Sex School: ‘I Want To Buy My First Sex Toy, But Where Do I Start?’

Self-pleasure is having a major moment. Here's how to make the most of your alone time.

Welcome to Viva’s Sex School, a series that serves to educate and empower you to enjoy and explore the many facets of sex. To kick things off, we asked three of the industry’s most knowledgeable sexperts for their hot take on how to shop for your first-ever sex toy.


As convenient as it may be to go the manual route, there’s nothing wrong with recruiting the help of a gadget to really get things going.

Whether you’re in a relationship, single or keeping things casual, we asked three sexperts for their hot tips on how to select your first-ever sex toy.

From tips on how to get the most out of your toy, to hygienic practices or which lube to use, consider this a beginner’s guide to getting down with your bad self.

Left to right: Melissa Vranjes, Emma Hewitt and Stacey O'Gorman.
Left to right: Melissa Vranjes, Emma Hewitt and Stacey O'Gorman.

Meet Our Panel Of Sexperts

Melissa Vranjes, a certified holistic sex coach and educator.

Stacey O’Gorman, an intimacy coach and host of sexual wellness podcast Finger Food.

Emma Hewitt, Adulttoymegastore sex educator and host of podcast Electric Rodeo.

How can a person figure out what they want?

Just like decent foreplay, when it comes to researching what you want in a sex toy — take it slow. Do your homework and figure out your likes and dislikes before you add to cart.

According to Stacey, first you’ll want to establish your intention for your shiny new toy. It’s a good idea to ask yourself some honest questions about what you want out of it, and who you want to use it with.

Establish whether you want to use the toy with your partner or if you prefer to go solo. Stacey says if your toy is for personal use and you’ve never tried anything before, consider something cute and non-offensive like a vibrator, then work your way up from there.

Ask yourself how you like to be touched. If you’re a vulva owner, do you like to be stimulated vaginally or clitorally? “If you don’t like vaginal stimulation all that much, something like a dildo is not really going to work for you,” Emma says. “But if you love clitoral stimulation, that’s going to be your best bet, at least when you’re starting out.”

Consider if you want to try something you haven’t tried before. Melissa says to think about the sensations you enjoy, then consider if you want to level up your sexual experiences or try something completely different from what you’ve done before.

“I think it’s crucial to do some prep work so you don’t walk out with a toy you feel anxious to use,” Melissa says.

What do people need to know about shopping for sex toys online?

Fear and embarrassment are two of the biggest barriers to shopping for a sex toy in-store with confidence, but they need not be.

While shopping online can take the awkwardness out of the entire experience, Emma says it can be even more overwhelming with pages and pages of toys to trawl through.

“My recommendation is to actually look at and use the resources that online stores provide, like The Heat articles on, as well as our amazing customer support team, whose job it is to live chat with customers and help them find something they love,” she says.

Most toys are listed with their measurements, so Emma says it’s a good idea to bust out a ruler to establish whether the toy is the right size for you. “If you don’t have a ruler, think in Subway sandwiches — six inches is actually quite big,” she says.

If you find a brand you love, have a look online to see if your values align — ethically sourced, fair-trade, eco-conscious, etc., Melissa says. “Check out customer reviews, you may even find sex educators and coaches reviewing and comparing toys on YouTube.”

Do you recommend a person shop solo? Or should they bring a friend?

Stacey recalls her first-ever sex toy shopping experience: she brought in a friend and walked out with a rabbit. “That was the object that gave me my first-ever orgasm and I will be forever grateful for it, and the friend for their rabbit wisdom,” she says.

Sex toy shopping with friends should be a fun experience, especially when those friends are sex-positive and want to celebrate your pleasure, Stacey says.

Otherwise, bringing along your lover (or the person you’re planning on using the sex toy with) is an excellent warm-up to the real event. “Shopping together can be a great foreplay exercise because as we know, foreplay doesn’t just start in the bedroom,” Melissa says.

Feeling bold? Melissa says she tells her clients it’s best to shop solo. “It gives you the freedom to not worry about what someone may think of your decisions, and you can seek judgment-free assistance from the toy experts in-store,” she says.

“I think something like going to a sex shop solo builds sexual confidence and it’s saying: ‘My pleasure matters and I am worthy of great experiences’ — and that’s really powerful in one’s quest for sexual empowerment.”

The sex toy industry isn’t regulated. How can a person know that what they’re buying is safe?

Look out for high-quality, body-safe materials from trusted brands who have spent years pouring research and development into their personal pleasure-seekers. Emma loves brands like Satisfier, WeVibe or Share Satisfaction, which are covered by warranties.

Materials matter, and it’s important to select a toy created from a non-porous material like silicone, glass, metal or ABS plastic, which can be easily sterilised and shared safely with sexual partners.

Cheap materials like PVC are a no-no, says Melissa, and if a toy smells like heavy plastic, it’s probably PVC. “You don’t want this kind of material in or around your body,” Melissa says. “PVC is porous in nature and will degrade in your sex drawer.”

How long do sex toys last?

Non-porous materials (silicone, glass, ABS plastic and steel) are not only the best quality to put in or around your body, they’re also the longest lasting, Emma says.

Larger toys like dildos or penis strokers are commonly made from PVC, which Emma says can begin to break down around the eight-month mark.

