Say the word “vibrator,” and visions of a cylindrical, buzzing thing will undoubtedly come to mind. And while this dildo-like toy is what a lot of people are referring to when they talk about a vibrators, phallic objects really only comprise one branch of the larger vibrator tree in the diverse and beautiful garden of sex toys. The overall landscape is far vaster and more varied. In fact, there are a bunch of different kinds of vibrators out there—and it’s sensible to understand each kind before selecting one (or a few) to spend money on.
Though many of us use the term “vibrator” to describe any kind of penetrative sex toy, the label is best applied to toys that actually vibrate. Not all dildos are vibrators, because not all dildos vibrate. And not all vibrators are dildos—in fact, a bunch of vibrators aren’t phallic or penetrative at all. While there’s a lot of overlap between the two categories, the words aren’t always interchangeable. Now that we’ve gotten that common misconception out of the way, it’s time to focus on what the different kinds of vibrators are. (Rather than what they aren’t.) Though there’s a range of toys on the market, shoppers can easily sort them into a handful of categories: classic penetrative vibrators, clitoral vibrators, rabbit vibrators, wand vibrators, bullet vibrators, finger vibrators, tongue vibrators, vibrating cock rings, and vibrating butt plugs. There’s a lot of variety within some of these categories and less within others. But for the most part, each genre offers a different experience.
There’s no one-size-fits-all beginner vibrator, because vibrators do all kinds of different things and all of our tastes are different. To figure out which one to buy, take a moment to consider what kind of pleasure you enjoy, as well as what kind of play you’d be interested in exploring. From there, peruse the different types of vibrators to determine which toy genre best fits your wants and needs. There might be an obvious winner, or a few toys you’re tempted to try. And it’s really no problem if you find yourself in the latter category—after all, you can always buy more than one.
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A version of this story was published October 2019.