How To Use A Dildo, According to Experts

It doesn't need to be so hard.

women sitting on a banana
(Image credit: Getty)

Along with vibrators, dildos are among the most popular sex toys of all time. Designed for penetration, they are made to be inserted into the vagina or rectum for pleasure that mimics that which one would receive from a partner's penis or fingers. But that doesn't mean that dildos are boring, or even that they need to be used in the traditional in-and-out thrusting that mimics sex.

Angie Rowntree, founder and director of ethical porn site Sssh.com, says that while many dildos are phallic and designed to look like penises, "dildos ultimately come in many different shapes and sizes, and some can be more 'abstract' or even fantastical looking. They can be made of different materials, and they can also be slightly curved, to help stimulate your g-spot or prostate."

We've already scoured the internet for the very best dildos on the market today, but if you're wondering, on a more fundamental level, how to use a dildo—or even how to up your dildo-play game—you've come to the right place. Keep scrolling for some of the best, expert-approved tips on how to properly use a dildo, alone or with a partner. Once you have the right tools in hand, the possibilities are truly endless. 

Buying a Dildo

Buying a dildo can be an incredibly daunting experience, what with all of the shapes, materials, and kinks that buyers can fall into a rabbit hole looking into during their shopping experience. For that reason, we've asked experts to demystify the dildo shopping experience so that when you're browsing online or at your local sex shop, you can do so with the utmost confidence.

Rowntree points out that, first and foremost, you should "make sure your toy is made from quality materials and designed for penetration." You should never assume that an object is safe to insert into your body unless the package or instructions expressly says so. 

Then, when it comes to materials, Lovehoney sex educator Javay Frye Nekrasova breaks it down, explaining that "there are really four main material types for dildos: Silicone, metal, glass, and plastic. It is recommended to stick to non-porous materials, as they are easier to clean, so your glass and metal are top choices, followed by silicone, and then plastic."

Choosing a dildo based on material can also vary based on your wants and needs. She adds that "choosing the right material will also depend on how you plan on using the dildo. If you are going for anal use more flexibility is recommended so silicone and plastic are better options for this. For vaginal use, any material could work, depending on what you personally enjoy and are looking for. Direct, pinpointed stimulation can be achieved with metal, as they generally are designed to offer that focus on the g-spot. Glass dildos are great for people looking for multiple forms of stimulation like from the design and additions...If you want something that feels more like having a partner than realistic dildos, silicone or plastic are the way to go."

And if you're worried about sizing? Sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, MA, a designated sexpert for Lovers, says to start small, noting that the size of a dildo "is really dependent on peoples' penetration experiences. So if you're not used to dildos, whether vaginal or anal, trying smaller sizes might be best."

"It can seem overwhelming," Frye-Nekrasova says, aware of all these circumstances that go into picking a toy, "but at the end of the day, it is all just a matter of going for what you enjoy. So start by paying attention to what you actually find pleasurable and then pick your dildo to meet those aspects you already enjoy." Remember: Sex is supposed to be fun!

How to Safely Use a Dildo

Dildos come in remarkably long, girthy sizes, but don't feel like you need to measure up to the six-, ten-, and 12-inch options out there. Keep in mind that the average length of an erect penis is about five inches, so, even if you're sexually active, it is absolutely normal for you to be overwhelmed and even physically incapable of handling the entirety of an eight-inch dildo. For optimal comfort, start small and pay attention to sizing when you buy your sex toys. 

And, if you're determined to take on the larger dildos of the world, Frye-Nekrasova has you covered. "To ensure you are comfortable using a dildo, take your time," she advises. "You don't have to shove the entire length of the dildo inside of you—you can work your way up. Do what you feel comfortable with."

How to Clean a Dildo

It's easy to overlook sex toy care, but properly cleaning your sex toys will help them last longer and, most importantly, keep you safe from bacterial infections. Frye-Nekrasova even refers to cleaning as the very first tenet of sex toy safety, specifically stating that "washing with a toy cleaner or unscented mild soap is how you should clean all toys."

Furthermore, she adds that sex toys are not communal items, telling us that dildos should never be shared and that "you should not use the same toys between partners. Buy a new dildo for every relationship, and get different colors for you and your partner(s) to ensure you are using yours."

Using Lube With a Dildo

Lube is an underrated product that belongs in everyone's sexual toolkit for its ability to both ease penetrative sex and enhance pleasure. Frye-Nekrasova echoes this point, calling lube "crucial" and pointing out that, in addition to increasing pleasure, using lube "help[s] to minimize the chances of tears or fissures."

Rowntree agrees, adding, "Even if you get plenty aroused, lube can create a new and wonderful sensation and reduce friction and lube is absolutely non-negotiable if you are exploring anal play."

However, it's important to pair your lubricants with your sex toys properly. For instance, she warns that silicone lubes can degrade silicone toys, including dildos, and advises that "if you are worried about it, stick to water-based lube, as it is safe for all toy materials."

