The Feminist’s Guide to Sex Toys

Sid Azmi's feminist guide to sex toys
Sid Azmi, the owner of a Brooklyn sex shop, says “pleasure begins with the permission to self-love.” Sex toys should be a part of that. Photo by Tatum Mangus.

Sid Azmi is the owner of Please New York, an educated pleasure shop in Brooklyn. Her column “Sid on Sex” explores her daily revelations gained helping all kinds of women lead satisfying, joyful sex lives. This month: a modern woman’s guide to sex toys.

I did not own a sex toy until I was in my late twenties. By that point, I’d had multiple sexual partners and a few meaningful long-term relationships. I had already moved countries, adapted to different cultures, and had a child. But I had yet to discover the treasure island that was my own body.

 
I learned about all the novelties that would help send my body and spirit up into heavenly bliss.
 

I remember the first time I stepped into a sex shop—Good Vibrations in Coolidge Corner, Boston. The salesperson tried to engage me, but I wanted none of it. It was bad enough that I was there—to need this “electronic device” that was supposed to help me figure out my sex life. I grabbed the simplest looking slim vibe (it looked like a candlestick with a dial at the bottom) and dashed out of there as though I had done something wrong.

But I returned soon after. My little helper had sparked a curiosity about my body like never before. This time around, I ventured to the bookshelves, hoping for some reading material to help me understand my body, pleasure, and sex in general. There were some—not as many as there are today—but enough to convert the experience of purchasing a sex toy into one that I actively pursued with confidence instead of one that was pressured by shame. I learned about foreplay, the slick gift that is the lubricant, the different forms of barriers, and all the novelties that would help send my body and spirit up into heavenly bliss while I sprawled so beautifully and comfortably in the privacy of my own bed.

If you ’re thinking of starting the journey of pleasure discovery, remember that the journey begins by giving ourselves permission to self-love and self-indulge. Know that there are no standards when it comes to sexual pleasure: we all experience it differently. Don’t let anyone tell you that their way is the way; you will be short-changing yourself. Take the time to get to know your body’s resources and over time, with that knowledge you will create a pleasure roadmap so vast that sex becomes pleasurable, every single time.

Take the time to feel your body and start to take notice of what makes your body feel good, as well as what’s uncomfortable—both are equally important to acknowledge. Some of us are solely stimulated via the clitoris, and others via the vagina (internal stimulation). Ideally, we can get off with both, one at a time or together at the same time! However, female pleasure anatomy is more than just your clitoris or G-spot—it can be your labia, entroitis, perineum, anus, nipples, etc. Take the time to learn more about your body by reading about it and by spending time physically exploring your body.

Understanding the various types of sex toys on the market can be confusing. Below is a guide to help you along your way to discovering pleasure and self-love. Have fun!

Types of Toys for the Female Body

Finding the Right Toy

Different Materials

  • ABS/Plastic
  • Elastomer (Rubber)
  • Silicone

Body-safe silicone is recognized as the most body-safe material in the industry because its non-porous material ensures that bacteria isn’t harbored in the material. Note that the toy industry is not regulated by the FDA, so some companies will label their products as silicone when they are not. Purchase from retailers who have verified the products they carry.

Battery-operated vs. Rechargeable

  • Battery-operated toys are typically more affordable. These are good places to start for beginners with a limited budget. However, they have less intensity and fewer pattern variations and do not come with a warranty. Batteries can also be inconvenient: no one like a dead vibrator at the crucial moment!
  • Rechargeable toys are more expensive but the investment is worthwhile. Built to last, rechargeable toys typically come with warranties of 1–3 years, saving you multiple purchases of the same battery-operated toy. Most chargers are now USB, so you don’t ever have to worry about voltage conversion during travel. You can even charge your toy straight from your computer, (coffee break, anyone)? These toys also have a wider range of intensity and a variety of pulsations, allowing you to explore how your body responds to different stimulations.

Types of Stimulation

Tight vs. Loud Rumble Vibration

  • Tight vibration patterns have a higher frequency with shorter wavelengths; they transfer sensations that are deeper. (Svakom Amy, Lelo Soraya)
  • Loud vibration patterns have a shorter frequency with higher wavelengths; they transfer sensations that feel stronger on the surface. (Fun Factory Tiger, Je Joue Fifi, Jopen Comet). The only way you can experience the difference is by visiting a store and placing the vibrating toy on the tip of your nose (akin to the feeling you get on your vulva).

Stroking & Massage

Toys have evolved: there are now toys that give you a massaging feeling as an added bonus. (Lelo Mona Wave)

Suction

Toys that produce the feeling of sucking on your clitoris are fairly new and can be very expensive. An important thing to note is that in order for suction to be effective, the opening of the suction cap needs to encapsulate your clitoris—and because our bodies are not made to fit a certain size, you might end up with a toy that is too big or too small for you. Here is a toy that comes with different sized caps. (Womanizer Pro 40)

Pulsation

These are awesome! Built with a hydraulic piston within, they can be left inserted to stimulate penetration without using one’s hand to thrust. It is a fairly new invention, and the pulsation function can be a bit underwhelming for those who prefer intense penetration. However, these are made such that the pulsating mode can be turned off so that it only vibrates. (Fun Factory Stronic Real)

Smart devices

  • Toy with Remotes (Svakom Vicky, Lelo Tiani 3, B Vibe)
  • Bluetooth compatible (We Vibe Sync, Minna K Goal)

Form Factor

Hands-free
Super helpful for people with pain or issues with their hands. (Dame Eva II, Fun Factory Boss)

Finger vibes
There is something about integrating the toy as part of your body that makes stimulation feel more natural. For those who shy from shafted toys, these are great alternatives (Dame Fin, Fun Factory Layaspot)

Lubrication Is Key

A lubricant is the best accessory for all toys and sexual play (fingers, oral, penetration). With lubricant, stimulation feels more natural and reduces pain from friction. Good lube is essential, and not just for those who are “too dry.” The myth that a properly stimulated woman would never need lubricant perpetuates shame surrounding female bodies and sexuality. I think of lube as a moisturizer for my naughty bits! When used with toys, lubricant also heightens the intensity of vibrations.

  • Water-based lubricants should be used for silicone-based toys.
    Note that good water-based lubricants are never made with glycerin (a sugar-based product). Glycerin is the culprit that causes yeast infections in female bodies. While some might prefer a sweet taste to their lubricant, practice thinking that bodies taste best au natural. For a night of sweet naughty fun, and the chance of developing a yeast infection, it just isn’t worth it!
  • Silicone lubricants are what you need to keep it slippery in water-based environments (like the shower or Jacuzzi tubs). Note that these may stain your sheets. Most importantly, silicone lube should not be used with silicone toys as it will degrade the silicone coating on the toys.

Simple Toy Care

High-quality toys (non-porous body-safe grade silicone) are more expensive but require less maintenance. For personal use, simply wash with soap and water between uses. To sanitize toys you share with others, simply dip the non-mechanical parts into boiling water for one to two minutes to l eliminate unwanted bacteria.

As you continue on (or start!) your journey, I would like to invite you to visit us at Please offline or online and get 15% off your purchase with discount code “AWT15.”

If you had any kind of trepidation or hesitation, aren’t sure exactly what you’re looking for, know that this sex store owner was once exactly like you. It’s natural to feel self-conscious when learning about your body, especially when we get told that we should know it innately. The truth is, everything is learned, and we all need to start somewhere. So let’s erase those nagging thoughts of “what’s wrong with me” and create new ideas of wonder, curiosity, excitement, validation, and self-love.