6 Important Things to Consider When You Choose Your First Sex Toy

If there’s one question I wish people would stop asking me, it’s “what’s the best sex toy?” I understand the reasoning behind this question, of course. When someone’s trying to choose their first sex toy, the options can be overwhelming.

Problem is, it’s the wrong question. Because the best sex toy for me won’t be the best toy for you!

To that end, here’s a quick guide to some of the important factors you should consider when you go toy shopping.

Choosing Your First Sex Toy

Buying a sex toy for the first time can be thrilling and nervewracking in equal measure. If you’ve never bought one before, how do you know if you’ll like something or not?

Unfortunately, there are no foolproof ways. But asking yourself these questions will help.

What kind of stimulation do you like?

Even if you’ve never used a toy before, you might have some idea of what kinds of stimulation you enjoy during partnered or solo sex.

Do you like intense clitoral stimulation? If so, a wand might do it for you. Do you like your sensations very pinpoint, very broad, or somewhere in between? Do you like deep penetration or shallow? Are you into length, girth, or both? And so on.

Use what you already know about your body to guide your choice.

What body part(s) do you want to use it on?

Most toys are designed with specific body parts in mind, but many can also be repurposed and used in different ways. Still, knowing which part(s) you’d like to stimulate will help you make a good choice.

Are you looking for internal (vaginal) stimulation, clitoral, or both? At the same time or separately? Do you want something to use on your penis? How do you feel about anal play? And so on.

If you’re not sure, choose a versatile toy. Many vibrators can be used both internally and externally. Dildos with a flared base are anal-safe as well as vaginal-safe.

What kind of play will it be used for?

I think you all know by now how I feel about the concept of “sex toys for couples”. (There’s no such thing! Anything is a couples’ toy if you use it with your partner!)

However, the kind of play you’ll use your toys for will have some bearing on what you choose. I absolutely love my wands. But I rarely use them during penetrative sex, because they’re just so hefty and it’s hard to fit them between bodies. If I want clitoral stimulation during vaginal or anal sex, I’m more likely to reach for my favourite bullet.

You might choose something different if you’re after a toy for solo play versus something to use with your partner. Again, you might not – but bear this in mind.

A selection of drawings of sex toys, for a post on choosing your first sex toy
Original artwork for Coffee & Kink by Charlotte Willcox

Where and when will you be using it?

Do you have children or roommates at home who you’re worried about disturbing? Does your house have thin walls? Discretion matters a great deal to some people, and not at all to others. Consider your living situation and privacy needs when you select a toy.

Do you like to masturbate in the bath or shower? If so, choose a waterproof toy. Will you be wanting to take your toy with you when you travel? In that case, something smaller or portable is a good bet. Do you regularly play in places like sex clubs where there might not be easy access to a power outlet? If so, rechargeable or battery powered is probably better than mains-powered.

What’s your budget?

This is the first question I ask people when they ask me for a sex toy recommendation, because toys vary wildly in price.

Fortunately, you can get good quality toys on a budget. So don’t let anyone tell you that you have to settle for unsafe crap if you can’t afford to drop three figures on a sex toy! This is simply not true and there are loads of manufacturers making awesome products that won’t break the bank.

Have a maximum budget, or at least a range, in mind before you go shopping.

Do aesthetics matter to you?

Some people have strong aesthetic preferences for their toys. For example, some are super turned on by a hyper-realistic dildo, while others find it offputting. Some like their toys in bright, vibrant colours. Some hate pink. Cuteness is appealing to some and cringy to others. And so on.

Do you have strong feelings on how you’d like your toy to look? You might not, and that’s okay! But if you do, pay attention to what you feel drawn to.

What next?

It’s literally impossible to recommend someone a sex toy without knowing quite a lot about their needs and preferences. The best advice I can give you is to do your research, read reviews, and get to know your body.

Then experiment and have fun!

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[Guest Blog] I Wish I Could Masturbate Like a Man by Holly Hughes

Today’s guest post comes from Holly Hughes, a writer and intuitive healer based in North Carolina.

