Why you should buy your partner a sex toy for Christmas

Gifts that keep on giving—and giving
Gifts that keep on giving—and giving
Image: Quartz/Georgia Frances King
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The Christmas gift-giving season is in full swing, and all manner of electronics are being promoted as the perfect presents. From ultra-high definition 4K TVs to the iPhone X, many devices that whiz and whir will be stuffed into stockings. But one electric toy is conspicuously absent from most end-of-year gift guides: the sex toy.

Although a vibrator may not be on your partner’s Christmas wish list, you should buy them one. You’re probably running through a list of objections in your head: My partner would be offended. They’ll prefer the sex toy to me. We don’t need those in the bedroom (because we’ve got each other). My partner is male (and men don’t use sex toys). And nobody wants to open up a giant vibrating dong in front of Grandma.

I’m here to tell you that every single one of your objections is misguided.

First, your partner will most likely not be offended, as sex toys are so common that half of Americans have used them. And if they are offended that you want to improve your sex life with a vibrator, then you have a problem that’s way bigger than mere offense at the sight of a buzzing contraption.

Second, the idea that your partner might prefer a sex toy to you makes sense at the outset. After all, sex toys can do things the human body cannot. But just because the Marvelous Eggciter Vibrator gives your partner the multiple orgasms you’ve never been able to provide, it doesn’t mean they will abandon sex with you. According to research by Debby Herbenick, Michael Reese (et. al) , over two thirds of men are not intimidated by vibrators—in fact, women may like their partners even more because they are the ones who gave them the gift of endless sexual pleasure by purchasing a vibrator.

No person can (or should) be an orgasm-producing machine. If you think there is a good chance that your partner will leave you for a Sqwheel 2 Oral Sex Simulator or a rotating silicone prostate massager, then your relationship is already on shaky ground. If your partner has never used a sex toy before, you could use it together first, or you could get one that is designed for couples. The clitoral stimulator Eva is meant to be worn during intercourse, as is the We-Vibe. There are also vibrating penis rings, and even basic cylindrical vibrators can do the job.

Third, the idea that you don’t need a sex toy because you satisfy each other in the bedroom already is sweet, but misdirected. True, you may not need a sex toy in the way that you don’t need an LCD TV or a Cuisinart, but a sex toy can enhance your sex life in the same way that watching Mind Hunter on a high-quality screen makes the experience more enjoyable than watching it on your smart phone.

Then there’s the question of expense. With some deluxe vibrators costing over $200, the reluctance to spend money on high-end sexual devices is related to the stigma surrounding them. Few people feel like they have to justify the purchase of an expensive TV or computer, yet they pinch pennies when it comes to sex toys. But if you can enhance your sex life with a consumer product—more pleasure, more orgasms, more fun—why wouldn’t you? Is sex somehow less valuable than other forms of entertainment? (Many would argue it is even more valuable. )

The final objection is perhaps the most pressing one: What will your family think when your partner opens up a vibrator under the glow of the Christmas-tree lights or Menorah? Will they think you’re a pervert or a sex freak? Will they think your partner is the same?

I don’t know about your family, but in mine, if there wasn’t a sex toy under the Christmas tree, they’d probably think something was wrong. (Granted my family isn’t exactly normal: I’m a historian of sex toys, and my mother was state section director of the Mutual UFO Network for many years.) However, since it’s likely that half the relatives at your holiday celebration have used vibrators, you shouldn’t be too concerned about their reaction. If your relatives are socially conservative and “family-values” focused, they may actually like sex toys more than your liberal relatives; sex-toy Tupperware-style home parties are more popular in the right-leaning areas of the United States. Religious people have embraced sex toys too. Some Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and conservative Christians promote sex toys as a way to strengthen marital relationships.

If you’re still worried about your family’s reaction, there are plenty of sex toys disguised as everyday items. For women, there are a number of lipstick-shaped sex toys. The Iroha Stick vibrator, Broad City In the Mood Lipstick Vibe, and the Womanizer 2GO USB Rechargeable Lipstick Clitoral Stimulator are all made with top-grade materials and are manufactured by highly respected companies. Or there are sex toys that double as jewelry, such as the Crave Vesper vibrating necklace, which my boyfriend bought for me two years ago. It starts at $69 (because of course), is engraveable, and comes in stainless steel, rose gold, or 24K gold. There’s also Unbound’s silver lube vial necklace and simple handcuff bangles.

Men’s sex-toy jewelry exists, too, like the Noble Rope Collier necklace and the JBOA cock ring bracelet and necklace. There is also the Mötorhead Bomber glass rocket toy for gents, which you could convincingly claim is a masculine desk sculpture, as you could with most of Nobessence’s wooden dildos. Fleshlight’s male masturbator disguised as a beer can, Sex in a Can O’Doyle’s Stout, is also an option.

Finally, there’s always the classic Hitachi Magic Wand. This gold-standard sex toy with an illustrious four-decade history is sold as a back massager, with absolutely no sexual references on the package. (Although anyone in the know will certainly know.)

The fact that so many sex accouterments are sold in disguise demonstrates the shame we feel around sexual pleasure. Whenever we talk about sex and female sexuality, it’s in the negative: harassment, assault, rape, victimhood. It’s time to bring the positive aspects of consensual sexual relationships back in the picture. We are sexual beings; we are the products of sex. Sex should be fun. Why not make it the best it can be?

A vibrator, dildo, or male masturbator can help you and your partner bridge the fact that women have fewer orgasms during intercourse than men; vibrators allow women to have orgasms faster and more frequently. It can make sex with the same partner more novel, which in turn makes it more fun. Even if your partner only uses the toy for masturbation, it can help them discover what they enjoy sexually and share that knowledge with you.

But perhaps the most important thing about using a sex toy with a partner is this: It makes you talk to each other about your sexual likes and dislikes. Few couples discuss sex enough, so if a $50 vibrator can help you communicate your sexual desires, then it is well worth the price.