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So you’ve decided to buy a vibrator. Congrats, bestie!

This is a major step toward improving your well-being. Because orgasms are important. Yes, they feel good (obvi) — but they’re also good for your physical and mental health, too.

But if this is your first rodeo, you’re probably a teensy bit (or very) overwhelmed by all the options online. (Who knew masturbation could be so complicated??) And the idea of googling “good vibrator” is probably, well… not all that helpful.

Don’t worry — we’re here to help with our handy dandy guide to vibrators: newbie edition.

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Illustrations by Brittany England

Odds are, you don’t have a pile of money in your pocket to burn on testing out multiple types of vibrators to settle on “the one.”

So before you buy one, you need to know the basics so you can narrow down your choices.

Price

Vibrators can be expensive, especially if you buy them from a specialized boutique. Prices range from as low as $10 to thousands of dollars (like the 24-karat gold plate INEZ vibrator).

So before you start your search, decide on what you’re willing to spend, but keep in mind a few things:

The cheapest vibrators probably aren’t worth it. They might be made of cheap plastics, too tiny to hold onto comfortably (or safely), and not be body-safe. They might also be weak… making for a pretty disappointing (or nonexistent) O.

The most expensive ones might not be worth it either. Yes, the ones with the most features might run high, but if you’re willing to spend $30 to $120, you can probably find one that’s pleasurable, safe, and made of good materials (like silicone).

For example, you can probably find a silicone bullet vibrator for around $30 — even at boutique sex shops, like Dame. Or if you’re into clitoral stimulation, you can try this mini ice-cream cone vibe (talk about a treat, right?)

Know your type

Real talk: there are SO MANY different types of vibrators out there. Some are made to mimic masturbation or oral sex, while others are designed for use with a partner. Some even vibrate along to music so you can, well, get off, to your favorite jam — literally.

But in general, you can break vibrators down into six types:

  1. External. They stimulate the clitoris or labia and are meant for people who want or need external stimulation during penetration or prefer to have no penetration at all. These vary in looks but they’re generally wider so they can cover more surface area.
  2. Internal. They go inside the vagina and stimulate your G-spot. They’re generally long and cylindrical so as to mimic the feel of penetrative sex, though there are variations in shapes.
  3. Combo. They can be used inside and outside the vagina. These are your stereotypical “rabbit” vibrators. They generally have a cylindrical portion with an added arm that stimulates your G-spot and clitoris at the same time.
  4. Anal. They stimulate inside or outside the anus and usually have a base so they don’t get lost or stuck.
  5. Penis-focused. They go around or on the shaft of the penis to simulate the feelings of penetrative sex or masturbation. These include cock rings or fleshlights.
  6. Prostate massagers. These are designed for people with a prostate. These are similar to anal vibrators, but they’re curved to massage your prostate. Some also have a curved part to hug your perineum (i.e. the area between your anus and the base of your testicles).

Which one is best for you depends, ultimately, on what you like. Think about how you masturbate — what sensations feel best for you — then nail down (pun intended) your type.

For example, if you’re a newbie and you have a clitoris, says Dr. Laurie Mintz, LELO sexpert and author of Becoming Cliterate, “I suggest they start with a clitoral vibrator that has multiple speeds and settings because most [vulva-owners] need clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm.”

All about those good vibrations

Your next step is figuring out what type of sensation you want, which varies based on what kind of motor your vibrator has. In other words: do you want broad vibrations across a large area, targeted vibrations, patterned vibrations, or nonstop ones?

If you want to stimulate a large area — maybe across your vulva — you’re going to want a flatter, broader sex toy, like the Romp Wave Lay-On. But if you want to target one specific spot, you’re going to want a vibrator that has a narrower tip, like the Maude, so you can hit — and stay at — that specific spot. Zumio vibrators also have unique tips designed to target and stimulate the clit.

In addition, most vibrators will come with a variety of modes, cycling through vibrations patterns or delivering short pulses. What you want will depend on what feels good to you — though as a newbie, you might want to opt for a vibrator that offers a range of different cycles or pulsing so you can figure out what you’re into.

That said, if you know what you’re into, there are some specialized products out there. For example, if you have a vagina and enjoy oral sex, you might also want to consider getting a suction vibrator, like the Aer or the Womanizer Starlet, which create pulses or vibrations of air and a soft seal around your clitoris.

It’s all material

Whether you get an internal vibrator or not, your new sex toy is going to be touching some pretty sensitive skin and genitals. So it’s mega important that you pick a vibrator that’s actually made of a body-safe material.

Never use jelly-like vibrators. Because the jelly material is porous, it can hold bacteria which makes it unsafe around your genitals. You should also avoid rubber, cheap plastics, or any material that has phthalates (a type of plastic softener).

The safest vibrator material is silicone. It’s nonporous, easy to clean, soft, and generally safe.

The only thing to know about silicone vibrators is that you have to use water-based lubes with them. Silicone lubes will degrade the silicone surface of your sex toy.