I wish I could masturbate like a cis man. I imagine it’s super freeing to be able to lean back and knock out an orgasm. If nothing else, it must be a huge stress reliever. 

I’ve never even considered sitting at my office desk and pleasuring myself. Is it even possible? I mean, the way I need things to be set up – curtains drawn, door closed, pets out of the room, and privacy – there’s no way I believe I could give myself pleasure while seated on a vegan leather office chair. 

I didn’t own a vibrator until I was thirty. Sad but true. There I was, naïve in all things vibrating, and determined to get over it. I asked a friend to come with me to a sex store, so I’d be less intimidated. My friend had firsthand knowledge of the world of pleasure I was about to enter, and I felt safe exploring the black-lit sex shop with him.

As we crossed the threshold, my eyes first went to the cage, the bondage and leather on display. This was all much more daring than my skimpiest Victoria’s Secret lingerie. It was sexual in a way I hadn’t experienced. Some of the devices and apparatus made me giggle, others were appealing, and I wondered how I missed out on so much fun. 

The store’s staff were informative and helpful. I’m sure I looked like a newbie as my eyes ran over everything on display. Fortunately, the staff were happy to ease my nervous curiosities. One employee led me into a room farther back, where various sizes and shapes of vibrators were displayed. She demonstrated how to turn them on and the features that made each one unique. Some were curved, others had ridges, moving internal parts like beads, or multiple controls. She placed each one in my hands, allowing me to feel how hard or soft the silicone was. 

At this point in my life, the only penis that never failed to give me an orgasm (or several) belonged to my ex. When we were together, I used to jokingly plead with him to make a mold, so if we ever broke up, I could still have it. It was just the right length and had the most spectacular curve that never failed to hit my g-spot. Years later, I still wish I got that mold.

Back to the sex shop. After inspecting numerous vibrators of all sizes and shapes, I settled on a lavender rabbit. It had multiple speeds, and the color made it less intimidating. It remained in its box under my bed for months until one night when, alone in my room and feeling frisky, I decided to try it out.

I opened the box, added batteries, shut my cat out of the bedroom, and closed the door. Then I got naked, got under my covers, and turned the vibrator on. I was shocked at how loud it was. I tried muffling it under a pile of blankets. The noise was a complete turn off, and I was sure my neighbors would hear it through my thin apartment walls. Needless to say, there was no orgasm. I packed the rabbit back up and shoved it into my bedside table drawer.

Months later, I tried again. This time I ignored the fear of being heard masturbating and simply enjoyed the experience.

Fast forward a decade or so, and I’ve explored and discovered the type of lover-in-a-drawer that does it for me. Now the biggest hindrance to my ability to enjoy time with it is being a busy entrepreneur, mother, wife, friend, and author. The idea of a little stress relief is always appealing, but I still need to be left alone to enjoy my own devices. I have no doubt my husband doesn’t have the same issue. He’s able to just lean back in his office chair and pleasure himself. 

My typical self-love routine (and I really hate that it’s a routine, but it’s true) starts with digging out my vibrators from the drawer under my bed. I keep them safely hidden beneath an ugly holiday sweater and my old thermal underwear, just in case my daughter ever goes snooping in my belongings. I check to make sure the toys don’t need new batteries. I have one now that needs to be plugged in.

After I make sure I have privacy and a working instrument, I lay back and enjoy a favorite fantasy or two, mostly having to do with Taylor Kitsch or Benjamin Walker. And bam! Stress relief and orgasm are had.

But most times, things don’t go quite that smoothly. Today, for instance, I really wanted to relax before going to get my mammogram. My husband wasn’t home, and I had thirty minutes before I had to leave. So, I broke out my favorite toys. One had no charge, so I had to make do with my backup. I got comfortable and was about to begin when I heard moaning coming from next to the bed. Then I heard the thumping of my dog running up and jumping onto the bed to snuggle next to me. 

“No,” I said. “Get out.”

He looked at me with his big brown puppy-dog eyes and refused to move. Now naked, I picked him up and put him on the other side of my closed bedroom door. 

