Last week I was in Vancouver visiting my mother. We were hanging out at her store and she had the awesome idea of writing a blog post together. About what, you ask? Why, about sex toys of course. My mom owns what was one of the first woman friendly, couple-centric sex shops in Vancouver. It’s called In The Mood and if you are in or around North Vancouver you should totally stop in and say hi.
Well, my week in Vancouver passed quickly and we never did get around to writing the post – but I’ve decided to put a few questions (from a naturopathic perspective) about sex toys to her and share her infinite wisdom with you.
I’m writing this post because sex is part of a healthy lifestyle, be it solo or with a partner. For women and men, orgasms can reduce stress, improve mood and sleep quality. Orgasms can even reduce menstrual cramps. With all of the choices in toys, lotions and potions, here are some questions and answers to help you decide what might be right for you.
(Interview with Sarah Anchel, owner of In The Mood at the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.)
So, mom, who is buying sex toys these days?
Thanks. Can you be more specific?
What impresses me now is the age range of people buying toys. Young couples are including toys and lingerie at the beginning of their sex lives together. Empty nesters are reconnecting and re-exploring sex. Even couples in their eighties are coming in and buying toys.
The culture of sex toys has really changed. It used to be that they were used more as sex aids – if there was a problem. Now, they’re part of a healthy and exciting sex life for many people.
What about the single ladies?
Of course. It’s become a very popular gift for women to give each other. More than once, I’ve had a group of women come in together because they were out for lunch, or drinks, and it came up that only one of them had never used a vibrator or dildo. So, they all come in together to get her equipped.
What about peri- or post-menopausal women?
Absolutely. Some women, post menopause, don’t have as much sexual motivation as their partners and they need extra lubrication or a little something to help reach orgasm, which they may not have needed before. Often something like a small external/clitoral vibrator used during sex can do the trick (or used alone for masturbation).
For women who don’t have a partner, or who aren’t having sex with their partner, vibrators are a popular choice. Some are only internal, some are a combination of internal and clitoral stimulation. Using a vibrator can also help prevent vaginal atrophy. And, if a woman already has a degree of atrophy, dilators can be used to help stretch the vagina.
What materials should be people be avoiding when it comes to sex toys? What materials should they be sticking to?
I generally advise against latex toys because so many people have latex allergies. It’s also best to avoid toys that are made of soft plastic or a jelly type material because they contain pthalates, which are hormone disruptors. I mostly recommend toys made of medical grade silicone or glass. They are non-porous, easy to clean and long lasting. Glass has the added benefit of being the most environmentally friendly of the sex toy materials. The cheap toys generally don’t advertise what material they are made from, but the better quality ones do.
Are there any natural lubes on the market? What makes them healthier than standard lubes?
There is a long list of ingredients that are best avoided in lubricants, especially if you have sensitive skin. Often, when a lube says that it’s “natural” it just means that it doesn’t have parabens in it (another hormone disruptor) but it may very well contain other harmful ingredients.
The full list of what to avoid is: petroleum ingredients, parabens, phenoxyethanol, silicone, propylene glycol, glycerin and chlorhexidine.
Silicone lubricants are often recommended because they stay slippery for a long time, but I find that a lot of my customers develop sensitivities to these lubes. Also, they shouldn’t be used with silicone toys because they’ll cause the material to break down. Glycerin is another common ingredient that can cause or exacerbate yeast infections in those who are susceptible. Chlorhexidine is in KY and a lot of customers come into the store thinking that they can’t use lubricant because KY is the only one they’ve tried and it has caused irritation. Other than the parabens (hormone disruptor) and glycerin (yeast) most of these ingredients can act as irritants and are therefor best avoided. Vitamin E, citric acid and grapefruit seed extract are used as preservatives in the more natural products. Some people like using natural oils like coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil and shea butter—but they are best avoided with condoms and toys.
Some of my favourite lubes are Sliquid Organics, Water Slide by Earthly Body and Probe.
Do high quality sex toys have to be expensive?
Smaller toys, like bullets which provide clitoral stimulation don’t have to be expensive at all. Silicone vibrators tend to be more expensive than non-silicone toys, but they are well worth it. To keep the price down look for battery operated vs rechargeable toys. You can always use your own rechargeable batteries in the toy. And, not everyone is looking for vibrating toys—dildos are definitely cheaper than vibrators. But, like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
There you have it folks—a conversation about sex toys with my mom.