Why Sex Toy Not Work?

Buying a new sex toy can be absolute paradise (or being given one, that’s pretty cool too ). If sex is the food of any relationship (even self-play, it’s a relationship with yourself and your body!), then the toys are the spice of it. Whether you’re gay, trans, bi or straight, in a relationship with one or two or even more partners, sex toys, lubes, sexy lingerie and whatnot (oh, let’s not forget massage oils and creams, which I live for 🙂 !), this is what everyone needs to have a fun, sensual, diverse time with each other.

And there are sooo many sex toys out there. I personally prefer buying from Lovehoney than Ann Summers, because I like the wide variety of choice they offer (and Lovehoney has a fantastic international delivery!), and as for blogs about sex toys, why not check out Erika’s Oh Joy Sex Toy… which is full of tips and pretty good reviews, all done in a nice, fun, informative way. But whether you like buying from your teeny tiny local store, or prefer your toys delivered, and whether you look for new toys or just have them meet you (it was fate… kinda thing… 🙂 ), the market is vast, and the options amazing.

But all too often, even if you were totally psyched about a new toy (especially the slightly pricier toys that are very intriguing and tend to have sooo many options), things go wrong. I’ve noticed that not only with clients, but also when reading reviews… there are plenty of toys that have a huge amount of positive reviews, but always a few really bad ones, with some pretty worrying  complaints that should be addressed professionally, because there is no way that you can have a good sex toy experience if there are issues standing in your way.
So, with this in mind, I decided to write a little article that might help you with figuring out what is wrong.

First things first – everyone is different. My partner, for instance, likes strong vibrations, which I just don’t do so well, because I get that cold feeling of desensitising all too quickly on my lady button.
However – plenty of women, for instance, especially those who have trouble orgasming, love strong vibrations, because it will make them get to their O heaven, whereas otherwise, they might not get there at all.
It might be your preference, it might be medical (and of medical, we’ll say more in a moment!), but that’s ok, insofar as you and your partner have and keep a good communication strategy, always telling each other what you do and do not like, that’s fine. And even if it’s medical, there’s often something that can be done about it.

The trouble with sex toys can be divided into these categories:

  • mechanical failure
  • user failure
  • manual failure
  • physical (medical) failure
  • psychological failure
  • expectation failure
  • combination of any of the above
  • unknown

Mechanical failure –

Apart from being aware that sex toys, even the simple ones, are just machines, and that, as such, they can have glitches, and that those glitches may interfere with your use of it, there’s nothing to say about this one. The most I can suggest is this – be aware of the fact that there CAN be a glitch. Don’t get too upset (after all, it’s not anyone’s fault… sometimes, things just happen!), but try to figure out if it IS a glitch by following these steps :

  • Is the toy broken in any visible way?
  • Does it make an odd sound when used, or is there something odd about it in any other way right before it dies?
  • If it uses batteries, are you sure you have the right batteries, that they are in, or in the right way (tricky, because some toys have tiny instructions only on the actual toy, and you have to practically Braille read what’s on there!), are the batteries new (sometimes, they aren’t because they have been lying in a store too long – so always try with two new batches!).
  • If it uses anything else, are you sure that works, or are you sure it has been charged properly?
  • If it uses any kind of internet-based remote (like the new We-Vibe 4 seems to with the phone app) – how’s your internet connection? If you’re in a bad internet zone, it might show on how the toy works.
  • Is the toy overheated, or does it say it could get easily overheated?
  • Is there anything else that could suggest there is a fault with this toy?

