WHAT IS A "SEX TOY?"

In theory, almost anything can take the role of a "sex toy." Other than two human bodies, anything else introduced into sex play qualifies as either prophylaxis (contraception and disease prevention) or recreation, i.e., a toy. For our purposes, a sex toy is any object brought into sex play to enhance the pleasure of both people involved.

There was some debate as to the question "what is a sex toy?" for the purposes of this FAQ. Some argued that this FAQ should cover those items that are only specifically for sex, whereas others rightly pointed out that that would exclude from discussion some very popular forms of sexual enhancement such as lingere' or food. For our purposes, a sex toy will be anything that is either specifically intended for sexual enhancement or commonly used for same. We're sure there are people out there that find mountain goats, hand puppets, and Un*x System Administration manuals suitable for sexual enhancement, but that's not "common."

THE VIBRATOR

What kinds of vibrators are there?

Vibrators come in three distinct 'types'. Many women find satisfaction in this most common (and more often thought of), the classic penis-shaped, battery powered shaft of plastic. These suffer, however, from a lack of real power and inconvenient battery death.

The second type of vibrator, the 'wand' vibrator, overcomes these problems with wall current. These large, club-shaped vibrators provide LOTS of stimulation, and wall current provides all the power you could ask for, but the designers apparently intended for people not to view these things as sex toys, but as "personal massagers," and the ungainliness of these things reflects that.

The third type of vibrator, the 'handle' or 'coil' type, looks vaguely like a small hairdryer with a small, perpendicular shaft out of the thicker end to accommodate a variety of soft plastic or latex heads. The best of all possible worlds, these vibrators never die, fit in one hand, and can provide a variety of sensations.

Shower Massagers make a wonderful variation on the classic vibrator, and if you enjoy the warmth and wetness of the tub, you probably want to consider investing in a shower massager. Like the wand and handle vibrators, shower massagers have a host of uses beyond masturbation, too!

Where do I go to buy a vibrator?

Don't make buying a vibrator a traumatizing experience. If you MUST have one of those penis-shaped things, most lingerie shops carry them. But most department stores sell the 'wand' or 'handle' vibrators under the guise of "personal massagers," and buying one from reputable department stores means a warranty, you can return it if unsatisfied, and it won't have "Doc Johnson's Love Machine" emblazoned across it in pink letters in case mother comes to visit.

What should I know about using a vibrator?

Before using any mechanical vibrator, apply lubrication! Your lover probably does not rank friction burns in the same category as love bites. Use a water-based lubricant, such as K-Y (always recommended), Astroglide, or Wet.

Are there any kinds of vibrators I should avoid?

Do not purchase a vibrator specifically designed to deliver heat to the body as a sexual device. If they work on muscles, great, but don't use them on your cunts and cocks. I know of at least one case where a woman burned herself with one of these things because her climaxes were so strong she didn't notice how much the heater had burned her.

My girlfriend and I have never used a vibrator. What should I know?

Nobody knows how to masturbate YOU better than you do, and the same rule applies to everybody else. Don't use a vibrator on someone else until you've watched them use it on themselves, preferably several times. Men, especially, should watch how their girlfriends or wives use the vibrator alone before taking the reins.

Can I be replaced by a vibrator?

No mechanical piece of plastic can replace the love and affection of a human being; try to see the vibrator as just another toy, and not as competition. Vibrators cannot do the dishes or take out the garbage, and they cannot gives hugs or kisses.

Do vibrators cause a woman to become less sensitive?

Some women do experience a temporary 'desensitization' after the effects of a powerful vibrator, but put the toy away for a week and sensitivity returns to normal. There is no clinical evidence that vibrators cause long-term desensitization.

A final word on vibrators.

Should you buy a vibrator? That's a decision only you can make; I personally have bought two for my wife, and a shower massage, and they've made our sex life a whole lot better, not worse. As always, your mileage may vary.

THE DILDO

What is a dildo?