Silicone vibrators are generally more expensive, so if you want an alternative, ABS plastic is safe too since it’s also nonporous. It’s not as soft though, so be careful to not be as aggressive with it.

More expensive metals, such as silver and gold are also safe, but they too can be hard, both on you and your wallet.

Size

Yes, size matters — but whether you prefer big, small, or in between is ultimately a matter of personal preference.

“Size is very personal and depends on if the person wants to hide it, be discreet, or if they have mobility or hand issues, necessitating an easier-to-hold handle,” explains Mintz.

“If you are quite new to all this and haven’t even had much sex, I think a versatile, not-too-big vibe is a good choice, something you can use for insertion or also for external play,” says Carol Queen, a PhD sexologist who works with Good Vibrations.

Fun features

Vibrators can do a lot more than just vibrate.

Some of them are waterproof, some are heated, others are hands-free or remote operated, and some, as mentioned above, will vibrate to your favorite music.

So if you’re shopping around, consider what features you’d actually like and which ones feel a little too much for you.

For example, a hands-free vibrator, like the Eva, is designed to stay in place to give you clitoral stimulation because it has little flexible wings that tuck under your labia and stay in place. This means you can lay back, be hands-free, and enjoy your orgasm without having to manually stimulate yourself, or that you can wear it during sex with your partner.

Some features are also practical. Sure, a waterproof vibrator means you can bring it into the shower with you, but it also makes your vibrator way easier to clean.

Other features make the vibrator more versatile. For example, the SVAKOM Emma Neo Wand Vibrator is heated, which means you can use it as a back massager (yes for real) or as a genderless toy to be enjoyed by couples or people with penises and vaginas.

It’s also Bluetooth-enabled and app-controlled so you and your partner can play together long distance. The Lovense edge 2 prostate massager is app-controlled too.

Some vibrators are also designed to be extra discreet, like the CalExotics Hide & Play Lipstick Vibrator.

Where to buy

The good news is: there are lots of places to buy sex toys now — and no, not just the sketchy street corner shops and giant shops off the side of the highway.

As more and more sex shops have moved online, it’s become easier and easier to search for and buy what you want without having to have any awkward conversations with a store clerk. Better yet, many of these online companies will even ship your new purchase in discreet packaging in case you’re not ready to have that convo with your roommates, neighbors, or parents.

Some companies have also focused on creating more modern and less literal designs, like the Drop, making vibrators that are easier to store, clean, and stash away in your home away from snooping family members.

Here are just a few online shops to check out:

Take this quiz and click on your result to buy your vibe. 💖

There’s no hard and fast rule for using a vibrator. How you use it depends on what you like — and the type of vibrator you use.

“Besides using for personal stimulation, you can use your vibrator on you or your partner’s skin to waken senses,” explains Jones. “You can use it during oral favors for a different sensation. You can use it on nipples. Pretty much anything you like you can do.”

If you’re a newbie, you might want to start using it solo.

“I suggest setting aside some time to play with it by yourself and figuring out what you like,” says Mintz. “This way, you can really figure out what is best for your body, in terms of where to place the vibrator and how much intensity you like.”

“After you’ve figured this out, I strongly encourage bringing a vibrator into partner sex,” she continues. “We know that women who use vibrators have easier and more frequent orgasms and that a partner’s acceptance of [a] vibrator use is highly related to women’s sexual satisfaction.”

In other words: vibrators can help close the pleasure gap between vulva- and penis-owners.

Consider using lube

If you’re new to vibrators, lube is your new best friend. Heck, it’s your new best friend even if you’re experienced. Especially if you’re into internal play.

It can make everything a little smoother, making it easier for you to relax and just enjoy. It can also reduce the risk of overstimulation or too much friction.

Opt for water-based lubes if your vibrator is silicone — and consider picking it up at the same time you order your vibrator. Lots of vibrator manufacturers make special lube to complement their products.

How to clean it

You should clean your vibrator after each use.

“Most sex toys can be cleaned with mild antibacterial soap and warm water,” explains Mintz. “Be sure to wash them for at least 20 seconds.”

Then either dry your toy with a fresh, clean towel (not the dishtowel hanging in your kitchen) or let it air-dry.

“To prevent irritation the next time you use your toy, I prefer a scent-free, PH-balanced soap,” explains Jodie Milton, sex and intimacy coach.

You can also buy specialized sex toy cleaners. Most stores that sell vibrators will sell cleaners too, so you can pick up both at the same time. Just make sure — especially if your vibrator is made of silicone — that you buy a water-based cleaner that’s both alcohol and paraben-free.

“Do not use dish soap, bleach, or alcohol on your toy as those can potentially break down the material and they are not body-safe,” explains Jordan Jones, physician’s assistant, women’s sexual health educator, and intimacy coach.

If your vibrator isn’t waterproof, be careful to avoid any electrical areas while washing it.

How to store it

Don’t leave your vibrator out in the open to collect dust, dirt, or bacteria. Also make sure to store your vibrator away from other sex toys, says Jones.

“Depending on the material toys can mold together so it’s best to store them all separately in a clean place,” she says. “Not under your bed with the dust bunnies.”

