By Anna Sweetland
My first sex toy was a vibrator disguised as a tube of lipstick that I bought from Spencer’s when I was fifteen. Well, I should specify that my friend actually bought it for me while I hid scared and embarrassed in the mall food court.
I wouldn’t say that $13 lipstick was my “perfect sex toy,” especially considering it broke after only six months, but it was everything I wanted as an introduction. It was an inexpensive, discrete and non-intimidating first exposure to vibrating clitoral stimulation.
For University of Puget Sound students lacking sex toy experience, something similar might be helpful! That being said, I know the wide variety of sex toys can make choosing your first one overwhelming. If you’re able, going to a sex shop to visualize the options at your own pace can be really beneficial. There are some chain stores locally like Lovers, Castle Megastore, and Hustler Hollywood, that sell toys ranging from $15 to $200+.
I visited the Tacoma Lovers to learn what they recommend to beginners. Lovers is a female-led and founded company aiming to resemble “a trusted, close friend that is always willing to guide you with openness, knowledge and positivity.” This mission statement aligns perfectly with my experience speaking to a Lovers employee under the pseudonym Melanie.
When a complete beginner requests advice, Melanie says “I always ask, what kind of stimulation do they like?…You know, like what kind of stimulation route are we looking for and then I can go toward a certain direction.”
Internal stimulation includes toys intended for penetration, such as dildos or butt plugs. Lovers offers “training kits” that contain four different sized butt plugs or dildos, and Melanie recommends these to beginners because they “let you start yourself off small and work yourself up” at your own pace. That being said, anal penetration doesn’t produce natural lubricant like vaginal penetration would, so lube is definitely your friend here! Then once you’re used to that penetrating sensation, there are toys which thrust, spin, bend, vibrate, and even a dildo called the “Big Shot” which, as Melanie explains, “will basically shoot cum. That’s the gist of it.”
External stimulation includes toys focusing on the clitoris, the perineum, the penis head and shaft. There are a wide variety of vibrators which could stimulate someone with any kind of genitalia. Specifically for vulvas, there are suction-toys which create a push and pull vacuum sensation over the clitoris to mimic oral sex. For penises, there are vaginal or anal molds, and the packaging of each demonstrates the angles and internal textures you’ll feel when penetrating.
As we stood in front of this section of the store, Melanie said “this one, I can actually go grab her butt,” pointing at one of the products molded after a famous pornstar’s genitals. Before I had time to politely decline, they brought in a very large, well-used silicone butt wearing a blue thong. I think they were just really excited to show me all of their products for my article, so you likely won’t have to stare directly at a giant silicone ass for 15 minutes of your visit, unless you specifically request that.
Not everyone prefers internal or external stimulation. I know one week I am practically married to my vibrator, and the next week I’m using my dildos daily. Some people may just be unsure which form of stimulation they like. In this case, Melanie typically directs customers to their display of toys from the brand Evolved.
Evolved has a wide variety of toys for those with all levels of experience. When I asked Melanie what the most affordable brand was they pointed at the Evolved display in front of us. “You would start here and work your way up. It’s an easier brand to play with because it’s not so expensive, so you can see what kind of stimulation really suits you and your body.” Lovers also has a 20% off sale every first Tuesday of the month to help with affordability. I know I will be there this upcoming Tuesday because I saw far too many toys that I need in my sex toy trunk (yes, I have an actual trunk).
I also understand from firsthand experience that the stigma around masturbation means that not everyone wants to advertise their new sex toy purchase. Sex toy companies understand this too! Many retailers, including Lovers, offer discreet packaging. “We have plain brown paper bags…and then if you order online we ship discreetly so it no longer says Lovers,” Melanie informed me.
Finally, please wash your sex toys. Lovers sells sex toy cleanser, but any kind of gentle unscented soap works. Our genitals are very sensitive places which can easily get infected; it’s important we make sure to safely interact with these areas.