Even if you’re super familiar with how to use sex toys while masturbating, whipping toys out with partners can feel like a whole other story. And while it’s not an exact science, you might have some questions about how to get started. Luckily for you, in a lot of ways, there’s not a huge difference between using a toy with a partner and using one on yourself. In fact, you can probably use most of the toys you masturbate with during partnered play, too.
That said, having a partner there opens up a lot of new possibilities, too—both in terms of partner-specific toys and techniques that require an extra pair of hands. Either way, sex toys can be a strong addition to any sex life if all parties are curious. Below, find everything you need to know about how to use sex toys with a partner, from choosing the right equipment to getting creative.
First, why use sex toys?
Okay, maybe you’re not convinced—and that’s okay. Sex toys definitely aren’t for everyone or every couple. But in case you’re on the fence, there are a few solid benefits to using sex toys worth mentioning. Firstly and most obviously…they’re fun. “Sex is the adult version of the playground,” sex therapist Rosara Torrisi, L.C.S.W., Ph.D., tells SELF. “It’s where we’re allowed to let go and be playful. And with that in mind, you can use anything you want on the playground, including toys.”
Beyond that, though, plenty of people—especially people with vaginas—require certain types of stimulation in order to have an orgasm. Specifically, most people with vaginas require at least some clitoral stimulation to get off, according to the Mayo Clinic. And while you certainly don’t need a vibrator to play with your clitoris, it can help, especially if you need more powerful stimulation than you or your partner can administer on your own. Plenty of people can only get off with the help of a vibrator, and that’s nothing to be ashamed about.
Even taking orgasms off the table (which is a very legit approach to sex), toys offer sensations that you simply can’t experience without them. So the question is, why not use toys?
Wait, what kind of sex toys are we talking about?
Any sex toy you want! But just to make sure we’re on the same page, let’s talk about some of the most common toys and accessories available that you might want to use as a couple.
Couple-specific toys: While any toy can be a couple’s toy when you put your mind to it, there are some toys on the market specifically for partnered play, certified sex therapist Courtney Geter, L.M.F.T., tells SELF. A lot of them are designed with P-in-V sex in mind, such as the Paloqueth Couples Vibrator ($27), which can be inserted into the vagina during penetration to provide sensation for the clitoris, G-spot, and partner’s penis all at once.
Vibrators: As you probably know, there are a ton of different types of vibrators available, from external wands and bullets to insertable vibrators and rabbits. Which is right for you depends on how you want to use it, but for partnered sex, there are a few things to consider. For example, the size and shape of an external vibe can be important if you want to use it during penetration or if you want your partner to be able to hold it comfortably from certain angles.
Dildos, plugs, and strap-ons: Basically, anything you can use to penetrate one another, either vaginally or anally. This category can overlap with the vibrator category, btw. Plenty of vibrators are dildos or plugs and vice versa.
BDSM and other sensation play toys: Some BDSM enthusiasts would prefer to call these accessories instead of toys, but whatever you want to call them, they should certainly be on your radar. Think of these as anything that helps you play with the five senses, from bondage tape to blindfolds. And for more information on sensation play products, check out this roundup.
Okay, ready for some tips?
1. Make sure everyone is on board.
The first step to using toys is to make sure everyone involved wants to use toys. It might involve a conversation. But don’t worry if you or your partner have some initial hesitations. There’s still a lot of societal weirdness about using sex toys as a couple. You might have internalized the narrative that a good partner is supposed to be “enough” for you and your needs, no toys required. Meanwhile, it’s not like sex toys make an appearance in traditional sex scenes we see in movies and television (or even a lot of mainstream porn). With all this messaging, it’s no wonder some people feel uncertain about introducing toys to a partnership.
Even if you’re both pro-toy, it’s also smart to make sure you’re both on board with the safe sex practices you’ll use if necessary when sharing toys, like putting a new condom on a dildo after you’ve used it but before using it on your partner. If you need some extra guidance in talking to your partner about all of the above, check out this article on the subject. It will walk you through the whole awkward conversation.
2. Shop for a toy together to build up anticipation.
If you’re truly a beginner to using sex toys together, it can be a really good idea to follow your curiosities and familiarize yourself with what options are out there. More than that, it’s an incredible opportunity to talk with your partner about your interests and can double as foreplay.
“There can be a complete lack of communication between partners about what they like,” says Torrisi. “To be able to say, ‘Hey, let’s use this toy,’ means ‘Hey, I like this sort of thing’ or ‘Hey, I’m curious about this.’”