Before I even made it back to enjoy any sensation of pleasure, I heard a meow, meow, meow. Our kitten was on the other side of the door. 

This was the first time I ever wished my vibrator was louder and could say things like, “Don’t pay attention to the cat. You’re so sexy. You feel so good.” But I couldn’t make my mind tune out the cat meowing or the dog scratching, so I yelled, “Shut up!” Nothing like pets to ruin the mood. 

It’s not as if I get this chance for alone time often. And honestly, when I do, I worry about my husband walking in. Not that he’d mind at all, it’s more about wanting to be left alone to enjoy myself without anyone watching or participating. Isn’t that what masturbating is all about? Self-pleasure? I know my man doesn’t have the same needs or issues, or even gives any more thought to masturbating than, yeah, now’s a good time. No need for soft lighting or routine.  I wish I could masturbate like him.

I imagine many cis men can rub one out in a minute or two, but my body doesn’t work like that. And there are times when I know that, no matter what I do, my orgasm won’t come. That even though I know how to pleasure myself, my body won’t cooperate. This happened to me after the birth of my child, and was especially true after my hysterectomy. I felt like Samantha from Sex and the City, wondering if I’d used all my orgasms up.

Thankfully, of course, that wasn’t true. But it did take me longer than I care to admit to enjoy sex again after both of those life-altering events. My insides felt so different. I felt the changes acutely and I was afraid my husband wouldn’t like them and would find me less desirable. I’m thankful to my sex toys for helping me heal and find my pleasure again. 

But there are always days like today when I think it would be nice to sneak off and not have so many obstacles to masturbating. I imagine, like peeing standing up, there are advantages to masturbating while sitting up in an office chair with the lights on and the dog laying by your feet. As for me, I’ll be waiting for a quiet and private moment to pleasure myself with my always ready boyfriend-in-a-drawer.

Holly is a freelance writer and intuitive healer living in North Carolina. When she isn’t working you can find her getting ready for Halloween or dancing. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram!

[Guest Blog] Sex & Physical Disability by Alannah Murray

Part of the point of this “new voices in sex writing” pitch call that I put out months ago was to lift up and amplify marginalised voices. You may remember an incredible piece by my metamour Pippin a few months ago – well, I think this piece by Alannah Murray, also about sex and physical disability, is a perfect follow-on to that. I’m so proud to be publishing it and sharing it with you all today. Check out Alannah’s site and follow her on the Twitter!

Without further ado, over to Alannah…

Sex and Physical Disability by Alannah Murray

Hey everyone! I’m one of the incredibly grateful people chosen to guest blog for
Coffee and Kink! My name is Alannah. I’m 22, from Ireland, and I’m a postgraduate
researcher working towards a MA Research degree. I developed an auto-immune disease as a child which has blessed me with a slick power assisted wheelchair. You should see it on a dance floor!

Because of my physical disability, I see the world a little bit different than most (and I don’t just mean everyone being taller than me!) I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the fashion industry and advertising, and how advertising affects public perception of disability. I’ve been a vocal advocate of disabled people for the past few years, but I was also a college student for four years – a time where you go out, make all your mistakes, and then venture out into the world. My generation also witnessed the birth of apps like Tinder and Bumble.

So, today I want to tell you all about my experience of being a young physically disabled
person, the funny ways able-bodied people have affected my experience of sex and my body, and what I hope to see for the future of the emerging sexual liberation movement.

The misconceptions around physical disability and sex range from mundane to hilarious.

You find the latter a lot in online dating. Like most people my age, I decided to give Tinder a go when it first got popular. I made sure to use plenty of pictures of myself where my wheelchair was visible, and I had wheelchair puns in my bio. Let it be known now that I adore my body for what it is, and I’ve learned how best to use it. It’s surprising how many people on Tinder have a curiosity about having sex with a disabled person. I’ve had multiple people ask me if they can have sex with me IN my wheelchair which to me just sounds like a logistical nightmare – and looking to get injured. Someone else asked if they could turn my wheelchair into a sex swing; I wanted to let him try purely based on me wondering if it could be done. Others made cruder comments about what an ideal height I was at in my wheelchair, asking me if I was “still functional”. That is a sure-fire way to make sure I will not be having sex with you, ever.

