Purchasing a sex toy? Things to consider

So, you’re buying a dildo.

Don’t feel ashamed. Using a sex toy is a healthy, safe way to express sexuality while avoiding the pitfalls that come along with actual sex, like pregnancy and STD transmission. Here are some things you should consider when you go to buy your first sex toy.

Are you buying your toy at a sex shop? A nice reputable sex-toy website? Amazon?

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Spencers sells some good quality sex toys. Photo from ShopNorthLake.com.

The first thing you should know about buying a sex toy is that price can vary. Amazon’s sex toys are usually sold through a third-party seller, so sex toys bought on Amazon can be more expensive (though you can occasionally get a nice deal on Lelo vibrators). It may also be hard to find what you want there, depending on how specific your desires are; the selection on Amazon isn’t as wide as the selection you’d find in a specialty shop or on a website that’s specifically for sex toys. It is convenient though, especially for college students (who get free shipping, which is nice); but if this is your first purchase, you’d probably be better off going somewhere that’s more accustomed to selling toys of this nature.

You probably shouldn’t go to a sex shop if you’re easily embarrassed, because you will be asking questions. Be sure to check whether the shop you’re going to is reputable as well — some sex shops can be really sketchy, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you try to purchase something that may be dangerous. If you want a more personal experience, or if you want the ability to ask specific questions to a knowledgeable clerk, a sex shop may be the right way to go.

A nice, reputable sex-toy website can provide the best of both worlds to the recent initiate. Though you won’t be able to examine what you’re buying as closely as you could in a shop, you’ll be able to see testimonials from people who purchased the product you’re looking at in most cases. Most specialized websites have a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee.

The second thing you have to think about is what you’re looking for.

I’m not talking about size, shape or function. That’s your business, though I would suggest something small and nondescript for your first purchase. What I’m talking about is material and type.

You may think you want something flexible and squishy, but there are two things you should consider. A softer toy does not necessarily mean a more comfortable toy, and in most cases just means it’s harder to clean. Glass, hard plastic and silicone toys are generally easier to clean.

But there’s also something else to think about: phthalates.

That wasn’t a misspelling. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften plastics, and are more likely to be found in soft plastics than anything else. They can cause adverse effects in reproductive health, are generally thought to affect the endocrine system if used regularly, and are “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic,” according to the National Library of Medicine. Most reputable toy companies print “Phthalate-free” on their packaging, but the FDA doesn’t regulate it, so there’s no way to really know if the toy you’re using is phthalate free if it’s made of soft plastic. Glass and silicone toys don’t use phthalates, and a well-made glass toy will not break while you’re using it. In fact, a well-made glass toy probably won’t break at all, so you’re pretty safe there. Glass toys cost a little bit more, but they’re worth the price.

And then there are vibrators.

Not all vibrators are created equally. Don’t purchase a cheap vibrator; it won’t do anything to your body unless it’s made of soft plastic, but it also won’t last very long. A $20 vibrator will break within a month of regular use, whereas a vibrator that costs $150 (a la Lelo) has a one-year warranty and a 10-year quality guarantee that will offer you 50% off your next purchase should you have issues after that one-year warranty expires. Other stores provide toys that are just as good, so make sure to do your research before picking one.

Last but not least … just have fun with it. A sex toy isn’t going to get you pregnant, it isn’t going to give you an STD, and it isn’t going to come drunk-knocking at six in the morning. Sex toys are loads of fun whether you’re in a relationship or not, so just have fun, and remember that your vibrator isn’t hurting anyone.