Suction Cup Dildos

Many dildos come with suction cups at the base so that you can ride them at your leisure during solo play. These toys, when made from high-quality materials, are extremely convenient, because they can adhere to just about any hard, flat surface, like floors and walls. 

Rowntree advises, "If you do enjoy playing in the shower, and you want to ride solo, or have a hands-free experience, a suction cup dildo can (usually) keep the toy in place while you go to town. As always, use good common sense and caution in case the suction cup should loosen during the course of play. And let’s just say you should definitely avoid putting the suction cup dildo on a door that someone could easily open while you’re in the middle of play time."

Dildos for Anal Stimulation

One might think that vaginal and anal toys are interchangeable, but that's far from the truth. "If you're going to do anal sex," says Stewart, "you'll need a dildo with a wide base because our rectum is a vacuum and it will go in and have a hard time coming out. However, this is not necessary for vaginas because the cervix prevents dildos from going into the uterus."

And if you're a beginner to anal stimulation? Rowntree says that when it comes to anal penetration, it's best to "start smaller and work your way up and stop if you feel any discomfort."

Dildos for Solo Play

Sex toys are treasured in the world of masturbation for a reason: They're great for exploring oneself and discovering one's pleasure preferences. And while you can, of course, go the traditional route by thrusting a dildo in and out of your vagina or anus to simulate partnered pleasure, there are a variety of creative ways to use a dildo that can spice up your self-care routine.

"When masturbating, you can insert the dildo while you read erotica and go at your own pace," recommends Stewart. "You can also use dildos that have suction cups and place it somewhere you can try and control your own penetration. Even placing a dildo in a sex pillow can help facilitate how you like to be penetrated."

Frye-Nekrasova adds, "A creative way to use dildos for masturbation is as a practice tool for oral sex. If oral is an arousing activity for you, then performing oral on a dildo can be a great way to get in the mood for masturbation."

In short, when it comes to masturbation, feel free to use dildos in any way that turns you on, so long as you're safe, comfortable, and prepared.

Dildos for Partner Play

Like all sex toys, dildos can be used for more than just a solo session. Incorporating sex toys into partner play can be a great way of building intimacy and exploring sexual preferences with your partner, and for those who love penetration, dildos are the perfect addition to any partnered sex sesh.

"Let’s just say the erotic imagination is a wonderful and powerful thing," says Rowntree. "You might put on a show for your partner and tease them, pretending that the dildo you’re pleasuring yourself with is their penis or use it as part of an erotic power exchange scene. As long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual, go ahead and listen to what your bodies and minds are calling out for."

Dildos can also be used to gently instruct a partner on how you like to be touched. Try using on yourself in front of your partner as a means of foreplay and saying something like, "I want you to touch me like this." Frye-Nekrasova agrees, saying that dildos are "perfect for explor[ing] new positions."

Plus, incorporating sex toys into the bedroom is a great way of maintaining sexual boundaries within a relationship. Frye-Nekrasova explains, "They are a great option if a partner is not in the mood for sex using their physical body but they still want to provide you pleasure."

Strap-On Dildos

Strap-ons are dildos that attach to the wearer—either by a harness or by a g-spot stimulating attachment that sits inside the vagina—that are used to penetrate the receiver in the vagina or rectum. 

"Strap-ons can seem intimidating, especially since for many people they are only viewed as something used by LGBTQIA+ couples," admits Frye-Nekrasova, "but strapons are for any and everyone. They have so many varied uses. Strap-ons can be used for pegging, double penetration, practicing your stroke game, sexual activity without touching genitals, and so much more. They also come in a variety of different forms, from actual harnesses to underwear to strapless strap-ons."

And if you're sold on strap-ons or simply curious, but unsure of how to broach the topic with your partner? Frye-Nekrasova says, "The first step in getting used to strap-ons is getting good at communication. For most people, while using a strap-on they don't have the dildo anatomically attached to them so they can't fully feel what is happening, so you have to listen to your partner and communicate with them to ensure you are using it in a pleasurable manner."

As with all sex acts, use of a strap-on is based first and foremost on enthusiastic consent, so be sure that both the giver and receiver are comfortable vocalizing their feelings with complete honesty and listening to the other with complete openness.

In terms of logistics, Frye-Nekrasova writer, "The second step is getting the right products. You want a harness that is comfortable for you whether it be a traditional harness, strapless, or underwear harness and then you and your partner need to decide together on the dildo that will be used." There's an incredible amount of variety out there when it comes to strap-ons, so if this is something you and your partner are interested in, there is undoubtedly an option out there for you.

For more, visit our Sexual Wellness section, where we unpack topics around consent, kink, sex toys, and more so you can have your safest and very best sexperiences yet.

Gabrielle Ulubay
E-Commerce Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things fashion and beauty. She's also written about politics, gender, and sex for publications like Bustle, HuffPost Personal, and The New York Times. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.