illustration of six different sex toys set against a color-blocked muted and pastel pink background separated by a wavy line. three toys — including a black strap-on harness, red leather cuffs, and a mauve rabbit vibrator — are floating in space, while the other three — including a set of mauve Ben Wa balls, a red feather teaser, and a set of sky blue anal beads — are each held in the hand of a different out-of-view person.Share on Pinterest
Illustrations by Brittany England

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Whether you’re perusing the aisles and displays at an IRL sex toy emporium or scrolling online, shopping for a sex toy can be a little overwhelming.

Not only do you have to figure out what everything does, you also have to figure out if it aligns with how you like to be done.

That’s why we called on three sex toy experts (nay, connoisseurs) and asked them to give us the 411 on the main types of sex toys — all of which can be bought online.

Below they explain what these sex toys do and how to know if one deserves a place in your drawer.

What the heck makes a dildo, well, a dildo? According to Lisa Finn, a sex educator at sex toy boutique Babeland, “A dildo is anything phallic-shaped, or vaguely phallic-shaped, that’s designed to penetrate a vagina, anus, or mouth.”

Standard dildos

Also known as single-ended dildos, standard dildos most resemble biological penises in shape and function.

“There are so many internal hot spots in the body, including the G-spot and A-spot in vulva owners and P-spot in people with penises,” Finn says.

She adds that a standard dildo can be used by hand or worn in a harness to stimulate these spots.

Safety note: It’s only safe to put a dildo in your bum if it has a flared base that’s bigger than the widest part of the dildo.

If you’re planning on using the dildo during solo sex, Finn recommends a dildo with a suction cup base, like the Avant P1 Pride Freedom dildo.

Why? Because then you can attach it to a shower wall and ride it the way you might if a partner was involved.

If you’re planning to use it to peg, opt for a slim, texture-free dildo, like the Tantus Silk small (or medium) dildo.

And if you’re looking for a dildo that looks like a biological penis, it doesn’t get better than New York Toy Collective’s Carter or Leroy.

Textured dildos

Changing the material the dildo is made out of to vary the sensation — for example, a dildo made out of stainless steel will be heavier than one made out of silicone, and therefore increase the sensation of fullness — isn’t the only way to alter the texture.

There’s also a variety of textured details you might experiment with once you’ve confirmed that you enjoy dildo play or penetration.

“Some have ripples or waves,” Finn says. “Some have more pronounced heads and are super veiny. Some have little textured nubs and bumps.”

Double-ended dildos

As you might guess, this dildo iteration features a head at both ends.

Usually 12 to 24 inches long, some look like two dildos fused together (like the Lovehoney Ice Gem) and others are U-shaped (like the Ruse double dildo).

“Depending on the shape, double-ended dildos allow you to experiment with double penetration either in the same hole, or in different holes, for a sense of fullness,” Finn explains, “or to experience extra-deep insertion.”

Money-saving hack: You can make your own double-ended dildo with a double-sided suction cup.

Strapless strap-on

Sometimes the terms “strapless strap-on” and “double-ended dildo” are used interchangeably, but they’re pretty different.

While double-ended dildos are typically U- or I-shaped, strapless strap-ons are L-shaped.

“Strapless strap-ons are ergonomically designed so that one partner can wear the toy and experience a sensation of fullness while also thrusting into a partner,” Finn explains.

“They can also be worn by somebody who wants to jack themselves using something phallic, or receive a blow job,” she adds. Cheers to gender euphoria!

Note: While the name of this toy implies you should be able to wear it harness-free, “thrusting while trying to hold the toy inside your own body is incredibly taxing on the pelvic floor muscles,” says sex educator Cassandra Corrado.

“So don’t hesitate to reduce the strain by also wearing a harness over the top,” she says.

The best strapless strap-on on the market is hands down — or should I say hands-free — the Fun Factory Share.

Standard dildos can be worn inside a harness for strap-on play.

There are a few different types of harnesses, but when shopping for one the most important thing is to find one that fits.

