How to start using sex toys during partnered sex

A guide to sex toy liberation

Whether you’re a sex toy connoisseur with five bins of toys under your bed, or you’re a total newbie, it can be scary to bring up the topic of incorporating toys into your sex life with a partner. And that applies to new partners as well as ones who have been around for a while—some people in long-term relationships have only ever used sex toys when masturbating, never with a partner.

But the truth is, sex toys don’t have to be just for solo play and lots of people don’t just use them that way. For many people, sex toys can be an amazing tool for having satisfying sex, so why shouldn’t they make an appearance during partnered sex as well?

We (virtually) sat down with sex educator and owner/founder of Spectrum Boutique, Zoë Ligon, to get her take on it, and in celebration of Talking is Power Month, we’ve put together some tips on how to negotiate this process with a partner.

Be direct and make it about you

Some people worry that their partner will take it as a comment on their skills if they suggest using toys in bed. Try approaching the topic with a direct statement about what you like and want. Zoë suggests something like, “I use vibrators to orgasm, let’s use this toy next time we play!” It’s direct, it’s simple, and who doesn’t want to make their partner orgasm?

Be vulnerable

You don’t have to pretend like you’re feeling totally confident if you’re not. And Zoë points out that “some people feel that if they’ve had sex without toys for a long time, it’s more awkward to bring it up in the midst of a relationship.” If this is your situation, she says, “You could try saying, ‘I’ve been anxious/shy about what gets me off, but I’ve noticed that sex is more pleasurable/comfortable for me when I’m using (whatever sex toy).’”

Don’t scale back out of shame

Some people feel embarrassed to bring out the toys they really like in front of a partner because they think those toys are “too much.” Remember that we live in a puritanical society that has trained us to be ashamed of our sexuality, especially if we’re women, have disabilities, or are part of any other marginalized group. Also remember that you’re only hurting yourself by scaling back your desires to try to fit what you think is socially acceptable.

And really why should your partner care what size, shape, or function a toy has that you’re using on your own body? It’s okay to embrace what you actually like! You don’t have to enjoy petite, demure, light pink sex toys only! Zoë concurs: “I say, hey—bring out the big ol’ wand if you want! That can be a perfectly acceptable toy for a beginner who loves powerful vibrations.”

Consider trying out a toy on your own

Trying out a new toy by yourself first is “not mandatory but certainly helpful if you are feeling apprehensive about introducing it into partnered play,” says Zoë. On the other hand, if you have a partner who’s down to experiment, it can be fun to try new toys together. “And it may make it feel less ominous if it’s something you can discover together,” adds Zoë. “Ultimately you know yourself and your partner, so follow your intuition.”

Remember what you want is normal and valid

There’s nothing wrong with you! Anything you want to do that’s consensual is perfectly wonderful!

Written by Lauren Kernan, MA

Lauren Kernan is the Director of Content and UX Strategy for Bedsider and Abortion Finder. In her spare time, she can be found sewing or starting and giving up on various other crafts.