You can do this online or in person (when it’s safe to do so in your area, COVID-19 allowing). When you shop in a boutique, you have the advantage of seeing and feeling toys IRL, which might give you a better idea of what you like. Plus, there are salespeople there who can answer your questions for you, and if you find something you like, you get to take it home and use it right away. (Just be mindful of other people—the excitement of browsing sex toys with a partner in public is great, but you don’t want to be so explicit that you involve other people without their consent.)
Meanwhile, shopping online is private, which might give you more space to talk comfortably about what draws you to certain toys and how you’d use them—and you can go into a lot more detail than you would in public. Sure, you have to wait for it to arrive once you order it, but hey, there’s something to be said for anticipation.
3. Use toys all over your body.
When it comes to sex toys that are typically used on your genitals, like a vibrator or a dildo, people don’t tend to think outside the box. But Torrisi encourages people to explore their entire body with a toy, whether that means experimenting with how vibration feels on your nipples or how the smooth silicone of a dildo feels running down your back.
“Don’t use a new toy on your genitals the first time,” she advises. “Play with it on your skin along the whole rest of your body and just see what that feels like.”
There are exceptions to this tip, of course. When using something outside its intended purpose, make sure it’s safe. This applies primarily to anal play; anything you put up your butt should have a flared base, so it doesn’t get stuck up there. Because yes, that happens. Beyond that, common sense goes a long way.
4. Stimulate yourself during penetration.
Like I mentioned above, a big reason people with vaginas may have trouble orgasming during penetration is the lack of clitoral stimulation. There’s nothing wrong with taking the reins there while your partner penetrates you. Get your hands on an unobtrusive clit vibrator like the We-Vibe Touch ($52) or the Fin Finger Vibrator ($85, Dame) so you can figure out what feels good for you. Switching up positions helps too; you’ll probably find it’s easier to hold a vibrator justright, say, while riding on top of your partner than on your hands and knees.
5. Experiment with edging.
Toys are especially handy when it comes to edging, the act of getting yourself or a partner close to orgasm but stopping before it actually happens. You know, pushing each other to the edge of orgasm and backing off. Not only is it equal parts teasing and sexy, but it also helps you and your partner tune into exactly what needs to happen to make each other orgasm.
Because so many people with vaginas use toys to achieve orgasm—like the MVP of many sex toy drawers, the Magic Wand ($60)—they can be perfect tools for edging.
6. Go remote.
Some toys–specifically vibrators and vibrating plugs—come with a remote, which can come in handy in a variety of ways. For one, it can save you and your partner the hassle of fiddling with awkwardly placed buttons in the middle of sex. It can also give you or your partner even more control over the other’s pleasure, allowing you to choose the intensity and pattern of the vibrations. Which, hot.
Even better: Some remote-controlled toys even work long-distance with the help of apps, whether you want to tease your partner from a separate room or from entirely different homes. Popular couple toy brand We-Vibe has a lot of options in this category, including their wearable clit panty vibe ($130) and a prostate massager ($142).
7. Play with all of your senses.
We mentioned sensation play above, but it’s worth expanding on. According to Torrisi, there are many ways to get creative with your senses during sex with the help of toys—and some don’t even require specialty toys. For example, you can experiment with temperature. Metal toys, like the cult-favorite Pure Wand ($150), retain temperature when you run them under hot or cold water. There are also warming toys like the Doc Johnson iWand ($64) that you might find feel great on all your erogenous zones.
Don’t forget sensory deprivation, either. The touch of a toy can feel so much more intense without your sense of sight, for instance. If you’re intrigued, try this set of simple satin blindfolds ($7).
8. Find ways to reverse roles.
Toys provide a ton of opportunities to play in ways you wouldn’t normally be able to. On that note, toys can aid sexy role reversals between you and your partner. This can be based on stereotypical gender roles (or just, you know, your genitals), like using a strap-on to penetrate a partner who normally penetrates you, asking them to perform oral sex on a strap-on when you usually blow them, or playing with traditionally gendered clothes and accessories.
But a role reversal can mean anything you want it to. Maybe that’s using restraints on a partner who is normally more dominant or using gentle and soft toys on someone who typically loves it rough. Like Torrisi mentioned above, it’s your playground. You and your partners get to decide together what roles you’re playing every time you show up.
9. Masturbate together.
Using toys together doesn’t have to mean using toys on each other. Mutual masturbation is an equally valid way to explore your bodies, show each other what you’re into, and get off together. Also, if your partner has a penis and isn’t used to masturbating with toys, now is a great time to introduce them to some options like the Fleshlight Flight Pilot Male Masturbator ($50) or the Hot Octopuss Pulse Solo Essential ($100).
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