So You Want To Buy Your Partner A Sex Toy

 In Blog Posts, Featured, General Musings

With Valentine’s Day on the quickly-approaching horizon, I thought it would be a good time to address what people across the globe are contemplating – “What’s the best toy I should gift my partner?” And while you may see lots of magazines and sex toy stores and even other bloggers offering up their lists of what sold the best last year or got the best reviews or a small group of editors picked for their personal faves, I’m going to go against the grain a little bit and tell you – Don’t. No fun, right? I know, but if you stick with me for a moment I’m going to help you go about this a much better and likely more successful way.

Why You Want To Surprise Them With The Sex Toy

Obviously, because it feels sexy! Because we often feel like gift-giving ought to be a signal that we really know our partner (or whomever you’re gifting to) and we were able to pick out something special for them without having to ask, and without having to be asked. Because we know that sex toys can help spice up the bedroom and bring an extra level of excitement and pleasure. Because it feels a little naughty.

And because having a conversation about whether or not your sex lives are satisfying, whether there is room for improvement, if either of you want to start trying new things, even just talking about what type of stimulation you like, can feel really difficult. Putting something in a box and wrapping it up and shoving it into someone’s hands can feel like an easy and much sexier by-pass to the difficult conversation.

Why Surprise Sex Toys Are (usually) A Bad Idea

The risk is high with a surprise sex toy. The reward can also be high…or it could blow up in your face. Ultimately, you are the only person here who can decide for certain how well you know your partner and how likely a surprise sex toy is to work in your favour, so if everything I’m about to say doesn’t resonate with you and you think a surprise sex toy is the way to go – more power to you! If your partner has literally said “just surprise me” then do what they’re asking. If you are instead sitting there starting to realize that maybe you haven’t given this enough thought, then consider some of the following possible outcomes.

– Your partner is not actually open to the idea of sex toys at all, and will see this “gift” as offensive or possibly even an insult. Your idea of “spicing things up” might be implying to them that you’re bored or unsatisfied (and maybe you are…but this is not the way to communicate that in a way that your partner will be receptive to) They might find sex toys vulgar and off-putting, and you may have accidentally changed the way your partner is viewing you and your sexuality.

– Your partner isn’t necessarily against sex toys, but also isn’t super comfortable with them either. Presenting the toy as a gift attaches a bit of weight to it, they may now feel obligated into using this toy, rather than genuinely curious about it and wanting to explore at their own pace. Adding pressure to any sex stuff is one of the easiest ways to turn most people off, not on, and any enjoyment they may have found in it through a more organic route is now being overshadowed by negative feelings.

– Your partner may be open to sex toys, but you might not have bought the right one. The outcomes for this scenario can branch off in many different directions, because there’s so many different details that make up what someone’s “right” sex toy is.

You might have bought something that isn’t in line with how they actually like to receive stimulation, and now they’re wondering “what gave them that idea?” or “is this how they want to be interacting with me/what they want to see?” – which can lead to some self-conscious, confused, or worried feelings. Is it possible you bought a sex toy that fulfilled your fantasies, without giving enough thought about whether or not it would fulfill theirs? True gift-giving is supposed to be about what the other person wants or needs or would like, did you accidentally make it about you? Or they may be thinking “what gave them that idea?” in the sense of they thought you knew them and their preferences better, and now they’re a bit disappointed, because this toy makes no sense to them.

You might have bought something that just doesn’t work for their body, doesn’t fit, and/or doesn’t give them the right kind of stimulation. We’re all different, and while obviously I believe that reviews of sex toys are helpful (or I wouldn’t be here) there can be a lot more nuance to finding the right toy beyond “this one has 1000 5-star ratings” or “everyone on reddit says this one is good.” It can be difficult for some folks to try out and not like a product that everyone else seemed to rave about. Especially with sensitive subjects like bodies and sex, it’s very easy to fall into the idea that when something doesn’t work for us, we must be the problem. There’s something wrong with us, there’s something broken about our bodies. When you pile on the pressure to use it anyway because it was a gift, the guilt that someone spent money (sometimes a lot of money) on this thing that they thought we would like, that makes us feel even shittier about ourselves that we don’t like it, that it doesn’t work for us, that we must be broken and horrid and ungrateful.

