Need to do some last minute Christmas shopping? Or maybe you have some belated Chanukah gift-giving to do? Well here’s a little toy shopping guide to get you going. There are so many adult toys on the market these days that the selection is dizzying. But I’m going to give you the basics.

Dildos are your basic phallic-shaped toy. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors from crazy hot-pink ones with ridges, to realistic-looking, and some even with a set of balls attached. They can be single or double-headed, depending on whether there will be pleasuring of one person at a time or two (it’s always nice to share). There are some that have a suction cup on the bottom for wall mount. These seem to hold best to materials that are relatively flat and smooth – linoleum flooring, tile, etc. Strap-on dildos are made to be used with harnesses – usually strapped onto someones hips. But there are harnesses designed to strap to thighs, faces, furniture. Such creativity! Since they do come in such a wide selection, it might be difficult to choose a size. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, width is usually the more relevant dimension. If you would like to choose a dildo with a similar width to your partner (or yourself) a very simple way to gauge this is to close your eyes and wrap your hand around the dildo. Chances are, your muscle memory will tell you if it similar in circumference to what your used to, then you can choose if you want to stick with it, or go for something a little wider.

Vibrators are the next main type of adult toy. As the name implies, they vibrate. There are battery-operated vibrators and there are heavy-duty vibrators with electrical cords. Some are simple in design for either vaginal or anal penetration; some are wider and curved for outer stimulation of the clitoris (or assorted other body parts); others are curved for G-spot stimulation; some are designed specifically for prostate stimulation; and some have a combination for vaginal penetration and clitoral stimulation at the same time, better known as rabbit-style.

You can also get busy with some toys designed for anal play, such as plugs or beads. Remember that any anal toys should have a flange base or looped handle to prevent it from sliding in all the way and necessitating an unwanted visit to your local emergency room. Consider the material that the beads are connected with to see if it can be properly disinfected after use. Other variations on a theme include vibrating cock rings that slide onto the shaft of the penis and are worn down towards the base during penetration that can stimulate both partners.

Almost anything you choose can be fun and exciting. Two very important factors in your decision-making when buying an adult toy is material and lube choice. The majority of adult sex toys out there are made out of “jelly” or latex plastic combinations. These are not only porous materials that cannot be sterilized once used, but also contain phthalates which are considered toxic and have been shown to have unwanted hormonal effects for both men and women. Do not use these toys! Look for non-porous materials that cannot be penetrated by bacteria or viruses and can be disinfected or sterilized for future use (or for use with other partners). These are high-quality silicone, glass, and stainless steel. Do not be fooled by less expensive products that are silicone blended with other rubber because they probably have phthalates in them. Also safe for use are Elastomer, vinyl (Cyberskin), ABS plastic, lucite, and hard plastic. Those, however, should not be shared since they are porous and can’t be completely disinfected. You can, however, choose to use these with a condom if it’s intended to be used by more than one person.

And of course, there’s lube. Saliva is great, but doesn’t last very long and is not as slippery as you might need. Never use any oils, Crisco, or vaseline. First of all, these cause condoms to disintegrate. Also, they form a slick layer over the vaginal mucosa that promotes yeast growth, as well as bacteria. Water-based lubricants can be used with almost any toy and come in different levels of thickness and with or without flavors. Many women prefer to pick a lube that does not have glycerin, which is a type of sugar that can be irritating to some, and also promotes the growth of yeast. Water-based lubes are easy to clean up and do not stain. If you’re looking for something that is slipperier, lasts longer, and is waterproof (think shower or hot tub), then you should try a silicone-based lube. It’s ok for use with latex, but you can’t use it with silicone or vinyl products. You probably will want to pick your toy first, then decide on the lube.

The variety available is outstanding and toys can be a great addition to partnered sex, or a welcomed addition for those flying solo. So good luck with your last minute toy shopping. And for those of you in Alabama where the sale of sex toys is still illegal, it’s worth a drive across state lines.

Sex is a many splendored thing.
Give Yourself a Hand