Women and Sex Toys

by Cay Crow, M.A., LPC, AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist

woman's lower half of face with head tilted back and mouth open

One of the most common questions that clients ask sex educators and therapists is whether the use of toys during solo play will interfere with a person’s enjoyment of partnered sex. In this article, the focus will be on cis gendered straight women.

Women’s Masturbation With Sex Toys

First, let’s clarify a few things about masturbation. I tell my clients that there is the sex life you have with yourself and the sex life you have with others. It is like comparing apples and oranges; both are delicious but in different ways. Masturbation, or as I like to call it, self-cultivation, is completely focused on your own pleasure. Playing with yourself sexually is how you discover your sexual response cycle, what sets you off like a rocket or does nothing for you. Self-cultivation is the most comfortable and safe way to learn about yourself as a sexual being. And this is not just about what type of stimulation works for you, it is also about where you mind goes in terms of sexy thoughts or fantasies. It is the combination of mind and body that ratches up sexual arousal. This is one important difference between female and male sexuality. If you are hitting all the right spots physically but mentally planning your next trip to the grocery store, I doubt orgasm will follow unless you are turned on by produce (it is possible!). Men have levels of testosterone that women could never relate to; once a male experiences sexual arousal, it more or less kidnaps his mind. He has difficulty turning away from arousal. Women, on the other hand, struggle to merge their physical sensations with their mental and emotional experience. With masturbation, you don’t have to pay attention to a partner or concern yourself with their stimulation. Masturbation is an automatic feedback loop for your sexuality. I highly recommend it. Plus, self-cultivation really is like gardening; you are tilling the soil of your sexuality, preparing yourself for optimal sexual experiences. With partnered sex, you get to enjoy another person’s sexual energy which can ratchet up your own. But keep in mind that just as solo sex can sometimes be mediocre, so can partnered sex. Keep your expectations realistic.

Sex Toy or Partners, Which is Better?

Many cis gendered straight women have expressed concerns about preferring toys to male partners. In my experience, this concern is an echo of the male fear that a penetrative toy will “blow up their spot” with a female partner. It also reflects the false assumption that penetrative sex is supposed to be adequate stimulation for female orgasm. Let’s clarify something; 70% of women cannot orgasm through PIV alone; it simply is NOT the most effective way to stimulate the clitoris. Men optimize their own stimulation (generally speaking) through PIV, but in order for women to reach orgasm it is not a go-to activity for most. We can optimize female stimulation during PIV by selecting the best positions and supplementing with other clitorally focused activities such as oral sex, manual stimulation, and the use of toys. The U.S. is a rather intercourse focused culture for various reasons, which helps explain why so many women are sexually dissatisfied. Ladies, there are surefire toys on the market, which may help you have your first orgasm on your own. Does it really matter how orgasm occurs as long as it does? There are small discreet toys that you can use for clitoral stimulation during PIV which will boost the possibility of an orgasm during penetration. Orgasm is something the body naturally expresses under optimal conditions. It is not a prize that you achieve; change your language and your thinking. Relax and find what is pleasurable for you. Stop thinking of orgasm as a measure of your worthiness and of your partner’s erotic skill. It is your responsibility to figure out your own erotic template. Your partner can certainly be part of that as long as you lead the way.


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