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Dear Sexpert,

I've heard of dildos, but what sex toys are there that stimulate the penis? Any that work for masturbation and sex?

—Looking to Try Something New

Dear Looking to Try Something New,

Great question, and you’re not alone: approximately 50% percent of Americans (both male and female-identified) report having used a vibrator, according to two national surveys published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. There is a tremendous variety of sex toys — many of which can stimulate genitalia in multiple ways. These products come in a number of different shapes, sizes, and materials, and target different areas of the body for stimulation. Not only can these toys work for masturbation, but they can be used during sexual play with a partner. This wide variety of options makes it possible to experiment and explore which sex toys work best for you personally.

For masturbation, trying a sex toy can be a new and exciting alternative to using one’s hands. Some people also use sex toys to help them better understand what they enjoy sexually. Different pressures and intensities and varied materials and textures may provide more pleasure than others and preferences vary from person to person. As a result, there are many different toys to choose from.

If you’re looking for a toy that simulates penetrative sex, you may want to try a masturbation sleeve or a stroker, a toy made of silicone or a rubber-like material that fully encompasses the penis. If you want to stimulate a different part of the body, there are prostate massagers, such as butt plugs, dildos, and anal beads. These toys specifically target the prostate (also known as the “male g-spot”) and may produce a more intense kind of pleasure than what they typically would have from just stimulating the penis. Just remember that any toy that you’re using anally should have a flared base to it, to prevent complete insertion into the rectum.

There are also penis pumps and cock rings, two toys designed to assist in making an erection harder and slightly bigger for a longer period of time by trapping blood in an erection. Penis pumps are round plastic tubes that surround the penis and pump air out from inside the cylinder. Cock rings, as their name suggests, are rings made of leather, plastic, silicone, or metal that go around the base of the penis. Additionally, rings that vibrate can be placed at the base of the penis to stimulate the testicles and/or the partner during penetration. As with most new things, using a new toy is not necessarily intuitive — do some research to learn about proper use and any potential risks.

As when engaging in any sexual activity, using lubricant is a good idea for maximizing comfort and enhancing the experience. Be sure to review your toy’s material, to ensure its compatibility with different lubricants. Water-based lubes are safe with any sex toy material. Oil-based lubes should not be used with toys made of rubber, PVC or latex. Silicone-based lubes should not be used with silicone toys. Most toys come with product labels explaining the material, and manufacturer recommendations. For more on safety and materials, check out: http://kinseyconfidential.org/resources/sex-toys.

When purchasing a sex toy, it’s helpful to keep in mind the size of the toy, its texture, how intensely it vibrates, and what control options it has. Also keep in mind that you get what you pay for — some toys that cost less can be made with lower quality or even less safe materials. Toys made of silicone, stainless steel, or glass are ideal because they are hypoallergenic and can easily be cleaned without damaging the toy. It is also important to wash sex toys with mild soap and water before and after every use to prevent the spread of bacteria and infections. In many cases, internal or external condoms can also be used to cover the toy for single use; just be sure to use a new condom for each partner, if the toy is being shared by multiple partners. You can learn more about the various sex toys available and receive more personalized advice about what you may like by talking with a knowledgeable sales representative at a local sex store.

—The Sexpert

Information regarding sex toys provided by Ask Alice

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