I’m as big a fan of self-love as a newly sexually-awakened postpubescent, but sometimes a couple digits just won’t do. That’s when I reach for my favorite vibrator made by Fun Factory, a German sex toy company. Before I came across their nifty invention, I’d tried a lot of toys that left me feeling dissatisfied, so I resorted to masturbation without technological enhancements. Though it’s cheaper and equally pleasurable (especially if you’re familiar with your own body and nimble with your fingers), masturbation alone can get boring and sex toys can add variety to the bedroom. Some women have a difficult time reaching orgasm and can get closer to their goal with the aid of a toy. For me, finding the right vibrator made me realize that sex toy shopping is a little bit like playing Goldilocks. You have to find the toy that’s juuuust right and there are a lot of factors that come into play!
According to The Tech’s Sex Survey, 13 percent of all MIT students have a sex toy. Overall, 16 percent of MIT women have toys. However, this statistic is as low as 6 percent for the females in the freshman class, whereas it shoots up to 26 percent for the females in the senior class. These numbers argue that sex toys become more prevalent as students go through their MIT career, and whether you’re a virgin or one-half of a couple, you can integrate toys into your sex life and use them to get better acquainted with your (and your partner’s) body and preferences. To protect your health and prolong the life of your product, keep in mind the following when purchasing and using:
Cost: Good toys aren’t cheap, but they don’t have to be outrageously expensive either. All of the products reviewed below are well-known brands carried by reputable retailers like Babeland, which only sell quality toys. Though it might be hard to justify spending triple digits (at some point, you’re really just paying for the brand), there’s a huge difference between a $15 plastic dildo made in China and a $60 silicone one that comes with a warranty. If the price makes you wince, it’s better to skip toys altogether. No vibe is preferable to a toxic vibe.
Material: Silicone toys cost more, but they’re hypoallergenic, easy to clean, and as close as you can get to the real thing. Rubber/jelly and latex toys are less expensive but are also porous, which makes them difficult to disinfect, and may contain phthalates, a common rubber softener which has been correlated with negative health consequences. Toys are also made out of hard materials like plastic, glass, and aluminum (used in Tantus’ Revolve and JimmyJane’s Little Chroma).
Safety: Toys made of rubber, latex, or jelly are porous and harder to clean (see below) so I highly recommend using a condom with penetrative toys made of these materials. In general, however, condoms are a good idea because they act as a barrier against toys with materials that contain allergens (latex) or dangerous chemicals (phthalates). Condoms are an absolute necessity if you’re sharing toys with a partner and if you’re switching between vaginal and anal penetration.
Lubrication: As always, don’t forget to lube up, especially if you don’t get wet on your own. Remember to keep the silicone lube away from your silicone toys or you’ll destroy the surface of the latter. Stick to the water-based stuff, which is safe for all materials, or use saliva when in a pinch (It’s better than nothing!).
Care: To prolong their lifespan, don’t put off cleaning your toys. Most toys will do fine with a warm water rinse accompanied by anti-bacterial soap, but rubber, latex, and jelly toys are more porous than silicone so they require extra rinsing to get rid of excess soap. If you want to make sure your toys are squeaky clean, silicone and glass products without electrical parts can be boiled or run through a cycle in the dishwasher (stick them in the top shelf, though).
This edition of Sex Ed focuses on products for women, but don’t worry, boys. We’ll be reviewing unisex and couples toys in an upcoming installment. In the meantime, the boys can read a review of the Fleshlight by “Hand Solo.”
Womolia ($99.95) & Femblossom ($99.95) by Emotional Bliss
CHRISTINE: Using silver ions as an antibacterial agent, Emotional Bliss’s selling point is the almost self-cleaning nature of their personal massagers. To clean it, it’s as simple as wiping it down with water. I don’t know about others, but I find cleaning my sex toys to be such a hassle. So much so, I’m hesitant to use them when I’m on a time crunch, even though I could really use an orgasm to wind down. This makes these toys perfect for those who don’t want to boil silicone after every usage. And, these toys self-heat! But, they never get too hot. I prefer the Femblossom because of its design. The Womolia (pictured above) is a bit too thick and long for internal usage, in my opinion, and for clitoral purposes, its shape is awkward. Out of all the toys I tested, Emotional Bliss also had the best speeds, but they’re incredibly loud. So loud that I consider it a major product flaw for college students— I think they’re louder than “indoor speaking voices.” It’s a small price to pay, though, for a quick orgasm, which the higher speeds definitely afforded.
