Lisa Finn, a sex educator at sex-toy retailer Babeland likens using pleasure products during sex to using tools while building. “You could build a birdhouse with your hands, but it’s going to be an easier and more pleasant experience with a hammer and nails.”
Metaphors aside, sex toys make certain sensations possible that might not be otherwise be. For instance, no matter how rapidly your partner can swipe their tongue, that tongue can’t vibrate. And no matter how skilled your partner is with their hands at on your erogenous zones, they only have so many hands, and certain pleasure products, like the Hot Octopuss Duo, can be used hands-free.
“Sex toys can also help couples bust out of routines,” she adds. And since sex routines can often lead to no-fun sex ruts, you're going to want to learn how to introduce a sex toy into your relationship sooner than later.
Below, find your expert-informed 6-step guide for bringing a sex toy to bed.
1. Create a culture of open sex talk in your relationship
Consider how much easier your conversation about bringing sex toys into your relationship would be if you and your partner already have regular conversation about sex. As clinical psychologist and sex therapist Christopher Ryan Jones, PsyD, previously told Well+Good, “[Talking about sex] can increase intimacy and provide the opportunity for each of you to better understand what is most enjoyable for you sexually.”
“Conversations [about sex] will help you and your partner get used to talking about what sensations you enjoy and what additions you could make to your sex lives to make them even better.” —Lisa Finn, sex educator
So, next time you're engaging in a partnered sex act, tell your partner how good they felt when they did X. Or, how hot they looked when they’re doing Y. Or, ask them a question like, “How did it feel when I Z'd? or “Is there anything I did that felt really good that I should do again in the future?” These questions are important to ask, Finn says, because “these kinds of conversations will help you and your partner get used to talking about what sensations you enjoy, what additions you could make to your sex lives to make them even better, and more.”
2. Specifically talk about using a sex toy
Once you’ve gotten comfortable talking about sex period, it’s time to introduce the idea of pleasure products. Because it's not wise (or respectful or acceptable from a consent perspective) to simply grab a vibrator from beneath your bed in the middle of things and hope for the best. “Whipping out a sex toy could make your partner feel pressured into trying something they don’t want to try,” says Finn. “You need to set up a space where your partner can say no.”
Not sure what to say? Avoid language that’s blamey, shamey, or focused on dissatisfaction (i.e. “I’m sick and tired of not orgasming so…”). Instead, “center the conversation about the potential excitement and fun the toy could bring both of you,” says Finn. For instance: “I think it could be really hot for you to use a vibrator on me,” or “I think it could be really fun to watch you use a stroker while I use a toy on myself.”
Or, Finn suggests, “you could tell your partner you read an interesting article about sex toys that you want to send them and talk to them about later.”
3. Get really specific about what toy to try
There are seven-plus different types of vibrators alone—and dildos, strokers, nipple clamps, and floggers, among others, also all qualify as sex toys. So it's very possible that if you're not specific in your discussion, when you agree to use a sex toy, you may be envisioning a sword-shaped dildo while your partner is thinking about a vibrating cock ring. Because of this, it's key to ensure that you’re on the same page about what type of toy you want to try together.
To make that choice, “spend some time walking around your local sex shop and see what excites you,” says Finn. “Listen to your gut to learn what turns you on and watch your partner's body language to gauge what excites them.” Or, scroll through a sex shop’s online store (like Babeland, Early To Bed, or Spectrum Boutique) to acquaint yourselves with the different sex-toy categories. Regardless of whether your shop IRL or online, fill out a Yes/No/Maybe list (like this one) as you peruse. “This will help you and your partner start to narrow down the type of sex toy you want to try, and get you used to talking about it.”
4. Spend some time getting to know your toy
Now that you have your toy, spend some time getting to know it before bringing it to bed. “How do you turn it on and off? How do you increase or decrease the intensity? How many vibration patterns are there? Which ones do I want to try,” says Finn. “These are all questions you should be able to answer before you go to use it for real.”
And Finn is very right; as someone who reviews sex toys for a living, I know the frustration all too well of being in the heat of the moment and not being able to decipher "more intense" from "less intense." I can’t tell you how many times I’ve orgasm-blocked myself by accidentally pressing “off” when I meant to press “+”. Sigh.
5. Talk about the experience afterward
Keep exercising those talking-about-sex skills after you’ve used the toy. “It's important for you and your partner to come together after sex and chat about the toy, reflect on what went well, and what may need some work or support,” says AASECT certified sex therapist Jenni Skyler, PhD.
6. Keep at it
Hopefully, using your sex toy with your bedmate brought you both new levels of pleasure, but do know there's a learning curve to sex toys and using them in a partnered context. So, “if you dropped some money on a toy and then didn’t love it the first time, try it again,” says Finn. You might try using it over your underwear, or on a different setting, or on a different body part or with a different kind of lube or arousal oil. “Using it while you masturbate may help you crack the code of what feels good to you, too,” says Finn.
And if you’re still not a fan? Don’t give up on sex toys with your partner completely. “There are so many different types of toys on the market that I’d hate for a couple to swear off sex toys altogether because their first one didn’t work,” says Dr. Skyler. Her suggestion: Make a list of what you did and didn’t like about your first purchase, then ask a sex educator and/or sex-shop employee for their recommendation.
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