Silicone. It's not exactly what you might think of as a sensual or erotic material. Silicone sex toys, however, are the new wave in personal pleasure; in fact, most purveyors of fine adult products suggest using nothing but silicone. Traditionally, toys have been made out of plastic, wood, jelly (latex), rubber and leather (not to mention the widespread but unofficial use of housewares and produce). Making silicone toys is a time-consuming endeavor, and the material itself is of a very high quality. These two issues make for a relatively expensive end product. Silicone toys are usually equipped with higher-end motors and other internal components, so you get better quality for your higher price.
So why silicone? It absorbs body heat and retains this warmth for a relatively long time, making for a more natural and comfortable feel. It's also flexible yet firm, giving it a much more pleasing texture than the hard feel of most plastic toys. Silicone is non-porous and therefore does not absorb odors and bacteria; this also means that a little lube goes a long way. This is the best material for toys that you're going to share, as silicone can also be boiled for up to six minutes to kill any nasty bacteria hanging around on the surface. Just try boiling that cheap plastic thing you got five years ago and see what happens.
Silicone toys are generally hand-crafted, and come in an interesting array of colors, shapes and sizes. This is one area of the sex toy trade dominated by women, which has resulted in woman-friendly design. This has meant, in part, a move away from “realistic” dildos and vibrators. For instance, one of the most popular models on the market is a smiling dolphin available in a rainbow of colors including violet and yellow. More and more women are purchasing their own toys and choosing to please themselves with designs built for clitoral stimulation as opposed to traditional and all-too-often ho hum penetrative stimulation. Considering that a woman's most sensitive area is the clitoris and, for those who skipped sex ed, the clitoris is not inside the vagina but rather sits at the top of the vulva, penetration is not necessarily where it's at.
So next time you're out scouting for a little something to light up your nights, skip the hard plastic bargain-basement jobby and treat yourself to some real quality.
Article Shelley Taylor This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License . A version of this article also appeared in Brink magazine (June 1, 1998).