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People have spent far too long talking about sex toys in hushed voices, but it's time we give them the platform they deserve. If you've never used one—whether by yourself or with a partner—and you're curious about where to begin, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. There are literally thousands of options out there to choose from, and many of the best options can get pricey quickly.

As you might expect, there's no return policy for a sex toy if it doesn't suit your needs, so step one will be to make sure you know your options and make as informed a decision as possible. Let's dive into a few basics about what you might want, the parameters for the safest, best-quality options, and how to ultimately choose the best sex toys for beginners.

What are your sex toy goals?

OK, besides the obvious goal—to increase your pleasure—what are you looking for in your sex toy? These questions will help you narrow your search:

  • Do you want penetration? If so, vaginal or anal play?
  • Do you want your sex toy to vibrate/move on its own or feel more like a real sex organ?
  • Do you plan to use your sex toy with a partner, alone, or both?
  • If you have a clitoris, is it particularly sensitive, or does it really need some heavy action to get going?
  • If you have a penis, are you looking to stay hard or last longer? Increase sensation?
  • Do you want the option to give your partner full control (as in, a remote control), or do you want all the different settings to be right on the toy?
  • If you're looking for a vibrator or other electronic toy, do you have a preference for batteries vs. USB rechargeable? (This might seem like a weird question, but if you live with roommates or your parents, you might not want your toy sitting out while it charges if you’re a more private person.)

If you’ve never considered these questions before, that’s OK. Exploring your own preferences through masturbation can help you figure out what you like and where to go next on your hunt for the perfect sex toy. Once you’ve figured out some answers, the information below will help you narrow your search. We'll cover a lot of ground here within two larger categories: sex toys that penetrate and sex toys that don't penetrate.

4 sex toys that don't penetrate

Sex toys that don't penetrate include those that can be used externally for clitoral or perineal stimulation, in addition to those that can be penetrated, like sleeves or other similar devices for penis owners.

While, in most cases, sex toys meant for external stimulation have some sort of vibrating function, you can also use any non-vibrating sex toys for external stimulation.

Examples of sex toys that don't penetrate include bullet vibrators, suction vibrators, wand vibrators, and sleeves.

1. Bullet vibrators

A very discreet clitoral vibrator, the bullet vibe got its name because it's small, stainless steel or silicone, and bullet-shaped (usually no bigger than a tube of lipstick). There are many different kinds of small, discreet vibrators out there that fit into this category, and they run the gamut as far as price point and capability. This category might be your best bet for your first sex toy if you have a vulva.

Two of the best bullet vibrators on the market are the Je Joue and the Lelo Lily 2. Lelo's device is curved to match the contour of the vulva and fits nicely between two people during partnered sex, while Je Joue's model comes with a unique holder for a hands-free experience. Both are very quiet and waterproof, and both recharge using a USB charger.

Vibrators like these, as well as larger classic vibrators that can either be inserted or used just like a bullet, almost always offer multiple speeds and patterns. Classic vibrators come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, based on your needs, including a g-spot vibrator (curved for g-spot stimulation), a straight shaft, a swirl shape, or a variety of head shapes that work internally and externally.

2. Suction vibrators

Suction vibrators are a newer type of vibrator that stimulates oral sex for vulva owners. The Womanizer and the Lelo Sona 2 are the best representation of this type of vibrator, which has a small suctioning hole on one end for clitoral stimulation. This type of vibrator is particularly intense and might not be the very best choice for your first vibrator if you have a sensitive clitoris. It also requires a specific angle to achieve the desired suction sensation so it’s better suited for solo sex rather than partnered play.

3. Wand vibrators

Wand vibrators and suction vibrators are probably the most powerful vibrating choices on our list. The Hitachi Magic Wand massager is the most well-known of the wand vibrators, but many other sex toy companies make them as well. The Hitachi requires so much power that it has to remain plugged in, and it's built to last. That being said, if you're particularly sensitive, this might not be the best vibrator for you to start out with.

4. Sleeves

Sleeves, also known as flesh lights, also known as sex consoles, are for penis owners and are made to be penetrated. They can come with a number of "receiving" shapes, such as silicone mouths, anuses, and vaginas. Meant for solo play, this type of device requires thorough cleaning between uses.

This type of toy can be great for penis owners who are looking to "practice" before their first time having sex with another person, for those looking for variety in masturbation, or for those who prefer the sensation of a sleeve over their own hands during masturbation.

4 sex toys that penetrate

There are tons of sex toys out there that are meant for play inside a vagina or anus. How you plan to use them, and with whom, will help you narrow down your search. If you have a vulva and are looking for vaginal penetration, there's the classic silicone dildo, glass or lucite dildo, or a rabbit vibrator. If you're looking for anal pleasure, any of the dildos would work, as would anal beads or a butt plug.