My point is, my experience of disability has been fetishised when it comes to online dating; and yet, in wider society, disabled people aren’t seen as sexual beings. Take disabled bathrooms. I know people have sex in them, regularly. I see you sneaking out together, you aren’t slick. BUT, people would never expect to see a disabled person in that situation. I think if I left that bathroom with someone else in tow people would assume that I just needed a hand in there, that whoever I was with was “incredible for doing what you do”.

Little would they know it would be ME they were doing. It would be the perfect ruse, really. You also never find condom machines in disabled bathrooms. So, able bodied people appropriate disabled spaces to express their own sexuality but don’t expect disabled people to do the same. Society has sanitised and infantilised disabled people so much that people don’t know how to handle it when they express themselves sexually. When they put themselves in those spaces, when they demand to be equals in sexuality with able-bodied peers.

Part of embracing my body is learning every inch of it.

I grew up never seeing my body in magazines or on a runway. I grew up hating how parts of my body jutted out more than others. I hated all the evidence of medical procedures strewn across my body that you’d never see in editorials. It was always someone else’s body, whether it was a doctor or a physiotherapist, or even my parents. I never felt like I was in control of it. So, as I got older and I started working to tune in to my body, I decided it was time to invest in it. It was time to enjoy it and treat it kindly after all it had been put through. That meant doing what any responsible body owner would do when they want to treat themselves; I went sex toy shopping.

Sex toy shopping was… an interesting experience initially.

I didn’t really know what I was looking for, and I was embarrassed. I was 18 at the time I think when I wandered in to my first shop. It was a haven of lace and I think I fell in love with every bra set in there. The toys were down the back, and normally in these situations a staff member would come over and ask you what you’re looking for or something like that. My experience was a little different. The staff were looking between themselves, as if to debate whether to approach me. It was more like trying to figure out how you were gonna lure an escaped pet into the house. Eventually one came over and asked if there was anything they could do, but they were obviously uncertain; maybe even uncomfortable.

I ended up buying a small bullet vibrator which absolutely wasn’t gonna do anything for me, but I was so eager to leave that I just bought it and proverbially ran. I tried to not let it sully my experience because I think it’s important to be in tune with every part of your body and what it needs. It was a long time before I tried shopping in person again though, and my life has been a lot of online trial and error. Plus, shopping online isn’t ideal because I still live with my parents and they love opening my  post. I normally dread when I need to upgrade; thankfully I’m sorted for the moment.

It’s not just toy shopping that can be daunting either.

Trying on lingerie is quite hit and miss for wheelchair users like myself. A lot of dressing rooms aren’t equipped for disabled patrons, whether it be sizes or grab rails. The amount of times I’ve just had to try and ignore gaps in curtains or having my chair poking out of a dressing cubicle is unbelievable. I’ve learned not to be shy over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with having a compromised shopping experience because people don’t expect variety in their dressing rooms. However, it’s not all bad!

Retailers seem to be catching up in terms of access; albeit in small doses. In larger retailers
you normally get one singular accessible dressing room… Heaven forbid there’s more
than one disabled person in your shop at any given time, right? Customer service has also
gotten vastly better in terms of lingerie shopping. My favourite experience is lingerie
powerhouse Victoria’s Secret. They recently open a 3-floor store in Dublin and let me tell
you, I’m convinced it is heaven on earth! The staff are incredibly professional and thoughtful, and it reminds me that attitudes towards disability and sexuality are changing. With more brands like Aerie lingerie using disabled models and disability being featured more within modelling through the likes of Aaron Philip and Jillian Mercado, disabled people are becoming more visible; but people’s attitudes still need to change, especially when it comes to sex.

Which brings me to my next point – What my trip to Amsterdam taught me about people’s attitudes towards sex.

