by Annabeth Leong
I didn’t start buying sex toys until I was in my late twenties. My ex-husband was one of those men who’s uncomfortable with the idea of a vibrator, viewing it as some sort of penis substitute that would eventually crowd his out. I had always masturbated just fine with my hands, so I didn’t think I was missing much.
My first masturbation tool was erotica. That I bought from a relatively young age, and I’d binge on it from time to time, staying up all night, not wanting to stop once I’d gotten started. Toward the end of my first marriage, I’d often stay on the couch long after my husband had gone to sleep, downloading books from the internet and reading them in long, breathless gulps—sometimes more than one a night.
Later, though, I started craving sex toys, partly because I’d gotten into reading BDSM erotica and I wanted to use the things I was reading about. I think most people, upon discovering the scene, go out and spend a ton of money on things they’ve been fantasizing about for a long time, but those things may or may not turn out to be as imagined. For me, I didn’t know at first what I actually liked and wanted to use in real life, and what things just seemed good in my fantasies. Then there’s the matter of certain toys requiring a partner who’s also into using them.
It would take way too long for me to talk about all the sex toys I’ve bought and what I thought of them, but I’ll share some highlights—both in terms of biggest disappointments and biggest successes.
3. Spreader Bar
I’d fantasized a ton about these, and been turned on by what I’d seen of them in porn. I liked the idea of being forced open and exposed, and not being able to do anything to get away from, say, a spanking on the clit. (Oh, I still do—writing that turned me on.) In real life, at least with the spreader bar that I bought, I found that I could bang my ankles on the metal and twist in all sorts of dangerous ways. It’s also awkward and unwieldy. Probably lots of tying expertise could fix those problems, and maybe I’d feel different if I had some sort of built-in suspension ring in my bedroom. It just felt like more trouble than it was worth. I think I only used it once or twice.
2. Ring Gag
This is an A+ turn-on for me in an erotic story. Mention a ring gag, and I’m usually just a twist of the wrist away from an orgasm. In real life, the pain of the thing definitely works for me. I got one that I can barely fit between my teeth, and I absolutely love the feeling of my jaw being stretched. What kills it for me, though, is drool. In real life scenarios, I’m not into humiliation, and I find the drool humiliating. I didn’t realize from fantasizing and reading exactly how much gags would make me drool (the ball gag is, if possible, even worse as far as drool goes than the ring gag). This has made it mostly unappealing to use my ring gag.
1. Hitachi Magic Wand
You read that right. I love reading the Amazon reviews for this thing. One might be forgiven for thinking this was a Biblical product given how many times God and Jesus and angels are mentioned. I’m not trying to diss on a classic. However, the Hitachi Magic Wand is not, for me, the orgasm factory that it apparently is for some people. For me, it produces, even on its lowest setting, a barely tolerable level of vibration. I only ever use it through clothes. While there might be some sort of forced-orgasm sexiness to its extremes, that’s not how it goes for me. If I can’t come within the first couple minutes of using it, my clit goes sort of numb and tingly, and I’m locked in a frustrating almost-orgasm for a long time (usually until I give up and use my hands). I’ve had scenes where these qualities were harnessed to my benefit, but for the most part the Hitachi is a tricky toy, not a perfect one. There’s also the problem that, when I use it a lot while lying on my back, I often get wrist pain afterward (not at all cool for typing). I’ve tried lying on my stomach and riding it, but this exacerbates a tendency I have to get a headache along with my orgasm. That can happen sometimes anyway, but it seems to always happen when I use the Hitachi this way.
3. njoy Pure Plug (smallest size available)
I considered just writing njoy the company, and putting them at number one, because all their toys are boss. (The things I’ve seen the Eleven do… Oh, my God). For the Pure Plug, though, I have a specific story. While writing Untouched, I wanted to use a butt plug for long-term wear (think of it as a sort of method acting for Celia, my sexually insatiable main character and constant wearer of insertables). I’d found, though, that the butt plugs I purchased weren’t comfortable while I was sitting at my computer. After a long and, dare I say, probing conversation with an njoy employee at the Fetish Fair Fleamarket, I decided to buy a Pure Plug. I did ignore her warning that many people regret buying the smallest size and wish they’d bought something larger. I love anal play, but I often feel some fear about it. I didn’t think I’d regret having the smallest one. Anyway, it was everything I dreamed it could be. It’s easy to insert, easy to keep clean, comfortable for hours, and really arousing. I like sitting with it. I also like inserting it just before sex. It intensifies all my sensations to have it there, and it’s not ever something I have to work up to.
2. Chair Dildo
I was almost afraid to buy one of these. I’d had a fantasy about them for a long time, and the words “chair dildo” in a story get me going like you wouldn’t believe. A deeply cherished fantasy of mine is to sit on one at the breakfast table, pretending nothing is going on, eating eggs, trying to look normal. After the disappointment of the ring gag, I was afraid the reality of a chair dildo would burst my bubble. Reader, it did not. It was, if possible, even more awesome than I dreamed it would be. I have a harness that quickly and easily attaches to any seat. I lube up the dildo, and slide onto it. It hurts in a good way, but I can also stay on it for a while. It’s fun to sit still on it and see how long I can resist doing anything else. I love to be watched while I use it. As I write this, it occurs to me that part of the success of the chair dildo is that it combines a lot of things I love: masturbation, exhibitionism, pain, pretending that nothing is happening when something definitely is. I think it took a lot of trying and failing with toys, though, to identify these sorts of elements.
In my opinion, the perfect impact toy. After much experimentation, I learned that my preferred type of pain is “thud.” There is nothing more deliciously thuddy than a blackjack. This is the sort of thing that comes down and strikes deep. You feel it in muscles you didn’t even know you had, and you feel it there more than you do on the surface of the skin. It leaves a sort of deep bruising that, if you’re into this sort of thing, serves as an incredible reminder the next day. Nothing takes me into my favorite masochistic place faster than the blackjack. I bought mine from Agreeable Agony, and the fact that it smells deliciously of leather hurts nothing. I tried several of their models, and I believe the one I chose could be described as medium intensity. This is nice for me because I like working into pain a bit. Starting out with very hard pain can make me call a quick stop. Also, the blackjack is one of the first toys that gave me a real desire to switch. I used to think I didn’t ever want to top, but the way I felt the first time I hit someone with a blackjack… I guess the thud appeals to me in all ways, not only on the receiving end. I think of this toy as something I came to as I matured in BDSM, something I only bought once I’d learned about myself and what I like.
Of course, this list is highly personal. I would definitely recommend Agreeable Agony and njoy as makers of quality sex toys, but my favorites are deeply tied to my interests and desires. And that, I suppose, is the point. A tool, after all, must serve its proper function.