him it was 10 years old and hadn’t seen action since the Obama era, his eyes widened with concern. “Batteries leak after that long,” he said. “It’s gotta go.”

So it did. I tossed it, not certain how to replace it.

That’s my whole sex toy knowledge and history from beginning to end. Nothing kinky, nothing plug-in, no smart toys or “teledildonics” that sync up with porn or my partner’s corresponding toy. Nada. To really have the sex toy convo, I had to reach out to others to get the right perspective.

This time, I sought input from my Facebook friends. Here’s what I posted:

Women only please:

1. Do you own any sex toys?

2. Are they for solo use or for partner(s) or both?

3. What kind of toy(s) do you own?

4. Does your partner know about them?

The first four women responded quickly: No. No. Absolutely no. Nope.

No surprise there, I thought. I have a pretty conservative base of friends and followers on the platform, so that was the feedback I expected. I closed the tab and got back to work.

When I checked back in later, though, it was an entirely different story. Between replies, DMs, and texts, more than 100 women had weighed in — and they were all rhapsodizing over their vibrators, dildos, cock rings, suction cups, and whips and chains. (Yes, really.)

Confronted with the breadth and enthusiasm of their accessory-laden lives, I hung my head in shame — and then lifted it back up out of curiosity. I’m sex-positive, but half of the things they were talking about I’d never heard of in my life. So, for this week, I’m happy to give you my own thoughts, but I’m far more interested to share what the women in my circle are into.

  1. Sex toys are being used with partners a lot more than I knew. Maybe I’m late. But I heard from several women who enjoy having their partner use all kinds of toys on them, whether it’s a joint session or not. If, like me, you’ve never indulged with a partner, I’m being told to start with the basics: a small lipstick- or bullet-shaped vibrator that can be applied to pressure points. Figure out what parts of her body bring pleasure, especially outside of the usual. Figure out what parts of your body bring pleasure, especially outside of the usual — in future sessions, the roles can be switched.
  2. Many women have an entire-ass stash of toys that they’re hiding because they fear their partners might judge them. For too many women, the idea of exploring our bodies and figuring out what makes us feel good is not approved, taught, or explained. And with the proliferation of porn, it’s even worse, since most sex scenes are executed from a hypermasculine point of view. If you want to be part of her sex toy sessions and you’re unsure if she has any, try asking — she might just reach into that box in the closet and blow your mind.
  3. Women are also nervous about their partner’s delicate egos. How will you feel if her toy is significantly different from your real thing? Some of these toys can be hyperrealistic, even more than in years past. But they’re just that — toys. If she pulls out a 12-inch monster that dwarfs your own, it doesn’t mean she’d prefer that model in real life. Like most things, what we use in pretend can often be more exaggerated than in real life. Don’t take it personally. Ask her to show you how she uses it and just enjoy the show.
  4. I’ve never owned more than two toys at a time in my entire life, and they don’t get much use. I thought that was typical. Anecdotally, at least, I was very wrong. The average woman in my straw poll owns at least five different toys, including suction cups, a variety of dildos and vibrators, and Bluetooth-enabled toys that your partner can control via an app on their phone. Whether your partner is in the kitchen making dinner or halfway around the world in a long-distance relationship, you still connect sexually. Simply looking for toys could bring some added heat to the bedroom.
  5. Some women are totally down with analog lo-fi toys. One woman wrote, “If you’re not ready or can’t afford a fancy toy, cucumbers work wonders — it’s enjoyable to tease, watch, and experience.” I looked into it, and yes, veggies can be relatively safe. (Though it might make more sense to buy an inexpensive starter toy.) If you’re committed to that farm-fresh life, though, treat that produce just like a penis: Keep it clean, and wrap it up.

As with everything else we discuss, it all comes down to communication. If she doesn’t have any toys or doesn’t want any, respect that. If she has an entire cadre she’s been keeping to herself, respect that, too, and ask to join the party. If you’re interested in exploring, simply ask, or explore on your own. I mean, isn’t it time you tried a vibrating cock ring or an anal plug on yourself?

Okay, maybe not quite yet. But here’s to experimentation!

Aliya S. King is an author, freelance writer and editor.

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