illustration of three hands — each belonging to a different person — holding a dildo set against a colorblocked peach and light pink background divided by a wavy line. the hand on the left is holding a mauve unicorn dildo, the middle hand is holding a red standard dildo, and the hand on the right is holding a blue dildo with a curved tip.Share on Pinterest
Illustrations by Maya Chastain

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Fantasize about having a cock? Or being double penetrated? Wish you had a way to fill your holes on your own? Always want to try pegging or strap-on sex?

Sexplorers, it’s time to add a dildo to your drawer.

We believe pleasure is a fundamental aspect of a safe and healthy sex life. That’s why we rely on experienced writers, educators, and other experts to share their suggestions on everything from the technique you use to the sex toy you buy.

We only recommend something that we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched — if you know what we mean. Wink.

Glad you asked.

“A dildo is a phallic-shaped toy intended for insertion,” says Lisa Finn, a sex educator at online sex toy boutique Babeland.

Very important: Phallic ≠ looks exactly like a biological penis.

A dildo does *not* need to have veins, a pronounced head, or balls. There are endless options that aren’t shaped to look like a biological penis.

There’s a misconception that dildos are only used by cisgender lesbians. That isn’t the case at all.

“Dildos can be worn, received, and enjoyed by folks of all genders and sexual orientations,” says Sarah Sloane, a sex educator who’s been coaching sex toy classes at Good Vibrations and Pleasure Chest since 2001.

“Using a certain sex toy or enjoying certain sex acts doesn’t change your sexual orientation or gender identity.”

There are probably a billion different types of dildos on the market and just as many reasons someone might want to buy and use one.

To name a few:

  • to affirm gender identity or sexuality, or experience gender euphoria
  • to make penetration possible when it otherwise wouldn’t be due to partner genitalia, erectile dysfunction, relationship status, or partner availability
  • to explore double penetration, alone or with a partner
  • to extend the size of an existing phallus

Think about exactly what you want to use your dildo for and what features you want it to have before handing over your credit card.

If you want to use it anally, make sure it has a base

Ready to read the most important sentence in this whole piece?

If you’re going to put it in your butt, it needs to have a base that’s wider than the thickest part of the dildo.

“The rectum doesn’t have a point of no return the way the vagina does, so you need something to keep it anchored outside the body,” explains Sloane.

Figure out if you want it to be realistic

“For some people, a penis is an incredibly erotic symbol,” says Sloane. “And there are others for whom wearing or being penetrated by a realistic dildo is incredibly affirming for their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

But, she says, “Many people don’t want to be penetrated by something that looks like a penis or wear something that looks like a penis.”

Pleasure-based, queer-inclusive sex educator and sex-positivity advocate Lateef Taylor adds that if you decide you want something different, you have a lot of fun options consider.

Did you know that there are even dildos shaped like swords, tentacles, or sasquatches?

Worth mentioning: Most realistic dildos have a pronounced head.

This can increase the chances of hitting the G-spot during vaginal sex, but you might want to consider something smaller if you plan to use it for beginner anal play.

Think about whether you enjoy vibration

There are two types of vibrating dildos:

  1. dildos like the Lux Touch Sensitive Vibrating Dildo or the Fun Factory ShareVibe, which have a built-in motor in the shaft
  2. dildos like the Riley Vibrating Silicone Dildo, which have an opening on the base that can fit a bullet vibrator

If you buy a non-vibrating dildo and end up wishing it did vibrate, you can always add a vibrating cock ring like the Lelo Tor 2 or We Vibe Pivot, which will send vibration down the shaft to both the wearer and receiver.

Start small

Especially if you’re planning to use it anally.

“Butts are nature’s magnifying glass,” says Sloane. “No matter how small it looks online, in your hand, or on the store shelf, it’s going to feel bigger.”

If you’re new to anal penetration, she recommends starting with something that’s no more than 1-inch around at its thickest insertable point. (The Tantus Silk Small Dildo is a great option).

The same goes for folks who are new to vaginal penetration.

Otherwise, if you already know you enjoy girth, you can start a little wider.

The best dildo for pegging isn’t the same dildo as the best dildo for double penetration which isn’t the best dildo for packing which isn’t the best dildo for oral sex which isn’t — you get the idea.

For prostate stimulation

Finn recommends picking a dildo with a big curve and bulbous tip like the Pegasus Curved Realistic Harness Set.

For A-spot or cervical stimulation

Sloane suggests opting for a long, thin dildo like the nJoy Pure Wand.

For G-spot stimulation

A short, girthy dildo with a pronounced head like the Buck Vixskin Dildo or the Temptasia Elvira Dildo is best.

For double penetration

You could use two separate dildos and put one in each hole, you could connect two dildos with a double-sided suction cup, or you could get a U-shaped double-ended dildo like the Ruse Double Dildo.

To play and pack with

AKA to wear in a sexual or non-sexual setting to give the appearance of a penis or of a larger penis.

You want a dildo made out of dual-density silicone such as the New York Sex Toy Collective Mason or the Emisil Pack and Play Penis, says Taylor.

To give or receive a blow job

Sloane recommends The BJ Dildo.

