How vibrators and other sex toys can boost the intimacy in your relationship—and even your health

By Lisa Murphy

Sex toys for healthy (and happy!) relationships

Here’s a not-so-dirty little secret: sex is good for you! It may lengthen your life, boost your heart health and immune system, reduce pain and stress and improve your sleep, according to a report co-authored by Beverly Whipple, professor emerita at Rutgers University and co-author of The Science of Orgasm and The G Spot: And Other Discoveries about Human Sexuality.

As for sex toys, there’s no evidence yet that they directly improve health, but they can definitely help you express yourself sexually. “For people who are comfortable using them, they bring a lot of pleasure to self-stimulation or stimulation with a partner,” says Whipple.

More and more women are using vibrators these days, especially those under 30. And while it’s a good thing that sex accessories are allowing women to take pleasure, er, into their own hands, it’s often a win-win for both partners. “Research shows that women who are highly sexual are more likely to be using vibrators,” says Edward Herold, professor emeritus in the department of family relations and applied nutrition at the University of Guelph, and co-author of Human Sexuality in a World of Diversity.

Although some women worry that their partner will find sex toys threatening, they can actually help couples enjoy a more fun and adventurous sex life. “Couples who have a more playful attitude towards sex have a more satisfying sexual relationship,” he adds.

Not sure if your partner would find sex toys a turn-on or a turn-off? Try introducing the topic in stages. Sarah Forbes-Roberts, co-owner of Come As You Are in Toronto, likes an idea she read by New York sex educator and writer Ducky Doolittle: “Pick up a book about sex, bring it home, and you can each circle the parts you like,” she says. “Have that conversation before you come into the store together and buy something.”

Once you’re ready to buy, check out female-friendly, online stores such as comeasyouare.com, womynsware.com and goodforher.com, which make shopping a breeze with product reviews and tips. “Having a date night to shop online can be fun, even if you don’t purchase anything,” Forbes-Roberts says. Plus, you can still call the store for guidance, and rest assured that your delivery will arrive in discreet packaging. Consider going to the retail outlets of these stores, too. “It’s empowering to touch the products that you’re considering using and to speak to a person who understands what you’re working to achieve,” says Andrea Dobbs of Womyns’Ware in Vancouver.

Sex toys that are good for beginners include egg-shaped vibrators, vibrating penis rings and a new product called the We-Vibe, which can be worn during intercourse to the delight of both partners. “Lots of men enjoy vibration, too,” explains Forbes-Roberts. You want a toy that can be shared, agrees Dobbs. She likes their exclusive products such as the Liberty Bell and the Swinger’s Pad. Lots of couples also swear by the Hitachi Magic Wand. “Plug-ins provide a lot more intensity—plus, it just looks like a regular massager,” says Herold.

Whatever your choice, be sure to buy sex toys made with safe materials such as non-porous 100 percent silicone and phthalate-free rubber products, which can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals but are still soft, unlike Pyrex or stainless steel models. “Do your research if the product you’re considering isn’t silicone, stainless steel, lucite, elastomer or food-grade vinyl,” adds Dobbs. When in doubt, use a condom on the toy—and definitely use one if you’re sharing it. Washing sex toys with soap and a sex toy cleaner after each use also prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections—ensuring that you’ll be having good, clean fun for a long time to come.

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Web exclusive: October 2008

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