Toying with buying a sex toy? There are plenty of reasons to invest: beyond the obvious fact that they can increase pleasure and sexual satisfaction for you or a lover (including by providing the direct, sustained clitoral stimulation that research published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy stated that 36% of women require in order to orgasm during intercourse), they can also introduce new, exciting sensations and experiences that help prevent your playtime from feeling stale, dry and repetitive.
Bullets, butt plugs and the like can bring benefits to your body and bedroom that you may not have been aware of. For example, many gynaecologists now recommend that patients going through the menopause use vibrators to increase blood flow to the pelvis and help to activate and tone internal muscles; this aids in warding off painful conditions such as vaginal atrophy (deterioration of the tissues inside the vagina). Certain studies have even suggested that sex toy use may result in improvements in sleep quality, and reduce overnight menopausal sweats and hot flushes.
For guys, there are gadgets that can help with both erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, assisting you to gain and maintain a firm erection that sticks up and sticks around: something reports state that an estimated 5 million men in the UK have encountered issues with.
But speaking of sticking, it's easy to get stuck on how to navigate your way through Toy Town when the sheer variety of X-rated items on offer in 2021 is so vast (and some items are eye-poppingly vast themselves - this gargantuan insertable is modelled on an army boot, for those who need a literal kick up the arse between the sheets).
So: here's a brief guide to the main features you'll need to consider when weighing up your options, and the best s-examples of products in each of the key categories of toy.
How to choose the best sex toy for you
What style of touch and stimulation technique do I enjoy, and whereabouts on my body?
If you're new to toys, then thinking about how you like to stimulate yourself or what you enjoy from a partner and aiming to replicate that in a device is a fab starting point. Do you like gentle caresses, firmer presses, or do you need more intense sensation to get you off? Do you prefer external tickles, internal stroking, or a combination? Do you think something that twirls or thrusts, or would a toy that delivers sucking or licking feelings be more your cup of tea?
You may well see vibrations described as either "buzzy" or "rumbly": the latter are stronger, and travel deeper into the body to stimulate more nerve endings, so many people find them more orgasmic, but others find them overwhelming and too extreme and prefer a lighter flickering buzz.
What materials would I like my new boudoir buddy to be made of?
Silicones are soft, luxurious and velvety, but can attract dust and can be a little more delicate than harder plastics. Metals, glass and ceramics (yes, you can get porcelain dildos, aka Terracocka, like those by Fine Bone) can be chilled or heated with warm water for temperature play.
Make sure your toy is manufactured from body-safe stuff. It shouldn't be porous, as tiny holes can trap bacteria and dirt that's bad for your bits, and it's wise to avoid phthalates, which are chemicals that make plastics more flexible, durable and soft, but which have been linked to cancer and hormone interference. Steer clear of 'jelly' items for both these reasons. The sex toy industry isn't well regulated, so it's frequently best to opt for reputable brands rather than churned-out cheap products that may have less-than-cheerful consequences.
How about shape and size?
Do you think the toy you're considering is a good match for your personal anatomy? Does its form and flexibility look like it would fit your body well, or does a probing part look a bit too long, short, or pointy, or too rounded to deliver the precision stimulation you prefer?
Regarding size: people's eyes are often bigger than the bits below their belly button. Even if you dream of eventually taking something the size of a traffic cone, it's best to start small and work up if you don't want the experience to be a car crash.
If it needs power, should that be mains supply, rechargeable or batteries?
Plug-in mains toys deliver stallion levels of horse power, but their cables can be a pest. USB rechargeable toys are better than battery-powered alternatives, but you have to wait for them to charge; if your rabbit fizzles out mid-session, you can't just pop more Energizers in your bunny.
How big a concern is volume?
We're talking about loudness here, for those of you still hung up on size. Some mains toys sound like Jason Vorhees is under your duvet, revving his chainsaw, and may make your family/flatmates/neighbours want to murder you. But pretty much any toy that claims to be "whisper quiet" is a bigger liar than Pinocchio at his most nasally maximal.
Do I want something straightforward and simple, or a more techy toy with an app? If I opt for something internet connected, how secure and safe is it?
Many vibrating toys brag that they offer more different rhythms of buzz than there are at a rave in a beehive, but some folks actually find those pulsing patterns aggravating, and would prefer a vibe that they could simply set at their favourite speed and keep it there.