Dildo: An artifical substitute for an erect penis
(Webster's Dictionary)

Dildos come in many different shapes and sizes, but all of them are meant to do one thing: in some way, shape, or form, they are meant to be a substitute or symbol for a real penis. If you are inclined to believe Freud, then the Washington Monument could be considered a dildo. For our purposes, though, a dildo is a sex toy, usually made of latex or silicone, designed to be inserted into some bodily orifice for sexual pleasure.

People use dildos for a variety of purposes. Although most women can orgasm through clitoral stimulation, many do enjoy the feeling of something hard and thrusting inside them during masturbation. Many men, gay or otherwise, feel the same way, using small (or as your tastes go, large) dildos for anal stimulation. A dildo can be used with a harness to give a woman a penis she can thrust with and still keep her hands free.

What should I look for in buying a dildo?

Buying a dildo involves a number of factors, such as length, thickness, hardness and texture. It is strongly recommended that you comparison shop with your hands, looking for one with a smooth surface made of a firm, but not too firm, latex. Dildo shopping is a very personal activity, and you should take your time buying one.

The two most common materials for a dildo are silicone and latex. Silicone is usually more expensive, but most people who use dildos regularly agree that its qualities of matching body temperature and its general texture make it the superior material. As with anything, you get what you pay for.

The most important thing to remember is that you should start small. Buy dildos you *know* you can probably handle, rather than ones you hope to be able to handle. Get your money's worth out of any toy you buy.

BUTT PLUGS

What is a "butt plug?"

A butt plug is a kind of dildo with a bulge in the center, much like a spindle, so that the shaft gradually thickens, flares out, and then begins to narrow again. It is designed to provide stimulation to the rectum.

In general, once inside the rectal cavity, the flare of a well- chosen buttplug will rub directly against those nerve clusters by the opening of the anus, the ones which signal your need to defecate. Depending upon how your brain is wired, denying or understanding this signal can be a very pleasurable experience, or an extremely uncomfortable one. Also, the 'tip' of the well-chosen buttplug will rub against a man's prostate when he moves, sending yet more signals of unknown quality to the brain. It's all in what you like.

What variants of the butt-plug are there?

Other forms of "butt-plugs" are known as doorknobs or pearlstrings. A doorknob is a round sphere of latex mounted on a narrower shaft. Like a buttplug, it 'plugs' the orifice, but the sensations are different. A pearlstring is a series of spheres that can be anywhere from a half inch to three inches in diameter that you use to 'stuff' the rectum to create a feeling of fullness.

COCK RINGS

What is a cock ring?

A cock ring is an object that typically goes around the base of both the penis and scrotum. Since veins are closer to the surface of the skin than arteries, this has the effect of allowing blood to flow into the penis but restricts its ability to flow outwards. In turn, this makes the penis get hard and stay hard for longer. Obviously, for this to work a cock ring must be put on when the penis is unerect.

Most cock rings are made of chromed steel or rubber. In fact, most of them are little more than high-priced gasket rings or chrome- plated circular chain links one could buy at any hardware store. They have to be chosen carefully, sized for the user. A too-loose cock ring does nothing, a too-tight cock ring cuts off all retreating blood flow, thus preventing the cock from ever getting soft, which may sound like fun but can become painful after two or more hours, and which may require a trip to the emergency room to remove. Some cock rings that get around this problem are made with snaps at different places along a strap of leather, therefore making it easy to size and to remove.

The best cock rings are even simpler. They're a piece of leather or soft rope tied into place. (7oz leather lace is the author's favorite, followed by 1/4" nylon rope.) Being both infinitely adjustable and easy to remove or cut off with a pair of nurses shears, they serve all the purpose of the toy- or hardware- store bought models.

How do you put on a cock ring?

Putting on a solid cock ring can be tricky-- and taking it off can be even trickier! You have to be soft to do either, putting first your testicles through the ring, and then your penis, since at that stage your penis should be softer and more flexible than the always- solid testes. Taking it off is the reverse process, but since one of the purposes of a cock ring is to keep you hard, this can be easier said than done.