“You can find that they start to colour and because they’re porous, mould can get trapped inside them. You just don’t want to have it for any long amount of time,” she says.

How you care for your toys will also impact their longevity — washing them after each use and storing them in a dustbag will prolong a toy’s life, Melissa says. “Silicone toys can last anywhere from three to five years, and glass can last forever as long as it doesn’t break,” she says.

What can be done if a person purchases a sex toy, tries it, but doesn’t like it?

Do all the research you like, but sometimes the sex toy you select can fall short of expectations. A sad but common situation, yes, but one that Emma says can be resolved.

It’s important to note that what feels good for one person may not feel quite so earth-shattering for the next, so if your girlfriend/best friend/work colleague says a particular toy was life-changing for them, take it with a grain of salt.

Remember that a few factors have a part to play in your enjoyment of your toy, such as your mood, hormones or lifestyle. “I always recommend giving it a few tries first, because everything can change how it feels to you. Depending on your mood, your lifestyle or what your hormones are doing, that will change how your body responds to different types of stimulation,” Emma says.

It’s a matter of trial and error, too, Emma says, especially when it comes to suction toys. “Often if people don’t actually make that really good seal between the body and the toy, they can’t feel anything and it’s because it needs that seal to work.”

And if you’ve tried all of the above and still aren’t feeling the fireworks, Adulttoymegastore has a recycling programme that reclaims used electronic and metal sex toys to give recyclable parts new life.

Is there such thing as becoming reliant on a sex toy?

Drawing on her own sexual experiences, Stacey says it’s definitely possible to gain dependence on toys for a quick fix.

“It can be easy to become accustomed to the intense sensations from sex toys, which can make it challenging to enjoy sex without these sensations,” she says.

“Although I am a big fan of toys, I would also say it’s healthy to have a balance of using them and going au naturel from time to time!”

Emma explains the neurological pathway that can cause such reliance on a toy. Our brains are wired to make you feel good, which means the more we use a toy and have an orgasm from it, the more the brain creates a neural pathway to orgasm that becomes even stronger.

“If you’re finding that you’ve used a toy a whole lot and you’re struggling to maybe orgasm or feel a whole lot of pleasure and other forms, just stop using the toy for a little while. Mix things up,” she says.

Melissa is a big believer in diversifying your pleasure and has worked with clients who find it hard to introduce other toys or struggle to orgasm in partnered sex because they have wired only one pleasure pathway.

“In my experience as a holistic sex coach, I recommend rotating between toys and having sessions without toys to keep that hand-to-skin awareness alive. The body craves variety and by doing this you keep multiple pleasure pathways active,” she explains.

What prep should be done before you use it for the first time?

Our experts agree it’s best to wash your sex toy thoroughly before its first use (in line with the manufacturing instructions) and to fully charge its battery.

While some toys can be fully submerged in warm soapy water others can’t, Emma says. “Some toys are waterproof; some toys are submergible, and some toys are neither. If it’s not waterproof, then you can just spread some toy cleaner on to a cloth and wipe it down that way.”

If you are using a toy cleaner, Melissa advises looking for one that’s as natural as possible — it’ll help keep the pH of your intimate areas in check.

But it’s not just your toy that needs cleaning, Stacey recommends washing your hands thoroughly before a self-pleasure sesh so you’re not bringing any unwanted bacteria into the bedroom.

Allow yourself a moment to figure out how the toy works before inserting it or putting it on your body, Emma says. There’s no need to rush — try out the different modes and speeds; really see how it feels for you. “It’s going to make your first time so much more enjoyable,” Emma says.

Don’t Forget The Sextras

Avoid rubbing yourself up the wrong way by using a lubricant whenever you reach for your toys — especially if it’s going to be inserted into your body.

Our experts agree that water-based lube is your best bet when using silicone toys, or any type of lube if using glass or crystal sex toys. They’re also the most compatible with condoms.

“Silicone-based lubricants aren’t a good match for silicone sex toys because they can affect their longevity and possibly destroy them in the long run,” Stacey says.

Oil-based lubricants can also be used with silicone toys (it’s Melissa’s favourite when using glass toys) but be warned: they aren’t recommended to be used with condoms as they can damage the latex and cause them to break.

Our Sexperts Recommend

“For a vulva owner, I would recommend a rabbit,” Stacey says. Try the Svakom Alice, $132, a dual stimulation vibrator that targets the G-spot and clitoris using eight variable settings from vibrating to pulsing and thrusting.

“I’d start with a glass or silicone dildo that has no vibrator in it,” Melissa says. “This is a great way to start exploring your body without overstimulating it and building more awareness around your body’s subtle sensations around pleasure (this makes for the juiciest of orgasms).” Following this, you can feel free to graduate to toys that vibrate, stroke, suck or blow, Melissa adds. Try the Realrock Crystal Clear Curvy Dildo, $45.

“The bullet vibe!” Emma says, adding it’s great for either solo or couples play. “It’s a small external vibrator that you can just slip into your fingers and use anywhere on the outside of the body — it’s perfect for a little clitoris action, but also the nipples, the scrotum, inner thigh, any erogenous zone!” Try Play Bullet Vibe, $82 (currently on sale for $37).

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