Need to know if a butt plug can disappear into your body? There's a good chance you'll ask Google.
According to a 2011 survey, 89% of young people turn to the web for most of their sexual health information. If you have a question about a niche sexual desire or concern, you're more likely to fall down an internet rabbit hole than call a friend or ask your mom.
Something doesn't add up. The sex toy industry is projected to grow to $52 billion by 2020, according to MarketWatch, and yet people are still asking the internet how to clean a dildo.
So we took the internet's most pressing sex toy questions to an expert. Sid Azmi is the owner of Please, a sensuality store encouraging sexual education in Brooklyn, New York. She joked that most people learn about sex through TV, porn or their friends "who don't tell the truth" — so she set the record straight.
Can a butt plug disappear into your body?
Not if it's designed with the human anatomy in mind, according to Azmi. A proper anal toy must have a flat base so it can't flush up into your body — like a stopper.
Your anus isn't a closed cavity, like your vagina — it connects to a whole gastrointestinal tract leading all the way up to your mouth. So if it doesn't have a flat base?
"Don't use it anally," Azmi said.
Is a homemade butt plug safe?
See above. Unless you're a butt plug professional, Azmi does not suggest DIYing your own. If you do, you should understand the design and materials needed to create a safe-to-use butt plug.
"You can use wood, and if it's not protected by lacquer, then it's like splinters in your ass," Azmi said. "You can put a glass thing in there. You can put a cucumber up there, but I would not recommend it."
Is there a device for simultaneous vaginal and anal stimulation?
Please had a whole table full of them. There are "plenty," Azmi said, but you want to make sure you are "very careful" when you move something from your vagina to your anus. "The environment is not the same — clean it first," she said.
Are there toys for anal stretching?
"No," Azmi said flatly.
Your anus will expand or relax when you're aroused or relaxed, which comes with stimulation and play, Azmi said. "All of that porn where you have those women with an asshole gaping like a big giant mouth, that's not what an anus looks like, that's not the goal," she said.
When it's time for the big event, just use "a lot, a lot, a lot of lube," she said.
How do you clean a sex toy?
It depends on the toy. If it's a good sex toy — meaning it's platinum-grade or medical-grade silicone — just soap and water is fine. You can also dip it in boiling water.
The sex toy industry is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning some companies may say a product is completely silicone when it's not, Azmi said. Try and wash it in boiling water, and it'll melt.
"Go to places that won't sell you shit toys," she said.
How often should you switch up your toys?
"That's like asking somebody, 'When will you get tired of eating butter? Do you want to try margarine now? Do you want to try olive oil?'" Azmi said. "It's dependent upon your preference."
How do you get rid of the sex toy "smell"?
If it's a good-quality toy and you clean it properly, you should never smell anything funny.
But if it's not 100% silicone, it can trap bacteria — which produces odor. So if your sex toy still smells after cleaning, "don't keep it, trash it, it's a shit toy," Azmi said.
Can you share a sex toy with a friend?
If it's a glass or silicone toy, it's fine to share — but put a condom on it, Azmi said.
"The only time I have ever shared toys is with glass, because I'm convinced I can put that in boiling water for an hour and everything's dead," she said.
Don't let ___ stop you from getting off with a sex toy.
You should definitely use sex toys when you're pregnant, Azmi said. Anything you may have used before pregnancy, you can use during pregnancy.
And no, your baby isn't going to come out. "Your baby is in your uterus; in between your uterus and your vagina is your cervix; your cervix is plugged," Azmi said. "Unless the cervical plug comes out, your baby isn't coming out."
If sex is physically awkward during pregnancy, a toy can help.
"Your body is changing — the ergonomics might not be so comfortable," she said. "Having a toy is wonderful to achieve the kind of pleasure because your belly gets in the way."
Some people online wanted to know if they needed to be physically fit to use a sex swing. Don't sweat it, Azmi said. A sex swing — and sex equipment, and furniture in general — is made to work with your body. This company's swings accommodate folks who weigh more than 300 pounds
"I don't think we should put constraints on body size," Azmi said. "If I can do a pull-up and spread my legs and not have to use a swing, yeah, great, that would be super sexy. But nobody can do that — that's why they sell swings.
"I think you should use a swing because it gives you variety of sexual play," she continued. "I don't think you should be worried if the swing is going to carry your weight or not."
Fear of dependency or desensitization
Others wanted to know if they would grow too accustomed to orgasming with a device, and start to depend on it to reach peak pleasure.
A toy can't make you physically dependent on it, according to Azmi. If you feel like you need a specific toy to reach orgasm, it may be in your head — and it could be time to experiment with other products.
"The mind needs to be more elastic, the preferences need to be more elastic," she said. "Yes, I do get off easier when I use my vibrator, but that's not the only way to get there."
Some numbness in the clitoral area is possible, but it's not common and will likely wear off, according to the Daily Dot. Azmi recommends buying a toy with varied modes to widen your pleasure response.
Sex toys don't necessarily replace a person — "A sex toy cannot whisper sweet nothings to you and hold you," Azmi said — but they do let you learn about your body.
When you use sex toys, "you're learning what you like and don't like, so that the very first time you are with a person, you can set these important boundaries."
Size doesn't matter.
Some porn suggests that bigger is better — be it boobs, assholes or even dildos. But you shouldn't feel pressure to get a giant dildo, according to Azmi. "Big is not necessarily better, longer is not necessarily better," she said.
An average dildo is "like 4 to 5 inches," Azmi said, which is greater than the average length of a vagina, anyway.
Quality does matter.
Back when Azmi wasn't as educated about the sex toy industry, she sent a family member a so-called "silicone" vagina. She sent it to Singapore, where it's humid, and when he received it, it was melted.
That's a sign of a "bad, bad toy," Azmi said. Sex toys aren't supposed to melt.