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A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex Toy

By: Carol Queen, PhD

Good Vibes: How to choose your first sex toy

There are so many sex toys on the market, even when shopping a quality-focused, curated selection, as Good Vibes pioneered decades ago. So if you are wondering how to choose a sex toy, we’d like to offer some guidance.

There is no one toy that suits everyone, nor even one specific type of toy. People are diverse! In selecting the right sex toy for you, it helps to think about what you enjoy and want to experience. We’ll tell you about factors to consider when buying a sex toy and other important elements of the toy-buying experience. 

The Importance of Quality Material

You’re likely to use your toy on (or in!) parts of your body that you want to keep safe from microbes and chemicals. The material your toy is made of will help you maintain that safety—or not. It’s extra-important to think about this if the sex toys will come into contact with mucous membranes - like those found in the vagina and anus - during insertion. Some toys are easy to clean and body-safe for most people. Other toys are not as easy to clean well enough to keep you (and partners) healthy. So make safe sex toy choices!

Good Vibes - A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyIdentifying body-safe materials for sex toys

The most important quality for sex toy material is that it is non-porous—unable to absorb body fluids and germs. A non-porous sex toy will be easier to keep clean.

Choose a material that’s body-safe for you. If you have an allergy or sensitivity to some specific material, avoid it! If playing with a clean, well rinsed-off toy causes redness, itchiness, swelling, or other problems, that material might not be for you. (Also, make sure if you have an issue with a toy that it’s really the toy—not the lube you used!)

The difference between porous and non-porous materials

Jelly rubber is easy on your wallet but might not be so great in contact with your body. Good Vibes does not carry this material at all—upon learning about health concerns associated with one of its chemical additives, phthalates, we discontinued all toys made of jelly years ago. It is also often very porous—some of this material looks like it’s full of soda bubbles. When those emerge at the surface, you just can’t adequately clean them.

Other soft rubber toys might be best enjoyed with a condom over them. Wood and some stone toys could be porous if not treated with a body-safe non-porous coating. 

The most commonly-used, well-loved material for sex toys is silicone. It’s non-porous, very easy to clean, warms to body temperature, and can be molded into many shapes. (Please remember that silicone toys generally should not be used with silicone lubricant.)  Glass, latex and metal are completely non-porous too, as are wood and stone with the correct coating.

Choosing the Right Type of Sex Toy

Good Vibes - A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyHow do you choose a sex toy that’s right for you? To begin with, think about any erotic or sensual experiences you have had in the past—what you liked and might want to replicate. (And also, what you did not enjoy.) This won’t be the same for every person! One person might have enjoyed insertion and therefore wants a dildo or vibrator they can use to explore that feeling. Another might have found that sensation unappealing, and they would prefer external stimulation.

So: Is there a specific area of your body you want to focus on? Clitoris, penis, vagina, anus, nipples—there are toys designed to stimulate all of these. You can find toys that offer insertion and simultaneous clitoral or penile play. Do you want to explore vibration or stroking? Does focused clitoral stimulation feel great, or too intense? Think about what you experience during masturbation and partner sex, if you engage in those. Even think about what seems erotic when you read about it or see it in porn—though porn is not sex education, sometimes it can show you options that are erotic for you.

Different types of sex toys: An overview

In short, there are different types of toys designed for the varying kinds of stimulation and bodies that make sexuality so diverse. Not everyone likes everything (or has all the body parts!). But here’s a list of the most common toys and some points about each. 

Vibrators: Types and specifications

Did you know that there are nerve endings in your body that specialize in feeling vibration? That helps explain the popularity of this stimulating sex toy! Vibrators can be enjoyed all over the body and most other types of toy can be found with vibrators incorporated. Here are several of the most prized styles:

Wands: External toys that feature a handle and a rounded head with (usually) strong and rumbly vibes. If your back hurts, they do double duty as massagers! These are extremely beloved toys, though they might be stronger than some people prefer. 

Good Vibes - A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyClitoral vibrators: These come in many designs and styles; while they’re generally external, some can be used for insertion play too. Some are held in the palm and cover most of the vulva; others attach to a finger or are simply held and focused on the clitoris, like bullet vibrators. Many are very easy to use with a partner, including during intercourse. There’s a wide range of intensities to choose from as well. 

