T is for TOYS

Oooooohhh, toys…  What a wonderful land of opportunity, creativity, and play!  New sensations abound, ideas and fantasies are launched, and inspired positions unlock levels achieved!  There are a million types of toys out there, and I have absolutely no room to get into all of them here, but I will talk your ear off about some things you may want to keep in mind when it comes to adding the big “T” into your play…

Spreader bars and wrist cuffs!

Spreader bars, wrist cuffs, and hitty toys abound!

Are toys kinky?  You betcha!  Not only are a lot of toys made specifically for kinky play (the violet wand, nipple clamps, fur-lined handcuffs), but a lot of people think that sex toys in general are kinky weirdo things to introduce into the boudoir only if you’re the “adventurous” type…  then again, if you’ve spent the time and energy to build a “boudoir” I’m gonna guess you might have embraced adult toy play into your life already.  Here’s a list of toy types, and by NO means is this list complete – you tell me what I’ve missed:

  • Butt Plugs (if it’s going in your butt make sure it has a base!)
  • Dildos
  • Vibrators
  • Glass Toys
  • Harnesses (chest, pelvic, thigh, chin, shoe…)
  • Duotone Balls, Ben Wa Balls, and Exercise Balls or Wands
  • Anal Beads and Anal Hooks
  • Bondage Tape
  • Massage Oils and Massage Candles
  • Edibles (everything from edible underwear to lickable body powder and chocolate finger-paints…)
  • Nipple Clamps
  • Hitty Toys (usually broken into “stingy” or “thuddy” categories)
  • Boy Toys
  • Cock Rings/Cock Cages
  • Collars
  • Gags
  • Enemas
  • Rope, Straps, and other restraining, decorative, or suspension tying things
  • Games (board, card, truth or dare booklets, dirty dice…)
  • Sharps, Knives, Whartenberg Wheels, Vampire Claws, and other scratchy devices
  • Hoods, Blindfolds, and Eye Masks
  • Massage Wands (plug-ins and rechargeables)
  • Sex Furniture (from sex slings to spanking benches, fucking machines, position pillows, and more!)
  • Waterproof Bedding
  • Electrical Toys
  • Insertables
  • Inflatables
  • Extenders
  • Dialators
  • Zentai, Leather, Latex, Lace, Lengerie, Shoes, and other Wearables
  • Oh, and stuff people just find to use during play – lets call these “improvisationables” (like wooden spoons, clothespins, various bits of hardware, dowel rods…  you get the idea)
  • Pornographic and Erotic videos/films/DVDs
  • Comic Books, Photography Books, Erotica…
  • Well really:  Books on everything
  • Not to mention Classes in everything too
  • And all the other things I have not mentioned…
Photo by Morderska

Photo by Morderska

Toy safety:  There are some things you want to think about when it comes to toys, especially since many of these items could come in contact with your sensitive bits, your juicy parts, and any of your bodily fluids or solids.  You’re going to want to consider allergies and other health issues, contamination and cleaning, and (unless you have a REALLY great custody plan in place) ownership.

First and foremost before you buy, and definitely before you apply, talk to your partners about allergies and know your own.  A lot of people are sensitive to latex and even if you aren’t using a rubber toy, it could be present in something else you are using.  The elastic in a harness, gloves, dental dams, condoms, some types of jelly rubber, elastic rubber band parts, and other little culprits are commonplace in adult toystores, and not all store clerks are educated to be aware of allergen considerations.  I definitely recommend doing your own research on the materials that comprise the objects of your desire, and buying from local vendors or stores who support local artisans who can talk to you about how the items are made.  Other health concerns many smaller sexuality boutiques and sex-positive vendors care to educate themselves about and can help you understand better have to do with knowing about toxic chemicals in certain toys that may off-gas or be cancerous, and what products are and are not compatible with each other (for instance you should never use a silicone lube on a silicone toy as it will soften and deteriorate the toy over time – water based is just fine; likewise any latex you are using should never touch oil as a lubricant as the latex will melt – so never lube a condom with vegetable oil unless your aim is for the condom to be rendered completely useless).

Image by Mllerustad

Image by Mllerustad

Contamination is an issue some people don’t consider with toys.  Many materials are porous, which means they will hold onto some bacteria even after being washed with soap and water.  To clean your toys, most can be washed with warm soap and water (keep your electronic parts and battery packs dry though), or wiped down with rubbing alcohol after use to disinfect the surface.  Silicone is a great material in that it is a non-porous substance that can be boiled for a short amount of time for further disinfection/germ killing when needed.  A very common way to pass STIs/STDs from partner to partner is through the use of inadequately disinfected toy sharing.  When in doubt, just like the fleshy members, use a condom when you share.  Another important contamination issue to consider is the event of toy use anally and vaginally or orally.  If a toy has been used anally it needs to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before it is put into another hole.  Infection is NOT a fun byproduct of play!  Again, you can use a condom between orifices; just make sure the toy is adequately covered during use.

