When I was growing up, my main source of enjoyment was playing with toys. My family didn’t buy a lot of electronics and the TV was rarely on. I didn’t have siblings, and none of my friends lived nearby. Toys were a great source of childhood amusement and remain a great source of pleasure for me today.I had dolls and stuffed animals, legos and a shopping cart. I had puzzles and Parker Brothers board games. I had a cash register that I loved (back when math was my passion), which I would begrudgingly lend my mom for garage sales. But the toys in my current collection are of a completely different sort. They’re sex toys!The gold, wooden treasure chest that was once home to my favorite possessions has been replaced by a paisley blue box, just big enough to fit my favorites vibes.It’s not uncommon for adults and teenagers to own sex toys, although in some states it’s illegal to purchase them under the age of 18. Several states have lifted bans against sex toys within the last couple of years. Others prohibit the sale of “obscene devices,” but many of these laws have too been lifted. My guess is that the most widely used genre of sex toy is the vibrator, which can come in a plethora of sizes, shapes, and styles.Marie Mable PI ’12 got her first vibrator in ninth grade. She had it in her bag at school, and someone found it and asked what it was in front of the entire class. Her reputation as a “slut” blossomed. Classmates would buzz every time she walked into a room or passed them in the hall. Although she was humiliated throughout her high school career, Mable isn’t the only one who was playing with adult toys.For a lot of people, buying sex toys can seem taboo. Unfortunately, the environment of most sex shops is more welcoming to the pervert masturbating in the corner than to the open-minded young woman who has come to buy herself a present.Thankfully, there is a growing trend nationwide of “sex boutiques,” which cater to a sexually open, thoughtful, educated bunch. The Smitten Kitten is a feminist-friendly boutique that started in Uptown, Minneapolis. The staff are all sex educators who assist customers shopping in-store, but they’re also available to answer your sexual health questions over the phone. The Smitten Kitten is a great resource and has a voluminous online boutique.Another highly recommended toy shop is Babeland, which has brick-and-mortar stores in Seattle and New York City as well as an extensive online collection. During the month of October, Babeland is donating 20 percent of sales on certain items to fight breast cancer.I advise people to shop at stores like these for several reasons. For one, supporting small businesses is trendy. Buy local! It’s also very important to feel comfortable when you make decisions about sex and sexuality. A supportive, progressive environment makes it a lot easier.Sex boutiques can also be safer. Beware of phthalates, a toxic chemical sometimes used in plastic. If you buy a “jelly” sex toy, you can assume it’s bad news. Nobody wants poison in their privates. Sex toys can be made of silicone, glass, medical-grade plastic, and other items. Also, be careful that the lube you use is compatible with the material of your toy. You can find more information about the dangers of “novelty” sex toys at http://www.badvibes.org.We all know that the electronics marketed as “personal massagers” are actually vibrators. It’s even possible that Maybelline’s new vibrating mascara, which does “what no hand can do alone,” could potentially be the new pocket rocket. Some people enjoy using shower heads, cucumbers, or even bicycles to get off. If you go the vegetable route, use a rubber. Pesticides and cooters don’t mix well.There are plenty of sex toys out there, and an ever-expanding audience is using them. These are some of the most commonly used sex toys:Dildos are phallic and designed for vaginal or anal penetration. Sometimes they look and feel like a human penis; other times they’re ribbed, purple, leopard printed, or shaped like a caterpillar. But dildos are universally shaped, more or less, like a penis. When used vaginally, they can be easily cleaned with soap and water. If you use them anally, use a condom. Hygiene is necessary.Vibrators come in many shapes and sizes. Bullet vibrators are generally small, and work well for shallow vaginal penetration or clitoral stimulation. Many vibrators are bigger.Common anal toys include butt plugs and anal beads, which can vary in size. When using any toy, it is important to have high standards of hygiene and to make sure that anything you insert has a flared base. Unlike the vagina, the anus is limitless. So seriously, don’t shove something up there unless you’re willing to share your story with an entire emergency room.BDSM: From handcuffs and blindfolds to paddles and whips, there is a huge range of kinky toys that people choose to use. One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure. For some people, these things are sexy but to others they’re scary. You never know what will turn you on until you try it!Please send your sex questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.