I went to Amsterdam last year with one of my best friends. I was having a tough time in
college, she was getting divorced, it seemed like the perfect way to get both our minds off it. There are a lot of reasons people go to Amsterdam. Mine were more culture based – there were lots of museums and stuff I wanted to see – but that didn’t mean we weren’t going to also sample some of the more NSFW culture points.

Funnily enough when we were lost trying to find our hotel we ended up in the red-light district by accident. I think it’s a great testament for how normalised sex work is in Amsterdam, nobody was really paying attention apart from some stag parties. People were completely unbothered. Why would they be, I suppose. I for one found my friends reaction hilarious – she wanted to walk a little quicker because that wasn’t something she’d been around before. Traditional family and everything.

After two days in Amsterdam we decided our last night would be our ‘party night’ where we would go to a café and ramble down to see what trouble we could get into in the Red-Light District. It was surprisingly picturesque, and the neon really added to it. The paths were accessible too which made navigating around a little easier. However, that was where the access stopped. For those who were “window shopping” as I heard people referring to it, there was a step down into the rooms and they were quite tiny. So, if you were in Amsterdam with a physical disability looking for a good time, you were out of luck.

It was the same with the clubs. Some of them were up multiple stairs, or down multiple stairs. There was one that had steps at the front and the security said they were more than willing to help carry me in. I didn’t because of the financial barrier (it was 45 Euros for 8 shows if I remember correctly, and I was just completely smash broke). I just didn’t understand the logic of being inaccessible. This was one of the biggest draws Amsterdam had for tourism, and it was almost completely off limits to an entire demographic of people. It also wasn’t my wider experience of Amsterdam – everywhere else had been great and most places only had one step in, with some friendly local or random passerby more than happy to help you navigate it. It occurred to me that it was as much of a social barrier as it was an architectural one. They weren’t designed to be accessible because obviously it wasn’t expected that disabled people would be occupying those spaces. It wasn’t for them, essentially.

As a 22-year-old queer person who is also disabled, watching the sexual liberation movement take off has been a double-edged sword.

While I am obviously ecstatic to see more people be open about the need for representation and consent, I wish there was more of an emphasis on access for disabled people. I want to be able to access spaces that will allow me to be my most open self, where I can go and be myself without worrying I’m taking up too much space in my wheelchair. When we have diversity panels discussing sex, I want to see more disabled people present to discuss what sexual liberation means for them. It is important that we stop disassociating disabled people from conversations about sex; we have sex, and these spaces are ours too.

We could benefit from disability being seen clearly in lingerie advertising, not in a fetishising way but in an empowering way; acknowledge that disabled people want to, and have a right to, be sexy. Advertising and advocates alike need to catch up and recognize that diversity comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Sexual education needs to be more diverse to include disability, and it needs to be accessible to EVERYONE.

Viva la sexuality!

If you’re interested in keeping up with me, my twitter account is @Wheelie_Healthy and you can check out my (frequently inactive) blog. You can also follow our insta (@Wheelie_Happy) where you’ll find my previous work and my contact details if you want to get in touch for anything!

Ask Amy #4: “Can I get safe toys on a budget?”

It’s been a while since I’ve had a reader question, so I am super excited to dive into today’s. This one’s about one of my favourite topics: SEX TOYS!

Our lovely reader asks:

“Hi Amy. I was wondering, what do I need to know when looking for cheap, body-safe sex toys, especially here in the UK?”

I love this question so much. First, Letter Writer and everyone else, please know this: it is simply NOT TRUE that affordable body-safe toys don’t exist. This is a complete myth, and it’s a harmful fiction that leads people on a restricted budget to buy unsafe toys under the mistaken notion that they can’t get anything better within their price-range.

You absolutely can. You categorically, 1000% can. And what’s more, you deserve high-quality, safe stuff that you can enjoy without worrying about your health.

So, what to look out for?

Firstly, it’s all about materials.

Good: Silicone. ABS Plastic. Glass (of the borosilicate or “Pyrex” variety.) Stainless steel. Aluminium. Ceramic, as long as it’s treated with a non-toxic glaze. Wood, as long as it’s treated with a non-toxic glaze or sealant.

