Sex toy usage has surged during the pandemic, both for solo users and for couples who enjoy using toys together. It’s easy to see why: The best sex toys for couples can liven up a sex life that has come to feel monotonous, conjure more intense versions of sensations you already enjoy, and even help you feel more closely connected to your partner.
Why use sex toys with a partner?
Lisa Finn, a sex educator at sex toy mecca Babeland, tells SELF that there’s a widespread misconception that sex toys are a thing you use before you meet your partner—or when they’re out of town. But sex toys aren’t just for single folks.
“Sex toys allow you and your partner (or partners) to bring an exciting sensation that might not be possible with tongues, fingers, and genitals alone,” she says, adding that you can think of them as the sprinkles on top of an already delicious sundae.
“Sex toys do things humans cannot,” agrees Epiphora, a blogger who has been reviewing sex toys professionally for over a decade. “Humans don't vibrate; humans don't have penises made of stainless steel.” But that also doesn’t mean that toys are a replacement for, or a threat to, human relationships. Even if you use a fancy stand mixer while baking a cake, you’re still the one who baked that cake—and by the same token, the pleasure and fun of using a sex toy with a partner is often more about the partner than the toy.
Sex toys “can create unique opportunities for pleasure and bonding,” says Rae Chen, a writer who reviews sex toys at The Notice. This may be especially true for people who struggle to feel pleasure or achieve orgasm without toys, whether due to sensitivity issues, erectile dysfunction, a physical disability, or other conditions. Sex educator Cassandra Corrado says it’s “really freeing when you realize [sex] doesn’t have to all be about human-to-human contact—you can bring in tools to help you access pleasure more easily and efficiently.”
What should couples keep in mind when shopping for sex toys?
“Ignore all the marketing,” Epiphora warns. “Some toys are specifically labeled ‘for couples,’ but any toy can be for couples.” It’s better to focus on finding toys that fulfill the specific purpose you want them for, whether that be clitoral stimulation during intercourse, app-enabled pleasure for long-distance couples, intense anal sensations, or something else entirely.
“Be willing to have a conversation with each other before you walk into a shop about what you’re looking for,” recommends Bex Caputo, a sex educator and former sex shop manager. While the world of sex toys can be daunting, it’s much easier to get what you want if you and your partner are on the same page about the type(s) of toy you’re hoping to find and what you’re hoping to use them for.
Corrado recommends doing your research on toy materials because some are better quality than others. Broadly speaking you should avoid toys that are transparent or translucent as these tend to be made of materials you don’t want inside you, such as jelly or PVC. That type of toy “will be more affordable upfront,” Corrado says, “but you’ll have to replace it in the long-term.” Generally, toys made of materials such as silicone, ABS plastic, glass, sealed ceramic, and stainless steel are going to be the easiest to clean, the longest lasting, and the most comfortable to use.
Read up on our tips for using sex toys with your partner, and while you’re at it, check out these sex educator recommendations for the best sex toys for couples—including vibrating cock rings, strap-on harnesses, couples vibrators, and more. Whether you’re quarantined together or social distancing apart, you’re sure to find a couples sex toy that’ll spark joy (among other things). Just make sure you’re cleaning your sex toys, too!