“The harness should be really snug — or be able to be adjusted to be really snug,” Corrado says.

“Whether you’re thrusting into someone else, into your own hand, or just wearing it around, you don’t want the dildo to be wiggling around,” she explains.

The snugger the fit, the more control you’ll have over the attachable phallus.

Strap-on style

Decked out in straps, this type of harness is super-duper adjustable, which means you can make it tighter against your body.

SpareParts is the gold standard of the strap-on harnesses. They look cute, have incredible holding power, and come in a variety of styles,” Corrado says.

Thong-style strap-ons, like the Roadster harness, have a strap that goes between the legs and are generally more comfortable for folks with vulvas.

Jockstrap-style strap-ons, like the SpareParts Joques, feature straps around each of the butt cheeks and the waist. “[This style] basically gives your butt a butt lift,” Corrado says.

There’s also double-strap strap-ons, which are designed to be worn by people with penises. There’s a hole for the penis and a second one for the base of the dildo.

These are a great option for double-penetration play and for penis owners with erectile dysfunction. Best on the market: SpareParts Deuce.

Underwear-style

“You can also find harnesses that look like boxers or briefs and even thongs,” Corrado says.

“They’re great for people who want to wear a harness under their clothes, and those who want to wear them to pack,” she says.

Corrado recommends anything from the brand Rodeoh, as it’s usually more sturdy than other underwear-style harnesses on the market and home to a million different styles.

Bondage harnesses

Beyond harnesses for strap-on sex, there are also body harnesses that are commonly seen in the BDSM and kink scene. Some types you might see:

Does it vibrate? Is it intended to be used outside the body? Then — ding, ding, ding — it’s an external vibrator. And boy oh boy are there a lot of different types of external vibes.

“All external vibrators are great products,” says sex educator and sex toy reviewer Indigo Wolfe. “It comes down to figuring out which is the most great for you, based on what you enjoy sexually.”

Use the chart below to figure out what subcategory of external vibrator is best for you.

Type of external vibratorWhat it does that’s specialOur pick
Palm vibratorShaped like a computer mouse, these are ergonomically designed to cover the vulva and stimulate your labia and clit.Le Wand Point
Jewelry vibratorThese multitasking vibes can be worn (as jewelry) and adored (as clit vibrators). Vesper Crave
Panty vibratorSurprise: These clip into your panties for hands-free clitoral stimulation at home, or at a restaurant. We-Vibe Moxie
Wand vibratorShaped like microphones, wand vibrators have a bulbous head that’s designed to deliver super intense, rumbly vibrations anywhere on the body (external genitals, back, butt cheeks, etc.). Magic Wand
Finger vibratorThese small vibes slide onto or sit between two digits so you can bring your hands between your legs to enjoy the vibration. Dame Fin
Bullet vibrator About the size of a battery, bullet vibrators provide buzzy, low-intensity vibration to your bits. They fit inside most harnesses to give the strap-on wearer stimulus. Unbound Zip
Clitoral vibratorThis category has no limits! Really, anything that can stimulate the clit qualifies. When shopping for your own clit vibe, think about what shape might work best for your anatomy.Dame Eva II
Vibrating penis ring Vibrating cock rings slide over the penis and offer stimulation to the scrotum or a partner’s clit during P-in-V. Lelo Tor 2
Penis vibratorPenis vibrators are designed specifically to fit over, or encase, the cock with vibration.Mysteryvibe Tenuto

Do you enjoy having your bum hole penetrated? How about your front hole, if you have one? If the answer is Y-E-S to either, it’s time to add an internal vibrator to your sex toy collection.

The exact type of internal vibrator you purchase will depend on what type of sensation you like internally.

