You've decided that you'd like to try out toys. You may have your own uncertainties about if it is for you, and what you will choose. Something discreet that wouldn’t embarrass you if it fell out of your handbag at your family’s Christmas lunch? Or something loud, proud, and colourful, that looks like it’s a prop from a Las Vegas circus? But before that, you realise you’ve got another hurdle to jump…
Telling your partner you want to introduce toys to your repertoire can be daunting, exciting, or both. You might be nervous about how your partner will take it, you might be self-conscious about expressing your sexual desires, or even about using a toy in front of someone. Research shows that sex toys are associated with sexual wellness and satisfaction (see Doring and Poeschl, 2020), rather than boredom. Another study by Johns and Bushnell (2023) found that users of sex toys are not looking for something to substitute for their partner but want an additional tool.
Start by telling your partner that you're curious about the experience and that this is something you'd like to try together and ask what their thoughts are. If your partner is likely to take this as a complaint, or to interpret your desire as boredom or being dissatisfied with your sex life, reassure them that this is not the case. Explain that you wouldn't do anything they're not comfortable with and that the toys are not a replacement for the pleasure and stimulation they give you, but to enhance the experience for you both. Toys, especially more modern ones, are designed to do things that the body cannot like pulse or vibrate. For example, some clitoral vibrators produce suction at different powers or emit sonic waves. A cock ring can make erections harder, last longer, and provide clitoral stimulation.
Buying a toy doesn’t mean that you will use it each time you have sex. Some people are concerned that if they start using a toy to orgasm, they will not be able to orgasm without one, but this is a myth. You could suggest to your partner that you practice edging, whereby you use a toy to bring you close to orgasm, but finish without it. Ironically what starts as a safe compromise for couples where one partner is reluctant, can become a highly erotically-charged experience.
Choose when to tell your partner. Before, during, or after sex aren't ideal times if your partner isn't likely to be keen on the idea. Before or during can put a lot of pressure on them to agree, and directly after could be as an indirect comment on your part about not being satisfied.
If your partner’s reaction is not what you were hoping for, do not get defensive, shame them for not wanting to try, or feel ashamed of yourself for bringing it up. If it is clear that this is not an option for your partner, you can close the conversation by saying you understand and respect their decision. You could go further by asking if there was something they would like to try out, like playing out a fantasy of theirs, and iterate that you’re open to listening to their needs. This shows your partner that your stance is that of wanting to work on your sex life together, and of considering both your desires.
However, you may be pleasantly surprised. Your partner might be curious, or genuinely eager to try something new with you. If you've both agreed to the idea, where do you go next? Do a little solo research and reveal your choice to your partner during a date or time alone together. Alternatively, build up anticipation by setting a time to browse for toys together. Research what you'd like to try, and make this part of your foreplay. Fantasize about what you'd use and how. Several toys exist specifically designed for couples, however, you can also consider toys that are for solo use, and have your partner watch you masturbate as part of foreplay, or have your partner be in charge of using it on you!
Dr Maria Ali is a Psychosexual Therapist, Counselling Psychologist and Lecturer in Cyprus