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My First Vibrator: Overwhelmed by the Possibilities of Pleasure

Dear Carol,
I went to Good Vibrations recently to get my first vibrator and left without buying anything, completely overwhelmed by the number of choices there! I'd looked at the web site, but there were so many more in the store. I know there were staff people I could have asked, but I confess I avoided them. I wish the whole process were a lot easier. How do I make the right choice?
-- Confused

Dear Confused,
Vibe shopping could be called the mechanical equivalent of choosing a lover, so it's not surprising you were overwhelmed, especially if you're thinking in terms of choosing only one instrument of pleasure. I won't suggest right away that you become nonmonogamous about your sex toys -- you don't even have your first one yet! But even if your first choice doesn't turn out to be perfect for you, the experience of choosing based on what you think you'll like, exploring its possibilities, and finally concluding you want something else is a very useful process.

There's no one best vibrator -- it's true that a lot of adulation is directed towards the Magic Wand, but not everyone prefers it. The things that make it an excellent choice for many folks -- its strength of vibration and the large-sized head, which diffuses the vibrations over a larger area -- make it just too big and overwhelming for others. The slimmest, smallest, mildest battery-operated vibrator might be perfect for the woman (or man) who rejects the Magic Wand. Let me break the vibrators down into some basic categories, and hopefully help you narrow down what you'd like most. If this doesn't help, try buying two different ones, if you can afford it. The contrast between them will help you figure out your erotic priorities as far as vibe love is concerned, and your next choice can be more considered. That way, too, you'll have even more info to share with the staff. Do take advantage of their expertise -- they have talked to many, many people and can almost certainly offer helpful guidance.

There are plug-in electric vibrators, also called massagers, and then there are battery-operated vibes. The plug-in ones are bigger, heavier, stronger, and in some cases louder than the battery models. You plug them in to use them; a few models can be charged up and used independently of the wall socket until the charge runs out. The plug-ins come in two main styles: motor-operated wands, and small cake-mixer-shaped coil vibrators. (These are powered by electromagnetic coil, not motor, hence the name.) The coils are smaller, milder, and quieter than the wands, but they also have a smaller head (the part that you place against the part you want to vibrate). This concentrates the vibrations into a smaller area, so some folks find the coils feel even stronger than the wands. Imagine the difference, if you can, between touching the clit with one finger, and stimulating it by placing a whole palm over the vulva. The difference is sort of like that -- only, of course, vibrational.

Electric vibes are appliance quality. They are the only choice if you want something that will last a long time. Of course, since you're in your first phase of vibe exploration, exploring the battery-operated styles may give you more information about what you like and respond to. The embarrassment of riches on the battery vibe display is indeed confusing: there are about 13 jillion kinds. But they, too, mostly fall into some basic categories. At the Good Vibrations stores you can turn the vibes on and feel their vibration. That's not possible on the web, of course (yet), and is the very best reason to shop for live vibes instead of virtual ones. Keep in mind that you might turn out to like your vibration strong, mild, or medium.

Some battery vibes are designed for external stimulation only, like the Japanese-made Pocket Rocket styles, while others could clearly be used in the vagina or (if they have enough of a base to keep them from slipping all the way inside) the anus. So one question is whether you want one that can be used for penetration. Vaginal vibration is not as powerful for most women as clitoral, so if you like the feeling of penetration you might be just as happy with a dildo. However, there's a style that bridges the gap: it has a clitoral vibe (usually molded in the shape of an animal) and a shaft. The two simultaneous sources of stimulation are heaven for a lot of women; these rabbit-style "twice as nice" vibes are big favorites.

Then you get to ask: If I want penetration, do I want the vibrator to be soft or hard? You can choose from nearly realistic (i.e., penislike) textures all the way to hard plastic or Lucite. Some also look penis-y, while others are rocket-ish or shaped in other, more fanciful forms. (On the market currently are octopi, mermaids, weiner dogs, and many other wacky styles.)

The bullet style vibrator -- shaped like an egg or a small, soft-edged cylinder -- is made of hard plastic (though they may be covered by softer material). Hard plastic usually has a strong buzz; the bullets feel pretty intense, and the smallest ones may feel even more so than the larger ones -- less diffusion, more focus. These are usually powered by a battery pack attached with a cord; cordless units have been designed, but are more expensive. Cordless or not, these vibes can be worn in special underwear or pouches, or simply held over the area you want buzzed. They're small enough to fit between two people (although you can use any vibe this way, the bigger ones require positioning accordingly -- the Magic Wand is a foot long).

Other elements of your decision: do you want it waterproof? What color or pattern? Smooth or textured? Straight or G-spot curvy? Small or large? Fast, buzzy vibe or slower? Don't be discouraged. Trying them out is fun -- they're toys! Soon enough you'll find one you'll love.

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