Type of internal vibratorWhat it does that’s special Get this toy if…Our pick
G-spot vibrator The G-spot is a nerve-dense pleasure zone located 2 inches inside along the front vaginal wall. G-spot vibrators are ergonomically designed to stimulate this zone. You like shallow penetration. Lelo Mona Wave
A-spot vibrator2 to 3 inches deeper than the G-spot sits another pleasure-zone: the A-spot. Any super long vibe can be used to stimulate the area. You enjoy deeeep penetration. Fun Factory Stronic G
Egg vibratorSlightly larger than a bullet vibrator, egg vibes are designed to be inserted vaginally for internal stimulation. Note: These aren’t anus-safe. You enjoy feeling full. We-Vibe Touch
Egg-on-a-stick vibrator Basically an egg vibrator with a handle, these are great beginner toys for internal exploration. You’re on the market for your first vibrator. CalExotics G-Spot Tulip Intimate Vibe
Anal vibratorAny vibrator with a flared base qualifies as an anal vibrator. The most common are vibrating butt plugs. You enjoy the sensation of having your ass eaten or thrust into. b-Vibe Rimming Plug 2
Vibrating prostate massagerThe prostate is a nerve-dense patch of tissue 2 inches inside the rectum (toward the penis). Vibrating prostate massagers offer pressure and vibration against this spot. You have a prostate and enjoy intense prostate stimulation. Lelo Bruno

What happens when an external vibe and internal vibe have a baby? You get a combo vibrator!

These toys feature a vibrating “arm” for internal stimulation and another vibrating arm for external stimulation.

The most common type is the rabbit vibrator. But certain prostate massagers count, too.

Rabbit vibrators

“Rabbit vibrators feature a curled nub for G-spot stimulation and an external nub for clitoral stimulation,” Corrado explains.

Some vulva owners enjoy dual stimulation because it helps them get off more quickly. Others enjoy it because they enjoy the sensation of vaginal fullness, but can’t climax without a little clit action.

This category of toys is called such because the OG dual-stimulation vibe literally looked like a bunny rabbit with ears and eyes (see: CalExotics Jack Rabbit).

Nowadays, some luxury vibes still look vaguely animal-like, like:

But not all look animal-like. For instance, the Lelo Ina Wave, Lelo Soraya 2, and We-Vibe Nova feature the same dual-stimulation technology, without the ears.

Before you buy one, Corrado says, “Be realistic about the size of your body and how much space is between your clit, and where internally you like to be stimulated.”

Put two fingers inside your vagina and look at where your clit falls in relation to those, she says. “This will give you a gauge of the distance you need between the two extensions.”

Vibrating prostate massagers

“Many prostate massagers feature an attachment that hugs up against the perineum (the spot between the anus and the balls),” Finn says. This helps stimulate the prostate from the inside and the outside.

Her recommendations:

Wand vibrators may be great, but don’t sleep on nonmotorized wands.

Generally made out of stainless steel or glass, wands can be used internally to apply pleasurable pressure to the G-spot and A-spot. And even the P-spot — so long as it has a flared base or nonpliable curve.

“Stainless steel and glass can also hold temperature, which means you can warm them up or make them cold to experience different temperatures and sensations,” Finn says.

For high-quality, stainless steel wands, check out anything from nJoy or Le Wand’s Stainless Steel Collection.

For something less pricey, opt for a glass wand, like the Unbound Gem.

Not all pleasure products fall under neat and tidy categories. But that doesn’t mean they won’t make you moan…

Clit suction toys

If you’re a vulva owner who loves the sensation of receiving head or wants to explore the sensation of receiving oral, you need to know about clit suction toys.

“Rather than using vibration, clit suction toys use air and sucking technology to stimulate the clit,” Wolfe says. “They can work really well for folks who don’t like vibration, and they’re responsible for a lot of vulva owners’ first-ever orgasm.”

If you don’t have a clitoris but L-O-V-E nipple stimulation, you might also enjoy clit suction toys. When used with lube, it feels like a mouth.

There are a ton of different clit suction toys on the market:

Thrusters

Sure, dildos can be used to thrust in and out of the body at speed… but not super easily. Hello, shoulder and bicep burn!

