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Q&A: Vibrators

October 18, 2014
G. Starr Vidal, Contributor for The CSPH

Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted anonymously through Formspring.  This week’s question is: I’m looking to invest in a good vibrator.  I’ve never owned one before.  Any suggestions?

When searching for one’s first vibrator, there are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Material: Opt for 100% silicone or hard plastic
    • Size:  Vibrators come in many shapes and sizes, with various purposes.
    • Relatedly, where do you want the toy to stimulate you?: deep in the vagina, the G-zone/G-spot, the clitoris, the labia, the prostate, along the penis and testicles, outside the anus?
    • Aesthetic preferences: while some prefer realistic-looking sex toys, others prefer their vibrators to look less like penises and more like, well, toys.  Vibrators come in all colors of the rainbow, and many more!
    • The texture of the toy: Do you want your toy hard and unbendy, or flexible?  Do you want it smooth and silky to the touch, or with more drag?
    • Is it battery-operated or rechargeable?  What type of battery does the toy use, if any?

Material is incredibly important, because unfortunately sex toy standards are not regulated, and therefore the majority of sex toys are made of cheap materials that are unsafe for the human body. One primary unsafe material, “jelly latex” (or Jel-Lee, AquaGel, or simply jelly)  is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and is a porous material that contains phthalates, a toxin that is associated with cancer of the kidneys and reproductive organs.  This toxin can leak into the body due to a limited shelf-life (up to six months), heat, and agitation, with the latter two circumstances commonly occurring during masturbation with sex toys.  Toys made with jelly latex tend to smell strongly like a plastic shower curtain, and are incredibly porous, so they cannot be sterilized and therefore shouldn’t be shared between people/partners.  Furthermore, these toys are known to melt– yes, that’s right, they melt.  They also tend to be poorly constructed, such as having too-hard ridges and knobs as well as rough seams that can tear the sensitive skin of the vagina and anus.  Also, keep in mind that PVC can be found in other toy materials such as Cyberskin, mystery rubber, Ultra skin, and softskin.  For a more thorough explanation of sex toy materials, visit The CSPH resource page, An Intro to Sex Toys.

Due to the hazards of unsafe toy materials, I recommend that those in the market for sex toys steer clear of said toys, despite the fact that “jelly” sex toys tend to be inexpensive and therefore more accessible to many people.  If you absolutely must have a sexual aid made with jelly latex or a PVC by-product, always use a condom with it.  That said, there is no evidence that this limits the transfer of toxic materials into the body; I only recommend this because some protection is better than none.

With all that said and done, I recommend that people buy vibrators made with hard plastic or 100% silicone, a non-porous body-safe material.  100% silicone toys in particular are long-lasting and can be sterilized with bleach solutions, and dildos made with this material can be boiled in water for sterilization.  Some of these vibrators are also waterproof, so they can be easily cleaned, used in the shower, and soaked in warm/cold water, which is ideal for people who enjoy experimenting with temperatures during sexual play.  That said, you should keep in mind that silicone sex toys should only be used with non-silicone based lubricants, such as water-based lubes.  You can learn more about lubricants on The CSPH lube resource page, How to Pick and Find Lube.

The next thing to keep in mind when buying a vibrator is the size.  Some vibrators, such as the Big Boss G4 Vibrator by Fun Factory, are rather large in size, and are ideal for penetration.  In particular, The Big Boss vibrator can be used both in the vagina and the anus, due to the loop handle.  (A quick note about anus-safe sex toys: one should only use sex toys within the butt if they have a flange/base, or if there is a loop handle.  These constructions allow the toys to be used without the hazard of the toy getting sucked into the butt, which results in the necessity of medical/emergency room treatment to get the toy removed.)  When looking at size, I recommend gauging your desired girth by using your fingers as a measuring tool– for example, some people prefer 2 fingers during manual stimulation, while others prefer 3 or 4.  This can give you a better idea of how thick your vibrator should be for your personal preferences, so you don’t end up with a toy that is too big or too small.