"SPANISH FLY"

What is Spanish Fly?

Spanish fly is a powder of ground up wings of the CANTHARIS VESICATORIA beetle, found in the deserts of Spain and the Southwest United States. It has the effect of irritating the outer mucous membranes of the vagina and the penis glans (head), thus bringing your genitals to your attention and sometimes giving you the impression that you are 'aroused.' Women may also experience lubrication as a response to this irritation. However, the body is not actually stimulated, and intercourse is probably painful under these conditions, although it may sometimes help to scratch what really *is* an itch, and not desire.

Spanish fly is also quite poisonous, and therefore illegal in the United States. Dosage is very hard to determine, as is quality, and you're just as likely to die from Spanish fly as you are to get laid.

What is the "Spanish Fly" sold in America?

What is sold as "Spanish Fly" in the United States is usually sold with the terms "alleged," "spurious," or "placebo." I suggest you go look these words up before buying anything with these words on the package. Most "Spanish Fly" is nothing more than a cheap blend of vitamins or simply a sugar pill.

LUBRICANTS

What is meant by "lubricant?"

A "lubricant" (sometimes referred to as a "sex lube," or just "lube"), is usually a water-based, condom-friendly liquid or jelly used to enhance or replace a woman's natural lubrication. Some people regard lubricants as a must-have item in this age of safer sex and they are an essential ingrediant to successful anal intercourse. The use of a lubricant on the inside of a condom can make the sensations delivered to the penis much stronger.

Prior to the current, safer-sex era, many people used oil-based lubricants, using vaseline, vegetable oil, or mineral oil. None of these are particularly healthy. Oils coat the inside of the vagina and rectum, providing a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. Petroleum-based oils destroy latex upon contact, making them useless for use with condoms for safer sex or contraception. Even monogamous couples who don't have to worry about safer sex if they use certain forms of contraception: if an oil destroys the latex of condoms, it will also destroy the latex of diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges, as well as the protective coatings around some IUDs.

So, what are sexual lubricants made of?

Most lubricants are made up of one or (more commonly) several of the following: glycerin, hydroxyethyl cellulose, or propelyene glycol. Some add aloe vera or vitamin E acetate. All add a pH balancing agent, and most have some sort of preservative, since the first three items are all essentially food additives, "thickening agents." Look at a container of Slime in a toy store -- the same three primary ingredients.

What brands are there?

Although the most common brand of sex lubricant is still "KY Jelly," you should be aware that KY is intended for single-use medical environments; the insertion of a thermometer or catheter, for example, and is deliberately forumlated to break down quickly. This is not good for situations where the lubricant is expected to last a long time, such as during intercourse.

The names of other common brands are: Wet, ForPlay, ID, Slip, Probe, Pride, Aqualube, Astroglide, and Elbow Grease. Both Wet and Elbow Grease also make oil-based lubricants "for masturbation purposes only," so read the label carefully before you buy. These are just a few of many lubricants on the market.

Which is best?

"Best lubricant" is a non-sequitor, since lubricant choice is as personal to taste as food. Some people like it thick, others runny, others need it to be slick enough to grease their engines and others need it to last long enough to go for hours. Small sampler bottles (1 oz.) are available for a dollar a piece -- buy one of each and try them out. Figure out which one you like best.

CLOTHING

Is clothing a "sex toy?"

There is some debate about this, but one thing is hard to deny: clothing is sexy. Whether it's a silk nightgown from Victoria's Secret, a military uniform, the leather jacket of a biker or the riding clothes of an equestrienne, some form of clothing is usually someone else's ideal of "sexy clothing."

What is "Fetish Clothing?"

Fetish wear is usually clothing made of leather, latex, or rubber cut in a specific style to accentuate the body and show it off in a sexually arousing fashion. Fetish wear is a specific genre of clothing and as recognizable as such as swimwear or lingere. Fetish wear's most common characteristic is price; the stuff's expensive. Remember that it is only a fad, after all, and will be as out of style as the discowear of the 1970's. Eventually.

