The Pleasure Activist

6 Useful Sex Toy Shop Tips

Lube Types and Ingredients

We've all been there. Staring at a large wall of lubes, as the bottles seem to sit there smugly in their indistinguishable silence - taunting your confusion. Was there some sort of lube class you missed in school? As a result, we reach for the most recognizable brand we may have seen sometime at a drug store- which happens to also be the crappiest lube—and we miss out on finding a lube that we actually enjoy using. Here's some basic info to get you started:

A good quality water-based lube resembles our body's natural lubrication and is nourishing. A bad quality water-based lube can irritate our mucous membranes, get really sticky, and even promote infections. Look for water-based lubes that are glycerin-free, paraben-free, and glycol-free with the least amount of non-recognizable ingredients. Water-based lubes are less expensive than silicone-based lubes, but you will need to use much more because our bodies like to drink it in. It is compatible with everything.

A longer-lasting alternative is silicone lube. Although it feels oily, it is not an oil and therefore compatible with condoms. It is not compatible with many sex toys, however, but it's great for shower sex, anal sex, or any kind of sex where you don't feel like reapplying lube a lot.

There are other types of lube (hybrid, oil-based, aloe-based, etc.)

Sex Toy Materials

If you care about what foods you put in your mouth, you just might want to care about the materials you put into your vagina or ass because we absorb chemicals through all of our orifices! Sex toy materials can be broken down several ways:

• Non-toxic/non-porous, non-toxic/porous, and toxic/porous

• Smooth/hard, firm/flexible, and soft/squishy

If you're looking for flexible or soft toys, pure medical grade silicone is the way to go. It is non-toxic, hypo-allergenic, non-porous and will not irritate your skin. It is often sterilizable.

Elastomer is also all of the above, except that it IS porous, therefore not-sterilizable and will break down eventually.

Stay away from jelly or rubber blends. Those are often the ones that can irritate your sensitive tissues and even if you don't get that burny sensation, your body is still likely absorbing chemicals. If it smells rubbery or flowery or anything at all, it is off-gassing. If you do purchase one to save some money, be sure to put a condom on it.

If you're looking for a smooth/hard toy, silicone dipped hard plastic, stainless steel, or borosilicate glass are all great options. Be sure it's the right kind of glass! Shop from a source you trust.

Vibrators vs. Dildos

Vibrators and dildos are frequently words that customers use interchangeably. While there may be some overlap, they are different. A vibrator refers to something with a vibrating motor. A dildo is an inert object for penetration that usually doesn't vibrate.

Power Source

As we've just established, vibrators have motors. The power source of that motor makes a big difference in the strength, consistency, convenience, and price of a toy. Old-school mains-powered "personal massagers" are the most powerful and robust.

Rechargeable toys have almost matched the plug-in toys in terms of power these days. Plus they have the added benefit of not being leashed to the wall and they come in cute sizes. Don't mistake this with rechargeable but removable batteries. Rechargeable batteries work like any other removable battery. That is, as the battery drains, the vibrator will get weaker, and so it's always a race to keep fresh batteries stocked. Rechargeable toys operate with the same intensity whether it is 90 percent charged or 10 percent charged.

You Are Your Own Expert

Nobody can tell you which toy will give you the best orgasm of your life. This is a journey you must go on yourself. However, if you're new to this type of exploration, there are certain toys (or kits) that can help facilitate a well-rounded exploration.

Don't Yuck Anybody's Yum

There is a certain type of attitude that we have a hard time tolerating at the shop. Sometimes this attitude comes out in a question form, and it has more to do with tone rather than content.

Wrong: "Who in the world would want to use something like THIS?!" <smirk>

Right: "I've never seen anything like this. What is it used for?"

If someone walked into the shop looking for an intimate item while somebody else was making fun of said item, that would make an already vulnerable customer feel unsafe. This is etiquette.

Asking genuine questions is quite welcome. In fact, we'd rather have our customers ask us advice rather than making an uninformed purchase that may end up disappointing them. Curiosity can be a wonderful thing.

Ally Booker is a pleasure activist passionate about educating herself and others on sexuality. You can often find her at her Tucson shop, Jellywink Boutique, 418 E. 7th St. You

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