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Vibrators for women – the beginner’s guide to sex toys

beginners guide to sex toys healthista

Confused about the whole world of vibrators for women, but also intrigued?  if you don’t know your teledildos from your finger toys, prepare for a pleasurable ride that could change your sex life 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the friend that people came to with questions. I really couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it’s the glasses? 

And so naturally when puberty kicked in and all my girly friends started noticing a few new things, the questions of a more sexual nature inevitably started; How to put on condoms, if oral could get you pregnant, why boobs weren’t perfectly symmetrical… One memory from my teenage years that springs to mind was having my best friend, who was over for a sleepover, wake me up in the middle of the night deathly serious, to ask me: ‘Serena, what’s a semi?’ 

a teledildonic can be operated from anywhere in the world – as long as you have wifi

These are strange questions to ask a woman who, to this day, will giggle whenever a doctor asks what her preferred method of birth control is (apparently, ‘homosexuality’ is not a proper answer). But in truth, I’m a little pleased that things turned out this way. If people hadn’t relied on me for answers, perhaps I wouldn’t have taken the time to educate myself – and what a shame that would have been.  

In this rising tide of feminist culture, I don’t think any woman should feel ashamed about sexual curiosity, exploration or enjoyment. I especially don’t think they should be ashamed of any difficulties they might face in the bedroom. Sex toys can be a wonderful way for a person to engage with their sexuality, either solo or with a partner.  

Have you ever looked at a sex toy and been intimidated? Thought ‘Where does that even go? let alone ‘what do I actually do with it?’  Then this guide is for you. If you’ve ever owned a sex toy, hated it and given up, then this is absolutely the guide for you. After all, sex is like anything else: there’s a whole lot of variety out there and more than one way to do it. While I haven’t included EVERYTHING on this list, there should be more than enough to get you started: 

Vibrators for women – the actual vibration factor

A rabbit vibrator. Artist: Charlotte Harris


When it comes to vibration, not everyone is going to be the same. Some people need a really powerful toy to feel satisfied, while others will run from the room in terror at anything stronger than a light purr.

I think of it as sort of like cheeses: some of us prefer Mozzarella while others prefer Roquefort. Some like both, some hate cheese and some people are lactose intolerant and are forced to live sad, sad lives. 

The easiest way to figure out what you like in terms of vibrators is to divide the types of vibration up into four basic categories: 

  • Gentle 
  • Strong 
  • Buzzy
  • Rumbly 

But how do you know which one to pick? Simple. Ask yourself: which one sounds the most desirable to you? For a lot of women, half of arousal is about what happens in their minds, so the chances are whatever excites you will be a good choice.  Most electrical toys will have several vibration levels and pulsation patterns, so even if you choose wrong you can usually adjust the strength of the vibration. 

Try before you buy is not an option when it comes to sex toys (much to the relief of everyone who works in that industry). A way to work with this is to go to a store that sells toys take a look at some of their display toys.

A trick I teach all my female friends if they’re buying a vibrator in person, is to switch on the display toy and place it on the tip of their nose. Most toys turn off and on if you hold down the button for a few seconds. I don’t just do this because it looks funny – While it has fewer nerve endings than the intended area of use, the tip of your nose is very sensitive to vibration and can give you a better idea of what you’re in for with any given vibrating toy.

You can find different types of vibration in pretty much every single type and variation of toy. In this case, size really doesn’t matter. 

What are they made of?


Left to right: a glass dildo, rabbit vibrator and bullet

Your average sex toy will be made from either rubber or silicone, but for the more adventurous there are other materials such as glass and metal, which allow you a bit more freedom to play around with temperature and pressure. All of these materials are body safe and non-porous. I tend to steer beginners towards a silicone toy as it’s a softer material than rubber that’s easier to clean.

For reasons that I hope are obvious, hygienically caring for your toys is important. Not doing so can lead to toy damage and infections. Most toy companies and sex shops will offer a gentle toy cleaner that you can spray onto a cloth and use to wipe down your products. However, most gentle soaps are fine, provided they don’t contain any oils (I’ve even known some women to put non-electronic toys in the dishwasher). Give your toy a quick clean before the first use and always clean them between uses.