So what *is* sexy clothing?

That depends entirely on who you and your lover are. If you like your lover to wear silk, say so-- hopefully they'll enjoy the suggestion. Leather, denim, uniform clothing-- allow your imagination to run wild. A more outrageous suggestion is period clothing, such as the 1920's, or the 1400's. And even further out, one could suggest wearing masks to allow fantasy to run riot-- animal masks are a popular item in this field.

FOOD

Food is sexy?

Many lingere shops actively sell food items-- whipped cream, powdered honey, flavored jellies and jams. I guess the idea is that if they're sold in lingere shops they must be sexy. Many romances start over dinner, and cooking for someone can be as intimate, or as traumatic, as having sex with them.

What kinds of food are sexy?

While almost any kind of food can be sexy, some are more traditional than others. Sweets, such as chocolates, are actual tokens of affection, exchanged on Saint Valentine's day as well as other occassions. In the bedroom, chocolate can be spread on the body and licked off. The same is true of honey or any other spreadable substance. Whipped cream is another popular food item. And a small spill of champagne over the vulva can take care of any concerns one might have about the taste-- for a little while, at least.

Fruits can be sexual as well-- bananas are often compared to penises (or the other way around) because of their shape and size. Xaveria Hollander, "The happy hooker," once referred to peaches as "the fruit that looks most like a woman's vulva." And grapes, fed one at a time, are a staple of B-movies about decadent, imperial Romans.

Almost anything edible can be sexy. At least two movies in recent times have depicted sushi as sexy. Placing doughnuts around a man's erect penis and then eating them off can be an act of trust.

Be aware that any sugary substance placed into the vagina will vastly increase the chance of a yeast infection. It is best to avoid getting chocolate, honey, and the like into the vagina.

DRUGS

Disclainer

Nothing in this FAQ is intended to be taken as a recommendation or endorsement of illegal substance use. It is the intention of this FAQ to accurately report the effects of those substances that its readers may choose to use upon their sexual functioning, both positive and negative.

Alcohol

The only "legal" drug in this short list of mind-altering chemicals, alcohol is widely available in most of the known world. Alcohol is primarily a depressant, although it small doses it may cause free-association that leads to violence where hostility already exists. Alcohol is used in a sexual context to "loosen one up," overcoming inhibitions to proceed to the sexual act itself; however, it's depressant effect may also cause temporary impotence.

Amyl Nitrite

Also known as "poppers," "Rush," "Locker Room," or "Head Cleaner." Currenly controlled in the US, although designer variants of butyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite, and cyclohexyl nitrite are still available in some states. This drug relaxes the smooth muscles of the vascular system, resulting in a momentary "rush" that is primarly the result of oxygen depravation to the brain. Also relaxes the vaginal and anal sphincters and was once popular with gay men for that effect. Produces intense headaches in about a quarter of all users.

Cocaine

Sex on cocaine is frequently described as "the most intense in the world." (Of course, that's said about crystal methamphetamine, too.) Cocaine elevates the perceived effect of arousal, both male and female. Depression is a common post-high effect. Chronic use leads to full-blown paranoia, psychological dependancy, and impotence.

Marijuana

There is a lot of controversy over marijuana, and has been touted as "the most powerful aphrodisiac in the world." But neither marijuana nor any other drug will create passion where there is none to begin with. Many people who have used marijuana during sex have reported enhanced sensations, longer durations, and increased arousal. However, marijuana may also make sex more difficult because of its tranquilizing effect.

LSD-25

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide. A powerful psychedelic, most people who have tried to have sex under the influence of LSD have stated that their nervous systems were far too overloaded with basic sensations to try and engage in anything as complex as sex. For those who have succeeded, however, the effect as with all LSD experiences-- depending on setting and preconceptions about the experience, it can be exhilirating or terrifying.

Elf Sternberg <elf@halcyon.com>

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