A lot of top-of-the-range gadgets now can be custom controlled via a mobile phone app, and can be operated this way remotely, allowing partners to connect and play even if they're in dramatically different postcodes. Smart toys like this aren't always optimally secure, though; to assess the risk of problems like your data being gathered without your knowledge, or your toy being hacked, Mozilla's annual 'Privacy Not Included' guide is handy as heck.
Do I need my toy to be fully waterproof?
Like to get touchy feely in the tub? Find that a locked bathroom door and the noise of the shower is the perfect opportunity for you to grab a private moment of discreet me time? Then make sure submersion in H2O isn't a no go.
Once you've contemplated your As to the Qs above, you should have a better idea of what might tickle your pickle - or some other part of you. The following toys blow, suck, and reverberate the competition out of the water. We've divided them roughly according to which area of the body they're intended for, but several are designed to be multi-purpose.
(NB. Please don't insert anything into an anus that doesn't have a flared base, though: whilst the vagina is a cul-de-sac, and it's hard for anything to truly get lost up there, bottoms are more bottomless, and rear door toys must be shaped to ensure they remain anchored to the outside world and don't disappear where the sun don't shine.)READ NEXT: The best vibrators to buy
The best sex toys for clitorises, vaginas and vulvas
The best bullet vibrators and other small toys for clitoral/external use
1. We-Vibe Tango
An updated version of the legendary Tango - long considered the dancing queen of bullet-shaped vibrators by multiple sexperts - this pocket rocket packs enormous rumbly power into a lipstick-sized toy. It's been upgraded with a grippy silicone handle (the tip is glossy plastic); a travel lock to stop it unsuitably activating in your suitcase; a better battery life, and a broader range of vibration intensities. If you want a small vibe that's proved its brilliance time and time again, Tan-go for this.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; 120 min run time; waterproofBuy now from Lovehoney
2. Dame Kip
Just the tickly ticket for people who find the Tango X too hard, as this is made from medical grade silicone and has a little touch of flex in the tip. Dame are known for making sleek, millennial-modern-looking products in non-traditional colours like yellow, green and lavender. Gorgeous aesthetics, ergonomics, and cool cult status. 'Kip' is slang for a little sleep; this is almost guaranteed to give you a 'little death'.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; 120 min run time; waterproofBuy now from Cult Beauty
3. Iroha Ukidama
This Japanese-designed multi-talented delight doubles as a softly glowing light that floats in the bath, as well as acting as a delicate all-over body massager/vibrator. Use it just to chill, or to give yourself a thrill.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; 60 min run time; waterproofBuy now from Tenga
The best suction toys and inventive stimulators
1. Womanizer Premium Eco Smart Silence Clitoral Stimulator
This German brand are inventors of the much-copied "pleasure air technology": a genuinely revolutionary form of stimulation that uses rapid pulses of air to excite the clitoris without direct contact. Their Premium Eco model takes the Number 1 spot in this list.
The Smart Silence function means it only turns on when it's touching the body - if you're interrupted during a moment of passion, there's no scrabbling for the off button. As well as 12 intensity settings, it has an 'Autopilot' option where they vary at random, so each sexperience is a surprise.
For this latest iteration, inspiration has been taken from thought-leading green names like Gaia, who make vibrators from biodegradable plant-based materials; the Premium Eco is cast from recyclable, renewable Biolene, and its USB rechargeable battery can be replaced after 300 cycles rather than throwing the whole unit away. The fact that this company have managed to make the word Womanizer (!) so celebrated amongst British women speaks to how well their products perform.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; 240 min run time; splashproofBuy now from Lovehoney
2. Zumio X SpiroTIP Clitoral Stimulator
Looks like a water pick for your teeth; is actually the most pinpoint stimulator available for your clitoris. It works by drawing teeny tiny circles on your skin at high speeds for a sensation of exceedingly concentrated energy. If you want something that hits your hot spot like an arrow, this would win an archery contest - and it's already bagged umpteen A'Design and XBiz awards for innovation and efficacy.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; waterproof
3. The Lora Di Carlo range
If you're itching for brand new automated experiences and cutting edge ideas, then check out LDC, the mad professors of erotic luxury (if you're itching for any other reason, see your GP).
