We recently discussed the role of sex shops made with female clientele in mind. Actually, if we look up the stores we mentioned, they’re not just for women. They became the providers of sex toys and objects tailored for anyone who felt that the industry was not creating options for them. But, while the historical importance of these spaces is quite interesting, we seemed to have forgotten what it’s like to actually step through the threshold of these business and purchase something.
You might be curious or interested in getting your hands on something you saw on TV or a movie. But it’s one thing to watch a character use an erotic toy and another for us to try it out. In fact, acquiring objects for your erotic menagerie can be a little intimidating if you’ve never gone into one of these stores. Luckily, we’ve asked sexologist and educator Ka to provide us with her suggestions on where to begin.
“When it comes to erotic toys, it’s not unlike to trying out a particular dish, going for a certain outfit, or even testing a different position. It’s all about easing into it and getting a taste. If we don’t try, we might never know if it’s something we want or enjoy.”
Yet how do we know where to start? Is there anything like a starter kit for sex toys? “Just like when you go to the department store and see the basics: the knit top, the white tee, and other classic elements, there’s also the basics of erotic toys. These are the ones you’ll want to always keep at home, just in case. But they’re also the ones that can be like your introduction. In this category, the most popular ones are of course the vibrator and the dildo.”
But, as we’re discovering our taste and interest in these objects, how do we separate what we think we know, and our first-hand experience? According to Lena Sollow, “Popular culture tells us that vibrators are a clitoris or woman-specific toy, but the truth is that anyone can enjoy the sensation of vibration.”
We asked Ka to explain this a bit further. “The vibrator is an obvious choice because of its different speeds and other capabilities. I often tell people that even those massagers you buy on the street can become a vibrator. I mean, they might not last more than a few days, but they’re accessible. Any of these back or stress massagers can work as vibrators.”
One thing to keep in mind is how much you’re willing to invest in these erotic toys. An average vibrator might set you back about a $100. So if you’re going to purchase this kind of item, you should think ahead which one might be your best choice. “In terms of vibrators, we need to start small. They sell these pocket-size ones called bullets. They’re literally bullet-sized but they’re pretty powerful, and they’re great for testing out different speeds. It’s better to move your way up towards the more sophisticated, specific, and expensive items. You might start with a bullet, then go for a phallic-shaped vibrator, and eventually end up with a rabbit one that includes a clitoral stimulator. But it’s important to try them out in order to discover which one works for you.”
And then when you go to the actual store, how do you even ask for them? Do you just pick up the first one you see? The cheapest one? How do you even ask for help without feeling completely in over your head? “I think for first-timers it’s important to find one of these more established local shops or chains. And when you look them up, you can check out what supply company they work with, or if its their own brand. Because several toy companies or distributors constantly provide training and workshops to shop attendants regarding new or popular products.”
Moving on from the vibrator to the next basic toy: the dildo. We’re used to seeing all different kinds of these: huge ones, small ones, jelly ones, etc. “At first, the dildo needs to be of a moderate size, unless you want to go for a bolder choice.”
As for other sorts of accessories, “When we talk about more BDSM objects, there’s these handcuffs for beginners. And what sets them apart from the usual ones is that they’re not heavy, so you won’t get tired while you use them. Then if you try them and feel like this is something that you like, you can start switching them for more professional ones.”
But there’s a lot of other things to keep in mind when purchasing your erotic starter kit. According to Caitlyn Murphy, there’s one thing most of us don’t think about when we think about erotic accessories, “Sex toys are considered 'for novelty use only,' and manufacturers can fill dildos, vibrators, and cock rings with materials that are known to be harmful and that are regulated in other industries.”
Because of this Ka recommends to look out for certain details when shopping for our bedside companions. “It’s important that your toys come properly packaged. Sometimes we’ll get something from a random online retailer or shop and we get out product in this clear paper bag, rather than a proper box or packaging with instructions and certifications. This will also assure you that it’s made with the best materials.”
One important thing Ka also underlined is that, “Every erotic toy we’re using should be used with a condom. And those that we can’t use a condom with should have quality certified materials.”
Finally, we also asked Ka about the comparisons between online and brick and mortar shops. “I think that the biggest difference between shopping online and actually heading out to the store is the anonymity. The virtual world keeps you anonymous. You have all these choices and nobody needs to know. Whereas heading to the store can be overwhelming if the store attendant starts explaining how one thing is for oral or anal, etc. With online shops you don’t have to have that one-on-one. There’s even some retailers that offer the discretion of sending your parcel without the store’s name or any description of the contents.”
So are you ready to try some of these out? Eventually, once you get the hang of the basics, you might want to branch out into a myriad of possibilities. When we asked Ka for some words of encouragement to anyone who’s curious to try, whether based on their own research or from watching something on TV or film, her answer was, “My biggest recommendation would be to do the research. It starts with seeing or knowing about an object, getting inspired from a scene, and just having some level of curiosity. And from there you can look it up and try it out to see if it works for you.”