– Your partner just doesn’t want a sex toy. No moral judgement, no fear, no feelings about whether or not their body will cooperate – they’re just not interested. Not everyone wants to use sex toys, not everyone finds sex toys more enjoyable than manual stimulation, not everyone’s sex life is enhanced by sex toys. All of that is perfectly fine! It does however mean that you just wasted your money. And after that we may be circling back around to some questions of “What was my partner even thinking? Don’t they know me?

None of this sounds very good, right? You don’t want to upset your partner in any way – you’re trying to give them a gift! You’re trying to make them feel good! You don’t want to create a point of contention or make things awkward, you don’t want them questioning your motivations or whether or not you have any idea what they like in the bedroom. You wanted to do something fun, you wanted to surprise them, you wanted it to be sexy, you want the both of you to be having the best sex you can be. Makes sense. You really don’t want to screw this up.

What You Should Do Instead Of Buy A Surprise Sex Toy

Talk to your partner. I know! The whole reason you were thinking of a surprise sex toy in the first place is because you don’t want to do that – either because you don’t want to ruin the surprise or because you feel uncomfortable actually having the conversation. I’m telling you, it’s the best course of action.

If your main issue with this approach is that it “spoils the fun” of a surprise – there’s ways to bring back a little bit of that magic that I’ll get to in a minute.

If your issue that you just don’t feel like talking about it is a good idea, then I hope by this point you realize that springing a sex toy on them is also not a good idea, for the very same reasons talking about it feels scary. I can’t give you the 100% fool-proof plan for how to broach uncomfortable subjects in your relationship, but I can give you a few pointers that hopefully you can work into your own personal game-plan.

First, choose your timing and setting wisely. Some folks could successfully bring up the addition of sex toys while they’re in the middle of sex, but for most people discussing their sex life is actually best done in a far more neutral setting. If bringing up sex toys is going to catch one of you off-guard, then you don’t want to be in the middle of sex when that happens – you’re trying to make the sex better, not ruin it. People are also able to communicate more readily and honestly when they don’t feel already compromised or vulnerable like can happen during sex. A neutral setting gives people more room to say no, to feel less pressure, and to think more clearly. Choose a time when both of you are able to give the discussion your undivided attention (don’t try to bring up your sex life and possible dissatisfactions while your partner is trying to do their taxes, pack the kid’s lunches, and clean the kitchen)

Second, ask questions. This doesn”t have to be just about sex toys, and asking more questions than “do you wanna buy a ____?” can give you more useful insight into your partner. Rather than going in with a lot of “I want” and “I need” – ask your partner if they’re happy. Ask if they’re feeling satisfied. Ask if there’s anything they’ve been wanting to say, wanting to talk about, wanting to bring up. Ask if there’s something they want to try, a fantasy that’s been on their mind lately, have you done something that they really liked that you can make note of to keep up?

Then – depending on their answers of course – bring up sex toys. Have they ever thought about them? Tried them before? Maybe your partner already has some and you’re just wanting to add to their collection – but do they want that or are they more than delighted with what they’ve got? If they are interested, where do they think they’d like to start?

“Sex Toys” is an enormously broad category of objects for lots of different body parts and functions so this can be a tricky question to answer. We can break it down into a few different angles of approach.

How To Choose Your Sex Toy Gift

1 ) What body part do they want to stimulate? Obviously a pair of nipple clamps won’t give your partner a G-spot orgasm, so we’ve got to find out where they want or need or like stimulation to happen (or perhaps they’re already getting enough stimulation in their “main” area and want to explore what other parts of their body feel like. That’s also fine, you just have to know where you’re focusing on)

2 ) How do they want it stimulated/how can that part of the body be stimulated. Again, a dildo won’t provide suction, a butt plug isn’t going to tickle… This and the previous question sort of work in tandem. If they want to try a vibrator, that can be used basically anywhere on or in the body. “Air pulse” can be used mostly anywhere, but it’s most effective on the clit. True suction becomes a bit more limiting and should be only external. E-stim toys can be used most places. If your partner want’s to have a “full” sensation then the toy has to be inside their body, a clit or penis or nipple toy won’t cut it. There’s thumping and tapping and rotating and pulsing, buzzy, rumbly, zappy, swirly – you name it, some gadget does it. So what’s the overall experience they’re after? How can that be achieved?