Insertable vibrators / G-spot vibrators (we’ll cover anal vibes below): Some of these have a curved shaft or bulbous end to stimulate the G-spot; some are shaped like a penis, others come in a variety of shapes, lengths and girths. Some users will enjoy firm shafts (especially for G-spot play), and others will want a softer toy. The first inch or two of the vaginal opening will be more sensitive to vibration than the rest of the vagina, which has more nerve endings that recognize pressure, motion and fullness. 

Wearable vibes: Some wearables attach to panties, and others attach to body parts, but the main idea is hands-free pleasure. Some like to wear theirs around the house or out on a date—bonus if their partner holds the controls. 

Good Vibes - A Beginners Guide: How to Choose a Sex ToyThrusting toys: Thrusting toys are designed to make intercourse-like movements by themselves. They generally have multiple intensities to choose from.

Twice As Nice toys (aka dual-stim toys or rabbit vibrators): These are insertable with a difference—the shaft has vibrating rabbit ears or some other vibe for clitoral stimulation, so these can be used for dual stimulation and blended orgasm. (That’s when you stimulate two areas at once. It can be easier to climax this way.)

Air suction toys: Air suction toys use air flow to envelop the clitoris, and many find it especially easy to orgasm with these—though others find they are more intense than they prefer. A relatively new design in sex toys, they are quite popular. 

Dildos: Different forms and features

Dildos are made for insertion—vaginal or, if designed with a base, anal. (More about these below.) Some can accommodate a vibrator, but many are simply for the pleasure of feeling filled plus any movements the user provides.

Good Vibes - A Beginners Guide: How to Choose a Sex ToyNon-realistic: Many dildos don’t seek to mimic the look of a penis in shape or coloration. Non-realistic dildos may look fanciful, can be brightly colored, can have unique shapes or can be completely smooth—the latter can be a good beginner toy, depending on previous experience and personal preference. 

Realistic: Some dildos do closely resemble penises (especially from a distance), and may be colored to match various flesh tones. Some are molded to include testicles too. 

G-spot: These toys often have a pronounced curve and sometimes a ball-shaped or otherwise protruding end—this shape helps the user focus on the G-spot. 

Strap-ons: Many dildo designs can be fitted in a harness and used as strap-ons; one with balls might need a specially-designed harness to accommodate them. Unless the dildo has no base or is extremely girthy, most dildos can be used with most harnesses. (Many insertable vibes, on the other hand, aren’t shaped to be used this way.) There are also strap-on sets that use different attachment methods, like Vac-U-Lock toys

Dilators: Not officially dildos but shaped and functioning similarly, these are sets of small/slender through larger insertables used to help a person get comfortable with increasing size.  They are often recommended in a health context of some kind: for vaginismus (when the vagina is very tight); post-cancer radiation or other vaginal health treatment; or post-gender affirmation surgery for transfeminine folks. These often come in sets of three to five.

Anal toys: Key considerations

Safety in design: Anal toys must have two qualities. They must not be breakable, sharp or scratchy; and they must have a base or some other way to prevent them slipping all the way into the rectum, where they will be difficult to retrieve. Add lube (a must for safe anal play), and they’ll really be too hard to keep hold of without a base–just ask all the people who work in emergency rooms. Get your anal toys from a trusted retailer!  

Anal training sets: Like dilators, anal training sets start quite small and are designed to help a beginner to anal play get more comfortable with girth, often with the goal in mind of using a dildo or having anal intercourse. 

Good Vibes - A Beginners Guide: How to Choose a Sex ToyProstate play: Most people who were assigned male at birth have a prostate, which functions much like the G-spot sexually. (They derive from the same tissue!) A prostate toy will fit safely in the anus and extend far enough (3-5 inches, generally) to touch the prostate and stroke or vibrate it, which can be very pleasurable. These are often curved to better contact the sensitive prostate.

Plugs: A plug might resemble a prostate toy and some function that way—but the classic anal plug looks like a cone or pine tree  with a base. It’s designed to fit in the anus for hands-free stimulation during other types of play. They’re not designed to work in harnesses.

Dildos and strap-ons: Any dildo that fits in a harness is likely to have a base large enough for safe anal play. Strap-on play and used-by-hand dildos are popular types of anal stimulation—just remember the safety considerations above when choosing a toy.

Beads: Originally a set of gradually-larger plastic molded beads spaced along a string, most anal beads now are safer to use because they’re silicone—and so is the string, molded together with the beads so it’s less likely they’ll come off. This toy is a great anal tease, and it is also one way to intensify an orgasm—pulling the beads out has that effect for many users.