“It’s legitimately hard for most people to put their arm between their legs and move their hand up and down really quickly,” Corrado says.

Enter: thrusters.

“Thrusters allow you to position the toy in one place and leave it while it does all the thrusting for you,” Corrado explains. “They also allow folks who can’t move their arms with consistent motion, or at all, to get that thrusting sensation.” Love accessible pleasure products!

Some thrusters, like the CalExotics Shameless Tease, feature an attachment that provides stimulation to the clitoris, like a rabbit vibrator does.

Others, like the Zalo Desire preheating thruster, are shaped like standard dildos.

Important note: Most thrusters don’t have a flared base, which means they shouldn’t be used anally.

“Because they’re thrusting of their own accord, it could be really dangerous to use a thruster anally if it doesn’t have a flange,” Corrado notes.

Ben Wa balls

Jade eggs. Vaginal weights. Kegel aids. Ben Wa balls come in many shapes and forms, but they all do the same thing: go into your vagina and force your pelvic floor muscles to #dowerk.

Originally, they were designed to help vulva owners strengthen their pelvic floor muscles.

But nowadays, they’re used as sex toys — especially in kink and BDSM scenes as a form of domination play.

Finn explains: “The Dominant partner might have the submissive partner hold the balls inside their vagina as an endurance exercise.” (Is that iconic scene in “Fifty Shades of Grey” coming to mind?).

For folks who are new to Ben Wa ball use, Finn recommends silicone balls, like the CalExotics Kegel-Training Strawberry Set or Satisfyer V Balls.

More advanced users might try weighted Ben Wa balls, like Lelo Luna Beads or We-Vibe Bloom vibrating Kegel balls.

If you think sex toys for penis owners start and end with masturbation sleeves, be prepared to be proven wrong.

Pulsator

Rather than using vibration or thrusting, pulsators use oscillating technology to get you off.

The most popular toy on the pulsator market is the Hot Octopuss Pulse.

Dubbed the first “Guybrator,” this toy wraps around the penis and jacks it off using oscillation (or more specifically, something called “PulsePlate Technology”).

There’s also the Hot Octopuss Pulse Duo, which can be used with a partner with a vulva for a hot shared experience.

Automatic masturbators

Whether you can’t physically use your hands to jack off or simply don’t want to, automatic masturbators are a good bet — they do all the work for you.

Here’s how it works: You lube up the toy, your penis, or both, and put your peen inside the toy, then turn it on so it can get busy.

Intrigued? Check out Own Pleasures 10 Dual Motor Automatic Male Masturbator.

Masturbation sleeves

“Masturbation sleeves are things that go over the penis that you can either thrust into, or move up and down with the help of your hand,” Corrado explains.

Likely, the Fleshlight comes to mind. But that’s just one of the many masturbation sleeves available for purchase.

Other popular masturbation sleeves include:

Cock ring

Typically made of silicone, nitrile, or stainless steel, cock rings are designed to go over the base of the penis to keep the blood flow from moving back in the body.

The result? Stronger erections, and sometimes delayed ejaculation.

Stretchy, adjustable, and stainless cock rings are often designed to go under the scrotum, too. Vibrating cock rings go at the base of the penis.

“The benefit of most vibrating cock rings is that they can be positioned to apply stimulation to the scrotum or to provide clitoral stimulation to a vulva owner during partnered sex,” Corrado says.

She recommends the We-Vibe Verge or the Lelo Tor 2.

Ohnut

Technically speaking, the Ohnut isn’t a sex toy so much as it’s a sex aid. However, it’s a product all people with penises who sleep with vulva owners should know about.

This product slips over the base of the penis to limit how much of the penis is able to go inside the vagina during P-in-V intercourse.

The point? To make penetrative intercourse more pleasurable for vulva owners who might otherwise find it painful.

Finally! The part of the guide where we talk about butt stuff!

“Why anal toys can be pleasurable is pretty simple,” Wolfe says. “No matter what your genitals are, your anus is loaded with nerve endings.”

