In this post-everything age, the shameful "marital aids" reputation of sex toys is becoming as obsolete as the electoral college. Sure, a cheaply made, loud plastic vibrator still brings nervous giggles at bachelorette parties, but for most of the twenty- to thirtysomething set, a well-made, classy, and functional sex toy is as welcome a gift as a good bottle of wine. That said, I wouldn't recommend picking up a toy for just anyone—your lover is the most obvious choice. In addition, keep in mind that picking out sex toys for even the most intimate of acquaintances requires some savvy and selectiveness. Lucky for you, dear reader, I worked as a toy buyer and sex educator for several years at one of the more progressive sex-toy stores around, Toys in Babeland—so I've done your homework for you. All the toys described here can be found locally at Toys in Babeland (either at their store at 707 E Pike, 328-2914, or via their Web site, www.babeland.com) or online through the very honorable and secure Web sites of Blowfish (www.blowfish.com) or Good Vibrations (www.goodvibes.com).
What adventurous gal doesn't want to get in touch with her g-spot? Yes, its existence is not a myth, and now there's a fabulously functional toy to facilitate the fun. The Crystal Wand ($50), a smooth, S-shaped lucite dildo, is ideal for the novice explorer (its clever shape makes it easy to hit the spot); veteran toy users appreciate its sexy curves and classy velvet carrying case. This gorgeous item is not just for ladies, either; anything that's good for the g-spot is great for male prostate stimulation, so this a fine gift for open-minded guys as well. Wands are available in clear or black lucite and come with the elegant case and an easy-to-follow instruction booklet for beginners.
Any eros-oriented shopper will tell you that the best (and consequently the most expensive, from $43 to $63) sex toys are made out of silicone—and the best of the best come from Vixen Creations (www.vixencreations.com), a women-owned and -operated company based in San Francisco. Vixen's "heirloom quality" toys come in a simply stunning array of colors (everything from cybergrrl silver glitter to a sinful crimson marble) and are made with an excellent grade of silicone—firm, but quite flexible and resilient. Their latest sassy debut is the Foxy Vibrator Sleeve ($22.50 for the sleeve alone, $27.50 for a set with an egg-shaped vibrator included), a lusty red treat that any hipster girl would be thrilled to have in her toy bag.
Once you've conquered the silicone frontier, you might be in the mood for variety: Alternatives like acrylic, aluminum, and lucite are the hot new materials and make for great toys. The Tiffany's of sex toy manufacturers, Innerspace, which began producing gorgeous, thoughtfully rendered dildos long before they became so trendy, is a great place to turn for non-silicone inspiration. Their current collection includes a variety of seductive shapes, from the svelte to the formidable. The Arch De Venus ($79.95) is just too pretty to leave in a bedroom drawer, so you'll want to pick up a display stand ($26.95-$32.95) to show it off (Mom won't know what it's really for, I swear). Toys in Babeland carries a handful of Innerspace designs, but www.blowfish.com has the best prices and keeps their site well stocked. If you have your heart set on something, be sure to order early, as the site regularly sell out of the more popular styles.
Beauty and function come together again in hand-blown glass dildos ($35-$85). While a sex toy made out of glass may sound a bit disconcerting at first, they're actually very sturdy and functional. Glass, much like silicone, gently retains the warmth of body heat—a highly desirable characteristic in any sex toy. Even better, every hand-blown piece is an original work of art with its own unique color variations and shape. Functionality aside, they're pretty enough to leave on your mantel. The women of Toys in Babeland buy their glass exclusively through a highly reputed local artist—not only are his designs beautiful, he can do custom work when time permits, so you can select specific colors and curvatures in your design.
Modern sex toys have as many variations as the orgasms they can produce—they come in every color, texture, size, and form you can imagine. Still, even if you don't find one that's perfect for your lover, please be sure to get one for yourself. After all, being naughty can be nice.
Hannah Levin is a freelance writer in Seattle.