While some people might think of accessible sex toys as “special devices” or sex toys for disabled people, it really just means sex toys that will work for you.
If you’re interested in trying a sex toy but you aren’t sure where to start, you may find the following checklist helpful as a way of thinking through what you want and what would work for you and/or whoever you may be using a sex toy with. There’s nothing scientific about this list. It was developed over twenty years of working in sex shops and helping people find sex toys that are right for them.
Don’t think of this list as diagnostic or something that you have to fully complete, not everything on the list will be relevant to you, and it’s more of a map than it is a set of directions to a specific place.
Who is the sex toy for?
Accessibility is individual, so the place to start is with who will be using the sex toy:
- Is the sex toy for yourself to use alone?
- Will the toy be used by a partner? Will they be using it on their own or with you?
- Is it for a friend or family member? If so, even if you really want to surprise them, and you think you know the answers for them, it’s better if they answer the questions below.
- Will an attendant, service provider, or any third person be involved in the getting ready, positioning, or cleaning up after playing with the sex toy? (If the answer is yes it doesn’t mean they get to or should have a say in finding the right toy, but you may want to think about how you feel about privacy and whether that will change the kind of toy you want to get).
Can you tell what’s happening in your body?
You absolutely don’t need to be able to monitor all your own body responses to use a sex toy and have fun. But if you have decreased sensation and/or can’t always see or touch all parts of your body it’s worth taking into consideration when choosing a toy. More on this below.
AccommodationsThere are at least two ways to think about adapting sex toys. You can buy any toy and then try to come up with adaptations to it, or you can find a toy that fits most of your needs first and end up making fewer modifications.
Unless you’ve got plenty of money and access to an engineer, I recommend the second option. To find a sex toy that will work best for you or someone else, consider the following accommodations and apply them both to the person using the sex toy and anyone who might be assisting them.
There are several aspects of a sex toy that might get in the way of someone being able to use or enjoy it. These include:
- Sex Toy Packaging
- While they are getting better, there is still a lot of sex toy packaging that is going to be offensive to a lot of people. It may just be a turn off, or the packaging could trigger an intense negative response that would mean the person couldn’t use the toy at all.
- If other people will be purchasing or assisting in the use of the toy, choosing a more generic package might end up being easier for the person using the toy.
- More sex toys are available in plain, non-explicit packaging. Some people might find the explicit packaging a turn on, but when in doubt you may want to stick to generic, or at the very least, think about it before you buy.
- Product Shape, Size and Color
- Some people will want a sex toy that looks like a human body part, while others won’t like the look or feel of it. Like many things this is entirely personal, and there’s no right choice.
- Consider though that a toy that looks “realistic” may be more compromising if the person using the toy doesn’t have a lot of privacy.
- A toy that is “realistic” may also be a turnoff if it evokes negative previous experiences or serves as a reminder of unrealistic normative expectations of bodies.
- Aside from physical preferences, the size of a sex toy, and even the color, can also create a psychological barrier to wanting to use it.
- Sex toys that look like toys instead of substitute body parts may better convey the sense of fun and exploration that makes sex toys so great.
- Sex Toys as Triggers
- Be aware that sex toys, even before they get used, can trigger negative experiences related to past trauma. If this is a possibility, it’s worth discussing before shopping for a toy.
Once you’ve figured out what you want the sex toy to do, you can try and find a toy that will best accommodate that. Some of the major physical accommodations include:
- Mobility and Motor Control
- Does the toy need to be able to reach or bend?
- Can the toy stay in place without being held?
- How easy or hard are the controls to manipulate?
- Read more about mobility and motor control accommodations.
- How much can the toy weigh and how far away from your body do you need to hold it?
- What happens to the toy if it’s dropped? How durable is it? How loud will it be?
- Read more about fatigue accommodations.
- Decreased Sensation
- For vibrators, motor quality and strength should be considered, as a soft motor may not be felt at all.
- For sensation toys (e.g. paddles, clamps, floggers), it’s important to think about what will be firm enough to be felt but safe for use if mobility and motor control is limited.
- If you can’t monitor your own physical responses when using toys that may create very strong stimulation, you should have a partner or attendant who will check afterward.
- Read more about decreased sensation accommodations.
- Increased Sensation
- If you are hypersensitive, you may want a toy that doesn’t create very much sensation and probably want to avoid vibrators.
- The sex toy material can make a difference if your skin is bothered by rough or sticky surfaces. Sticking with a hard plastic or natural material (wood, metal, glass) may be a better bet.
- Will the person using the toy be able to use it from start to finish by themselves?
- If someone needs to help, how can you minimize the intrusion?
- Read more about privacy accommodations.
- Allergies and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
- The material of the sex toy should be considered.
- Ingredients in massage oils, creams, condoms, lubes and gloves should be checked.
- Read more about allergies and MCS accommodations.
Most accommodations in this area are about offering practical and accessible education — and less about the toy itself. If the person using the sex toy tends to forget how to use toys properly or safely, finding a toy that has a reduced potential for harmful use is a good idea. So, for example, some toys aren’t safe for penetration, others are only safe for vaginal penetration, and still others may be used for any kind of penetration. Finding a toy that is most flexible in terms of safety may be the right choice for someone who may forget that a toy shouldn’t be used a certain way.