Butt plug

Butt plugs can create a pleasurable sensation of being stretched or of being full,” Wolfe says.

“And for vulva owners, because the anal canal and vaginal canal are right next door, they can also be worn in the anus to make the vaginal cavity tighter,” they add.

Beyond just being pleasurable for a partner with a penis during P-in-V, a tight vaginal canal can increase the feeling of fullness for the vulva owner.

According to Wolfe, this can increase the chance that the G-spot gets touched during penetration.

Choose your next butt plug based on your experience level with anal:

Anal beads

“While butt plugs are about creating a sustained sensation, anal beads are generally about one moment and movement,” Wolfe says.

“They’re designed to massage the sphincter when they go in and create a pleasure pop when they’re pulled out,” they add.

Intrigued? Check out b-Vibe’s Cinco anal beads, which have a vibrating option.

Prostate massagers

We’ve already touched on vibrating prostate massagers, but — spoiler alert — not all prostate massagers vibrate. Some are basically just butt plugs with a special shape (aka increased curve) to support prostate stimulation.

“Prostates respond well to firm, methodical pressure,” Finn says. “Often the base of the prostate massager will have a handle so that you can rock the toy back and forth against the prostate to create that pressure.”

For intense, vibration-free prostate stimulation, check out the Aneros MGX prostate stimulator.

“Most beginner kink toys are all about eroticizing erogenous zones that often get ignored, or creating surprising sensations,” Wolfe says. Here’s where to start.

Blindfold

It’s simple: By taking away one sense (your sight!), your other senses become much more heightened.

“Touch becomes that much more electric when you can’t see what’s coming,” Finn says.

Make your own blindfold out of a bandana or tie. Or, check out this Sex & Mischief satin blindfold.

Feather teaser

“Feather teasers can be used to provide a really gentle touch along the body,” Finn says. “They’re especially great after impact play on the now-much-more-sensitive area.”

Check out:

Handcuffs

Like the idea of having to tell your partner exactly what you like, because you can’t show them? Turned on by the concept of being dominated? Give handcuffs a try.

“I don’t recommend classic police-style handcuffs, because they’re metal and could potentially cut one of the important veins near your wrist,” Finn says.

She recommends something that either has a wider cuff strap or is made out of a flexible material, like:

Note on safety: You should never ever (!) leave someone bound in handcuffs unattended.

Sex furniture might sound super, ahem, freaky, but even if you and your partner identify as The Most Basic Couple In The World, sex furniture can be used to make your sex life more pleasurable.

“Really, sex furniture is just designed to help you and your partner get in more comfortable positions during positions you already love — or want to try but can’t due to physical limitations,” Wolfe says.

Pillow and wedge

Unlike the pillows you sleep on (which are usually squishy), sex pillows and wedges are made of a stiff (but comfortable!) foam that helps support your body, explains Wolfe.

“They’re great for folks who aren’t super flexible, or who have a tough time holding up their body weight,” Wolfe says.

Try propping the Dame Pillo under your hips during anal missionary so you and your partner can enjoy eye contact during anal sex — or to increase the chance that your partner hits your G-spot during penetrative play.

The Liberator Wedge is a great option if you’re looking for a pillow to make doggy style better.

“If the receiving partner leans over the pillow, they won’t sink into the bed,” Wolfe says.

Sex swing

Sure, sex swings can be used by kinky couples. But according to Wolfe, “They’re a great option for any couple that wants to try new positions, angles, or heights.”

For example, with the help of a sex swing, “standing” positions that require one partner to support the other’s body weight suddenly become available.

What sex swing should you get? Consider these:

It all comes down to knowing what you like and finding a toy that helps you do it. Or, knowing what you like, and finding a toy that gives you a little extra-extra while you’re doing it!

So, before you hand over your credit card, spend some time getting down with your sexy self and learning what you like! Try not to pout: There have been wayyy worse homework assignments than “masturbate.”


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.