Mechanical failure is best addressed by complaining to your store. My SO and I had had to complain twice about the same model of vibrator (about to be discontinued) on the grounds of mechanical failure once, and that from abroad, and that is one of the reasons why I absolutely love Lovehoney, because they were fast, efficient, kindly and understanding (thanks, guys, you are still the best! ). The saddest thing in that story was that we couldn’t use the vibes and that we couldn’t recycle them, because sending them back would be a bit pricey – but everything else was handled perfectly. This is why I can only suggest that you make sure you know where you buy your toys and how good the provider is… because, the more toys you buy, logically, the greater the chance of you having an experience where a toy just can’t even (it’s simple mathematics, that). So don’t get upset, just try to be logical, and make sure you have a provider that will listen to you and potentially reimburse you if necessary. (Again, Lovehoney rules 🙂 )


User failure –

Happens. While I’m not a total idiot when it comes to anything complicated computerised, I just do not have the instinctive love and connection with machines that my partner does (making me sound like I’m dating a far sexier version of Anakin Skywalker… ). I think that on a bad day, when you’re tired, nothing works the way it might, partly because you will, at some point, end up doing a completely reverse action to what you actually intended (which is just your brain’s way of telling you to go rest before you toast your tea and try to boil your toast… and you should damn well listen, because nobody likes to have an explosive toaster in the kitchen! 😉 ). I have been known to do all sorts of interesting things like that, including trying to feed our animal furriends, standing there with the food in my hand asking myself what I was doing again, with the furry family around me, watching expectantly. Also, the more complex the instructions, the more daunting they may seem, particularly to users who may be suffering from PTSD and/or depression at the same time. So, give yourself time, whatever the issue, and try to figure out :

  • Is the toy fed (so batteries in, charged, or whatever)?
  • Could there be a mechanical failure?
  • Are you still on this planet due to tiredness (sooo guilty of that, all too often! 🙂 )?
  • Are you reading the instructions right?

If there could be mechanical failure, retrace your steps to what I said for that. If you think it might be you getting daunted, or frustrated, then leave it for a moment, come back to it later, and approach it like you would a simple math assignment. Cross out everything that does not seem to be part of the problem (like dear user, blah, blah, blah). Then, if nothing happens, still, try adding information in bit after bit. If that fails, I suggest you find help – from your SO to your friend to internet hubs to the actual provider (again, Lovehoney is always there for you). Something should be going right after all this is tried.


Manual failure –

Sometimes, stuff comes in with faulty manuals. No help there, unless:

  • you live with a very gifted partner who can fix anything and really gets machines
  • you are yourself that person
  • you contact the provider for help and information

Physical (medical) failure –

This is the one I want to spend some time talking about. Most of the time, when toys fail, they fail for women, and they fail big time, although there are plenty of men toys that can cause trouble.

If you’re a guy, you shouldn’t be experiencing any of this :

  • pain or discomfort, odd colour change (unless you are using S&M toys that should be causing that right there and then, but still, be sure that that’s the real reason! – but this does not apply to colour change to the penis!!) – especially true about cock rings or any anal toys… please, please, be careful with those, and always look for medical help immediately if you feel that something is wrong. Don’t think about it, don’t be embarrassed (look, those guys at the ER… have seen worse than that!), it’s not worth the risk!
  • Trouble having sensation or sustaining erection (some penis sleeves may do that, though… not all toys work equally well for everyone!)
  • Premature ejaculation for no reason (like, a good reason is, this toy surprised you with what it did, and you don’t yet know how to work with it )

Any trouble with becoming erect and staying there, as well as prematuring, can be down to psychological or/and medical trouble. Exclude the possibility that it’s the toy just not working for you (can happen – I suggest you try something else a few times, if trouble persists, however, visit the GP to exclude the medical issues, and then talk to a sexologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or your friendly anthropologist 🙂 ). Psychologically based trouble can be a lot of things – from repression (which is a socio/cultural/religious matter, and therefore that much better discussed with an anthropologist!) to depression (stress at work, for example!), and is a lot less dangerous than medical can be, while, at the same time, often a lot more persistent and scarring.
Again – always exclude physical reasons before saying, oh, no worries, I’m probably just depressed!

