One silver lining of the pandemic is that it laid the foundation for an increased use in sex toys. While folks stayed at home, they got sexually curious and creative, whether during masturbation sessions or in the scope of partnered relationships. Industry dollars support this notion, with reports noting the sale of sex-related products having doubled or even tripled in certain countries during periods of lockdown and isolation.
As a sex therapist, I love seeing this shift. The documented rise in usage of sex toys is encouraging us to be more open with sexual discourse and general, which has a positive impact on our sexual health and wellness. Why? Well, it may start with pleasure—but that's far from where it ends.
Pleasure is just one the benefits of using sex toys
Whether you’re a vulva-owner, penis-owner, or intersex, pleasure is the cornerstone of a healthy sex life. It’s easy to see how toys help us out here: We use them to experience the euphoric sensations we can’t quite achieve (or achieve as quickly) on our own.
If you're thinking, Of course sex toys make you feel good, fair point. But what's less obvious is how vital pleasure is to our overall health and well-being. It's a common tendency to sideline the value of sex, view it as a bonus or a treat, or something to put at the bottom of our priority list when life gets busy. However, consider that research has connected sexual satisfaction to lowered levels of anxiety and depression. In that vein, it stands to reason that pleasure alone is just the tip of the iceberg of benefits of sex—and sex toys are adept at facilitating sex that is rich with pleasure.
No, sex isn't required to dispel mental-health ailments nor should it function as an isolated strategy for restoring optimum mental health. Rather, sexual satisfaction is one important factor that stands to support overall mental health, and—crucially—can be achieved without a partner. Sexual stimulation through masturbation may help bring on similar benefits of boosting your mood, self-esteem, sleep quality, and helping to relieve stress. And because sex toys stand to make all forms of sex more enjoyable, they have a major role to play here.
Good sex is good for your body, and sex toys can help
Although pleasure is a tenet of sexual health, and sex toys are marketed primarily on their ability to derive pleasure, it’s by no means the only value they provide. Sex toys—while capable of helping users better understand their desires and better communicate with partners—can actually provide physical benefits.
Sex toys—while capable of helping users better understand their desires and better communicate with partners—can actually provide physical benefits.
To illustrate this point, consider, the vibrator. Research suggests vibration may help treat erectile dysfunction (ED) and anorgasmia, an issue common in women who experience delayed, infrequent, or absent orgasms—or significantly less-intense orgasms—after sexual arousal. Vibration has been linked to improvements in sexual function and desire, whether you have a penis or a vulva. Pelvic-floor dysfunction—the inability to correctly relax and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles, which often causes sexual problems, not to mention issues with constipation or urinary leakage—may also be helped through vibration.
Another sex-toy category—vacuum-like devices that use a hand- or battery-powered pump to create suction around your penis, clitoris, vulva, or nipples—has shown to treat and sometimes resolve such issues as ED and genital arousal disorder.
Masturbating with other toys (or just in general), may help relieve period cramps and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Some experts advise masturbation to help with chronic concerns like joint pain or headaches—another point in favor of the ancillary benefits that come from the intense pleasure sex toys can make you feel.
As we continue talking more openly about sex, sex toys become a larger part of the conversation. Nurturing our sexuality illuminates that pleasure is attainable—and provides for health benefits, to boot. Sex toys prioritize pleasure, of course, but pleasure itself is about taking care of your sexuality—which includes your mind and your body. When toys help you experience pleasure, they help you cultivate a happier and healthier version of yourself.
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