Sex toy offerings have improved dramatically since the 80s when the Rabbit was all the rage. There are toys for all genders, for solo and partnered sex, for sex in the same room or across an ocean. Vibrating toys, crystal toys, waterproof toys. Toys that penetrate two people at once. Some are soft and buttery, made to nestle in the palm of your hand. Others are sleek and steel (warm those puppies up first!) and curve to fit inside. Some suction to shower walls. Others are like Russian nesting dolls – a vibe inside a dildo inside a person. Like the Turducken of sex.
There are toys for anyone who wants a toy. And a lot of people want a toy (or twenty). Yet, many people still feel uncomfortable with the idea of using a toy during sex, particularly partnered sex. A quick Google search “use sex toys with boyfriend” yielded the following results:
My partner doesn't want me to use a vibrator. What should i do?
Why is my bf jealous of my vibrator?
What to Do When Your Partner Isn’t Comfortable with Your Vibrator
What to Tell a Dude Who's Threatened by Your Vibrator
My boyfriend hates the idea of sex toys
5 Things your man thinks when you say you want a vibrator
Don't date men who are intimidated by your sex toys
Just like with the general topic of sex, we’ve likely internalized some false narratives around sex toys. Narratives that can make someone feel uncomfortable or insecure when it comes to using toys during sex. We get that, but we don’t suggest indulging those insecurities any longer. There’s really no need.
Do you want to use a toy with a partner but are hesitant to bring it up?
Do you know your partner is uncomfortable with toys?
Do you yourself feel uncomfortable with toys?
We're here to help.
To get an expert’s advice, I interviewed Amory Jane (she/they), General Manager of She Bop (the best sex toy boutique for every body) about how to bring up sex toys when someone feels yikes-so-squirmy about them.
S: What is your connection to the topics of sex toys, sexual pleasure and education?
AJ: I have been working at She Bop, and teaching sex education to adults, for over 11 years. I am also a huge fan of sex toys in my personal life and have plenty of experience coaching friends, customers, and clients in how to talk to partners about sensual exploration, fantasies, and pleasure.
S: Help us put this into context: What is important about this topic? Why should we be having this conversation?
AJ: There are a lot of myths out there about sex toys, and sex in general. Often, people have to do a bunch of unlearning of myths and misconceptions before learning what they like, how to communicate about it, and where to go (and what to look for) when it comes to sex toys. Places like She Bop, which is an inclusive and education-focused sex toy boutique, exist so folks have a safe and reliable place to go for education and high-quality products.
Healthy relationships, pleasure and connection, and the confidence that comes from knowing what we or our partners enjoy, can spread out into other areas in our lives. When we feel self-assured and empowered in the bedroom, we also tend to have more energy and creativity for our communities, careers, and loved ones.
S: What are some reasons that people might feel uncomfortable with a partner using a toy during sex?
AJ: I have noticed that folks who might feel uncomfy with a partner using sex toys are often those who have heard/believed in myths about sex toys and might not have accurate information about them. There are messages out there that only single people use sex toys (definitely false!), that vibrators are addicting or “ruin” someone’s ability to climax without them (also false), or that only people with clits can enjoy sex toys (not true!). The truth is that all genders use sex toys, both on their own and with partners, whether they are single, monogamous, or polyamorous.
The vast majority of people with vaginas need clitoral stimulation to reach climax and are not able to get off from penetration alone. When vibrators are added to the mix, arousal and orgasmic potential increase. Partners in both hetero and queer relationships report experiencing increased sexual satisfaction and bonding when toys are used together, and partners in cis het relationships can use toys to close the orgasm gap. That’s a win for everyone! Toys should be thought of as novel aphrodisiacs and/or playful bedroom helpers instead of seeing them as a threat or a weakness. Many clits and cocks need consistent, rhythmic stimulation and toys can assist with that when our fingers, mouths, or other body parts get tired, sore, or simply can’t reach the spots that need reaching.
Besides, have you ever watched a partner use toys in front of you to see how they might like to be touched (or just to play around with some consensual exhibitionism/voyeurism)? It’s hot, y’all! I highly encourage this kind of exploration for better sex and overall intimacy. You still get to count it as contributing to someone’s orgasm if you bought them a toy, helped them figure out how it works, or watched them use it!
S: What is a good approach for someone who wants to use toys but whose partner has expressed discomfort or outright doesn’t allow it?
AJ: If a person really wants to try sex toys but a partner is not comfortable with that, try having some non-judgmental conversations to figure out why the discomfort is there. Is it because of myths they heard, that perhaps you can help them unlearn through taking a workshop together or reading some blogs or books about sex toys? Is it because the partner feels inadequacy or shame, like they are “not enough” and might need more reassurance that they are sexy and adored (and that being cool with toy usage would increase those feelings even more)? Maybe a partner feels like they might get replaced and simply need to hear that a machine/toy might feel cool but will never take their place. After all, vibrators might rock our socks off for 10 minutes, but they can’t cuddle, or share dinner, or talk to us about our favorite shows. Sex toys are friends, not competition!
In terms of someone who outright doesn’t allow it - that sounds controlling to me and like a big red flag. Only you can answer if you want to be with someone who would rather control what you can and can’t do instead of working with you to elevate your pleasure.
S: Any specific ways to phrase these conversations?
AJ: I often tell people that they can feel free to “use me in their conversations.” This might mean saying something like, “I read an interview where this educator was busting myths about sex and she got me interested in trying sex toys with you. Would you want to do that with me?”
Approaching a partner with an invitation to explore together, and focusing on curiosity or the fun that could be had, tends to work well. Applying pressure is not a good approach, nor is starting a conversation by saying that your partner isn’t pleasing you enough. In my experience, conversations are most successful, and partners are less insecure/anxious, when a person brings up topics without shame and toys are treated as joyful pleasure items that can enhance your sex lives.
Because of prevalent myths around sex and sex toys, we often have to unlearn misconceptions before we can clearly communicate what we like and want.
Sexual empowerment translates outside the bedroom. When we practice advocating for ourselves in sex, it becomes easier to advocate for ourselves in other areas.
All genders use sex toys regardless of relationship status or style.
Start the conversation with something neutral, and make it an invitation to explore together: “I read an interview where this educator was busting myths about sex and she got me interested in trying sex toys with you. Would you want to do that with me?”
Go forth and have those squirmy and courageous conversations. Let us know how they go!