5 tips for how to use a vibrator for the first time | Lioness
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5 tips for how to use a vibrator for the first time

Researching Sex Toys

Advice from a sex toy designer

You’ll never forget your firsts. First crush, first lover, first vibrator. All of them can be extremely confusing to navigate. If you have questions about navigating love, I don’t think I’m your gal... but as someone who knows plenty about sex toys and has built some as well, I can certainly help you navigate the trials and tribulations of buying your first vibrator and learning how to use sex toys. I’ll tell you my mistakes so hopefully you can feel a little bit less in the dark when you buy your first (or second) toy.

My first vibrator

My first experience with a vibrator was pretty awful. I bought it at Spencer’s (with cash, of course). I was 16 years old and knew I technically wasn’t supposed to be doing this, and I was also at the age where everything I did felt mortifying. But mortifying or not, I was very interested in trying this, so my curiosity overrode fears of being caught or embarrassed.

I waded through a sea of pink and purple jelly rubber to find something that didn’t look like a penis or something that came out of My Little Pony porn until I found a simple yellow one (glow-in-the-dark, too).

I rushed to the register to check out, and while there, debated the entire time whether to make eye contact with the cashier (which makes me look more “casual” about this transaction?). I might or might not have jerkily made and broke eye contact multiple times. I’m pretty sure he looked bored. I rushed out of the store as quickly as possible.

I thought that garnering the courage to buy it would be the hard part, but I was wrong. Using the damn thing was a whole ‘nother ordeal. After destroying and disposing of the packaging in a way that I’m pretty sure no one would never identify what it once housed—maybe they’d think the little pieces of the packaging were the start of a serial killer letter instead, which would be ok—I had to find batteries for it (they required weird ones, not your common AA or AAA batteries), so I had to dig deep in my parent’s utility closet until I could find something.

Batteries in place, I turned it on… Looking back, that thing barely even vibrated. It was your standard plastic vibrating stick that was cheaply built (I think I bought it for roughly $20). It didn’t do a damn thing for me. I remember even trying to use it as a dildo, and the size and the plastic feeling felt alien and so, so uncomfortable in a very bad way. The cheapness made it feel strangely violating. I couldn’t use it again. I hid it inside the back of my drawer until I found an opportunity to dispose of it somewhere my family would never find it. (Dexter’s got nothing on teenage girls buying sex toys)

glow-in-the-dark vibrator
Mine was more yellow than green, but you get the idea. The glowing was kinda cool though.

Tip #1. Don’t let your first experience define everything

My experience was pretty abysmal. But I was pretty determined to find something that’d work for me since I heard so many good things about vibrators online, so I kept trying different things through college and onward, learning about the different types of products out there until I found stuff that I liked.

But I know a lot of people who use their first experience with a vibrator or sex toy to decide whether or not sex toys are for them. It’s a real bummer, since there are a lot of low-quality products out there (not just inexpensive ones, either) that won’t work well for a lot of people—but you won’t necessarily know that buying something the first time.

After all, trying anything sexually for the first time can be all sorts of awkward and uncomfortable. I’ve yet to encounter an (honest) first sexual encounter story that is anything but that.

I don’t think my first experience is that uncommon, and for those of you who are nervous or didn’t have a great first experience either, I’d say don’t let that be indicative of what it might be going forward. There’s a lot we don’t know when we first get into something (sex stuff and beyond), and I’m going to go over some things that might help you should you go out and find something new in the future.

garbage in garbage out

2. Quality is absolutely essential

I wish I could underline that ten times. Don’t cut corners on your sex toys. Not only are many of them designed to sell in large quantities like at a Spencer’s (designed to sell, not to use), many of those toys are also made with pretty low-quality materials to optimize for every nickel and dime of profit. And if they made things with low-quality materials, you know they cut corners elsewhere, too. I’ve opened up enough vibrators that have weird pieces of tape/shoddy wires/all sorts of things that you wouldn’t see in even most other consumer electronics. Some were downright dangerous.

Don’t put bad things in there

Why do materials matter?

Well, if you’re planning on using your toy vaginally or anally, that part of your body is far better at absorbing materials than the rest of your skin. Chemicals can jump into the bloodstream without metabolizing (versus if you were to ingest something orally). Mucus membranes are great for that.

So, those cheap rubber/plastic toys? A lot of them have phthalates, parabens, and other shit that you don’t want circulating in your body. You may not feel immediate effects, but like smoking or other things that aren’t great for you, it might not seem THAT bad right now, but they could compound over time and be a bigger problem for you later. If that’s not convincing to you, I’ve had a number of vibrators of varying price points literally melt in room temperature. Yeah, that’s going into your body. Get something that’s not shitty for yourself.

It feels and acts as low-quality as it is

Also, if they skimped on not just materials, but sensations (vibration) and wiring, the vibrator might not vibrate in a way that’s comfortable for you (or a lot of people, in some cases). There have been some vibrators that have such small/low vibrations that I don’t know many people who’d enjoy them, if at all. And in the case of wiring...if it’s designed with shoddy wiring, you can bet it’ll go kaput after only a few uses.

So if you want to invest in your pleasure, get something that’s built well. With something as simple as a standard vibrator, there are a bunch of great companies at a wide range of price points these days. Get something with a brand that’s been around for a little while or prides themselves on being transparent about the materials they use for their products. Don’t get something that looks like it’s coming direct from a questionably named manufacturer that looks like it could disappear overnight, since they’re less likely to care about materials and their brand’s long-term reputation and more about simply moving dollars and units.

lube is your friend

3. Lube is your friend

If lube isn’t already your friend, introduce yourself to a few great lubricants now. A good sex lubricant is not only a way to mechanically make it easier to use sex toys, it also helps you feel more comfortable and can help you have awesome sex by yourself and with a partner, too.