They use micro-robotics to create toys that simulate the feeling of fingers beckoning 'come hither' in the G-area; tongues lapping at labia; and fingertips tapping at clitorises. They also provide free 'Wellness Coaching' sessions via Zoom (bookable on LoraDiCarlo.com) where you can ask an expert any questions you have and learn how to get the most out of any purchase you make.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; waterproofBuy now from Ann Summers
The best rabbit vibrators to buy
Invented in Japan around 1983, the rabbit vibrator originally had a trio of cutesy cousins: a kangaroo, a beaver and a neon green turtle...but it was the deliciously reverberating ears of the bunny, combined with its trademark combo of clitoral and internal stimulation, which caused it to be the breed that hopped to fame.
1. Ann Summers Whisper Quiet G-Spot Petite Rabbit Vibrator
Both Ann Summers and Sh! Women's Store claim to have introduced the rabbit to British shores. The former is so closely associated with it in the public eye that it informs their current logo, and its rabbit gets a nod from us for two main reasons: firstly, it operates at just 35 decibels - for comparison, a babbling brook sits at about 40, while a fridge hums around 45, so it's genuinely fairly quiet (although you wouldn't get away with using it in a library). Secondly, its smaller dimensions make it helpful for people who find the distance between the shaft and the arm of most standard rabbits too large to hit the right places on their body: a problem that - ahem - 'Bugs' many.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; waterproofBuy now from Ann Summers
2. Lovehoney Desire Luxury Rechargeable Rabbit Vibrator
A great all-rounder with plenty of oomph. 8 modes of vibration, each with 12 speeds so you can fully customise how you rabbit on. Comes in a neat case that you can discreetly charge it inside.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; waterproofBuy now from Lovehoney
3. Kandid Ribbed Rabbit Vibrator
This one's a yoga bunny: it has an exceptional degree of flex to help it mould to the body, along with rumbly-for-a-rabbit vibrations, a smart ribbed navy silicone finish and dual motors for double the fun.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; waterproofBuy now from Kandid
The best dildos to buy
Let me do my due dil-igence and inform you that a dildo is a sex toy intended for penetration, but which doesn't vibrate (although there are exceptions; the toy world loves to cross-pollinate). Some silicone dildos can be fitted inside strap-on harnesses so they can be worn by a partner for acts such as pegging (anal penetration).
Dildos come in a squillion different styles, but here are three of the best who make 'poking fun' a true art:
1. Godemiche: Best silicone dildo
Hand-poured silicone stupendousness in every size, shape and colour you could wish for, from swirling glittery 'galaxy' effects to glow-in-the-dark goodness. Pick 'n' dix, if you will.Buy now from G Silicone
2. Glacier Glass Aura Beaded Wand Dildo: Best glass dildo
Ultra-robust borosilicate glass with a classy pearlized finish that looks pricier than it is.Buy now from Bondara
3. Adele Brydges: Best ceramic dildo
Art for your parts. Adele is queen of her craft: indulge in one of her designer marbled creations, or book into a workshop and decorate your own hollow porcelain piece, which can be filled with water to alter its temperature and weight.Buy now from Adele Brydges
The best wand vibrators
Wand vibrators have a reputation for being able to conjure up a climax even from previously anorgasmic people, thanks to their enormous power; they rumble so rigorously that they can even cast this spell through clothes, although it comes at the price of frequently sounding like a hoard of Minions with pneumatic drills. The broad surface area of their domed heads mean vibrations travel deeply and widely through the body.
They were made infamous by Hitachi, although their classic offering looks decidedly clinical and clunky now, next to today's wizarding wonders:
1. Doxy Extra Powerful Purple Die Cast Wand Vibrator
The crème de la crème of plug-in wands. Doxy's aluminium and titanium alloy beauty kicks like a donkey doing the Can-Can, and has such weighty heft that you could knock a robber out with it. A professional bit of kit for those who really want to get down to business.
Key specs - Mains powered; not waterproofBuy now from Lovehoney
2. Le Wand Petite Mini Rechargeable Wand Vibrator
A smaller, lighter option for those who don't want to be encumbered by cords. Look out for Le Wand's fun limited edition prints, too.
Key specs - USB rechargeable; splashproof