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The Best Vibrators for First-Timers, According to Experts

A Lelo Gigi 2 vibrator.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Lelo.

Consumer spending over the past year has shown we need myriad new products to accommodate our altered lives. For many, that includes vibrators. Some people have seen stress affect their arousal, leading them to try something new. Others have watched their dating pool evaporate, and they’ve taken matters into their own hands. Still others have enjoyed their abundance of free time to experiment.

If you are considering a vibrator for the first time, the diversity of products can be overwhelming. Vibrators with a dizzying array of features exist in every imaginable shape and color. I spoke to some sexologists to narrow the field and determine which types might meet the needs of a novice.

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Carol Queen, Good Vibrations staff sexologist and writer, explains that a common misconception is that masturbation should mimic penis-vagina sex, and thus that people with vaginas should be looking for something like a dildo. But this is misguided, she says, since 75 percent of people with vaginas do not climax from intercourse alone: “Getting some idea about one’s own body, and general sexual anatomy, and responsiveness really is the secret sauce to buying a sex toy and enjoying it.”

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Jenni Skyler, certified sex therapist and sexologist for Adam & Eve, says it’s important for people with vaginas to consider the entire genital area. She likens this area to a spider, with the clitoris as the head of the spider and the sensitivities reaching out like legs to internal and external anatomy, including the vagina, the vaginal introitus, and the labias. When you begin stimulating yourself, she suggests first exploring the whole vulva with your finger pads and some form of lubricant. Then, because the clitoris is the most sensitive, Skyler suggests a small clitoral vibrator. “It’s a sure bet,” she says. “Every human with a clitoris probably has a lot of sensation [there].”

The clitoris is such an intensely sensitive spot, it can sometimes be overwhelming, so Malika O’Neill, sexologist and owner of Fancy Desires & Co., suggests another good starting place for beginners is with a G-spot vibrator. The G-spot, or Grafenberg spot, is an area a few inches into the vagina on the front vaginal wall that is extra sensitive. O’Neill recommends the Frisky G-Spot Vibrator, which is about three inches long and is bent to access the G-spot and vibrate on it.

If you have the budget to do so, Queen suggests getting a toy you can use on both the G-spot and the clitoris to figure out what you like. She said she often recommends the Gigi by Lelo. This vibrator has a curve and can be inserted to access the G-spot but also has a flat end that can be used on the clitoris with a less intense focus, which is good if you are more sensitive. If you don’t want to shell out for the Gigi quite yet, she suggests that you try a couple of inexpensive toys that target different areas and invest in a fancier tool once you know what you like.

If you want a vibrator that has stood the test of time, you might try a wand-style massager. The most famous incarnation of this toy is known as the Hitachi Magic Wand and was championed by famed sex educator Betty Dodson back in the 1970s. It has been a perennial favorite since. “It’s just a really powerful toy,” Skyler said, praising the toy for the “diversity of sensation” it delivers.* “And if it’s too powerful, you can add a towel on top of you or something like that to dilute the sensations.”

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The experts suggest using lubrication with your toys. Skyler recommends coconut oil, since it’s easy to buy, easy to wash off, and mimics the viscosity of the inside of the vagina. In most cases, you should avoid silicone lube, as most body-safe toys are now made from silicone, so the lube degrades their surface.

Overall, the secret to self-pleasure is not just buying a fancy vibrator. As Queen says, “You can make coffee in a pour-through as well as in a really fancy coffee pot.” But researching the options and figuring out what you like is a way of focusing on yourself and your pleasure that can lead to deeper satisfaction.

Correction, Feb. 10, 2021: This post originally mischaracterized a quote from Skyler to suggest that she said the Magic Wand has many different settings. She said it offered a “diversity of sensation.”