For women, the problems are a lot more complex, partly because, let’s face it, there are a lot more toys out there for women than for men. Majority of women seem to experience, at some point, at least one or more of these problems :

  • pain and discomfort inside the vagina, or at the entrance, or in the labia area or in clitoris (or a combination thereof)
  • dryness
  • numbness and lack of sensation
  • feeling “loose”
  • feeling “overtight”, like you’re clenching
  • a burning, sudden pain like sensation
  • fear of a toy or an act involving that toy
  • discomfort or even pain with deep penetration
  • lubricating “too much” – so that the toy slips out
  • specific toy related problems (such as wrong type of vibes)

Pain and discomfort – firstly, make sure you are healthy. Pain can tell you that something is wrong in your body – don’t just ignore it, talk to your gyno about this. Next, if nothing seems to be out of order down there, consider the possibilities – are you reacting just to this toy? Could you be having an allergy? Could it be that the toy has something that is causing discomfort (like ridges, for instance)? If none of this applies, then the likeliest reason is either an accidental wrong move that your partner did, which is fine, insofar as you guys can communicate about this… or the reason is psychological. Are you feeling comfortable using this toy? Why yes, why not? Do you feel comfortable using toys? If you are with the partner you do not know well – could this be a reason? And, sadly, in some relationships – do you like the relationship you are in, and why yes, why not? (I am assuming here that your partner isn’t rough (violent) with you – if that is the case, however, it may be time for things to change, one way or another!) We’ll talk about psychological some more in a bit, let’s get on to the next symptom.

Dryness – there are a lot of reasons for dryness. The scarily simple – just how hydrated are you in general? Because hydration and nutrition can and do influence your overall health, INCLUDING your lubrication. Alcohol, too, isn’t exactly known for aiding with arousal (contrary to the popular myths!) and it will do nothing good for you lubricating.
The reason could also be hormonal (again, talk to your GP or/and your gyno), or it could be about you not being aroused, or not being able to be aroused. Plenty of women actually don’t have very well-exercised pelvic muscles, meaning that the arousal, even if it happens emotionally, doesn’t, shall we say, reach your happy lands, meaning that you don’t get as lubricated as you should, you don’t get proper clitoral erection and no or very little or passing tumescence in your labia (meaning you should be feeling a lot firmer down there – like, really, really firm, no matter in which position you are!). Again, we’ll say a bit more about pelvics in a moment.
If nothing else seems to be the problem, then the case might be that you are not being aroused. The reasons may be not enough or wrong foreplay, or an overall psychological state (obviously, if you’re ill, or depressed, you don’t necessarily feel all that hot, do you?). Always exclude the physical before jumping to conclusions, but take your psychological trouble just as seriously!
If the dryness persists, look for the reason, using plenty of lube in the meantime. My suggestion – talk to your partner about this. Buy a good lube (my personal favourite is Nature Lube at the moment), play on your own and with your partner. Any penetration you do, use plenty of that lube on your fingers, on his/her fingers, on his member or on her penetrative toy. Watch them lube you up, or do it yourself, get connected and loving. That way, whatever troubles you will be half less problematic immediately, and you’ll have time to figure things out easily.
But don’t just panic and stop having sex altogether. That’s like being scared of driving after the first hour with an instructor and never getting into a car again. You won’t fix the problem this way.
Important – some toys, such as Bendover Boyfriend, are made of material that literally sucks you dry. If that’s the case, make sure you use a lot of good compatible lube, and if that doesn’t help, the toy might want to wear a condom (Bendover Boyfriend with Durex Ribbed… absolutely yummy)… or, for a cheaper and more fleshy alternative, buy a synthetic flesh cover for it (I can personally suggest Nature Skin, the cover is a simple penis sleeve and feels fab!). And guess what – most Durex condoms, for instance (just in case you now have a taste for trying with them for sensations!) are lubed with a water-based lube, meaning they are 100% toy safe (these are the ones that aren’t – Perfect Glide lube is silicon-based, Mutual Climax and Extended Pleasure both have Benzocaine in them, to slightly anaesthetise him to prolong pleasure while the lube is water-based, you may want to figure out what Benzocaine might do with your toy; Source: Durex, personal communication.) If you’re not sure, talk to Durex directly, they’ve got a wonderful customer service team.

