Playing With Toys: Not Just for Kids Anymore

It came in a little brown box, much like your typical package holding a textbook or a bottle of sunscreen. It was’t an ordinary purchase, though—it was life-changing. In that standard cardboard box sat my first sex toy, a little pink vibrator I chose from Amazon’s best when I was 15 years old. 

I had decided to make the purchase upon realizing exactly how tedious masturbation was simply with my fingers. I wasn’t as
creative as my friends, some of whom were in the habit of humping their pillows or
stuffed animals, and I didn’t have an electric toothbrush.

grew up in such a sexually repressive household that I didn’t even form a
relationship with my vulva until after I’d already had sex a few times. The first
time I masturbated, it took me about half an hour to cum. Two of
my fingers were shriveled and pruned like I’d stayed in the bath for too long,
but I just wanted more.

I started
experimenting unsuccessfully with pervertables—everyday items that can be repurposed for
sexual pleasure. I found toothbrushes and markers too thin and slow, and I
had hang-ups about using the very vegetables that I knew my family members would later eat. Hairbrush
handles proved to be useful, but felt lacking as I had not yet discovered my

I’m not
sure exactly what gave me the idea to look for a vibrator, but I’m glad something did. I didn’t know or care at the time, but using items that aren’t meant for penetration without a condom
can result in infection. 

While my
vibrator greatly improved my overall happiness and my relationship with myself,
it did prove to be a problem when my parents later discovered it.

I wasn’t
directly confronted about the discovery. All I knew at the time was that I was being driven to an
emergency therapy session with both of my parents. Sitting on
my therapist’s couch, I noticed that neither of my parents would look me in the
eye. They both kept their heads down, but I could see that they were red in the

No one spoke until my social worker
broke the painful silence. My parents sat there, wringing their hands, clearly
embarrassed and ashamed. It took her a while to draw an
explanation out of them. She rightfully wanted to know why we all had to meet last
minute, outside of her usual office hours.

My dad finally brought himself to
choke out, “W-we found some … paraphernalia.” He wore a grave expression as more
blood flooded to his cheeks. My therapist looked at him questioningly and asked
him to clarify. He couldn’t bear to give an explanation.

She looked to me and asked, “What did
they find?”

By this point, I had an idea what was going on. The only thing in my possession that could have caused them this much distress
was my sex toy. 

“A dildo,” I replied matter-of-factly. I could feel the tension shatter—along with my poor mother’s heart.

I’d wondered what was so painful
about that word, “dildo.” Didn’t they know it was used for pleasure? My brother
had an arsenal of airsoft and paintball guns, but those never got him sent to

Now I realize, outside of my
parents’ conservatism, there is a larger social stigma surrounding the use of
sex toys. I can’t
figure out why this exists, besides the Victorian sexual oppression that
still bleeds into our ideas, judgments and practices of sexuality. Sex toys can bring immense pleasure to all of our lives, and we should give them a chance and reverse their reputation. No matter what you’re working
with, there is a sex toy for you!

Even though
sex toys are excellent for masturbation, they can also greatly enhance
partnered play, so don’t look past them just because you’re already getting

Every body
is different, so you might need to shop around until you find what gets you
going. Browse an online site like or to see what
catches your attention among the plugs, pumps, dildos, vibrators, masturbators,
cuffs, clamps, cock rings, harnesses, furniture and much, much more.

An easy first step to take is to
determine whether you’d like an internal or external use toy, and, subsequently,
which body parts you’d like to use it on.

If you’ll be using something
internally, it’s important to note the material of the toy. Many common sex toys
are made of a soft, rubbery plastic. The plastic is softened to this state
through the use of phthalates, chemicals that are believed to have harmful
effects on the endocrine system.

Many sex toy manufacturers get away
with exposing our sensitive bits to these harmful plasticizers by stamping ‘For
Novelty Use Only’ on the boxes of their products—another indication that we are
not part of a sexually enlightened society.

You can easily tell if your toy contains phthalates by simply smelling it. If you open the package and smell a strong chemical odor, there is a very good chance the toy contains these

However, you can still safely play
with these jelly-like toys with the use of a condom. And if it isn’t going
inside of you, there’s virtually no chance of harmful side effects.

If you are yearning for an internal
toy, some good, body-safe materials to check out are stainless steel, silicone,
glass and ABS plastic.

If you feel like you’d like to test
some sex toys out before you buy, the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood has a
vast array of toys you can experiment with in addition to a knowledgeable
staff to answer any questions.

If you’re ever in the Bay Area or
near Boston, Good Vibrations is a great place to visit. Every salesperson is a sex educator and open to any and all questions. If you’re going to be in Seattle or
NYC, look out for Babeland—a great store with a plethora of body-safe toys and a wealth
of information from friendly staff.

Wherever you plan to start, lube is
almost always a good choice. Even if you think sex toys aren’t for you, just
take a look. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Vibe on,

Connie Lingus

‘Connie Lingus’ PZ ’16 is a psychology and sociology major. Her sexual orientation? Queer, kinky and polyamorous. 

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