Safe Sex and Sex Ed, Part IV—Self-Pleasure and Self-Love

By Mehera For the final piece of the Safe Sex and Sex Ed series I had intended to discuss toys, kinks and fetishes, but I’ll defer discussion of kinks,...

By Mehera

For the final piece of the Safe Sex and Sex Ed series I had intended to discuss toys, kinks and fetishes, but I’ll defer discussion of kinks, fetishes and BDSM to my fellow writers who’ve contributed articles on this topic. Instead, we’ll talk about toys, masturbation and good ol’ self-lovin’.

While toys are fun and can enhance sexual activities, manual masturbation can be a good way to get in touch with your body before you try anything else.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of social stigma against masturbation. Society tells us, particularly those of us who are female-identified or sit at certain intersections of gender and sexuality (and sometimes other identities as well), that we are not allowed to be in charge of our own pleasure. Female-identified folks are overwhelmingly taught that their sexual pleasure ought to come from interaction with a partner. Engaging in radical self-love, in all forms, is a way of reclaiming bodily autonomy; I believe masturbation and reclaiming sexual pleasure and sexuality are pieces of this self-love.

The first step is to understand your body and anatomy. Look in the mirror, use your hands, do whatever you need to do to get comfortable with your body and its nuances. Delving in with your hands and figuring out what you like and don’t like is a crucial step; manual masturbation is not only enjoyable on its own, but can be helpful in deciding what type of toy you would enjoy. Additionally, understanding how to sexually satisfy yourself can allow for more pleasurable encounters with partners, as you will be able to guide partners when they pleasure you.

The World of Sex Toys

Buying a toy (or even going to a sex toy store) can be an overwhelming process. With so many colorful buzzing and whirring items to choose from, it can be hard to know which will be the best fit for you (figuratively and literally!).

In choosing a toy, think about what kind of stimulation you like best. Below are a few examples of different toys—it’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully it’ll give you a good idea of what toys might be good for you.

Bullet—

The bullet vibrator is a popular toy for its durability and accessibility. Most bullet vibes only have one setting—although some have dials to control gradual speed/vibration—can be purchased in most sex stores and even some department stores. Bullet vibes tend to be smaller in size and can be carried discreetly. They are battery operated and are a good starting toy for those who want a simple vibrator for external and internal stimulation.

Hitachi Wand—

This is one of the better known vibrating toys. Marketed as a massager, the Hitachi wand is perfect for high-intensity external stimulation. The wand is fairly straightforward to use, has two settings, and can be used alongside other toys or with a partner. Some Hitachi wands are mobile and are battery operated, while others have wall-cords to recharge. Hitachi wands can be purchased online and in select sex toy stores.

We Vibe—

The We Vibe was one of the first toys designed for stimulation during penetration. Though most toys can be used for anal stimulation, the We Vibe is designed mainly for vaginal and clitoral use. Shaped like a C, the We Vibe fits snugly into the vagina, while the upper part of the C rests on the clitoral area. The We Vibe has fourteen (fourteen!) settings and, get this, it’s rechargeable. No more digging around for batteries; all you have to do is plug the We Vibe in and ta-da! Ready to go. Though a little pricey, the We Vibe is durable, portable, and well worth the money.

G-spot toys—

For those looking to get a G-spot vibe, the BGee may be a good place to start. Size, material and design are things to keep in mind when picking a G-spot vibe. You want it to be of comfortable size, non-harsh material, and the tip of the toy should be curved. The BGee is of reasonable size and length (though this depends on the person) and is made with a very comfortable material. While it provides vibrating stimulation, it’s not so intense as to be uncomfortable for first-timers. The BGee is also not especially pricey, which means those who are interested don’t have to make a huge investment.

Anal toys—

Anal plugs are usually a good place to start for those looking for anal toys. Plugs come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate varying comfort levels. One of the most important things to keep in mind with anal toys is that they require lubrication. Unlike other body parts which produce lubricating fluids, the anus does not. You will need to find a good lube that can be used with your toy (see: caring for your toys). A majority of anal toys are silicone, as it is a more comfortable and flexible material, which means non-silicone lubes should be used with it.

Caring for your toys—

Most toys can be cleaned with warm water and a mild soap, but some do require special care. It’s important to check the instructions (if your toy has instructions) or ask about the proper care for your toy. Many sex stores sell toy cleaning solutions which are safe for most toys, but it’s a good idea to double check. You don’t want to use something on your toy that could cause it to degrade or break. The same goes for the type of lube you use on a toy (if you use lube, which is really recommended for anal toys); for example, DO NOT use silicone-based lube on silicone toys. Most, if not all, lube containers will indicate if they are silicone-based or water-based, and be sure to check on this before using it with any of your toys.

Toys can greatly enhance self-loving or sex with a partner. Once you understand what you enjoy and which toys you like best, you can upgrade to more intense toys. A good way to learn more about sex toys is to check out websites of sex stores or to talk to sales associate at sex stores. I recommend Babeland (www.Babeland.com) as a site that not only includes high-quality toys and lubes, but also includes care and safety tips.

I hope this series has provided you with some helpful tips on how to practice safe sex in a variety of ways. As always, be safe and healthy when engaging in any sexual activities, whether they be solo or with partners. Happy sexing!

Mehera is a queer Indian-American cis-woman who would like to smash the kyriarchy with a hammer. She is a recent college graduate originally from the western coast of the US and is currently living abroad in Shanghai. Aside from trying to deconstruct oppressive systems, Mehera also enjoys baking, roller derby, micro-korgs and ukuleles, and cat memes.
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