My network of friends is pretty familiar with the fact that I’m a sex toy aficionado. As a result, lots of them have asked me, over the years, to take them on their first-ever visit to a sex shop so they could buy their first-ever sex toy.
Working in the sexuality industry, you quickly learn (if you didn’t already know) that sex is a deeply personal and often embarrassing topic for many people. This is why, with rare exceptions, most of the people I’ve taken on their first sex shop visit have been really shy about it and have required some extra care and help on my part.
Here are some of my best suggestions for helping a friend (or even a family member) through the tricky but very rewarding experience of picking out a first sex toy in person!
1. Don’t judge them.
This is maybe the most important thing. If they say they want a set of anal beads, don’t make a weird face. If they’re hankering after a super realistic dildo, don’t judge their cock preferences. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to tell someone what sexy object you’ve been fantasizing about, so your reaction should always be, “Great! I’ll help you find one of those.” And then smile and follow through on your promise.
2. Help them set a realistic budget.
Many people don’t know that sex toys (at least, decent ones that won’t burn your innards) are an investment. Once you’ve established what kind of toy your friend is looking for, give them an accurate estimate of how much they can expect to spend on such an item. If necessary, remind them that they don’t have to buy it right away, that they can take some time to save up the money if they need to, and that it’ll be worth the extra cash.
3. Gently steer them away from shitty toys.
Sometimes, you’ll take a friend to a sex shop and they’ll inexplicably make a beeline for a jelly rabbit or some such monstrosity. As a mentor of sorts, it’s your responsibility to make sure they don’t get anything with phthalates in it; ideally, you would also school them on why nonporous toys are best. It’s also useful to draw on your own experience with toys, to make sure they don’t buy one that just isn’t very good!
4. Recommend something appropriate for a beginner.
Things I would say are not appropriate for most beginners: a dual-stimulation vibrator, a giant butt plug, or a mega-textured glass dildo. Things that are appropriate for most beginners: a standardly-shaped vibrator that can be used in lots of different ways, or a small-to-medium plug or dildo. Beginners to sex toys (especially those who also haven’t had sex before) often don’t know exactly what kind of stimulation they prefer, so it’s best to get something versatile.
5. Help them pick out a good lube if necessary.
This is basic stuff, but it’s important. If their new toy is silicone, don’t let them buy a silicone-based lube. If they have a vagina, keep them away from lubes containing glycerin and parabens. Or just keep things simple and hand them a bottle of Sliquid.
6. Stay close, but give them time alone too.
Sometimes a friend is so nervous that you have to stand with them the whole time they’re trying to choose a toy. I also find, though, that there’s usually a moment where you feel this “vibe” (ha ha) from the person that they want you to walk away for a minute. Just go across the store and fondle the Fleshlights for a little while. Your friend might need to feel like they’re alone so they can grope toys without feeling like they’re being watched in an intimate act.
7. Be ready to interact with the sales staff for them.
The first time I took a friend to a sex shop, she was so shy that she literally whispered the entire time. Obviously, I had to step in. In a sex shop, you often have to show the sales clerk which toy you want, so they can go grab you one from the storage room – and that can be an awkward moment for first-time toy buyers. Read their body language to see if they need help, or just step up to the plate and do it. They’ll be grateful.
8. Don’t be creepy.
When you help someone pick out a sex toy, sometimes there’s an urge to ask them a few days later, “So, how are you liking it?” This is a weird thing to ask, as well-intentioned as it might be. They’ll probably bring it up if they want to tell you about it – but if they don’t, you gotta respect that. You don’t get to be privy to their solo sex life just because you helped facilitate one part of it.
Have you ever introduced a friend to sex toys? How did it happen? Did it go well?