Ownership is important when it comes to sex toys.  Believe it or not, your lovely, fun, silly, beautiful, sexy, cherished, favorite little dildo may someday disappear into your freshly minted ex’s suitcase.  Even though you are SOOO IN LOVE when you finally decide to afford the thing, silicone, wood, rubber, glass, metal, leather, and rubber do not come with visitation rights printed on the receipt.  Think about how you feel about these things.  Do you want to use toys with more than one partner?  Are there toys you use regularly you feel should belong to you regardless of who bought them?  If the purchase is a joint one, who is the keeper of each item?  Talk about it.  Do you prefer to use toys with only one partner and never keep them around after (that could be very expensive over time, and what do you consider a “toy”)?  …  Adult playthings are kind of like books – attach your name to them before you ever need to.

My Toybox:  I worked as a store clerk, toy buyer, book buyer, sexuality educator, and toy party hostess for a long time at a sex shop, and while my existing toy chest is not by any means extensive or all encompassing, I am quite proud of the variety and quality of my estate.

I was almost 21 when I learned to masturbate.  I had been sexually active for many years prior to that and had never had an orgasm.  When I realized it was time to learn, I purchased a copy of Betty Dodson’s “Sex For One” and a vibrator and, well, the secret to my success was revealed!  Sufficed to say vibrators play an ongoing and featured role in my play life and I keep a wide variety on hand.  I have some good quality hitty toys that I love and drool over: canes, a flogger, a riding crop.  I have no less than 4 harnesses (and would really love a nice good looking thigh one to add to the collection), and a few fun silicone dildos that accompany.  Rope, hardware, collar and leash, wrist restraints, bondage tape, massage candle, three beautiful glass dildos, an anal toy or two, ben wa balls, duotone balls, a pelvic floor exercise wand, cock rings (regular, vibrating, and one you can attach a leash to), feather tickler, remote operated vibrating egg, whartenberg wheel and a ring with scratchy tines, safety scissors, blindfolds, lube (silicone as well as glycerin free water-based), polyurethane condoms, non-latex gloves, books upon books upon books… and I’m sure there’s more that I’m just not thinking of.

Do I use all these things regularly?  Oh man, I wish!  No.  In reality about 5-6 of these items get semi-regular play, and about 1-2 of them are just use-it-all-the-time faves.  The rest gets used here and there, or just makes it’s living as a really great display item for my bedroom wall.

Where to find these wonderful things:  The awesome store I worked at for many years was woman owned and run, and called Grand Opening!.  While that place no longer exists, it is part of a movement of sex-positive sexuality boutiques that offer their customers the wonderful advantage of being sex stores that are focused on customer service, sexuality education, and sex-positive/feminist/non-objectifying environments.  Usually these stores will feel very comfortable and homelike, you’ll find there are “tester” toys out on shelves so you can pick a toy up and look at it before deciding what to purchase rather than deciding based on a picture on a box.  Many of these places will have specialized packaging for their toys that are neutral or less objectifying than the boxes with pornstars or graphic body parts adorning (like you’ll see in most sex store warehouses, chains, or smaller shops that are not taking a female perspective in mind with their layout and marketing).  These places are usually ones you can feel pretty comfortable at, places you can ask the store clerks questions and get in depth replies at, and places you might also be able to sign up for classes in sexy subjects!  These sexuality boutiques are often (though not always) owned and run by women, they are generally queer friendly, sometimes carry merch from local vendors, and often sell toys of a higher quality and made of safer materials for the health of your body.  I highly recommend checking some of these places out.  The first place I’ll send you to is a store that two of my old co-worker friends started in Albuquerque, NM called The Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center (Self Serve Toys).  I recently had a chance to visit the place and LOVED what they’ve done with it.  Even if you’re not in New Mexico, please consider ordering from them online, they are remarkable people who have really wonderful goals when it comes to sexual health and play!  One of the oldest companies defining this sex-positive boutique model and a company that really sets the standard in how the sex toy industry can grow is Good Vibrations.  They have stores in a bunch of different cities around the US.  You can check out Babeland too, one of my coworkers from back in the day was a manager at that small chain after her stint at Grand Opening!.  I had the pleasure of stumbling into a place in Ventura, CA named Kama Sutra Closet (though soon the owner is changing its name to Trystology), the owner was a wonderful woman to talk to and I love her style.  I’ve always enjoyed shopping at Toys of Eros in Provincetown, MA and Mister Sister in RI as well…  There are a million little stores that fit this model, and I highly encourage you to find ones near you if you can.

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin

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~Thank you.

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