It kind of sucks when you’re feeling dry and are trying to use something that feels like it’s chafing at you. Then that discomfort causes you to lose interest, get distracted… and it becomes an unsexy cycle that can leave you empty-handed (and frustrated).

If you’re interested but need a bit of help getting into the swing of things, a great lube can do the trick. I wrote a pretty comprehensive article on some of the different lubes out there (and my pal Anna has one specifically for anal play here if that’s your thing). Like sex toys it’s a vast world, but hopefully these introductions can arm you with information for what to look for.

Vibration

4. Vibration (or whatever method of stimulation you choose) matters a lot

For vibrators, you might have heard about vibrators that are more “rumbly” versus “buzzy”. What many people are describing here is that certain vibrators have higher frequencies than others, which feels less “substantial” and more “fluttery.”

While one certainly sounds like it should be better—and the majority of people do prefer “rumbly”—there are some people who pretty buzzier vibrations, which is fine. On certain corners of the internet, you have some who proselytize the gospel of rumble but there isn’t any right or wrong way to prefer your stimulation if you prefer weaker sensations.

Just know what you’d like and that it’s a factor to keep in mind.

If you get something that doesn’t jive with you, it can suck a lot. I’ll go over what factors into a stronger or weaker sensation, and what you can do if you get something that is too strong or weak for you.

Here’s what contributes to a stronger or weaker vibrator:

  • The size of the vibrating motor: bigger usually equals stronger vibrations and lower frequency (deeper rumble).
  • Where the motor is placed: closer to the body usually means stronger vibration, further means it needs to travel and will get weaker before the vibration reaches the surface.
  • The metal used in the vibrating motor—denser metals usually pack more punch, when in the same form factor, than less dense metals like stainless steel (our company Lioness uses tungsten motors for this reason).
  • The material of the sex toy itself—for the sciencey folks out there, think about how vibration moves through a material—more rubbery materials will be easier for vibration to travel than stiffer plastics. Vibrators where the vibrating part is a flappy part of silicone will usually be weaker than something where the vibration is right next to the part of the body you wish to stimulate.
  • The power of the battery or power source—more power equals more ability to vibrate stronger and harder for longer periods of time. (Again, to give an example from Lioness, which I know best—we could either make our tungsten motor weaker, last like 3 minutes, or stuff a way bigger battery in there. We chose the latter).

If you’re buying your very first vibrator or are not quite sure what you’d like yet, I’d still lean towards buying something that would be described on the more rumbly side. Why? Because it’s easier to muffle down a vibrator that is a bit too strong than to try and make a weaker vibrator stronger.

If the vibrator feels too strong for you, you can put a cloth between you and the vibrator to dampen the vibrations. If it’s too weak but you like other parts of the vibrator (like the shaft part or something else), you may want to do some manual stimulation or even get a separate, inexpensive-but-well-built bullet vibrator to get the sensation you’re looking for.

It’s not uncommon to add different toys and sensations, especially if you have a collection of toys and are looking to craft a certain experience. It does require a few extra steps though, which is why I generally recommend going for something on the stronger end since you can fix that on the spot more easily.

5. Try your toy at least a few times

As long as the experience wasn’t awful like my first time was, I recommend trying a new toy at least a few times, in a few different ways, before you determine whether you like it or not. As said previously, the first time trying anything might be a little awkward or confusing, especially if it’s something you’re very new to.

Your health and mindset (stress/what you ate/imbibed that day/etc) can greatly influence how you’re feeling about anything, as well as obvious things like how turned on you were. Some days (or weeks!) you might not be feeling good at all, and your orgasms might feel lackluster for a time. It’s not always the sex toy, there are a lot of things that go into a good experience.

So if you’re able and willing, try it a couple of times over a period of time. Try moving your toy more or less, or using different angles, motions, and techniques. Try it when you’re feeling relaxed. Try it with a partner. Heck, even try a few stimulants like coffee, alcohol, or even cannabis if you’ve found that helps you get in the mood.

Experiment a bit, since if nothing else, getting a sex toy is part of a broader experience of exploring yourself. Even if you encounter something that doesn’t work for you, you can at least learn something about yourself from the experience that you can apply to future encounters.

you got this

Bonus tip: If something doesn’t work for you, there is nothing wrong with you

This may go without saying, but I have heard from some people who feel like they are broken if something doesn’t work for them, especially if they’ve heard crazy positive things about a product from somebody else. If that is the case, there is nothing wrong with you. You are not broken. Everyone’s preferences are so different and there will never be one thing that everyone will like, so it’s a matter of finding what you like.

I know this for a fact—we did thousands of user tests while developing Lioness, and preferences were all over the place. We tried to centralize the “best practices” from all of that to make the best single vibrator we could. But while a lot of people like it lot, it still doesn’t work for some. That’s just reality.

Complicating this all even more, as I mentioned previously, it’s hard to know what you like when first starting out. Even worse, your preferences actually change over time. They did for me over my nearly 20 years of experimenting with this stuff.

Consider the experience of trying a sex toy an exploration into the unknown: kind of unexpected, maybe a little bit scary or nerve-wracking, but potentially exciting and thrilling. Regardless of whether you have a mindblowing orgasm or super pleasurable experience (or not), you’ll know more about yourself than you did before, and you’ll be closer and closer to being in touch with yourself and what’s pleasurable for you. That’s all you should care about. Not the latest “it” toy with whatever reputation it has.

Onward, disciple

Now that I’ve shared some of my learnings, it’s your turn to find a sex toy that’s great for you. Have fun, enjoy the highs, reflect and laugh at failures, and most importantly: enjoy your journey.

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