At a recent dinner event a very interesting conversation sparked between a few of us. The topic was adult sex toys. For some, it seemed quite normal and part of the love making fun. But then the conversation veered towards feeling less than adequate in love making skills when it comes to incorporating toys.
Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Lovehoney’s Sex and Relationship expert tells us there are many emotions associated with incorporating “toys” into our intimate lives. While it definitely can be exciting, it might also be intimidating…maybe even a confidence shaker. We wanted to ask Dr. Jess more about this and what steps to take if we wanted to introduce toys into the bedroom.
What do you tell people who are feeling this way and is this normal?
Because we don’t have a window into the bedrooms of our friends and neighbours, we tend to question whether what we’re doing in bed is “normal” and this applies to toys as well. In the absence of open conversations and comprehensive education that includes discussions of pleasure, we wonder if we’re the only ones looking to spice things up and we become self-conscious about perceived deficits (e.g. are we missing something if we’re turning to technology?). Of course, the data reveals that if you’re using sex toys, you’re perfectly normal.
What’s more, people who use sex toys have hotter sex lives — they report higher levels of desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction. So you’re ultimately on the right track. If something feels good, embrace it! (Life is too short to deny yourself the full spectrum of pleasure — however you define it from the emotional and relational to the erotic and spiritual.)
What tips do you have to help us overcome these feelings?
1. Look at sex toys as enhancers and accoutrements! They’re not a replacement for human touch, connection and intimacy. Just as we wear glasses to enjoy 20/20 vision & use recipes and kitchen tools to enhance cooking, so too can we use toys to enhance pleasure — solo and partnered.
2. If you or your partner feels intimidated by toys, start with toys that you can use together. If one of you has a penis (or you use a strap-on), consider the We-Vibe Pivot. Its powerful, rumbly vibes are intended to arouse both partners during oral, intercourse and manual play.
3. Consider the role shame is playing in holding you back from indulging in pleasure. What messages about tying sex to shame did you receive when you were younger? What were the sources of those messages? Do you value those sources for sex education/information? Can you rewrite some of these messages to embrace pleasure?
While you’re at it, consider your own sexual values. What does sex mean to you? What are the emotional components of sex that you value? What are the physical components? What about the relational, practical and/or spiritual? The more you identify your own sexual values, the less likely you are to worry about judgment tied to outside sources including sociocultural conditioning.
What are some words of encouragement?
If you’re introducing sex toys to a partner, try this 3 step approach:
- Start with the positive. I love the way it felt last Sunday — especially _________.
- Make space for inquiry. Have you had anything on your mind?
- Make your request. I read about this new couples’ toy that vibrates. I’d love to try it together. What do you think?
You don’t need to fall into the majority, but if you’re still feeling concerned, rest assured that sex toy use is the norm. A nationally representative sample of women in the US aged 18-60 found that one half of us are using vibrators. And that data is ten years old, so I wouldn’t be surprised that number has significantly increased (especially since pandemic orders have soared and more mainstream shops and department stores now carry sex toys AKA sexual wellness products).
What shouldn’t we say?
When communicating with a partner, you (ideally) want to be honest while being mindful of their feelings and potential triggers.
Obviously, you’re more likely to start a meaningful conversation with This vibrator feels so good for me and I’d love to try it together versus The vibrator just feels better than your hand. Even though both statements may be true and it’s not your job to coddle your partner, you likely want to be mindful of their feelings and sensitivities if they’re new to toys. Having said that, hopefully you can progress to a point where you can be honest about what works for your body.
Your partner may need reassurance — which shouldn’t all fall on your shoulders, as they can also learn to reassure themselves. It’s not your job to manage their emotions (and insecurities), but you obviously want to be considerate of them.
(People often worry that if they use a vibe, they won’t be able to orgasm as easily with hands, mouths, penises, etc.. And to some degree, this may be true. But it’s not that the vibrator is ruining your capacity to orgasm by other means, it’s likely that you’ve just discovered a preferred method of play and that’s perfectly fine. It’s not numbing you out to other sensations; it’s simply showing you what feels good in your body and life is too short to deny yourself pleasure. If you find a new recipe that you love, you don’t bemoan the loss of a previous recipe that you also enjoyed; the same applies in the bedroom.
What toys would you recommend to couples?
TouchX – this flat vibe can be used on all bodies — across the entire body from the thighs to the small of the back, along the perineum, over the vulva, against the clitoris, around the nipples, over the shaft and anywhere else you can imagine. It’s powerful, rumbly and silky smooth and has long been my go-to toy.
Pivot – whether you’re using a penis or a strap-on, this vibrating C-ring provides intense, deep vibes to both partners during intercourse and oral. It’s also a great first toy, as you can simply add it to your usual routine (whatever that may be). For a more affordable option, consider the Romp Juke.
Womanizer OG – I was asked to try this new product out last week before a press event and I’ll be honest, I was not in the mood. My to-do list was growing, I was jetlagged and I just wanted to sit on my couch and catch up on emails. But alas, duty calls, so I got down to business and I’m so glad I did. I don’t often talk about my own sex life, but I’ll share just a few details: I played with my partner and discovered that the curve, handle and versatile power of the OG make it the ideal couples’ toy. If you play with it against their body (e.g. along the perineum against the Million Dollar Mark just behind the balls) during intercourse, you’ll also feel the reverberations in all the right spots
Thanks to Dr. Jess for taking the time to help us navigate behind closed doors!
~ Elle S.