Anal vibes: Any of the above designs can be created as vibrators—and some vibes are also anal-safe (they have a handle or base, or are Twice As Nice). But never use a vibe without a base for anal insertion. Nevertheless, anal vibes are very popular—they deliver a lot of sensation and can help relax the usually-tight anal sphincter.

Penis toys, cock rings and masturbators: A comprehensive guide

Penis vibrators: Some vibrating penis toys are shaped to fit around the penis or just the head; some are attached to cock rings; some are sleeves or masturbators that vibrate. They can stimulate any part of the penis you like, with the head being most likely to respond the way a clitoris would. 

Good Vibes: A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyRings: Cock rings run the gamut from can be simple stretchy or snap-on rings (made of leather or a vegan material) that can be used primarily for the wearer’s sensation (and that in some cases will extend an erection) to rings that hold a vibrator or something else that stimulates a partner during intercourse. Used solo on a penis, a vibrating ring will deliver more stimulation if you position it just below the head.

Sleeves: Penis sleeves are usually made of a soft material that can add to stroking—giving the penis different kinds of stimulation during hand jobs, often because it is textured internally.

Masturbators: Generally a type of sleeve that is more involved than a simple stroker—it is molded to look like a mouth, anus or vulva, or can automatically stroke, or allows for different levels of pressure.

Cock & ball toys: These can take different shapes - one variety looks like a cock ring with two rings instead of one—the first for the penis, the second for the testicles -  but the basic principle is to stimulate penis and testicles/scrotum via the same toy. Some versions include an anal plug too, for even more sensation! Gentle scrotal pulling is often an erotic feeling, and some of these toys keep the testicles pulled lower—which also might extend the time before ejaculation.

Pumps: Good Vibes does not sell its pumps as penis enlargers, but  Many users love pumps because they feel something like oral sex, and the suction can be very erotic. While Good Vibes does not sell our pumps as penis enlargers, they can still be a really fun toy! These can be pumped by hand (many have a pressure gauge attached), but there are also pumps with a motor that works at the push of a button.

Extenders: A penis extender resembles a hollow dildo and will fit over at least some penises. Some have firm walls (which might help a user whose penis doesn’t get hard enough for prolonged intercourse); others are much softer and are designed to add some length or girth. 


Selecting Based on Size

Size matters—for some. In the case of insertable toys, users generally have a preference range—big enough to enjoy, not so big as to be uncomfortable—and this range is not the same for everyone. It might depend on how sexually experienced someone is, whether they have gone through menopause—there are many factors that can affect each person’s “just right” size. 

How to determine the right size for you

Good Vibes: A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyWhen people think about penis size—and insertion toys—length is the measurement many focus on. Longer is assumed to be better. In fact, a penis (or dildo) can be too long for some people’s comfort. A measurement that might be more important to the receiving partner is girth. Girth is how big around it is, which can engage the stretch receptors in vagina or anus. So when you think of size, consider length and girth.

If you have had experience with partner sex or masturbation involving penetration, think about the size of fingers, penis, or anything else involved. If it was a pleasurable size, great! Select a toy accordingly. If you wished it was bigger or smaller, adjust in that direction.

Why size matters in sex toys

First, we should remind everyone that size particularly matters in insertive play—and you can have great sex without it–there’s no rule that says you can only have sex with penetration. 

In non-penetration toys used for clitoral/vulva stimulation, some may prefer a larger surface area over a slender, focused toy. Think of it as a palm vs. a single finger. For some, the finger feels great; for others, it is too focused, hence more intense. 

In insertion, size matters because length can (in vaginal play) reach the cervix—which might feel great to some but painful to others. Girth matters because larger toys might cause more stretching than feels good—and too-slim toys not enough, depending on user preference. Use lube with insertion toys, especially anal ones and larger toys.

The texture of a toy is different enough from skin that it will usually involve more friction. So lube helps you experience pleasure and is safer because too much friction can be harmful. When making safer sex toy choices, choose lube!

Considering the Vibration Patterns and Intensities

Some vibrators possess just one speed, and others don’t feature more than low/ medium/ high. But it’s common today for vibrators to have several speeds and often also vibration patterns—that is, not just a smooth buzzzzzzz but a rhythm like buzzBUZZbuzzBUZZ or buzzbuzzbuzzBUZZBUZZ! Will you like that? You might want to choose a vibrator that has that option so you can explore the sensations and speeds to find which ones you enjoy the most. 