Check your toys every now and then for any cracks in the material or signs of damage where germs could get caught (and multiply) as this could cause an infection.

Another way to ensure the cleanliness of your toy is to simply cover it with a fresh condom between uses alongside regular cleaning.  This would also help prevent the spread of germs if you are sharing the toy with a partner or using it on separate parts of the body.

Electronic toys can be battery powered, plug in to the mains or are rechargeable.  A rechargeable one is probably best for a beginner. They also tend to be at least splash-proof, unlike batteries. Though you should always check the packaging before taking a toy into the bath or shower. Meanwhile if you take a plug-in toy to the bathroom… well there are worse ways to go I suppose. Plug ins also tend to be on the louder, more powerful side of things- which may be perfect for some, but is generally something you would work your way up to.

And finally, be sure to read the instructions on everything you use. Each toy, lubricant, condom and cleaner is different and it’s best to know what you’re dealing with before you start using it. Never assume a toy is fully waterproof unless it is stated in the instructions.

 Now that we’ve covered all that, you’re ready to move on to toys: 

10 types of sex toys and exactly what to do with them

Finger Toys


Finger toys, finger sleeves, or as I’ve always called them: ‘finger texturisers’, are little toys that attach to the ends of your fingers. They come in a multitude of sizes, ranging from ones that just fit over your finger tips to several times the length and width of the finger. They are available both vibrating or non-vibrating – whichever you prefer.  These toys can be used solo, to enhance masturbation or with a partner. For a beginner, I would recommend a simple non-vibrating sleeve that just fits over the tip of your dominant finger. They’re super cheap and very eye opening. 

Bullets & other clitoral vibrators


A bullet is typically a small pocket-sized toy shaped like, would you believe, a bullet. Designed for clitoral use both direct or indirect, these little gadgets are typically made from either plastic or have a metal coating. Other clitoral toys are more commonly silicone covered and can be shaped like pretty much anything.  I once found one that was disguised as a silicone macaroon and another shaped like an ice cream. Clitoral toys can be great for a shyer beginner, as they tend to be discreet due to their size and design. Be warned though, size has no bearing on the power these toys can pack.  



 A wand (also known as a magic wand or ‘body massager’) is a vibrating toy made for external use.  Wands are an excellent gender-neutral toy that are relatively popular all across the spectrum. Wands are also disability-friendly due to the length of their handle, giving the user a little more range (they also make for a pretty decent back massage). 

Suction Toys


We’ve established that there is much more to the clitoris than meets the eye, but did you know what most sexual activity only stimulates the very tip of the clitoris? That means there’s a whole 75% that’s being neglected. That’s where air suction toys come in. By very gently forcing a light pressure of air back on forth over the clitoral area, these toys are able to stimulate the clitoris much more effectively. 

G-spot vibes


G-spot vibes are designed for internal use (though don’t let that limit you).  They usually have a curve in them to reach the G-spot allowing you to massage the area or put pressure on it (or both). G-spot vibrators do not have to be used solely for internal use, you can use then all over your body to explore different sensations. Some women enjoy starting these toys up and running them along their inner thigh for stimulation.  Some G-spot vibrators have an option of a rotating tip which some of you mind find makes them extra special.



A rabbit vibrator is probably the one most people think about when they consider buying a sex toy, and with good reason. A rabbit is essentially a G-spot vibe with a clitoral vibrator attached to the shaft, giving you the best of both worlds. They’re called rabbits because the original models had two finger shaped clitoral stimulators that resembled bunny ears. Today however they come in all shapes and sizes! 




Dildos are typically non-vibrating phallic-shaped toys used for penetration. Some dildos will have a suction cup or flat base at the bottom for convenience, or so that it can be placed inside a harness. A harness is a piece of clothing or material that can be used to attach a sex toy to your body.  Other more ‘realistic’ looking dildos may instead opt for some testicles at their base. Vibrating options are also widely available. 