Bad: TPR. TPE. Rubber. PVC. “Cyberskin” etc. “Sil-a-Gel.” Latex. Anything with “jelly” in the name.

Generally, metal, ceramic and wood toys will be more expensive, while silicone, ABS and glass are easy to find on a budget.

The materials I’ve listed as “good” are perfect because they’re non-toxic (no phthalates or other harmful ingredients,) don’t off-gas or leech chemicals, and are non-porous so they won’t harbour bacteria as long as you wash them thoroughly between every use.

Those I’ve listed as “bad” are variable. Please avoid anything with “jelly” in the name like the plague – these almost certainly contain phthalates, as does PVC. That’s how they get that squishy texture. “Cyberskin” and anything else that is sold as “realistic,” if it’s not silicone, is also to be avoided. TPE/TPR (thermoplastic elastomer/rubber) don’t usually contain phthalates, but are porous as fuck and may be softened with other nasty chemicals. Same goes for latex, which is also a super common allergen and there’s some evidence that prolonged exposure can cause or exacerbate sensitivity. “Sil-a-gel” isn’t even a real thing and it certainly isn’t in any way the same as silicone.

[Note: The ONE exception I’ll make for PVC is the Doxy Original, which uses medical-grade (and therefore phthalate-free and non-porous) PVC for the head.]

If you want to read up more on the specifics of these materials and why they’re toxic, I recommend Dangerous Lilly’s brilliant guide.

Also worth adding is that if you don’t know what it’s made of, avoid it, and remember that the sex toy industry is pretty much unregulated – so just because a company claims something is body-safe, doesn’t mean that it is.

It’s NOT all about brands

A lot of the toys you’ll hear recommended come from big-name brands in the business: Doxy. Tantus. We-Vibe. Hot Octopuss. These brands and many more are popular for good reason, so if you do ever spot their products on a mega-sale, you’ll most likely be getting something good quality.

But you don’t need big brands or loads of cash for great quality toys!

Go own-brand

As with food, own-brand sex toys can be much cheaper but not compromise much on quality when compared to the big names.

Lovehoney and Bondara are two examples of companies who do some really solid own-brand stuff. Not everything in their lines are safe, unfortunately, but if you follow the materials guide above, you can’t go far wrong.

A quick note about retailers:

Tempting though it is, please please resist the urge to buy your toys from a retailer such as eBay, Aliexpress or Amazon. There are loads of knock-offs around on all the major brand toys, some of them quite convincing, so there’s no way to know for sure if you’re getting a genuine product. Dangerous Lilly (she’s amazing!) has written more extensively on this.

Full disclosure: links in this post take you to affiliate partners of mine and if you buy through them with one of my links, I may make a small commission. However, my first concern is always my readers’ happiness and safety, I will never recommend an unsafe toy, and I only partner with companies I strongly believe in.

Some Concrete Suggestions

I thought I’d put together a list of options for various tastes that are body-safe, under £30, and easily available in the UK.

Clitoral Vibrators:

G-spot Vibrators:

Rabbit Vibrators:

Dildos (silicone)

Dildos (glass)

Anal toys:

This list is by no means exhaustive or even really scratching the surface. These are just a few of the categories of toys available and just a very small handful of the options out there. Go forth and get your sexy on, lovely Letter Writer, and I hope this was helpful to you and anyone else shopping for safe toys on a budget.

Remember: we all deserve pleasure, and we all deserve SAFE toys, no matter what our financial situation.

Love,
Amy xx

Remember: I’ll answer your question on the blog, too! Just drop me a line and I’ll help if I can.

Ask Amy #2: “First Visit to a Sex Shop”

I love today’s question because I remember being in this reader’s position not all that many years ago. Sex shops can feel intimidating when you’ve never been in one before. We’ve all been the nervous first-timer at some point.

“How do I behave at a sex shop!?”

