Dear Dr G,

Thank you for answering my email. I am a big fan of your articles.

I am 34 years old and engage in a healthy sexual relationship with my girlfriend.

Both of us have a strong appetite for sex and are adventurous at times.

Apart from dressing up in sexy undergarments to excite each other, we also read many articles about different sexual positions.

We truly believe in making every sexual encounter magical and memorable.

As we progress in our relationship, my girlfriend and I are getting increasingly more adventurous in bed.

We openly talk about our likes and dislikes between the sheets, and something my girlfriend brought up several times is using adult toys.

As I am toying with the idea of getting my girlfriend some birthday surprises and have no idea about sex toys, I hope to put Dr G on the spot for some clarification.

What exactly are sex toys? How long have they been around?

Are they predominantly for men or women?

Has any research been done about the benefits and risks of using them?

Lastly, in the 21 st century, what are the adaptations of sex toys keeping up with technology?

Looking forward to your toy advice.

Warmest regards,

Toying Thomas

SEX toys are objects or devices with the sole purpose of enhancing sexual pleasure. Erotic stimulation with the aid of devices has been documented for many centuries, across different civilisations.

Their use has been seen from Egyptian artefacts to paintings from the Emperor’s Court in China.

In the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, the adult toy industry expanded its range.

Most are designed to resemble human genitals. Perhaps they also gained mainstream attention through erotic novels such as Fifty Shades of Grey.

These devices may not be acceptable in conservative societies and are masked by toned-down euphemisms like “marital aids” or “bedroom enhancers”.

Technically, substituting “sex toys” with the term “marital aid” is inaccurate.

A marital aid in the broader sense should include medication and supplements that help couples enhance their sexual experience.

The global sex toy industry is estimated at US$35.1bil (RM156bil) annually and projected to grow to US$54.6bil (RM242.7bil) by 2026 (source: Yahoo! Finance, January 2022).

TV series such as Real Housewives of Atlanta, showing Kandi Burruss frequently displaying and giving out sex toys as presents, help fuel the industry. Although such programmes are helping to diminish the taboo, the embarrassment of buying and using adult toys still prohibits open acceptance among couples.

These days, sex toys are easily available on the Internet, from adult shops and even pharmacies. However, their sale and use are still illegal in conservative countries such as India and South Africa, where they are considered obscene and “Intended to be used to perform an unnatural sexual act”.

Hence, buying them in such jurisdictions may land unsuspecting customers in hot water.

Sex toys can broadly be divided into several categories: gender-specific or gender-neutral, penetrative or non-penetrative, and electrical or non-electrical, for example.

There are also many crossover versions that may not easily fall into one category, but their usage and effectiveness is still dependent on the user’s objectives and imagination.

The most widely known and recognised sex toy is perhaps the female-oriented dildo. These are made from various materials and come in various shapes and sizes to cater for all needs. They may be static or vibratory in nature.

On the other hand, male-oriented sex toys are also available but perhaps less publicised.

These aids may be in the shape of female sexual organs. Again, there are variations to simulate other bodily orifices and such toys may also be powered or non-powered, to suit the user’s fancy.

Sex toys are usually sold as novelty items and need not adhere to regulatory restrictions. Although most devices are made of inert materials, some quarters may argue that they should be regulated as medical devices, as certain toys may contain phthalates that can be harmful when inserted in the body.

Devices that are electrical in nature should at least come with an assurance that they do not short-circuit or malfunction while in use.

The evolution of the sex toy has also been transformed in the 21st century. Technology allows virtual reality to be incorporated into sex dolls and other devices.

Clearly, the line separating them from being socially acceptable is also blurring, raising many ethical questions as they evolve.

As taboos about the devices subside, mature discussions about the morality of their usage can begin.

The Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson once said: “Even just a few spices or ethnic condiments that you can keep in your pantry can turn your mundane dishes into a culinary masterpiece.”

There are certainly many similarities between bedroom and culinary arts. Adventurous couples toying with the idea of some devices to spice up magical moments between the sheets want to put Dr G on the spot over his views.

His response is: “The constant thought of adding spices or condiments to the ingredients of sexual health is the first step for couples to make all experiences between the sheets a bedroom masterpiece!”

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