Prescription for pleasure
Our sexpert say female friendly sex toys are just what the doctor ordered
Men may not leave home without their American Express cards, but women are increasingly open about saying they won't leave home without their vibrators—even when airport security is involved. And why should they? Women and their partners have an enormous range of sex-toy options—or at least that's true for women who don't live in Texas, Alabama or Georgia, where restrictive laws relating to sex-toy sales remain.
Sex toys have been featured in television shows, books, magazines, specialty shops, documentaries (Dildo Diaries is a personal favorite), drug stores, websites, Hollywood movies and courtrooms. Some companies have taken the Mary Kay/Tupperware–party model and used it to sell tens of millions of dollars annually worth of lubricants, vibrators and other "bedroom accessories" to soccer moms nationwide. Local women-oriented sex-toy shops offer private home parties, too. In fact, more than half of American women have used sex toys at some point, particularly those who are in relationships. Vibrators have made it possible for many women to have their first orgasms, to have multiple orgasms or to explore with a partner. Like everything else related to sexuality, sex toys are certainly not for everybody, but they're a great option that doesn't pose a risk for infection (when used hygienically) or unintended pregnancy.
It's hilarious to think that the electric vibrator has its roots in the 1880s, when doctors used vibrators to provide in-office "pelvic massages" for women diagnosed with hysteria. More than 100 years later, doctors, therapists and educators recommend vibrators and other enhancement products—though now they are touted for sexual pleasure and relief from sexual problems. Given the wide range of styles, intensities and power sources, it can be tricky to choose a product that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Sex-toy beginners should consider the $50
Hitachi Magic Wand at g boutique (2131 N Damen Ave at Charleston St, 773-235-1234), one of the first mainstream vibrators on the market and a longtime favorite of Betty Dodson, author of Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving (Three Rivers Press, $14). I'm not crazy about the Hitachi's large size and loud volume or the fact that it plugs into a wall, but it can certainly pack a punch in terms of intensity.
The Silver Bullet ($9 at Early to Bed, 5232 N Sheridan Rd between Foster and Berwyn Aves, 773-271-1219), is another excellent beginner option because it can be used for either clitoral or vaginal stimulation, is smaller than the Hitachi and offers varying speeds. It's also quieter than the Hitachi and can be muffled under a comforter if you're worried about waking a roommate or your children. You're on your own, though, when it comes to your own orgasmic moans.
Also causing screams of delight throughout the country is "The Rabbit" vibrator of Sex and the City fame. There are endless versions of Rabbit toys—I like the Rabbit Pearl ($76 at g boutique) because its rotating pearllike balls near the base massage the vaginal entrance while a little bunny stays outside of the vagina and massages the clitoris. Other animal-inspired clitoral massagers include the Hummer ($85 at Early to Bed), which resembles a hummingbird. More abstract massagers are available for those freaked out about having animals in bed with them. These massagers are often made of a jelly material, so it's fine to use either silicone- or water based lubricants. If you're sharing with a friend or partner, or if you're extra careful about hygiene, consider slipping a condom over your vibrator before each use.
Explorers on the hunt for their G-spots can begin with The Good Vibrations Guide: The G Spot (Down There Press, $7) and move on to the likes of the $18 Nubby G at Tulip (1480 W Berwyn Ave between Clark St and Glenwood Ave, 773-275-6110) or its waterproof version, the $20 Chubby G at the Pleasure Chest (3155 N Broadway between Belmont and Barry Aves, 773-525-7152). They both have raised areas for clitoral stimulation, and the Chubby G can be used in the bath. In general, when choosing a toy for shower or bathtub pleasure, make sure it's waterproof and consider using a silicone-based lubricant, as water-based lubricants wash away underwater.
Local sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman of the Berman Center (211 E Ontario St at St. Clair St, 312-255-8088) has recently thrown her hat into the sex-toy ring with a new line of "intimate accessories." The Aphrodite Infrared Recharging Massager ($71.95 at www.drugstore.com) combines two speeds and low heat to enhance blood circulation. I give it props for its rechargeable battery (a recent toy trend) and easy-to-clean smooth, nubby and pinpoint silicone attachments, but was disappointed by the lack of "noticeable warming sensations" described on the box. I am not sure it's worth the price—you can find stronger, more sustainable sensations (including attachments) from more affordable toys.
Also from the Berman line, the Adonis G-Spot and Clitoral Stimulator ($74.95 at www.drugstore.com) is a silicone toy with multiple speeds and a well designed curve for G-spot exploration as well as raised "pleasure dots" for clitoral stimulation. The fact that it's made from silicone makes it pricier, but also more durable. The Berman Center also makes an Anti-Bacterial Toy Cleaner ($7.95 at www.libida.com), a personal favorite because of its light scent, though many toys can be cleaned with soap and water. After all, these toys are coming into contact with highly sensitive, precious private parts.
Because these two Berman toys both have silicone parts, a water-based lubricant is a better choice than a silicone-based lubricant, which can degrade silicone toys. Berman offers up a third option in the form of the Isis Beginner Pelvic Exerciser ($39.95 at www.drugstore.com), an exerciser for the PC muscle—not a vibrator. I'm not aware of any research specifically linking products for PC muscles to better orgasms, but these muscles, which support the pelvic floor and surround the vagina, spasm during orgasm, so the stronger they are the better. Regardless, not all women use products like Isis for exercise—many use them simply for play. The fact that Isis is smaller and more manageable than many exercisers on the market and is easy to clean makes it a good choice. I also like the Fukuoku 9000 ($25 at Tulip) for its agility and size. Powered by watch batteries, it slips on over your finger, making it ideal for those who are looking for an intercourse-compatible vibrator: Simply hold it over the clitoris while in your preferred position.
Finally, my all-time favorite vibrator is Sally ($45 at Early to Bed), which is shaped like a cute little sea lion. Although it has seven speeds, women tend to have a favorite and will eagerly discuss it with their friends, as if it were a favorite restaurant or brand of clothing (e.g., "Mostly I like seven, but sometimes I'm a three"). This toy can be used for G-spot or clitoral stimulation and is moderately quiet and affordable. Sally, along with the rest of these toys, holds a special place in many hearts, vaginas and nightstands.