My 5 Favorite Vibrators and the Importance of Pleasure

photograph of woman in bed, raising her arm up and making a peace symbol with her fingers

It feels stupid to write about sex toys at a time like this. Who wants to hear about vibrators when the world is burning? Aren’t there more important things to talk about than pleasure, that most frivolous of things?

But when I mentioned my feelings on the matter to a journalist-buddy of mine, someone who also writes about reproductive rights on the regular, she pointed out that we could all use some good vibrations.

I know that was the case 20 years ago when I stumbled upon a college internship reviewing sex toys, porn, and other fun things for an adult personals site. I was completely out of my depth but, long story short, I was also fresh out of an abusive relationship and feeling disconnected from my sexuality.

When I took my first vibrator home, it was a revelation.

After that, vibrators became the number one tool for exploring my body, discovering what gives me pleasure, and reclaiming a sense of bodily comfort and autonomy.

Not bad for a small, buzzing piece of silicone.

Pleasure Is Important to Our Overall Health and Well-Being

Eight years ago, when I worked for AASECT (the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), I learned that sexuality professionals had been struggling for years to pin down a working definition of sexual health, one that showed how our sexuality was intrinsic to our sexual health and well-being. In recent years, more organizations have been adding the concept of pleasure to their definitions.

The National Coalition for Sexual Health, for example, asserts that being sexually healthy means “being able to enjoy a healthier body, a satisfying sexual life, positive relationships, and peace of mind.” They add that this includes the experience of pleasure, intimacy, and joy.

The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) also includes “[b]eing able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired” in their list of items for what it means to be sexually healthy.

Then there are our sexual rights, which are our human rights related to sexuality.

The Sexual Rights Initiative states that:

“Under international human rights law, all persons have the right to control and decide freely on matters related to their sexuality; to be free from violence, coercion, or intimidation in their sexual lives; to have access to sexual and reproductive health care information, education, and services; and to be protected from discrimination based on the exercise of their sexuality.”

Let’s put aside — just for the moment — the fact that this reads like a list of everything that is under attack right now. What I want to point out is that some organizations have expanded this definition to include pleasure.

The World Association for Sexual Health (WAS), for example, “recognizes that sexuality is a source of pleasure and wellbeing and contributes to overall fulfillment and satisfaction.”

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), meanwhile, includes in their list of the main principles undergirding our sexual rights that “[s]exuality, and pleasure deriving from it, is a central aspect of being human, whether or not a person chooses to reproduce.”

I throw all of this official-type organization-speak at you because I want to emphasize that pleasure is a human right.

And while it may seem selfish to prioritize pleasure, and while the phrase “self-care” has come to feel as meaningless as “thoughts and prayers” (ugh) and “unprecedented” (again, ugh), it’s so important to be good to yourself.

Because, number one, when we take care of ourselves, we maintain the energy to fight the good fight (and lord knows we have a helluva fight ahead of us).

Number two, pleasure can lead to happiness. And I am all for us being happy.

And number three, when you know what feels good, you’re better able to demand and enjoy sex that’s mutually pleasurable.

As Tlaleng Mofokeng, a doctor and sexual rights advocate, told Quartz, knowing what to ask for can change the power dynamics around sex. And goddammit, the power dynamics around sex and sexuality have been out of balance for too damn long.

My Top Five Favorite Vibrators

What brings me pleasure may not necessarily bring you pleasure. The toys I’m about to share with you are very specific to my body and to my preferences around sensation. But I do encourage you to read these tips I wrote for first-time sex toy users, and you’ll also find some of my favorite brands at the bottom of this post so you can do some exploring on your own. Without further ado, here are my 5 favorite vibrators:

1. The LELO SONA Cruise. Full disclosure: I received this toy for free because I am a person who still writes about sex toys. Sometimes. I loved it so much that I wrote about how it was the first vibrator to surprise me in 15 years. While previously I had favored simple plastic vibrators that provide direct clitoral stimulation, the SONA Cruise is different in that it relies on sonic waves and pulses to stimulate your clitoris. While you can place it directly against your body, it’s meant to be used by holding it above your skin, meaning you won’t get numb or irritated if you decide to have a marathon session.

2. The LELO SILA Cruise. Similar to the SONA Cruise, but with a wider mouth and a round body, the SILA hits all the same buttons for me. But as someone prone to wrist pain, the shape of this one makes it easier to hold for longer periods of time.

3. The Pure Romance Opening Act. I do freelance copywriting for several sex toy brands, and Pure Romance is one of them. Which is how I got my hands on their Opening Act. It’s more like the clitoral vibes I favored in my 20s, but while my older vibes were plastic and battery-operated, this one is silicone and rechargeable. (Which is what I strive for with all my toys these days, p.s.) My favorite things about this vibe, though, are its size (it slides easily into my overstuffed nightstand drawer), its levels of intensity, and how quiet it is. Sometimes, it feels impossible to find something that’s both strong and quiet.

4. The Romp Hype. My Romp vibe scratches the same itch as the Opening Act, but it’s slightly larger, making it easier to grasp and move around. To be honest, though, the absolute best thing about this vibrator is the price. I ordered it for $34.99 from SheVibe. At a time when high-quality vibrators are becoming luxury items, it’s so exciting to find something that feels so good… for so little money. Financial accessibility FTW!

5. The Le Wand Unicorn Wand Limited Edition Set. Finally, we have my newest vibrator, which was a Mother’s Day gift from my sweet, darling husband (I told him to buy it). When it first caught my eye, I didn’t realize what a full-on beast it was.

Seriously. It’s larger than my head.

I legit gasped when I opened the box for the Le Wand Unicorn Massager. First of all: unicorns. Second of all: unicorn stickers. But also, this wand comes with an attachment for more pinpointed pleasure and is powerful as heck either way.

Just make sure you hide the box unless you want to have a whole-ass conversation with your offspring about pleasure.

Other Sex Toy Brands Bringing Pleasure to the People

Anyway. These vibrators won’t necessarily rock your world in quite the same way they rock mine. Finding your sex toy soulmate is so specific to you.

In addition to the brands mentioned in my list of favorite vibrators, I recommend checking out Jimmyjane, because they’ve always created toys that have gone the distance for me (though I do hate that they discontinued their lower-priced Iconic line). And then there’s Fun Factory, whose vibrant toys are manufactured in Germany with fair labor practices and a tiny carbon footprint (yes, I still have the contents of Consumed running through my head). And I have a special place in my heart for Cute Little Fuckers, a queer-owned sex toy brand that strives for physical, emotional, and financial accessibility. (Full disclosure: I recently started doing work with CLF after reaching out to them directly, because their values so closely align with my own.)

I also have my eye on companies like Bump’n, founded by disability awareness consultant and activist Andrew Gurza. And Liberator, which has been making sex toy furniture forevs. And places like enby (Black- and trans-owned), Babeland (super feminist and sex-positive, this place was my regular when I was still working in the city), and these other kick-ass shops.

And, well, I could go on, but let me just mention my favorite sex toy reviewer: Piph of Hey Epiphora.

Happy hunting, fellow FBC-ers! Please do share your own favorite vibrators and other toys in the comments.

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her more literary work has appeared in Poets & Writers, Creative Nonfiction, Southwest Review, and other publications. Her reported memoir, A DIRTY WORD, came out in 2018. She is the founder of Favorite Genres: horror, comics, horror comics, and narrative journalism.

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