Great sex can be yours if you're open to new things. But do all these gizmos and gadgets that claim to enhance your sex life really fulfill their promise? Marie Claire asked one woman, who gets paid to find out, what she recommends.
An Unusual Career
Only my closest friends know what I do for a living. Most people don't even know my job exists. It's not that I'm ashamed of it or anything, but when I tell people I test-drive sex toys for the Spankie.com Website, they usually assume I'm a nymphomaniac -- which I'm not.
About twice a month, my company sends me an unmarked package filled with sex gadgets. Like any job, I schedule time for my projects in a date book: "4 to 5pm, play with jelly dildo; 9 to 10pm, try out new glow-in-the-dark condom." Luckily, I have a very understanding boyfriend who usually "assists" me with my research.
If you had told me a few years ago that I'd be a sex-toy critic, I would have said you were crazy. "Nice girls" like me don't do this sort of thing -- which is what makes my doing this so ironic. I didn't even start experimenting with sex until I went to college, and I was hardly what you'd call promiscuous. I almost always had a serious boyfriend. When I turned 26 and was single, I bought my first vibrator, mostly to find out what all the fuss was about. I was so nervous going into the store that I ran in and grabbed the first one I saw -- it was baby pink -- and one other item, just to look like I was a regular customer. The experience left a big enough impression that I included it in a script I cowrote for a show called As I Like It -- I'm a stand-up comic, too -- in which I talked about everything from semen getting stuck in my pubic hair to how I used that vibrator. Someone from the Spankie.com site caught my act and recommended me for the product-testing job. It was obvious that I felt comfortable talking about sex in public without getting embarrassed.
The first box I received had 30 condoms in it -- different brands, flavors and colors, ribbed and unribbed. The next shipment was half a dozen dildos. Before long, my bedroom was like a war zone of kinkiness -- phalluses, handcuffs, whips, vibrating things.
Like any critic, I take my work very seriously. I test each toy a couple of times; once isn't enough, because sometimes I'm more in the mood than others. I keep a notebook by my bed, so I can immediately jot down notes, like "feels slimy" or "has a funny aftertaste." I also check for sturdiness. Can I whack it around? Will it break if it's dropped on the floor? And, of course, I test for pleasure. Think of me as the Consumer Reports of sex-toy testing -- my standards are that high.
Putting Job Perks to Work
I've turned many friends on to my most-favorite gadgets, but I love telling them about things they already have at home that can spice up their sex lives. Olive oil, for instance, is one of my favorite body lubricants. (Note: Do not use oil with condoms -- it can weaken them and cause them to break.) A healthy sense of humor also helps. I also like to use Reddi-wip -- just spray it on your partner and lick it off. At only $2 a bottle, you can get a big bang for your buck (no pun intended).
Before I started testing condoms, I avoided using them in monogamous relationships, because I thought they got in the way of sex. But once I began asking myself, How can I make this thing sexier?, I actually enjoyed using them. My favorite brands are InSpiral and Pleasure Plus. They are both baggier than standard condoms -- tight at the base of the penis but loose around the head -- and they create more sensation for the man and the woman. Trust me.
I'm still a huge fan of the basic, plastic vibrator. One episode of Sex and the City mentioned a vibrator with a bunny rabbit attached to the head for extra clitoral stimulation. It does feel good, but that product goes for nearly $70, while a basic vibrator costs only $15.
Also, the idea of penetrating yourself with a dildo is overrated. There are so many other things you can do with one. You can rub it against your vulva, caress your breasts with it, explore it with your mouth and use it to tease a partner. Women who have an easier time achieving orgasm through clitoral stimulation over vaginal penetration are better off using a vibrator.
This job isn't making me rich, but it does help pay the bills while I put myself through grad school. (I make from $150 to $250 to test and critique a product.) I also get to keep everything I test -- a nice perk.
My boyfriend loves what I do. We've been together three years, and our sex life has never been better. But don't get me wrong: It is work. Sometimes, our marathon sex sessions feel like we're just punching the clock -- one toy down, four more to go. And sometimes, testing so many products can get tiring. Plus, as soon as we finish, I have to reach for my notepad and start analyzing the experience. Nights when we don't have any products to test are often a welcome break. That's when we get to act like most other couples -- and just fall asleep watching TV.