Health & Support

Good Sex with Emily Jamea: Sex Toys 101

Emily Jamea, Ph.D., is a sex therapist, author and podcast host. You can find her here each month to share her latest thoughts about sex.


Stop for a moment and consider what comes up for you as you think about that word. If you’re like most folks, you probably reminisce about childhood — a time when feelings of curiosity, wonder and unbridled joy were second nature. How quickly we lose touch with our sense of play as adults.

After all, adults don’t spend much time engaged in play, but it’s essential for learning.

And if play is a critical ingredient for childhood development, why shouldn’t it also be an essential component of relationships? Relationship scientists had the same question. And numerous studies have examined the benefits of play in relationships. Conclusively, they’ve found that couples who play together (think goof around, act silly and crack jokes) have higher degrees of relationship satisfaction, greater intimacy and more positive emotions overall.

But relationship play shouldn’t be limited to banter while cooking dinner and tickle fights on the sofa. The bedroom, it turns out, is perhaps one of the most exciting places for couples to play.

When it comes to bedroom play, your first thought might role playing — and while there’s plenty to say about that, this column is going to focus on how to play with toys — sex toys, that is.

People who haven’t used sex toys often feel intimidated by the idea. Many assume there’s something wrong with them or their partner if they “need” a toy. Others feel so overwhelmed with the options that they give up before they even start. But sex toys are nothing to be afraid of. In fact, they can be wildly fun.

People use sex toys for all kinds of reasons. Some use them because a toy makes it easier to reach orgasm. Others use them as part of role play or power play scenarios. Some people use them as part of sensation play, while some folks simply use them to add novelty to an otherwise satisfying sex life. Sex toys can be used in solo play or partnered play. Really, the possibilities are endless.

What are some of the most common types of sex toys and how do you use them?


Vibrators are one of the most versatile sex toys. They come in just about every color and in a wide range of sizes and functions. Why would someone use a vibrator? Well, like it or not, most women don’t reach orgasm as quickly or consistently as men.

I always remind my clients that there wouldn’t be stores filled floor to ceiling with such impressive collections of vibrators if there wasn’t a large market for them. Vibrators provide a sensation that is impossible for any human to replicate. Whether used as part of solo play or with a partner, vibrators are one of many ways to narrow the orgasm gap and ensure pleasure and fun for everyone.


A lot of people use the term vibrator and dildo as though they’re the same thing, but they actually have some important differences. Dildos don’t vibrate, and most look more obviously like a penis. Their job is to penetrate. Some couples find strap-on dildos to come in handy when the male partner is unable to attain or maintain an erection, and many same-sex couples may use dildos to enjoy penetrative sex.

BDSM toys

Say what you want, but 50 Shades of Grey opened the world’s eyes to BDSM (which can stand for bondage, discipline/domination, submission/sadism, and masochism) — and with it came an explosion of kinky toys for the average consumer. With the wide range of BDSM toys available, you don’t have to dive head-first into the deep end. Easy-to-open handcuffs, gentle whips and fuzzy blindfolds are great ways to experiment with light bondage, which many people find to be lots of fun.

Sex toys for men or people with a penis

People with a penis can enjoy many of the kinds of toys I’ve already mentioned, but they can also find great pleasure in masturbatory aids. A masturbatory aid can be thought of as a sleeve. Some look incredibly like a real vulva and vagina, while others look as innocent as an Easter egg. In addition to using a sleeve during solo play, couples may use onewhen penetrative sex isn’t available or if you find your hand or jaw gets tired from manual or oral stimulation.

Sex toys for couples

There are plenty of toys that couples can enjoy simultaneously. Many penis rings (which are worn around the base of the penis and help men maintain an erection) also come with vibrating attachments that provide additional stimulation to the partner during penetrative sex.

Some vibrators are designed for women to use during penetrative sex. These U-shaped vibrators add fullness inside the vagina while vibrating, which may enhance pleasure for both partners.

There are also plenty of sex games that can be purchased at your local sex shop or online. Games are great for couples who are struggling to come up with ways to spice things up on their own.

Finally, technology has added to the options that couples can enjoy together. Vibrating panties can be controlled from the other side of the room, or even from another location, and couples’ sex apps are awash with spicy sex ideas for couples to enjoy together.

Sex toys can be used to supplement a part of your sex life that needs some extra TLC or to simply boost an already fulfilling sex life. Whatever your reason for bringing adult toys into the bedroom, remember that play is good.

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