“It features a small opening at the tip and one at the base, which creates a seal against the wearer’s body so when the giver sucks, a sucking sensation can be felt by the wearer,” explains Sloane.

If you’re a size royal

Finn suggests the Avant Pride P9 Bear Dildo, which is 1.75 inches wide, or the Carter, which is 2 inches wide.

If the wearer or receiver is bigger bodied

Sloane notes that you may want to go longer than you think you need.

“If the wearer has a belly and the receiver has a tush, there’s going to be a few inches that don’t end up getting inserted,” says Sloane.

To extend the size of your current phallus

Finn recommends the (admittedly poorly named) OptiMale PPA Extender.

“This also changes the sensation a penis-owner will feel during sex,” explains Finn. “It’s like adding a textured masturbation sleeve to penetrative sex.”

Porous is another word for “can trap bacteria even after it has been washed.”

Because a dildo is likely to go inside a bacteria-filled crevice, you want something you can get completely, 100-percent clean.

Otherwise, each use can introduce bacteria that can lead to things like a sore throat, urinary tract infection (UTI), or yeast infection. Pass.

Nonporous materials include:

  • medical-grade silicone
  • ABS plastic
  • stainless steel
  • glass

Silicone is generally the top recommendation for first-time dildo owners/wearers/users.

But Sloane says that stainless steel and glass are great options for folks who:

  • find penetration painful
  • want to explore temperature play
  • enjoy a heavier pleasure product

The main difference between stainless steel and glass?

“Steel is heavier,” says Sloane. “You’re less likely to find a harnessable stainless steel dildo.”

Cheers to sexcessories!

Yes, you really need lube

“Lube makes almost every sexual activity better because it reduces friction,” says Sloane.

Although the vagina can self-lubricate, the anus can’t, so lube is especially important during anal play.

Lube can also enhance dildo hand jobs and blow jobs by cutting back on “stickiness” and creating a sexy wet look.

Save your toy: With silicone-based toys, use a water-based lube like Cake Toy Joy or Sliquid Sassy.

Add a harness for hands-free play

Dildos don’t *need* a harness to be enjoyed.

They can be manually manipulated during solo or partnered sex. Or held in place during oral/vaginal/anal sex.

However, using a dildo with a harness offers you a hand-free experience.

When buying a harness with/for your dildo, keep in mind that dildos aren’t compatible with all harnesses.

Every harness has something called an O-ring, which holds the dildo in place. If the O ring is bigger than the dildo, the dildo will slip out. If it’s too small, it simply won’t attach to the harness at all.

Some harnesses, like the Terra Firm D Ring Harness, come with interchangeable O-rings.

Others, like the SquareParts Joque or Rodeoh Classic Brief Harness, do not.

So before you buy a harness, you want to check:

  • Is this harness compatible with this dildo?
  • If not, can the O-ring be replaced with an O-ring of a different size?

Don’t want to think about any of this? Buy a strap-on (which is what a dildo + harness combo set is called) instead:

Consider condoms

Hey, they offer easy clean-up and STI prevention (more on that below). So why wouldn’t you add them? Just remember that a smaller dildo is gonna need a smaller condom.

The unofficial dildo motto: Patience, practice, and communication.

Get to know your toy… intimately

Planning to strap the harness on for partnered play?

Sloane recommends walking/dancing/prancing around the house with it to get used to the way it moves, its heft, and how it responds to your body.

“Masturbating while strapped on can be hot, in addition to helping you learn how the toy reacts to your thrusts, rocks, and movement,” says Sloane.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate

“A dildo doesn’t have nerve endings,” says Finn. Meaning, the wearer won’t be able to feel exactly how deep they are (or even when/if they slip out).

Your move = check in constantly! You might say:

  • “I’m going to let you pull me in as deep as you want me. When you’re there, tell me.”
  • “Does this rhythm feel good? Do you want me deeper or more shallow?”
  • “Do you prefer faster or slower thrusts?”
  • “How does this feel for you?”
  • “Do you want to use your vibrator/masturbation sleeve on yourself?”

Play around with position

The position that works best will depend on whether you’re wearing the dildo and what sex acts you’re planning to use it for.

For partnered play, positions that allow the receiving partner to direct the depth and rhythm are best. Think: rider on top, reverse rider, or doggy style.

“It may take some trial and error to find a configuration that works best for you,” says Sloane. If you don’t get it ~just right~ the first time, don’t fret!

Pegging and strap-on sex (of all kinds) are considered a low-risk activity, but that doesn’t mean sexually transmitted infections are impossible.

If your partner has an STI, you use the dildo on/in them, and then use the dildo on/in yourself without washing it first, STI transmission can occur.

Why? Potential infection.

“Even if you’re the only one ever planning on using this dildo, you want to wash it between uses to keep from introducing bacteria to your body that could cause bacterial infections, yeast infections, [or] UTIs,” says Finn.

A silicone, glass, or stainless steel dildo can be completely cleaned with warm water and fragrance-free soap.

Also, dry it! (Bye, mildew).

With so many damn types of and uses for dildos, odds are a dildo would be a welcome addition to your sex toy collection.


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.