Sex & Relationships

Inside the Search for the Perfect Dildo

Women and sexperts talk about what they look for in a sex toy.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The sex toy industry is a whopping $15 billion business. That’s a lot of money being put toward pleasure, but there seems to be something about sex that makes it worth it. Some reports even say the sex toy industry is recession-proof. But as Benjamin Parker reminds us, with great power comes great responsibility. If people are forking over all kinds of hard-earned cash, they’re going to expect a quality product in return. And one of the best ways to ensure customer satisfaction is by providing them with options.

What gets one woman off won’t necessarily work for the next. And that's reflected in the long list of sex toys targeted at women. Dildos and vibrators come in all varieties. There are different shapes, colors and functions. There are dildos designed for anal sex, dildos designed to hit the G-spot, realistic dildos, silicone dildos, glass dildos, strap-on dildos, double dildos you can use with a partner, vibrating dildos and even squirting dildos (they come with something called nut butter and they cum with something called nut butter). And that list barely touches on all the different kinds of materials they can be made out of: plastic, ceramic, metal, wood, tempered glass, rubber, elastomer and more.

The options can be overwhelming, and some consumers have a hard time identifying where to start. Sexpert Carol Queen instructs readers in The Sex & Pleasure Book, “The most important characteristic to think about when selecting your dildo is probably size. If it’s too small, it might not give you the zing of pleasure that your ‘just right’ size would. If it’s too big, you won’t be able to use it comfortably.”

Queen notes that while most women don’t get too picky over penis size, dildo size is something to think about. The reason? You can’t fall into a relationship with a dildo. Not usually, at least.

Sandra,* 28, tells us, “I love anything that hits my G-spot. If you add some clitoral stimulation it makes it even more intense. But it's not always necessary.”

“I’ll go for the clit if I want to get off quickly, or if I don’t feel like putting in all the effort that goes into penetrating myself. It’s what I refer to as my ‘lazy lady orgasm.’”

Jessica, 29*, is particularly fond of the Rabbit, a vibrating dildo with a clitoral stimulator attached to the shaft. “It stimulates the clit and gives you a sense of fulfillment at the same time,” she says.

Steve Thomson, CMO of Swedish sex toy company Lelo, told us via email, “Our designs come from the needs and purposes of the products, so every single one of them has some specific features both in shape and vibrations—depending what it was designed for.” 

He said, “According to our own research through the Lelo Global Sex Survey, more then 70% of women need clitoral stimulation to be able to reach orgasm.”

Designing unique products for each and every woman’s needs takes work. Thompson explained that for each product, 10 to 15 designs are submitted. Each goes through a thorough review, getting extensive feedback and requests from customers. The hard work seems to be paying off.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what women want in a dildo for their personal use does not always match what guys who want to watch women masturbate online want to see. Nikki Night, a coach for the camming platform Cam4, told us that guys tend to get pretty specific about what they want to see when logging on to a session.

“Toys with the clit stimulator are the least popular because they don’t look like a cock,” she explains. “The clit stimulator gets in the way of the viewer seeing what you are doing,” she said.

“I would say that the most popular are glass dildos and realistic dildos,” says Night. “The ones that penetrate are the most popular because you get to see the toy going inside. It makes it easier for the viewer to imagine it’s their cock.”

Thompson says, “In terms of the power of vibrations, the G-spot requires a wholly different form and may need some more power then the clitoris, so our designers keep that in mind. Among the special design solutions for the G-spot is the flat head that is curved with the specific angle to provide the best stimulation.”

Night notes the growing popularity of products put out by sextech company Ohmibod. “[Their products] allow the viewer to control the vibration from their end. These are wildly popular. They stimulate and please because there is the element of surprise for the performer and the element of control for the viewer.”

When asked what kind of toys she prefers to use in her personal life, Night says, “For me, the ones you end up using on cam are the ones that you end up liking the most because you are playing with them all the time. You have a relationship with them.”

Of course, conversations surrounding sex toys focus on women. But the market for sex toys for men is growing. Thompson notes that the company has seen “impressive sales” in its line of prostate massagers over the past several months.

“The latest trends of purchases show that couples are becoming more and more experimental in using the couple toys [that target] both internal and external pleasure.”

*Names have been changed in this article to protect privacy.

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture. 

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