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How To Bring Up Sex Toys, According To A Her Campus Editor

Today, we’re talking about introducing sex toys into your relationship. In Ask An Editor, Her Campus Editors answer readers’ questions about how to be a human. This month, Her Campus’s Deputy Editor, Iman Hariri-Kia, hosts office hours about summer sexcapades. 

Dear Editor,

How do I tell my partner I want to try using sex toys?

Sincerely, 

Toying With The Possibility  

Dear Toying With The Possibility,

Welcome to one of my favorite topics ever. I’m so happy you’re here! I am, and always have been, a huge proponent for making toys a regular part of your sex life, partnered or otherwise. Did you know that female pleasure still isn’t a part of America’s (incredibly sparse and problematic) sex education curriculum? What am I talking about; of course you did. But did you also know that this lack of information can lead to a serious lapse in sexual autonomy for women and vagina-owners? In fact, a 2017 study of 52,588 people conducted by the International Academy of Sex Research found that only 6% of women reported orgasming during sex. Excuse my language, but what the flying f*ck? That’s not just an orgasm gap — it’s an orgasm black hole. 

When I was working in sex and relationships, brands would send me sex toys in the hopes that I’d review them. We’re talking vibrators and butt plugs and nipple clamps up the wazoo. Since there’s only so much sex toy a girl can take (and that’s, like, a lot of sex toys), I began offering samples to my friends as gifts. And I was shocked to learn that so many of my friends had never used a sex toy before. And they weren’t alone: A 2009 study of 2000 women conducted by the Journal of Medicine reported that 50% of women have never used a vibrator. Moreover, I realized there are ever-perpetuating myths circulating that using a sex toy can desensitize your clitoris and make sex with your partner less enjoyable.

Reader, it is no overstatement for me to say that this, in all seriousness, breaks my heart (and reaffirms the need for better sex education, but that’s another story). All women deserve the right to orgasm, and the idea that they would deny themselves on the grounds of such unsubstantiated theories makes me want to throw the whole system away and start over. And thus, I am on a crusade to help young people incorporate sex toys into their nightly (or morning or mid-day) sexual routines. 

 Sex Toys Are NBD, Unless You Say Otherwise

It’s totally typical to feel anxious about bringing up sex toys with your partner for the first time. I’d encourage you to reframe the conversation in your mind: Introducing toys into your sex life isn’t an interruption; it’s an evolution. Think of your regular routine as an apartment you two (or three, or four, etc.) have been living in. Incorporating sex toys isn’t the equivalent of moving into a new apartment but rather buying a new piece of furniture or decorating a room. In other words, you’re adding a little spice. Communicate clearly, openly, and honestly with your partner, intentional about the language you use. You don’t want to bring sex toys into your relationship because there’s something wrong with your sex life. This isn’t a problem you’re trying to solve. A dildo, or strap-on, or bullet vibe isn’t a replacement for your partner. You won’t be having sex with the toy instead of them — you’ll be having sex with each other and enjoying the additional added pleasure and support. It’s a win-win, so frame it as such.  

Get In Loser; We’re Going Sex Toy Shopping

Once you’ve established that experimenting with sex toys will be a team effort, huddle together and prepare to weigh your options. (Am I doing this sports analogy thing right? I don’t play sports.) Sit down with your partner and openly discuss the types of toys you’ve been curious about or have always wanted to try. Write them down on a sheet of paper, and then start to do a little research about beginner products. As with all sexual proclivities, you’ll want to ease your way in. Finally, start sourcing ethical brands, like Unbound, Dame, and Overkink (to name just a few), cruising their websites to see what’s available at your price point. You can even visit their IRL shops if you’re comfortable, holding the products and asking the employees questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up — they’re used to beginner conversations, trust me. Above all, treat this like any other shopping trip: Make it an adventure, fool around, and don’t take yourselves too seriously. Remember, this is supposed to be fun! It’s like treating yourselves to a fancy dinner, except you’re on the menu. 

Sex Toys Are Meant To Be Played With Together

Finally, when your purchase comes in the mail and it’s time to get down to business, remember to take it slow and incorporate your partner into every part of the process so that they feel like this is a game that you both get to play together. Maybe that means allowing them to hold and position your vibe while you’re having sex, showing them where exactly to place it while they experiment with pressure points and levels. This could also look like using the product on them directly, like a light feather stimulator or a tension ring, depending on their comfort level. Remember, as with all forms of sexual play, giving and receiving active consent throughout your escapades isn’t just key — it’s sexy, too. You and your partner should never feel pressure to perform a sexual act, so the secret to working your way through this is maintaining that open and honest dialogue, even if it feels like you’re over-communicating at times. And, hey — nobody ever said communication and dirty talk couldn’t coexist. In fact, I think it can make the entire experience more intimate. Tell your partner that. Playing with these toys is a new adventure that the two of you get to embark on together, and I think that’s beautiful. Don’t be surprised if sex toy experimentation brings you two closer together instead of driving you apart.

Of course, there is a world in which your partner could react negatively to this conversation. Some people (straight cisgender men, in particular) may think the implication is that they are unable to get their partners off on their own, and their fragile egos just can’t handle it. Other partners just might not believe that your orgasm is a priority, especially if they aren’t having trouble finishing themselves. If that’s the case? Well, reader, screw them. Actually, wait, no — don’t screw them! Do the opposite of screw them. I’d encourage you to find a partner who prioritizes your sexual wellness and is turned on by your pleasure-seeking.

In the meantime, you can literally have more — and better — sex with yourself. 

Love,

Iman

Studies referenced:

Frederick, D.A., John, H.K.S., Garcia, J.R. et al. Differences in Orgasm Frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men and Women in a U.S. National Sample. Arch Sex Behav 47, 273–288 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0939-z

 

Iman Hariri-Kia is a New York-based writer, author, and Her Campus Deputy Editor. A 2017 recipient of the Annabelle Bonner Medal and a nationally acclaimed journalist, she covers sex, relationships, identity, adolescence, and more. Her debut novel, A HUNDRED OTHER GIRLS, will be published in spring 2022.
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