It occurred to me recently that the attitude I have towards sex toys has changed drastically in the last ten years. But is it because I'm older and wiser, or is it just that there are so many more amazing sex toys on the market than there were back in 2007?
Sex toys in my 20s: exciting but simple
I still remember the first sex toy I ever bought. And it might surprise you to learn that it wasn't a vibrator. While many girls have their first sex toy experience with a bullet or a rabbit vibrator, the first one I shopped for was a strap-on dildo. Yeah. I KNOW. I was pretty lucky.
I'd ventured into sex toy shops a little with my first boyfriend, but we'd end up just coming out with a stash of condoms or lube. I think on one occasion we ventured into the 'sexy DVDs' section of our local shop and wandered out with some not-very-hardcore porn. But the first actual toy I bought was in the first year of university, when a guy I was sleeping with drove me to a seedy-looking place on the outskirts of the city and we bought a big dildo with an elastic harness.
It was pretty awesome, and somehow made even sexier by the fact that the shop hid the purchase on the debit card under the shop name 'DIY solutions.' An amazing piece of euphemism if ever I heard one.
From then on, new toys were bought mostly by the guy I was with – he had more money than I did, while my student loan was a bit stretched even eating only beans on toast. We tried ben wa balls, anal vibrators, and he bought me my first ever rabbit. A toy I loved so much I shagged through at least a hundred AA batteries in the first year of owning it.
But back then sex toys were often very simple, and the thrill of them came from the fact that they did new and interesting things. They were also things I wanted to hide from people – I'd be horrified if a flatmate walked into my room at uni to see a dildo displayed on my desk (which happened more times than I'd have liked – I am a bit rubbish at tidying). What's more, the toys were very specifically things I would only talk about with a partner. Whispers of 'what do you think about trying this...?' late at night, in the dark.
Sex toys in my 30s
The main difference with sex toys in my 30s is that I have abandoned a lot of the shame or secrecy I used to have around sex toys. Things which I'd have kept hidden from view ten years ago are now often either displayed around my house or left drying in a line alongside the bath. I'd probably do a whip-round to take them off display when my parents came round, but friends I know and love enough to invite to my house are not only OK with seeing sex toys, they also frequently ask for recommendations.
Buying sex toys now isn't about whispered conversations and secret credit-card transactions either. I buy sex toys in the same way I buy new household gadgets and appliances – looking at reviews, comparing different brands, and weighing up all the options. This is partly because these days I care more about quality. When I was in my 20s sex toy selection was about deciding what I wanted – a butt plug, say – and then picking the cheapest one available in my local sex shop. Perhaps one of the greatest things the internet has done for me is make it possible for me to make active choices about the sex toys I buy, rather than being limited to a few options bought in a rush because I'm nervous about being in a seedy-looking shop.
Are these differences all down to my age and wisdom? I don't think so. Although I definitely have a more mature attitude to sex toys in my 30s (I'm unlikely to giggle at a sex toy unless it's particularly weird-looking), the main thing that's changed is that sex toys have simply got better. Much better. The difference between a good rabbit vibrator in 2007 and a good rabbit vibrator in 2017 is almost as great as the difference between a Nokia 3310 and an iPhone 7. Sex toy manufacturers are coming out with toys that are more innovative, powerful and downright beautiful than the options that were on offer before. And the fact that you can buy them online at sites like this means there's no need to go hunting for your local seedy shop with boarded-up windows if you want to browse the options.
It's partly because the world has moved on – at least some of the credit is down to amazing sex educators who have been successfully spreading the word that masturbation is fun and normal, and sex toys are a great way to enhance it. But it's also partly driven by the fact that more people are listening to that message and actually buying sex toys. The more people who buy, the more manufacturers (and distributors) can invest in coming up with even more new and better things.
In my 20s, the sex toy industry was a bit like I was: trying hard but not quite there yet. In my 30s, the sex toy industry has blossomed like I have into a discerning and innovative pervert. Long may this trend continue.
In my private practice, I often see men who fear that their penis is small and therefore couldn’t possibly pleasure a woman. It breaks my heart every single time I hear this. Somehow, our society has come to believe that bigger is always better. And it’s not just penises either. We promote the idea that bigger houses, cars or breasts make us appear more successful, more wanted, more loveable.
I was chatting with a group of friends recently and as usually happens, the conversation turned to sex. This time we were particularly talking about oral sex and I was surprised to learn that most of the women present had given up on receiving it because they rarely, if ever, orgasmed that way. I thought that was a real shame since there’s lots of pleasure and intimacy to be had that way, even if it doesn’t result in orgasm.