Is there just a certain sensation they want to experience, or is there a whole fantasy attached to the use of this toy? This is where you start to come into the picture as well, with what your intentions behind suggesting the toy are. What do both of you want to see, hear, feel when this toy is in use? There doesn’t have to be any deep meaning or narrative behind it – sometimes a sex toy is just a sex toy, sometimes it’s as plain as better/bigger/more/different/easier/etc orgasms – but there’s plenty of ways sex toys can be used to aid in fantasies that are difficult or impossible to carry out otherwise, so take this part to talk about why or how the addition of toys is going to “spice up your sex life” like you intended. Your partner may be telling you that they just want a simple vibrator but your fantasy was double-penetration, or anal, or CBT, or something else. Is there a way to merge the two, is there a compromise, or maybe you’re buying two different sex toys to satisfy two different needs – find out!

3 ) How do you want to use the toy? Is this for solo time, partnered time but more in a parallel-play way, partnered while you’re having penetrative sex, long-distance play? Size and shape can play a big role in how all of those work out. Does it need a remote, do you want to connect your phone to it, do you want it to sync up with the music you’re playing? Does it need a suction cup, does it need to be vac-u-lock or harness compatible? Does it need to be rechargeable, does it need to be mains-powered? Do you want to use it in the shower/bath/hot tub so it needs to be waterproof? Do you want to go hands-free, should it be “wearable”, are there certain sizes or shapes or weights that would be better or worse for comfort (some toys come with handles or more comfortable “grips”, there are lots of identical shapes that come in different weights so someone with pain issues would probably find the lighter one easier to use, etc

4 ) What can your partner actually use? Turning a fantasy into a reality is not always easy, or even possible. There are LOTS of sex toys out there that I lust after, but I know that it wont physically fit inside my body. They may be exactly what I want and I wouldn’t be lying if I named them when someone asks me “what sex toy do you want?” – but I quite literally cannot use them. I can go down the whole list of features of that toy that are what I like about it and why I want it…but I can’t use it. It’s not the right toy for me, no matter what. There are lots of toys out there that I know wont actually be able to deliver the stimulation I need. There are lots of toys out there I simply don’t have the place to store! Desires are a large percentage of how you’ll determine what to buy, but don’t ignore limitations and practicalities.

5 ) The logistics – what’s your budget, what material is desirable (is it body-safe, how will you clean it), how will you store it, etc.

How To Buy Your Sex Toy Gift

Once you’ve had this conversation and gotten a much clearer idea of exactly what you’re looking for – instead of just buying and praying – you can actually purchase it!

This is the part that brings some of that fun back into the equation. Sex toy shopping together – whether in-person or online – can still feel thrilling and naughty, even if the purchase itself isn’t a surprise anymore. There’s plenty of opportunity to take the information you gathered from your chat and apply it in a titillating way – find the item(s) that fit the category you’re looking for and tell your partner how good they would look wearing that one, how much you’d love to see them using this one, can they imagine what those would feel like on/in them, etc etc. You can start fantasizing about what you’re going to do when you get home/when the toy arrives. A lot of toys come in several different colors, or maybe together you narrowed it down to several possible options that all look equally good – at that point you could say “okay, now I’m going to choose” and surprise your partner that way. Maybe you’ve had this conversation well in advance, and the surprise is that you swing by the sex shop on the way home from your next date night, or you get them a gift card for a holiday that they can spend on exactly what they like. Doing it this way doesn’t have to feel as mundane or utilitarian as grocery shopping, you just have to be a little creative.

There may come a time where you have had enough conversations and have gotten to know your partner well enough that 100% surprise sex toys could be a thing that isn’t rife with potential pitfalls, but that time is probably not right now, and certainly not if this is your first foray into bringing sex toys into your relationship. What having a discussion about each other’s wants lacks in spontaneity, it should make up for ten times over in actually reaching the desired outcome – which is more pleasure!

If you’re looking for suggestions on where to shop, you’ll find my list of preferred online retailers on my Sales Page. A few of these also have brick-and-mortar store locations, and I’ve got a handful of some other in-person shopping suggestions around the US and Canada that you can drop me a line about.