Some sex toys come with special cases. If yours did, that’s the best place to store it. “If it didn’t, you can use a clean container with a closure, like a makeup bag with a zipper or a baggie that seals tightly,” says Mintz.

Silk and linen bags work too. You can also buy specialized vibrator cases. Just make sure your vibrator is clean and dry before you store it anywhere.

Does using a sex toy mean I’m kinky?

The short answer: no.

But it’s unfortunately not uncommon for people to be a little embarrassed or ashamed of them. Vibrators for sexual pleasure have a long history of being taboo.

This comes partly from their history: They weren’t originally created for pleasure. In fact, in Victorian times, they were meant to cure women of “hysteria,” a catch-all mental health diagnosis ascribed by male doctors when women fainted too much, were nervous or anxious, or “too sexually forward.” Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville invented the device to relieve muscle soreness — and was pretty upset when he figured out that women were “mis-using” it for personal gratification.

Over the years, though, vibrators — and other sex toys — became “dirty” little secrets: i.e. things we all loved using but never talked about. That’s why, for a long time, vibrators masqueraded as different products, even though it was an open secret that they could really be used for something else.

For example, in the 1970s, back massagers were very popular — like the Hitachi Magic Wand — but no one really used them on their backs. Later, even when vibrators started making their appearances in pop culture — think the Rabbit in Sex and the City — they remained hush-hush, gifts we’d give each other at birthdays and bachelorette parties while giggling and blushing.

That’s beginning to change now, especially post-pandemic. And with good reason.

According to TENGA’s 2016 survey, of the people who owned at least one sex toy, 70 percent said it improved their masturbation experience.

And according to Tenga’s 2020 Self-Pleasure report:

  • 80 percent of people think masturbation is a part of self-care
  • 71 percent say masturbation helped them during quarantine
  • 60 percent intend to use their sex toys more post-pandemic

More and more people are also becoming aware of the pleasure gap between penis- and vulva-having folks and so, to confront it, they’re adopting a more sex-positive outlook. Sex toy manufacturers and social media influencers are doing the same too — and all of this together is helping destigmatize sex toys so that we can all have better, more pleasurable sex lives, whether that’s solo or with partners.

Plus, frequent orgasms are just good for our health (but more on that below).

What are the benefits of using a vibrator?

There are oh, oh, oh, oh so many benefits… and not just the obvious one. (But ya, that obvious one is important too).

The science is clear: orgasms are good for you. They cause your body to release endorphins (aka hormones that block pain and make you feel good). This can:

Using vibrators (and sex toys in general) can also help you learn your body and what feels good to you. “Using a vibrator can help you learn your own body, allowing you to share what you learned with your partner,” says Jones. “[This] can speed up time to orgasm.”

Dr. Sara C. Flowers, vice president of education & training at Planned Parenthood Federation of America says that sex toys can also help build trust with a partner or partners if you use them together. “If you’re using sex toys with others, this can also help bring you closer as you have conversations about toys and explore your sexual interests together.”

Another cool benefit? Flowers says sex toys can help affirm a person’s gender identity: “Some transgender or nonbinary folks might like using toys that help them feel more comfortable in their gender identity during sex.”

Are there any downsides to using vibrators?

No. Contrary to a lot of the myths out there, vibrators are perfectly safe and normal.

As long as you use a body-safe vibrator, clean it after each use, and store it properly, there are no downsides to using a vibrator.

Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you have an IUD, you’ll want to avoid any vibrator that rotates internally as this could catch on your IUD’s strings.
  • It’s possible for a sex toy to cause temporary numbness after orgasm, especially if you use the strongest vibration settings. But if this happens to you, rest assured sensation should come back shortly. And just turn down the settings next time.

There’s a myth that sex toys are addictive and can make climax with a partner more difficult. But, Mintz says, this isn’t specific to sex toys, but sex in general.

“If a person gets used to reaching orgasm one way, it can be harder to reach orgasm in other ways,” she says. “The solution is simply mixing up your routine once and a while, like hands sometimes, vibrator others.”

What do I do if I order a vibrator online and I end up not liking it?

If you ordered online and don’t like your new vibe, you might be able to return it.

Obviously, return policies vary by retailer, but several stores do accept returns within a certain period of time, such as within 30 days or 60 days.

If you do return it, check with the store you ordered it from, but you’ll likely need to clean or sterilize it then return it in the original package and box.

Can I use a vibrator with a partner?

Absolutely.

“Using a vibrator with a partner can be very fun,” says Jones. “You can use it clitorally during penetration. You can use a c-ring on the penis. You can use it for mutual masturbations… the options are limitless.”

Just be sure to talk with your partner before you use it to gauge their comfort level and see what they’re up to trying. If they’re a newbie too, be patient and take your time exploring how to incorporate it into your sexual encounters.

Vibrators can be great for your own self-care, your health, and your relationship. And the best thing: it’s never been easier to buy one than it is now. Just be sure to do your research when buying to make sure you pick something you’ll enjoy — and be ready to explore.