Understanding the types of vibrator motors

Good Vibes: A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyBasic vibrators can have simple motors, but the computer revolution has come to sex toys, and vibes with patterns are the result—a computer chip gives the toy many more function than old-school toys had. Another important difference to some users is whether the motor delivers buzzy vs. rumbly sensations—the former are fast vibrations felt more at surface level, while a rumbly toy’s vibrations seem to penetrate further and can be slower. (Rumbly vibrators are often also sold as massagers for sore muscles.) You may like both! But many of our customers have a preference for one or the other. 

The choice of motor technology in personal vibrators depends on factors like desired sensations, power efficiency, noise level, and cost. Different motors cater to various preferences, ensuring a wide range of options for users seeking pleasurable experiences.


How to choose based on vibration patterns and intensities

Does this sound like a feature you’d like to explore? If so, search for toys that have this function in addition to the other metrics that you care about, like size, material, and price point. But it’s fine to start out with a simple vibrator that has fewer effects—you can explore it and when it’s time to add to your collection, you might have decided you want more intensity levels and some patterns to try.  

Another way to think of this: In your pre-toy sexual experience, solo or partnered, do you tend to like just one sort of touch? Or are varying speeds and types of movement (say, during hand jobs or oral) something you really get into? That might break the tie between a vibe without many extra features, and one that lets you “choose your own adventure.”

Understanding and Choosing Based on Price-point

Good Vibes: A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyAn inexpensive vibrator or other toy can be a fine beginner purchase provided it does not have low-quality elements (such as: it can come apart when you aren’t expecting it, or is rough/sharp/scratchy/breakable). “Nice price” vibes and other toys do not always have many bells and whistles, nor might they last as long as more expensive vibrators, but can be the right choice for you if you’re just getting started. Note what you wish it could do, and next time look for a sex toy with those qualities.

If you can afford a premium toy, you will have more choices and can narrow down the elements you really want to experience. These will be more likely to last longer; have more functions; to be compatible with apps and can be used during phone or online sex.

Before you purchase a toy, compare and contrast the styles that interest you by reading toy reviews and other info so you have a good idea about the strengths and play options of the ones you’re considering.

How much should you expect to spend on a sex toy?

You can usually get a starter toy for $45 or less, depending on the style you want - and you can easily pay $150 or more for a premium toy. But the middle range has many great-quality, popular and pleasureful toys to explore.  

Balancing quality with price: Importance of value for money

Shop trusted brands to make sure your dollars are spent wisely; you will avoid counterfeit products and poor quality. Good Vibes selects products from vendors we have worked with for years—sometimes decades—and includes features that help you shop with your budget and good value in mind. Use the drop-down menus to search toys by price. Check out customer reviews to see what other people liked (remember, we are not all alike, so other people’s experience might not be the last word for you).

We carry sex toys at many price points—because we all deserve pleasure. Just remember to budget for lube! 

How to Maintain Your Sex Toy

Even the best-quality toy will function better when it’s handled with care and stored mindfully. Also true for lower-price toys! Take care of them so they’ll take care of you. 

Cleaning and storing your sex toy properly

Good Vibes: A Beginner's Guide: How to Choose the Perfect Sex ToyLearn how you can safely clean your toy. If it doesn’t operate with batteries, or if it is waterproof, you can wash it with mild soap and water, then rinse (we recommend against using anti-bacterial soap, it can be too harsh). If it has a battery compartment or rechargeable battery, you can use a body-safe wipe followed by a clean wet cloth to remove that residue. Sharing a toy that is not fully washable is best done with condoms or another barrier—make safe sex toy choices!

You can store your toy in a drawer, a toy box, or any other place where it won’t be knocked around too much, cords tangled, etc.—with one very big “must”: Your toys MUST be dry before you store them. Dry them off with a clean cloth, and air-dry til there is no more moisture.

Want to get the specifics on cleaning and caring for your sex toys? Check out our blog post- How to Clean Your Sex Toys: The Ultimate Guide.

Lifespan of common sex toys and when to replace them 

The lifespan of your toy will vary depending on how you’ve used and cared for it as well as how it was made to begin with. “How you’ve used it” includes how often, and your battery or recharge technique (if your toy is electric) makes a difference too. Take the batteries out of battery vibes you’re not using frequently. Follow manufacturer instruction for rechargeables. Replace a toy when it is no longer safe or optimally functional—there is no foolproof timespan to recommend. 


The Bottom Line

We hope you’ve gotten useful information on how to choose a sex toy—you can contact customer service or email us if you have more questions. Or visit one of our stores if you’re in the neighborhood—see the toys in person!