Don’t Be a Buzzkill

          Recently, I indulged myself with a new gadget that I hadn’t known was missing from my life: a vibrator *GASP.* Yes, I said it. My name is Ashley and I am a proud owner of a turquoise clitoris vibrator that has somehow come to the name of Sven. It has become a wonderful addition to my life. Some people may be mortified that I have chosen to write a piece on sex toys, owned up to purchasing one, and thrown on my name in the publishing process, but let me tell you something – I am not ashamed! It is normal for human beings to have sex, to engage in sexual behavior, and if one wants to enhance their solo ride or partnered activities, I suggest they have at it.

           There is this looming taboo over the topic of sex toys. People tend not to speak openly about vibrators and other devices unless they are a topic of humor, but I want to have some serious conversations about them. As a fan of the big O and a new consumer of the products, I had some questions. Why would I want a vibrator in the first place? What types of products were out there and were there any safety concerns I needed to be aware of? Hopefully this article will answer these questions for the curious and concerned. 


Vibrators – A Clit’s Best Friend 

            I can’t speak for all consumers of the products, but from my personal experience – vibrators are unbelievable. Not because of their fancy shapes and colors, but because of what they are stimulating. For both masturbation and sexual intercourse, a key player is the clitoris. Stimulation of the clitoris is exceedingly important for a woman’s pleasure. In fact, around 75% of women need this stimulation in order to achieve an orgasm. That part of our bodies has 8000 wonderful nerve endings – men only have half of that on their penises. We women should be orgasming all of the time, right?

Unfortunately, no – we aren’t.

            There is this huge disparity between men and women and the experience of orgasms during sex. One study showed that 91% of men reported usually or always having an orgasm during sex, while only 39% of females could report the same thing. This difference is often referred to as the “Pleasure Gap,”  and although its existence is ridiculous, it does not surprise me. I am one of the many women who fall within that statistic. And for some women – also including me – when we’re not having an orgasm, we’re faking one. You hear us getting louder? We are probably trying to speed you up because we know we’re not going to get there. For some people, the issue is that sex is over when a man finishes. For others, the partner is not stimulating the other in an effective way to get the job done. For whatever reason you get a cliffhanger instead of the climax, it might be time to consider trying something new in the bedroom (or the shower, or the kitchen…really anywhere). I suggest starting with your very own Sven.


A Few Steps into the Deep End

              Vibrators come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of fun features. Some are able to join you in the shower, some you can submerge in the tub. We’ve got the internal, the external, the dual action, and the varying pulse speeds. Below are just a few options in the realm of potential sexual pleasures. I urge you to explore with whatever you are comfortable with. 

1.      G-spot vibrators: The name implies that these hit the spot. The photo above shows a dual-action, G-spot and clitoris vibrator. Double the stimulation = double the fun. This is a good option for those who find that they are able to orgasm from both internal and external stimulation. My friend calls her gadget B.O.B. (battery-operated boyfriend).

2.      Clitoral vibrators: Ahhh, Sven. These vibrators give that much-needed stimulation to the external components of one’s clitoris. The 8000 nerve endings appreciate all that they do. This is also a great vibrator to use with a partner during sex. It can be utilized externally whilst a partner works on the inside. 

3.      Ring vibrators: Do not underestimate their small size – these vibrators bring new pleasuring power to your fingertips. Many are actually designed to be worn on a penis to restrict the blood flow while adding that much-needed vibration. They are easy to wear, stretch to fit, and are easy gadgets to add stimulation and vibration while engaging in other sexual activities.   

4.      The wearable, wherever vibrators: This incognito invention is a great choice for those feeling risky in public. Wearable vibrators are shaped with a natural curve to stay in place when worn on one’s panties or thongs. A magnet is the key piece that holds it all together. These vibrators are remote controlled, often with Bluetooth, and some can even be accessed through an app. For those with long distance relationships, this could be an additional way to connect.


Safety First

            Vaginas, anuses, and mouths all have at least one thing in common: mucous membranes, or tissues made of epithelial cells that line our body cavities. The secretions from these membranes protect our bodies from things like dirt and pathogens. Unfortunately, with their permeability, they are good at absorbing the bad (i.e., fluids and harmful chemicals). Because of this, we must be smart about the things we expose that magnificent environment to. We need to look for products that are nonporous and inert. Nonporous materials do not absorb harmful bacteria or germs. The characteristic of being inert means it is nonreactive in our bodies.

Materials to look for: Medical-grade silicone (not just any silicone) is one of the BEST materials your sex toys can be made from. These baddies are regulated by the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. It’s interaction within human bodies has been tested and does not have negative effects. Other materials to use that are nonporous and safe include smooth hardwood, steel, and glass. These materials will not leak any chemicals, will not house bacteria because of their nonporous quality, and will keep your vaginal environment happy happy happy, as long as you keep them clean (to do so, use warm soapy water or a 10% bleach solution!).

Materials to avoid: Many sex toys today are still manufactured with potentially toxic and harmful materials. Types of phthalates have been declared by the Environmental Protection Agency as potential carcinogens. They are often used in sex toys to enhance jelly-like plastics; they make the material more flexible. Polyvinyl chloride has also been used in the manufacturing of sex toys, which is usually porous – this means the bacteria can get inside, get comfortable, and multiply. In addition to these materials, other types of plastics and latex can lead to irritation, infections, and dangerous reactions.  

Other signs to spot: things to look for before purchasing a sex toy product include general product information, consumer safety information, instructions for proper use within the packaging, and potential health risks and warnings. Research the company thoroughly before making a spendy purchase, or before a more costly health consequence. Even if a sale-representative seems certain in the safety of the product they are selling, double check on the company website or give the company a call to verify. 

Some reliable companies: Some companies (it’s about time!) have begun prioritizing the health and needs of their customers when creating and manufacturing products of pleasure. We-Vibe and Dame are two companies that emphasize the importance of using safe materials and engage in research regarding women’s sexual health.


The Conversations We SHOULD Be Having

            Some of you may be wondering why sex products are still being manufactured with potentially toxic materials, and the reason as to why is rather grim. Although we are arriving at a time when all human beings experiencing sexual pleasure is less of a taboo, our governing systems are slow to catch on. The pleasure product industry is extremely unregulated at state and federal levels. Through the labeling of these products as novelty items, companies can get around mandated tests, regulations, and safety standards. We, the consumers, are left in the dark regarding what is and is not safe. Without required testing, how are we to know what sort of long-term effects exposure to certain materials may have? Without regulation, how will our clitorises trust their new Svens and B.O.B.s fully? Why is sexual health put on the back burner when it affects so many people?

            We should get passed the taboo of talking about sex, and then leap over the next hurdle by discussing the ways to make our sex-filled world safer. Vibrators are awesome inventions, but the industry that provides them needs to improve. We as the consumers of these products need to start holding this industry accountable. My advice: try them out, try ‘em all! But make sure you do the research and see what the best and safest option is for you. For the women out there like me, take your experiences that lacked satisfaction and choose not to settle. Try new things and communicate those things with your partners. Take power over your pussy’s pleasure! Cliffhangers may be great at creating some suspense, but if I’m going to read a really good book – I better finish.