Article By MARK HAY~
Bringing sex toys into partnered sex can open up entirely new realms of pleasure for everyone involved.
Toys do things our bodies just cannot, like pulse and vibrate. These novel sensations can help many people have more consistent and frequent — or complex and intense — orgasmic experiences. And the sheer variety of experiences on offer can help couples keep their sex varied and interesting, which certainly helps to maintain desire in long-term relationships.
Sounds good, right? But even as taboos around using sex toys in general fade, sex counselor Aleece Fosnight notes that many still hesitate to broach the idea of bringing a toy to bed with partners.
So, why do we pause when it comes to using sex toys with partners?
The hesitation often stems, at least in part, from persistent beliefs that toys are for solo play, while sex is about two people meeting each other’s every want and need with their bodies alone, explains Fosnight.
Marketing that frames toys as stand-ins for absent partners, or solutions to sexual problems, doesn’t help, adds Amy Boyajian of toy maker and retailer Wild Flower. It leads people — especially straight cis men who rarely engage with toys — to view interest in toys as an attack on their sexual performance, or as sexual competition. (They definitively are not.) And Gretchen Leigh, a sex educator who works with the toy retailer She Bop, notes that people always worry about being weird, so rather than rock the boat, they “assume, ‘this is what this person likes in sex,’ and stay the course forever.”
How to have the sex toy conversations we want to have — and better sex, too
Talking to partners about exploring sex toys does not have to be a daunting or difficult endeavor. A half-dozen sex counselors, educators, and toy experts recently shared a few key tips and tricks for broaching the issue painlessly and productively with Mashable.
Consider the timing
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to introduce toys to their partners, these experts said, is attempting to just whip them out during sex. Unless you know your partner is comfortable with you and appreciates surprises during sex, Boyajian says, this “can leave them feeling anxious and pressured,” potentially dredging up insecurities or creating conflict.
Instead, set aside time outside of sex for a conversation about bringing toys into your play. “It’s easy to do in a new relationship,” says sexologist Carol Queen. That’s when you’ll ideally already be talking openly about your sexual preferences and can just work toys into those chats. But talking about sexual preferences takes a level of vulnerability that not everyone feels comfortable with early on. Even those who do may not think or feel able in early talks to broach toys specifically.
And that’s fine. There is no optimal time in a relationship to talk about sex toys. Months or even years down the road, once you’ve started having more open and regular conversations about your sexual wants and needs, you can raise the topic of toys. If you’ve never had a conversation like that, mentioning toys could be a good foothold to open up wider intimate dialogue. If you’re not sure how to start that first conversation, Fosnight recommends framing it as an idea you encountered in an article, in online talk, or during a chat with a friend.
Don’t criticize or apologize
No matter when or how you start the conversation, try not to connect your interest in toys to an explicit critique of or frustration with the sex you’re currently having. That will play right into potential underlying insecurities your partner may hold.
Don’t apologize or shy away from your own desires either, as that’s a good way to build up anxiety and stress on one or both sides of the conversation. Instead, try “coming from a place of exploration,” Boyajian suggests, in which sex toys are one of many exciting things you can try together to see what you can add to your sex life, to bring you both new and great experiences. “Most of us want our partners to have pleasure during sex, and will be willing to seek higher forms of pleasure together,” Leigh notes.
Don’t force the idea
If your partner is not open to the conversation or idea, don’t force toys on them with insistence or ultimatums. Instead, Jenni Skyler, a sexologist who works with adult retail giant Adam & Eve, suggests trying to talk, then or later, about why that idea makes them uncomfortable, then finding ways down the road to address any fears or stigmas about toys or sex that they may harbor.
Be truly open to the idea of exploration
If your partner is interested in exploring the potential of toys, try not to dictate what that will look like — the toys you’re going to use together and how you’re going to use them. Instead, keep talking, in that first conversation and later on, about the kinds of sensations you both enjoy or are interested in exploring and how you could see toys playing into the sex you already have. Encourage each other to think outside the box of genital stimulation. Talk about the way your ideas overlap or differ. From that place of understanding, you can start to dive more fully into toys.
You or your partner may already have one or more toys you use alone that you’re excited about exploring together. In that case, Fosnight recommends that the partner with a toy bring it into bed at an agreed-upon time and demonstrate how they use it on themself, then guiding their partner, verbally or physically, to join in, or talk through how to try using the toy on or with each other.
You may also want to explore all-new toys together, to find something that fits your unique dynamic as a duo. Boyajian recommends turning toy research and shopping into a couple’s activity, a chance to build intimacy and mutual excitement and expectation. But Leigh cautions against falling into the trap of just exploring toys marketed for couples. There are a ton of guides online, some backed by sexual health experts. Yet they “aren’t in any way guaranteed to work better for couples than any other toys,” she explains.
In fact, many are built on presumptions about their users’ anatomies, and attempt to stimulate both parties at the same time. The same type of stimulation rarely works for two people at once, and many people actually enjoy using a toy on their partners — watching their partner use a toy, or mutual masturbation using two different toys — more than the two-party stimulations on offer.
“Any toy can potentially be used as a couple’s toy,” Leigh stresses. Of course, with so many toys to choose from, the selection can be daunting. Just remember there’s no rush. Take your time to explore your options together: Read toy reviews, consult friends and experts, and, once you do buy one or more toys, explore ways of using them.
Some outlets have published ostensibly definitive guides on how couples can use various toys. But as long as you’re being safe (e.g., not putting toys without a flared base up your anus and using ample toy-safe lube during any insertive play), “then you get to make the rules,” Boyajain stresses. “If it feels good, then it’s right for you!”
And have fun with it
“Be willing to laugh at the toy and yourself,” Skyler adds, because sometimes, inevitably, your experiments will not work out. That can be frustrating, because toys certainly aren’t cheap. You can, however, find good guides online to functional, body-safe toys that will help your engage in expansive rounds of exploration with a partner — without breaking the bank.
And remember, even when things don’t go perfectly or as expected, it’s all part of the journey you’re taking with your partner, and can help bring you closer as well.
And … that’s it! Follow these simple, flexible steps and you’ll be well on your way into the wide and wonderful world of toy-enhanced partnered sex.
From our team to you, have fun exploring.