Size is also important to keep in mind depending on what you want the vibrator to stimulate.  For example, while many vibrators are intended for vaginal penetration, there are some that are more ideal for stimulation of the anterior vaginal wall, where the G-zone/G-spot is located.  For G-zone stimulation, I’d recommend vibrators such as Lelo’s Gigi Rechargeable Vibrator and the Ola Touch-Responsive Vibrator, which are curved for this exact purpose.  The Ola Vibrator also boasts technological intuition, as it responds to pressure and even “remembers” your personal vibration pattern.

Moreover, if you’re looking for a vibrator for prostate stimulation, you can look into toys such as the Rude Boy Silicone Vibrating Anal Plug or the B-Bomb Vibrating Plug.  The B-Bomb plug is great because the vibrator is removable, giving you more options for play.  Similarly, some dildos, such as the Woody Vibe by Vixen Creations, include vibrating capabilities.  One great vibrating dildo is the Mistress, which is more slim than most dildos, making it great for anal play.  These dildos are are also harness-friendly, meaning they can be used with a strap-on harness.

Furthermore, not all vibrators are made for penetration; some are created for the sole purpose of clitoral stimulation.  For example, the Lelo Lily Vibrator is designed to hug the mons pubis while vibrating against the clitoris.  On the other hand, bullet vibrators are straightforward in their design, intended for direct clitoral stimulation.  Some, such as the Fing-O Vibrator, fit on the finger, and others, like the Kandi Kisses Lipstick Vibrator, are super discreet.  I recommend small toys especially if you’re looking to incorporate a vibrator during partnered sexual activity, as they more easily fit between bodies than bigger designs.  These small toys are also great for external stimulation, namely of the frenulum, perineum, and outside the anus.  One toy in particular that I love is Seti, by Toyfriend, which can provide vibrations to the sensitive nerve endings of exterior and immediate interior of the anus.

Another type of vibrating toy to look into is one that is especially great during partnered play, although they can also be fitted onto a dildo: vibrating cockrings.  These are great because they provide hands-off vibratory stimulation of the clitoris, while double-sided ones vibrate against the base of the cock or the perineum, depending on how it’s worn.  Lastly, if you want powerful clitoral stimulation and don’t care about size, the famous Hitachi Magic Wand may suit your purposes.  This specific vibrator is known for its vibration intensity, and it can even be used as a massager to soothe aches and pains in your muscles!

As I’ve discussed, some vibrators are ideal for penetration, while others are made specifically for clitoral stimulation.  For those who would like the best of both worlds, I suggest vibrators known as “rabbit vibrators,” which are made with a penetrative shaft and a smaller vibrating prong that pleasures the clitoris.  Some highly-rated, body-safe rabbit vibrators include the G4 Calla, the PicoBong Kaya, the Jopen Vanity Vr6, and the Freestyle W of OhMiBod, a company that is known for its vibrators that hook up to one’s iPod and vibrates to the beat of the music.

Aesthetic preferences are also something to keep in mind in investing in a vibrator.  It’s important that you buy a toy that best fits your desires and that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable using it.  As I’ve said, some vibrators look obviously like cocks, while others are creatively designed, such as the Leaf line by Swan Vibes.  Also, vibrators come in various colors, and some are even marbled and sparkly.  Furthermore, some toy lines are especially known for their colorful array of vibrators, including but not limited to: Fun Factory, Toyfriend, and Lelo.  If you want color but not something super vibrant, JeJoue has some great vibrators in muted purple, matte fuchsia, and pale lilac.

How the vibrator is powered is very important to some people.  While many vibrators are battery-powered, some are rechargeable via a wall plug, while others can be recharged via USB.  When buying a battery-powered vibrator, be sure to check what kind of batteries the toy uses– while most use AA or AAA, some require batteries that are harder to find batteries, which can rack up the expenses in the long run.  This in particular makes rechargeable vibrators a great investment, not to mention they’re great for reducing waste and being more eco-friendly.  The Duet Rechargeable Vibrator in particular is known for its USB capabilities, as in addition to being super sleek, it’s also a functional USB drive.  Just imagine– you can take your vibrator to class or work, and your peers would be none the wiser!

For more vibrator ideas, take a look at The CSPH Blog, which hosts “Center Stage Sexual Aid” reviews every Thursday.

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