Using Sex Toys During Partnered Sex—Q&A with Sex Therapist Casey Tanner
Introducing anything new into the bedroom (or wherever you’re getting it on) can be nerve-racking as it is, especially when it comes to the stigmas so closely tied to sex toys. We’re here to clear the air and offer some tips for communicating new desires with a partner who may not recognize the potential to increase your pleasure as a couple.
Q: How do you choose a sex toy that’s right for you, since it’s not something you can return?
If you’re new to sex toys and want to get the lay of the land before investing in an entire toy collection, I recommend starting with a product that’s simple yet versatile. LELO’s GIGI 2, for example, doubles as both a clitoral massager and a g-spot stimulator. Hold GIGI 2 upside down such that the flattened tip vibrates against your clitoris. Explore the different intensities and pulse settings, taking note of which feels best for you. Alternatively, hold GIGI 2 upright and place the shaft inside of you, angling the tip upwards toward your stomach. Notice whether you have a preference for using GIGI 2 internally or externally, and this preference can help guide what type of toy you invest in next time!
Q: How do I introduce sex toys to a partner who thinks they’re only for femme people?
Your partner has bought into a common myth about sex toys; namely, that they threaten one’s masculinity. In reality, there is nothing inherently masculine or feminine about using a sex toy. Although most companies still market sex toys differently based on gender, sex toys are truly non-binary. Anatomy does not determine gender, so while not all sex toys work with all anatomies, sex toys are for people of all genders. It’s not at all uncommon that masculine people might struggle with the idea of incorporating a toy into their sex life, because masculine folks are socialized to believe that they should be able to pleasure a partner without the use of a sex toy. These societally-imposed limitations, however, aren’t serving anyone. Opening your sexual repertoire to sex toys does not make you feminine or masculine – it simply makes you a more well-rounded sexual partner.
Q: What can we do if our partner isn’t open to the experience?
If your partner is shutting down the idea of using a sex toy without ever having tried one, get curious about why. Often times a lack of openness comes from false information about what it means to introduce a sex toy into one’s relationship. For example, some people mistakenly believe that if they are doing a good enough job, their partner wouldn’t desire a sex toy. Others might worry that a sex toy will “replace them”, or will desensitize their partner from human touch. None of these are evidence-based fears, and in actuality, studies show that use of a sex toy can improve overall sexual satisfaction in a relationship. Once you understand your partner’s fear around introducing a sex toy, you’ll be able to quell their specific anxieties.
Q: What if your partner is hesitant to introduce sex toys due to chronic pain?
First, validate their hesitancy. Many people with chronic pain have worked hard to find ways of having sex that minimize pain, so it makes sense that they’re not jumping at the chance to introduce an unknown into their sex life. The good news is that in today’s market, there are many toys designed specifically for diverse bodies including those with chronic pain – it may just take a while to find the one that works for you and your partner. When starting out, I’d recommend investing in toys that stimulate externally, since chronic pain related to sex is typically associated with penetration. A toy like Smart Wand 2, for example, is created to massage multiple erogenous zones on the body including the neck, arms, legs, back, and more. Depending on what type of chronic pain your partner struggles with, explore using Smart Wand 2 on their “safe zones” first, helping them to get used to the feel and experience of the toy before trying anything that might elicit discomfort. If you and your partner later decide to introduce penetrative toys, be sure to use a body safe lube to help fend against chaffing, rubbing, and extra discomfort.
Q: Should I use the toys I like using on myself with a partner? Or different ones?
There is nothing wrong with introducing a sex toy that you love to your partner! They may love it, but be open to the idea that their body is looking for something a bit different. LELO’s toys are wonderful to share among partners because the same toy has multiple intensity and pulsation settings, such that one partner might enjoy light, slow stimulation while the other prefers a hard, sustained massaging motion. When sharing toys, just remember to clean them before your partner uses them every single time. Alternatively, place a condom on the toy for easy clean up, and change condoms between uses to prevent infection.
Q: What is some language I can use to talk about sex toys with my partner?
When introducing toys into partnered sex, I always suggest reinforcing how great the experience will be for the relationship. Too often, folks enter these conversations talking about what’s missing, which may set their partner up to respond with anxiety and insecurity. Rather than approaching from a deficit mindset, let your partner know what excites you about the idea, and how you feel the toy will be connective for all parties involved. Also, when you introduce a sex toy, you don’t have to be black and white about it; introducing a toy can happen slowly, with curiosity and exploration. If after a few minutes of exploring, you or your partner feels uncomfortable, that’s okay! Take it slow, and give yourself time to find the right toy(s) for your erotic team. If your partner is open to the idea, browse toys online or at the store together, making the experience a joint effort.
Q: I can’t reach orgasm through penetrative sex; what’s the best product for me to orgasm?
You’re not alone! Actually, about 75% of people with vulvas can’t orgasm through penetration alone, so rest assured that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you or your body. You’re more likely someone that will experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation, so look for a vibrator that is made to massage externally. This does not mean, of course, that you can’t continue to enjoy penetrative sex. Many people enjoy combining clitoral stimulation with penetrative sex, either with the help of a partner or a toy. If this sounds enjoyable for you, try a toy like TIANI 3 that’s designed for couples. Simply place one arm inside of your vagina and the other arm on your clitoris. TIANI 3 is small enough that there will still be room for vaginal penetration with a penis, fingers, or toy all while your clitoris continues to receive pleasure.
I am a queer-identified therapist and consultant who combines evidence-based research and systemic business coaching to cultivate powerful relationships – with your clients, your relationships, and yourself. Specializing in gender and sexual diversity, I partner with individuals, relationships, and institutions to expand limited mindsets, foster courageous behavior, and empower meaningful change around gender and sexuality.