Floozy’s guide to tackling the conversation, challenging the stigma, and choosing your sex toys.
Let’s be honest, more and more people have some kind of sex toy stashed away in a bedside table or stuffed in a box under the bed. In fact, 48% of people in the UK admit to owning a sex toy. And who can blame them? Whether it’s a trusty old vibrator, or something a little more out there, it’s great that sex toys are more common today. Gone are the days of a one-size fits all sex toy that was never to be spoken of; today’s toys are far more accessible and come in a huge range of shapes, sizes, and functions.
Despite so many people feeling positive about sex toys and expressing their sexuality alone, the idea of incorporating toys with a partner can be brand new territory. Only 18% of people who admitted to owning sex toy said they used them in the bedroom. Using sex toys with partners can be beneficial for a number of reasons. Whether you have reduced mobility and toys could alleviate pain and discomfort during sex, you’re a queer couple who need toys to experience different types of pleasure, or you just want to spice things up and try something new, there is a toy out there for everyone.
Sex and relationships therapist, Genevieve Collister Brown, recognises that it can be daunting to bring up using sex toys with your partner, as the stigma around using toys as a couple is still very prevalent:
“It’s unfortunate that there is still such a stigma, but that’s definitely the case. People still have an idea that you should be able to orgasm or pleasure each other just with your own bodies rather than using anything extra and I think that’s where the stigma comes in.”
Genevieve isn’t the only person who holds this view, sex and relationships therapists seem pretty unanimous in the fact that feeling shame around using sex toys with partners is ingrained in our society. Karli Kucko, a licensed professional counsellor specialising in sex and relationship counselling says:
“There is a stigma about using toys because it is seen or felt as a “failure” by one partner to create that kind of pleasure for the other on their own. But of course, it’s not a failure, it’s resourceful.”
It can be so difficult to push past stigma, but doing so can not only do amazing things for your sex life (and who doesn’t want that?) but can improve other aspects of your relationship too. Studies have shown that couples who use sex toys together have better communication and stronger relationships.
Kucko says: “The advantages of using toys are the possibility of increased sexual satisfaction, novelty, and excitement. But the advantages aren’t just limited to sex. Couples who use toys together often have improved intimacy, connection, and communication, which benefits their relationship outside of sex.”
Sometimes, one of the most intimidating aspects of using sex toys with a partner can just be starting the conversation. If it’s completely new to you and your partner, it’s natural to feel nervous or embarrassed to bring it up.
Brown says: “I think it’s just about saying, ‘I’ve had this thought, I’m really excited about it, and I think it could be really hot but I’m a bit nervous to talk to you about it. What do you think?’”.
Also, invite your partner or partners to tell you about the things that have been on their mind that you haven’t explored together, just open up that conversation.
“It might feel a bit cringy or embarrassing, but you’re trying to create a connection and be more intimate with somebody that you really care about and it could be really fun. If they really reject you on that, that’s their problem and not yours.
“Being judged by somebody that you really like is horrible, but it’s just about building a bit of resilience and remembering that it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you, or anything wrong with this desire.”
Emily*, a 26-year-old bisexual woman, has used toys during sex with male and female partners:
“Bringing up using sex toys for the first time is definitely a bit nerve-wracking as it’s hard to predict how someone is going to react. Personally I’ve never had a negative experience. I think if you’ve been having sex with someone for a little while there’s got to be a lot of trust and understanding there, and most of the time you will be on the same page.
“The initial awkwardness is so worth it, because what comes next can be really great. There’s so many sex toys to choose from, and shopping for them with your partner and finding things that you both want to try is a lot of fun. Of course, trying them out is a lot of fun too!
“Using sex toys with a partner has always had such a great impact on my sex life. I think when you’ve been with someone a long time it can be easy to fall into a sex routine, incorporating new stuff mixes it up and makes it new and exciting again. Especially when I’ve been in relationships with other women, using sex toys allows us to feel different types of pleasure and types of sex that we wouldn’t be able to experience without using toys.”
Like Emily, many couples who use sex toys together have reported a more enjoyable sex life. Despite the benefits, a lot of people still have doubts around incorporating sex toys with their partners.
One concern that a lot of people have is that using sex toys can lead to damaging your sexual organs, or building a ‘reliance’ on them and not being able to orgasm in other ways. Brown says:
“Sex toys bought from genuine sex toy websites can’t hurt you. Using a vibrator does not desensitise you, ‘stretching yourself out’ doesn’t stretch you out permanently, there are so many misconceptions. Sex toys don’t damage you in the way that some people think that they might, the only thing to be aware about is what kind of lube to use with what toys, and of course, practising safe sex.”
If you’re struggling to find safe toys from genuine retailers, you can check out our guide to vibrators here.
Another worry that partners may have when discussing using sex toys as a couple are feelings of insecurity. They may believe that they aren’t good enough or doubt their abilities because of a partner’s desire to try sex toys.
Kucko says: “If your partner feels insecure about incorporating toys into your sex life, those feelings are natural due to the societal messaging they have received around toys. Be sure to encourage your partner that this is actually a huge compliment! It is a positive thing that their partner feels safe enough with them to advocate for their sexual needs.
“I would also encourage the conversation to rotate toward prioritising each partner’s pleasure instead of where the pleasure derives, and reiterate the advantages of using our resources. Using a calculator doesn’t mean you’re bad at maths, it just might lead to more solved equations.”
Having worries and doubts about using toys together is completely natural, but if it is something you’re interested in trying it is worth starting up a conversation. It could lead to better sex, more orgasms, and healthier communication, and who doesn’t need that?
*names have been changed to protect identity.
Edited by Mmesoma Muogilim