Anal Toys


Anal toys come in such a wide range that I could keep you here all day explaining all the ins and outs (pun fully intended), but here are some things to get you started: 

  • Butt plugs The nerve endings in the rectum respond to pressure as well as massage. Butt plugs can be used as a “warm-up” for anal play or left there for a feeling of fullness. 
  • Dildos  Dildos can also be used for anal play, as long as they have a good base. 
  • Anal beads – Beads allow the anal sphincter to repeatedly open and close. You can just slowly insert (and remove) each of the anal beads, or you can insert the entire strand for a feeling of fullness. 
Couples & remote control


While I’d argue that any sex toy can be considered a couple’s toy, there are a few that are specifically designed for the enjoyment of two or more people. 

The standard couple’s toy is shaped a bit like a ‘C ‘and is made to fit directly inside the vagina- pressing on the G-spot while also stimulating the clitoris. They can be worn during penetrative sex, allowing you both to enjoy the vibrations, or simply left in for your pleasure.

There are also cock-rings. A cock ring can be either vibrating or non-vibrating (are you noticing a theme?), and work best when placed at the base of the penis when you or your partner are semi-flaccid (that’s what a semi is, Jade).

Many of these toys will also have a remote-control option. Remote control toys are great, especially if you have a partner who’s a little toy-shy. You can hand the remote (the control) over to them and put your pleasure in their hands. 

Another cool thing about remote control toys is that they are more disability friendly than your average toy, as they do not require as much dexterous movement as your every-day toys.  

left to right: male masturbation cup, butt plug and couples toy

I honestly find this one fascinating, while it’s probably not quite beginner-level stuff, I just had to put it on the list.

Simple toys in this category are functionally identical to a remotecontrol toy but a teledildonic sex toy has one key difference, it can be operated from anywhere in the world- as long as you have wifi.  Suddenly that long-distance relationship isn’t such a bad idea, right?

Couples with conflicting schedules will rejoice, as might anyone who’s prone to losing remotes or with mobility issues.  

The wifi really is the limit with these things, they come in all different shapes and sizes

6 ways to get more pleasure out of your body

So now you finally know a dildo from a vibrator, you’re a total master right? Not quite. If you really want to understand sex toys, you need to understand your own body first:

EVERYONE should love lube 


Contrary to what you may have been told, lube is not just for people who ‘can’t get wet’. There are a whole host of reasons why someone might chose to use lube.

For one, lube can make orgasms easier. Whenever someone asks me what THE essential sex toy is, I usually say a good lube. I’m sure it seems like a boring answer, but for the uninitiated, lube can open-up a whole new world for you.  

Not being able to self-lubricate is a common occurrence that is often maligned with signs of age or lack of arousal. Sometimes the reason can be as simple as not drinking enough water that day. Other causes include stress and anxiety and being on certain medications.

Using lube also makes for safer sex.  If you’ve ever experienced painful vaginal sex (1 in 13 women do) lube can help and can prevent the tearing of membranes that can increase your risk of infections and STI’s. 

For a beginner, a simple water-based lube is the best place to start as it is safe to use with both toys and condoms and is unlikely to upset your PH balance (natural chemicals inside the vagina- PH imbalance can lead to infection). Water based lube sinks into the skin – not unlike moisturiser.  However before that happens, it can be re-activated when more water is added.  

Flavoured lube is another simple way to spice things up in the bedroom.  I’m going to let you use your imaginations for this one.

While the market is flooded with mediocre lubes that at best taste like calpol and at worst taste like someone was trying to punish you, there are some amazing flavoured lubes out there. Some are so nice, I once even had caramel flavoured lube with coffee and pancakes – it was less calories than sugar or syrup and a whole lot nicer. Flavoured lubes are commonly water based, sugar free (for genital safety) and designed to be ingested, so feel free to add it to your ice cream if you’re so inclined.

There are also silicone and oil-based lubes, which are perfectly fine for use on non-silicone toys and for anal use. They can however upset a more delicate PH balance and wreak havoc on any silicone toys. They are also not safe to use with condoms, typically causing them to split. The only way to remove a silicone-based lube from your body, to my knowledge, is with soap and water, so be sure to make time for a quick shower after using it. 