LENA: The U.K. company Emotional Bliss has garnered a large following in Europe with its line of intimate massagers, which include the Womolia and the Femblossom. These are the only vibrators on the market that heat up by warming to the speed and frequency selected. Though the vibrations are strong enough to suit my preferences, the toys are also extremely loud so discretion is next to impossible if you’re not living in a single. I also wish they didn’t resemble shower heads and came in a sleeker design. Both are rechargeable (so you can forget batteries) and curved for comfort. One big plus: Since the products are made of Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), which is non-porous, they’re super easy to clean and also contain an antibacterial agent that sterilizes the massager after it they are wiped with water.
Onye ($55) by Big Teaze Toys
CHRISTINE: I wanted to like the Onye. With its pretty satin-lined case, I thought I was in for a treat. Plus, it wasn’t terrifyingly large. If anything, it looked like a thicker, shorter version of JimmyJane’s Little Chroma, which is one of my favorite toys on the market. After stealing my AAA batteries from my TI-89, I should’ve known I was in for a disappointment. My batteries will be staying in my TI-89. The eight speeds are nice, but none of them quite did the trick. Plus, it’s very much like a bullet vibrator in the sense that the speed button is the same control which turns it on and off. In my opinion, this is just an overpriced, oversized bullet.
LENA: The Onye, which comes in eight modes, is short, thick, and does the trick. As a 5’ 2” gal often intimidated by the giant phalluses on display at adult store, I appreciate smaller vibrators which are more realistic about the size of the orifices they’ll be used in. Made of hypoallergenic and phthalate-free ABS plastic, the Onye is aesthetically pleasing, but even if it weren’t, it comes in its own satin-lined case for discreet safekeeping. One big down side is that the button for the different speed and vibration modes is the same button that turns the toy on and off. No one likes being interrupted at key moments.
Revolve ($89.99) by Tantus
CHRISTINE: The Revolve didn’t impress me, but I am not someone who has figured out how to give myself a G-spot orgasm. Plus, it’s incredibly cold (being aircraft aluminum). When I use it, I can’t help but think of smart balls and Kegel exercises, which don’t really get me off. I think that the Revolve is an afterthought for Tantus, kind of like how Brooks Brothers started designing women’s clothing — realizing they could make a profit by branching into an area they aren’t nearly as good at. Tantus is known for high quality silicone sex toys, and the butt plug they sent is by far my favorite silicone butt plug. However, I prefer my butt plugs to be made of glass, as I prefer silicone lube for anal play. Nonetheless, for those interested in high quality silicone toys, Tantus uses medical grade silicone.
LENA: Unlike the other toys in reviewed in this piece, the Revolve doesn’t vibrate which, for me, means more work to get off. If you’ve mastered G-spot orgasms, however, the non-uniform curves make this toy your new best friend. The Alumina Revolve is made of anodized aluminum, a seemingly weightless material which initially feels cool until it warms to the temperature of your body. I’m the type of gal who insists on having sex with the covers on, not because of prudishness but because of sensitivity to cold. If you’re like me, run the Revolve under hot water first to warm it up. A bonus feature: It can also be unscrewed in the middle to be mixed and matched with parts from other toys in the Alumina line.
Little Chroma ($125) by JimmyJane
CHRISTINE: The Little Chroma is what introduced me to sex toys; so obviously, my thoughts are biased. It is arguably the quietest toy on the market, but what really makes it special is the replaceable motor. It’s depressing when a sex toy dies. With heavy usage, it’s easy to kill one in six months, so instead of buying a whole new toy, JimmyJane does what more companies should: selling motor replacements. Made of aluminum, it only has one real speed (arguably, one could not fully tighten it when turning it on, giving a slower result), but even then, I don’t think it limits the toy. I do wish it had more speeds.
It also runs on 2AA batteries, which surprisingly allow it to last up to 16 hours. In my long term usage of the toy, I find this number to be about right, which means it outlasts some of my rechargeable toys. It’s better for clitoral use, but it’s not super thick or super long, making it also a good toy for vaginal use. I’m impressed with JimmyJane’s display at Good Vibes. As a friend of mine put it, “if Good Vibes were a Best Buy, then JimmyJane would be the Apple display.” They market themselves with sleek designs, and for those not willing to drop $100 on a toy, I would suggest trying their smaller version with their iconic bullet (priced at $16.)
LENA: Also made of aluminum, the Little Chroma is one of the more affordable options in JimmyJane, a luxury sex toy company that is to vibrators what Tiffany’s is to jewelry. This is an especially apt comparison since JimmyJane is well-known for manufacturing jewel-encrusted toys adored by celebrities like Kate Moss and Teri Hatcher. This little vibe is one of my favs in terms of design and whisper-quiet to boot. It also packs a powerful punch despite its diminutive size. My only complaint? Though I appreciate the sleek and smooth shape, a curved shape would fit my body better. If you think you might have similar concerns, the company’s hefty Form 6 might be a more appropriate option.