1. Silicone dildos

Silicone dildos can be made to look very much like a penis (skin tones, veins, a head, even testicles if you want), or they can be less anatomical (bright colors or solid black, smooth, bumpy, swirl-shaped, angled, curved to hit the g-spot, etc). They can have a suction cup at the base of the shaft for a hands-free experience (best in the shower or with a mirror), or you/your partner can hold it in your hands.

There are also double-ended dildos and strap-ons if you and your partner are both vulva owners or if you don't want a penis involved in your play. Typically, this type of penetrative sex toy doesn't vibrate or have any kind of electronic component, and it can be used for vaginal or anal penetration.

2. Glass or lucite dildos

Glass and lucite are very hard, sturdy materials that don't bend or have any flexibility. When used properly (and not dropped for potential cracking), they are extremely safe because they're non-porous, easily cleaned, and compatible with all kinds of lube.

While these types of dildos can also have a phallic shape, there are tons of other creative shapes to choose from, based on your erogenous zones and where you'd like to be stimulated. Neither of these materials mimics the feeling of flesh, so using a toy like this will create a brand new sensation for first-timers.

What makes glass dildos particularly fun is temperature play. You can place your glass dildo in the refrigerator/freezer or in hot water, and it will hold the temperature for a truly unique experience. We recommend using lube with these toys, no matter where you plan to insert them.

3. Rabbit vibrators

Rabbit vibrators are king to some, too much stimulation for others. This style of vibrator is meant for penetration and clitoral stimulation, featuring a long, vibrating dildo for insertion and two protruding “ears” leaning forward to tickle the clit. The rabbit-style vibrator was the original (made famous by an early "Sex and the City" episode) but has since been copied using other animals or non-animal-shaped tickler elements.

Many of these styles also have a number of different settings to move the dildo in different directions or at different speeds, and some have beads inside that twirl around for additional vaginal sensation.

To sum it up, if you love penetration and clitorial stimulation at once, the rabbit vibrator might just become your masturbation go-to.

4. Anal beads and butt plugs

Anal beads create a very specific kind of pleasure that can't really be mimicked with any part of the human anatomy. They look like a beaded necklace, usually with beads about the diameter of a nickel (although there's a range of size options) that you push inside your anus and then slowly pull out.

Ideally, there's a ring on one end to prevent the string of beads from getting stuck, and the entire string of beads (including the string itself) is made of silicone or stainless steel so that it can be thoroughly washed after each use. You can also place the string of beads inside a condom for safer use.

Butt plugs can have a vibrating function or not, and some even have an additional appendage that's meant to hug against and vibrate the perineum for added pleasure.

Both anal beads and butt plugs can be used during other types of sex, such as oral sex or vaginal sex, but you should not attempt to insert anything else into an anus if anal beads or butt plugs are already inside.

Getting comfortable playing with and shopping for toys

If you're looking to buy your first sex toy, whether for yourself or for you and your partner(s), it's a lot more fun if you're able to be open and comfortable with the process. Online shops like Maude or Dame are great places to start if you're a little nervous to walk into a shop in person. That being said, employees at reputable sex shops are generally open, welcoming, and eager to help you make the right choice.

To get comfortable discussing your toy preferences with your partner, it might make sense to talk about it before you're about to get intimate. Ask what your partner likes, how they pleasure themselves when you're not around, and if they'd like to incorporate anything new into your sex life together.

Alternatively, it could also be fun to bring those conversations into the bedroom in a playful way. Try some light dirty talk to broach the topic and incorporate it into your foreplay.

The case for high-quality sex toys

Safety in sex toys is key. So when it comes to quality, aim high. Trust us, it's worth the extra money. Your sex organs are highly innervated, meaning there are tons of capillaries and nerves close to the surface, and you don't want to expose those delicate, sensitive areas of your body to anything potentially harmful. This includes anything that could harbor germs, as well as anything that could leach chemicals into your bloodstream, like phthalates.

Stay away from cheap plastic toys, anything that can't be thoroughly washed, and anything that's made from a porous material. Stick with toys made of silicone, stainless steel, borosilicate glass, or lucite. If you're buying a harness for a strap-on, we recommend machine washable fabric rather than leather, unless you only ever plan to use your harness with one other person. Leather is very durable, but it's porous and can't be thoroughly disinfected or put through the wash.

Have fun with it

No matter what you choose, the goal is to have fun with it. Learning the lay of the land is helpful so that you can spend your money wisely and not have a drawer full of toys that you don't like to use. Start with something simple that mimics what you do with your hands when you're by yourself and then venture out from there.

As you experiment with your new toy, try listening to a Dipsea story about how to make a comfortable love life exciting again or about a couple's exploration of a rough and wild new experience.