Join the Clitoratti 
A clitoris (the real thing is fortunately not made of gold). Source: Instagram @womanizer

The clitoris is the only known part of the human body whose sole function is for pleasure. With 8,000 nerve endings (twice the number on the head of a penis), you’ve got a lot to work with- and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Like all good things, it’s bigger on the inside. Internally, the rest of the clitoris is made up of the clitoral shaft, urethral sponge, erectile tissue, glands, vestibular bulbs and clitoral legs- which can also be used for stimulation.

The easiest way to find your clitoral legs is to place your fingers where the bottom of the vulva and lips meet.  For less direct stimulation, you can also just place your hand over your vulva and lightly press down. 

Go G-Spotting 


The G-spot is located on the front wall of the vagina (towards your belly button) and is the part of your body that feels the most pleasure when you are penetrated. If you were assigned male at birth, there is an equivalent located in the anus, known as the prostate or ‘P-spot’. More recently, people have been speculating that the G-spot is actually a part of the clitoris, which would suggest that ‘vaginal orgasm’ is in fact brought about by clitoral stimulation.  

Be anal about safety 


Is it obvious that I’m running out of puns? The first thing to know about anal toys is never use anything that doesn’t have a base. Your sphincteral muscles (the muscles responsible for opening and closing the anus) are very strong and will suck things right up if you’re not careful. A base prevents this from happening.

Contrary to what you may think, in this case what goes up will not come down. Your sphincter will keep on sucking until the object becomes lodged in your lower intestines where is will do some serious damage.

Best case scenario: you will be in for a rather uncomfortable chat with someone at A&E. Worst case scenario: no one will be able to keep a straight face at your funeral.  Anal tearing is another risk of anal play, so be sure to use lots and lots of lube.

Lube for anal is a must. Everything back there is more fragile and it’s not exactly a self-lubricating area. If your body is feeling pain during anal play- do not push through. Stop, relax, and if you feel like it, try again. 

Visit your vulva


I’ve spoken with a lot of women who have never taken a look down there, to the point where i’m beginning to wonder if women who have taken a peak might just be the minority. If you haven’t yet, familiarising yourself visually as well as though touch can be not only empowering, but also useful and healthy. If you’re familiar with your vulva, you’re also more likely to notice if something is amiss.

73% of women in the UK aren’t even sure what a vulva is.  Often mistaken for the vagina, the vulva is the name for female genitalia that can been seen outside the body, a vagina is the internal part. This includes the pubic mound ,outer lips, inner lips, clitoral hood, clitoris and the openings of the urethra and vagina.  Read more about vulvas and see some real ones here.

A beginners guide to orgasms


I’d be doing you a huge disservice if I didn’t talk about this. While the aim of having sex and/or using a sex toy doesn’t just have to be to achieve orgasm, all women should be having them.

There are four stages to orgasm: 

  • Arousal – Initially being turned on. 
  • Plateau  Repetitive motion that feels pleasurable. 
  • Orgasm  A burst of pleasure, and release. 
  • Resolution  The refractory period (also known as the ‘recovery’ period or post-orgasm bliss). 

Orgasm is usually brought on through a series of repetitive motions that feel good to the person having the orgasm. Here are some basic types of orgasm: 

  • Clitoral orgasm – brought on by clitoral stimulation – usually repeated pressure. The sensation is widely described as a tingling sensation along your skin and in your brain.  Most women orgasm clitorially.
  • G-spot / vaginal orgasm – brought on by internal vaginal stimulation – usually by making a circular or ‘come hither’ motion around or on the G-spot. During an internal orgasm, the vaginal walls will pulse. 
  • Anal Orgasm – brought on by anal stimulation (which can indirectly stimulate the G-spot.) 
  • Blended orgasm– A combination any of the above. A more ‘explosive’ orgasm 

Orgasm can also be achieved through repetitive stimulation of erogenous zones – such as the nipples or neck. 

Like the illustrations? Charlotte Harris is a London-based artist. You can find more of her work at: @cnh_arts on Instagram.

July 31st is National Orgasm Day 

Related Healthista content:

How a tantric massage could boost your sex life

7 best vibrators for women

7 types of female orgasms – which ones have you had?


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