Fun Facts About Sex Toys
Fun Fact #1: Sex toys have been around for millennia. There’s some evidence that our human ancestors were fashioning objects of pleasure as long as 30,000 years ago. Artifacts and literature have been found around the globe, from Ancient Greece to Shakespeare to historic civilizations in modern day Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Fun Fact #2: Sex toys have not always been celebrated culturally though – several countries still outlaw sex toys. In twentieth century America, sex toys were heavily regulated by “obscenity laws,” passed to make sex toys (and other sexual health products) less available and ban them outright. Many of these types of laws were still on the books as recently as a few years ago.
Fun Fact #3: Sex toys have become even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 sex toys market was estimated at $7.1 billion dollars in the United States alone. Those massive numbers are helped by greater access and education, as today sex toys can be found in most specialty stores, as well as online from a host of reputable retailers. For example, check out some of our favorite online stores like SheVibe, Good Vibes, and Babeland.
What Technically Qualifies as a Sex Toy?
The term ‘sex toy’ can mean different things to different people, and it is quite broad reaching. A good working definition is any object that people can use to increase pleasure during sex or masturbation.
Like any toy department at your local mall or big box store, there are a bunch of different styles, categories, and functions! Drumroll please, here are some of the different types of sex toys:
Also known as vibrators, these toys can range in size and usually have several vibration modes based on intensity, designed to stimulate sensitive nerve endings in erogenous zones. Some people may use vibrating toys on their clitoris, others may use them on their testicles or nipples. Choose your own adventure!
These popular toys are phallic or cylindrical in shape for enjoyable insertion into the vagina, anus, or mouth. Made of glass or a high-quality synthetic material like polyurethane or silicone, you can find the right size for you and your partner(s), based on length, girth and insertable length (or, how much can actually be inserted). Some glass and silicone dildos that have bumps or ridges, and some more realistic dildos that are designed to look like a penis (complete with veins and skin texture).
These toys are designed to be inserted into the anus, with a bunch of different styles that more of less resemble an anal dildo, including butt plugs. These toys specifically focus on stimulating the sensitive tissue of the rectum, and if applicable, the prostate. Like dildos, these toys come in all shapes, sizes and styles for your pleasure! Check out some options here.
Sleeves, also known as masturbation sleeves, capitalize on the pleasure centers along the penis or clitoris that are stimulated by friction and motion. A sleeve functions as a soft tube to insert into and create a similar sensation to masturbation or penetration. They’re far from one size fits all, and there are dozens of different functions based on your preferences. Specialty sizes have been created specifically for those with a larger clitoris or smaller penis, by virtue of being intersex or undergoing hormone therapy. Check out the EGG Series by Tenga, for example.
Penis rings (you might have also heard the term ‘cock ring’) are small rings made of everything from silicone to leather (and more) that go around the scrotum and base of the penis. This placement acts as a roadblock to blood leaving the erect penis, which can sustain erection and create greater sensitivity. Some even vibrate! However, it’s worth noting that because these rings affect circulation, one should limit use for 10-30 minutes at a time and take off immediately with any pain or discomfort.
Other Sex Toys
Ok, so admittedly there are bunch of additional types of sex toys, and we didn’t want to miss them! As honorable mentions, we would like to shout out the following products:
- Pumps – These are like cylindrical shaped handheld vacuums that can suction to your body, increase blood flow, build sensitivity, and stimulate an erection. For some, it can be like a zero to sixty type experience and be very pleasurable!
- Ben Wa Balls – These small balls can be inserted into the vagina for exercises to build the muscles of your pelvic floor (known as your Kegel muscles). It works kind of like this: insert, squeeze, push out, repeat. But some people also just like how they feel!
- Packers – Packers, or prosthetics, are designed to look and feel like a real penis (usually flaccid) to give the outward appearance of a bulge in clothes or underwear. These are generally more popular with trans, genderqueer, non-binary, and gender nonconforming folks. These typically aren’t used for sexual pleasure, but they certainly can be!
- Harnesses – These are a series of straps designed to go around the body to hold anything from a packer to a strap on dildo. They come in a bunch of different customizable sizes and styles and can help facilitate more penetrative sexual play.
If you’re curious and want to know more, the best way to explore the world of sex toys is by researching online, speaking to a sexual health expert and doing some lite window shopping at your local specialty store. Your body is unique and only you will know what works, and what doesn’t work, for you!
Are There Health Benefits to Using Sex Toys?
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget this part. There are indeed health benefits to using sex toys! Beyond the general health benefits of sex (including a boost in mood, a spike in self-confidence, stress relief and even an increase in immune health), sex toys can help address and alleviate common health conditions that effect people’s sex lives.
Here are some of the highlights: Sex toys can…
- Help some reach orgasm, who are otherwise unable to through sexual activity.
- Affirm gender identity and address gender dysphoria for those who are transgender, non-binary or gender nonconforming.
- Unlock sexual activity for those who are disabled or have limited mobility.
- Treat common sexual health conditions like erectile dysfunction, bladder issues, and even side effects of menopause.
- Relieve painful sex, through personal exercises, elongated foreplay or exploring alternative forms of sexual pleasure.
Notes on Safety:
- Consult a doctor or medical professional if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort, to make sure you are healthy enough for the sexual activity in your life.
- Clean after use to avoid the buildup of any bacteria, as this can cause infections. Simple soap and water will do, but for more in-depth cleaning, you can also use anti-bacterial wipes.
- Store sex toys in a cool, dry place, to make sure the material does not become damaged.
- Sex toys pair perfectly with water-based lube and can be used safely with condoms (especially if they are shared between/among partner(s)). Some silicone toys cannot be used with silicone lubricant - as it may cause damage to the silicone toy. However, this is not the case with all silicone lubricants.
Again, if you have any questions or aren’t sure about whether sex toys are for you, there are lots of options for you to continue your research, speak with a sex therapist confidentially or try sample products before committing to a purchase. It’s your sex life, and you deserve it!