“Hi Amy,

Hope you don’t think this is a stupid question! I’m a 35 year old mother and I’m recently single after coming out of a 12 year marriage. My ex husband was super vanilla but now that I’m on my own I want to try using sex toys. I’ve heard that it’s much better to go to a shop rather than buy online so that you can see and feel the toys before choosing one, but my secret is I’ve never been in a sex shop before! I don’t know what to expect or how to behave. Can I ask questions? Will the staff think it’s really weird that I’m a mum in my mid 30s who hasn’t ever used a vibrator before? Any advice would be really helpful.”

– Nervous Newbie

Hey Nervous! What a great question. It’s not at all weird. Loads of people have never been to a sex shop and are nervous at the idea. Firstly, congratulations on deciding you want to explore your sexuality more after finding yourself single. That’s a great gift you can give yourself which will improve both your solo sex life and any partnered sex you might have in the future.

Visiting a sex shop really doesn’t need to be scary. Promise! There’s just a few things you need to know to make your visit as smooth and – yes – enjoyable as possible.

First, research and pick a reputable store. As you’re in London, I can’t recommend better than the utterly wonderful Sh! Women’s Store. There’s also Coco De Mer, which is a real treat to visit but extremely high-end – basically the Prada of sex shops, with price tags to match. Any woman-owned and run, independent sex shop is likely to be better than a mainstream chain store. It’s honestly worth traveling to get to a really good store and there are a few in the major cities throughout the country. (If you must go to a chain store, Simply Pleasure isn’t bad but sadly they sell a lot of toxic and porous toys in amongst the good stuff, so do your research first.)

What you’ll find at a good store is a friendly, welcoming and non-judgemental environment. The staff typically choose to work in these shops because they’re sex positive and passionate about sexual pleasure and health. I’ve never met a sex shop worker for whom it was “just a retail gig.” I absolutely promise you the staff won’t think you’re weird for having never bought toys before, so feel free to say “I’m new to toys and looking for something to start with.”

So, ask questions! Ask for advice! (Not “what’s your favourite?” which is not only invasive but also a redundant question as all bodies are different. Think more along the lines of, “what’s a good anal toy for a beginner?” “I like strong vibrations with variable patterns, what do you recommend?” “I’m looking for an insertable toy that’s not too rigid.”)

On that note: think about what you might like to get before you go in. Are you more interested in vaginal penetration, clitoral stimulation, or a mix? What about anal? Think about what you want to experiment with, what your body likes and doesn’t like, and – very important – how much you want to spend. If you can afford it, it’s worth spending a bit more to get a really good toy that’s well-made, body safe and from a reputable manufacturer.

Please read up on materials and get something that’s body-safe and non porous. Dangerous Lilly has a tonne of valuable advice on safe toys. It’s okay not to know exactly what you’re looking for (that’s partly why you ask for advice!) but having at least a general knowledge of how your pleasure works is a good starting point. (I think I need to do a whole post on picking out your first sex toy.)

Don’t be afraid to pick things up and play with them (in your hand, not your pants, obviously!) The vast majority of shops will have a sample of each toy out of the box so you can feel it, test the vibrations for strength, see how you like the materials against your skin etc. Play as much as you like. Take your time. A good retailer won’t hurry you.

As far as any other etiquette, it’s all super obvious. Don’t hit on the staff – they probably love the job but they’re also at work and no-one wants to field unwanted come-ons at work. Don’t ask the staff personal questions about their own sex life or toy use. Keep your clothes on. Don’t test anything out on your genitals. Don’t be weird or judgy about toys or sex acts that aren’t your thing. (Think, for example, “I don’t think what would do it for me,” rather than “ewwww, why would anyone do that?”) Honestly, it’s no more complicated than being respectful, polite and behaving in ways that are generally acceptable in a public space, albeit one where it’s totally okay – encouraged! – to have frank conversations about sexuality.

One final pro tip: if you’re nervous, try going at a time when it’s likely to be quieter. Mornings are typically quieter than afternoons/evenings, and weekdays are quieter than weekends. This way the staff are likely to have more time to devote to you and you won’t feel so self-conscious examining the toys in front of other shoppers.

Good luck!

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