SaSi ($150.01) by Je Joue
CHRISTINE: The SaSi is not intuitive. However, for those willing to read an instruction manual, it can consistently give an orgasmic experience. Unlike other sex toys, the SaSi can be programmed with an individual’s favorite patterns to get off. It’s supposed to simulate cunnilingus, but I don’t find the speed fast enough (It has possibly the weakest motor of all the toys I tested.)
It has a ball-like item inside the toy, which can move up and down, left and right — in a similar fashion to a tongue; additionally, it vibrates and pulsates. It is probably the best thing on the market for oral sex simulation, but I’m not sure that I necessarily want my toys to be just like the real thing. Part of the fun of sex toys is that they’re a different experience.
Also, because it’s not user-friendly, it’s easy to push the wrong buttons and get unexpected results. It’s rechargeable, but sometimes it heats up too much. However, it’s easy to clean, with a slip-off silicone cover. It doesn’t look like a sex toy, although it slightly resembles a tongue. In its packaging, though, it looks more like a phone, sitting on a stand. I do commend the creators of SaSi for the sleek design and the plethora of options; I just wish it had a stronger motor.
LENA: The Sasi is the most expensive and most impressive product of the bunch. Designed to simulate cunnilingus, this silicone device cradles your curves and gently massages your clitoris with a rounded tip that protrudes from under a silicone skin. By far one of the best options I’ve ever come across for women who don’t like penetrative sex toys, the Sasi comes with varied pre-programmed modes and can also remember which patterns you like best. The only thing that kept the toy from an A- is my preference for stronger vibrations. I tend to like the real thing hard and rough, and in that regard, the SaSi just isn’t quite sassy enough.
Fleshlight ($64.95–69.95) by Interactive Life Forms
HAND SOLO: The Fleshlight represents one of the few mainstream sex toys marketed towards men that aren’t interested in playing with their rear end. It was designed by a SWAT officer, the manliest of men, so: Guys, there’s no reason to be a scrotum and be afraid of owning a toy.
The Fleshlight is a plastic container, vaguely approximating the appearance of a flashlight, with an elastomeric gel sleeve insert. And, in case it isn’t obvious, you insert your penis into the sleeve. The sleeve itself is very stretchy, and if anchored at both ends can serve as an impromptu slingshot. Although the container comes in different colors, its primarily point of customization is sleeve options.
A variety of options are available on their website (fleshlight.com), ranging from different “skin tones,” orifice depictions, and inner texture. When I bought mine a few years ago, there were several tones available, from caucasian to “pink” to african; the only options these days seem to be pink and “ice” (clear). Bummer! The orifice selection is abundant: options include the Lady (vagina), Mouth, Butt (anus), Mini-Maid (buttocks), and Stealth (nondescript). The inner texture selection is equally abundant: Original (plain 3/4”), Super Tight (plain 1/2”, rectum emulator), Ultra Tight (plain 1/4”), Vortex (diagonal ridges), Wonder Wave (vagina emulator), Super Ribbed (mouth and throat emulator), and Speed Bump (reportedly the most intense).
I have the Lady in pink with the Original texture in a black case. I figured that the Original was the most vanilla and would leave me the most satisfied by future ladyfriends.
The first thing you’re going to want to purchase with your Fleshlight is lube, because it is literally as useless as a paperweight without it. You can’t expect to give it some wine and kiss its neck and expect it to become lubed like a real vagina. The lube type is strict: water-based only! Silicone-based lubes will eat away at the polymer.
In use, it does the job. It does not emulate the act of “humping” by any means, and as someone who has tried clamping it to a desk with a Quick Grip, I can say trying that is less than satisfying. I would recommend hand-held use only. There is a cap at the back that can regulate suction, but it has only a very mild effect. I would recommend keeping it closed to contain the “effects.”
Speaking of effects, herein lies the Achilles’ Heel of the Fleshlight: cleanup. According to a few girls I’ve talked to, it seems much easier to clean a real vagina than this thing. First off: clean it immediately after use. If you wait, things start to dry and start to smell. Once, I was post-orgasmically lazy and decided to put on the front and rear caps and clean it “later;” later ended up being when I found it under my bed after a week. The cleanup from that was truly horrifying. But even if you wash it immediately, it is a pain washing the inside and outside of the sleeve, and then the many parts of the container. The inside of the sleeve is particularly difficult, as it involves stretching it to inhumane geometries to properly get a cleaning digit/utensil deep in. The sleeve cannot be boiled, so it cannot be sterilized easily, and thus should be used by a single individual only. Even after proper cleaning, the surface of the sleeve is a bit cohesive, and powdering it occasionally with cornstarch is recommended. It is for this cleanup regimen that the Fleshlight is docked points for design.
A final note about couples’ use: recommended. Giving your girl a second vagina to wield can be a psychological turn-on for her and a physical one for you.