Numbness and lack of sensation – there are very few states (medical states) that you can expect that in in general. Not having feeling in your lower body, for instance, may cause a certain amount of lack of sensation, as can some operations… nothing to do about that but talk to your gyno and GP about suggestions, and find ways to overcome the extant problem.
In other cases, the numbness and lack of sensation are the offspring of two things – lack of tightness in the pelvics and/or a psychological issue.

Feeling “loose” – unless you have recently given birth, have been told you can come back to having sex and just don’t feel as tight as you used to (this can still be improved, though!), then the issue is either psychological or the pelvics.

Feeling “overtight” – now this is a definite psychological problem. Whether because of PTSD (especially with women who have witnessed physical, sexualised psychological – like being called a whore, or cunt, or someone constantly jeering at your gender and sexuality -, psychological or sexual abuse, or have had a bad experience with it) or some other reason, such as repression, you’re clenching and that can’t be comfortable – some women may literally “shut the door”, and will become practically impenetrable, or may (oh, horror for both parties!) catch their partner inside.
If this happens to you, try not to panic (I know, easy to say!) and try to just be very gentle with each other, and calming. If you’ve caught your man or your lady’s lusty extension inside of you, try this – let them caress you very tenderly the way you usually like to be caressed. Listen to the sound of their voice, listen to the fact that they love you, they are yours and they care about you. In a while, try to rock just very tinily, gently, while caressing the genitalia (this can help relax the muscles somewhat). Then, if you feel you can try, try to both breathe in sync with each other. After a few breaths, let them withdraw just a fraction from you. Then go back to what you did before. Try to withdraw some more. Repeat as many times as possible.
After you have managed to safely withdraw, make sure you are in their arms and consoled – you are likely to have a complete breakdown over this, and you may feel like you never, ever want to have sex again, with them, with yourself, with anyone. You may be feeling hurt and abused – your partner should understand that you may blame them, especially if this problem started because you were having a flashback to someone who has abused you.
In either case, I suggest you seek professional help as soon as possible – from an SOS depression phone you feel you can trust to a friendly anthropologist.
If none of this works and you are still trapped, and that with a guy, who can’t as such take off his extension (whereas your female partner might be able to do so safely, if you’re lesbian or bi, and that might also help get it out safely), try to call ER. I know, most people do not as such have sex next to a phone, or even a mobile, but that might be your best chance.
If that seems impossible, try to return to deep breathing. Make sure, though, you do not hyperventilate in any way (so, if you start feeling dizzy because of it, stop immediately, but know that feeling dizzy might also just be fear… so don’t fret too much, just follow your body!). Just try to take nice, calm, deep breaths, because that may loosen your muscles and set him free again. It might work if you two start conversing about something completely different (however weird that sounds), because you may get busy with something else enough to let go.
Reasons for “overtightness” that commonly happen :

  • depression, anxiety and PTSD, especially where the reason touches sexual context
  • sexual repression due to social, cultural or religious reason
  • vaginismus (also known vaginism) (more here, here, here and here)
  • vulvodynia (more here, here, here and here)
  • a sudden bout of fear (often happens to teens who get unsure and embarrassed, but can happen to adults for other reasons)

There are no other ways to deal with these problems but professionally. Please consult your gyno on this matter, but be aware that you will, most likely, also need therapy for the psychological reason.

* The reason why I’m putting vulvodynia and vaginismus in as separate causes is that, while depression, PTSD, repression etc. do feature together with and are connected with both, the two conditions still differ slightly; firstly, vulvodynia especially seems to be a much debated condition, with varying opinions regarding its existence; and secondly, while vaginismus features the same or similar symptoms as what you might get in the other mentioned categories, as well as has its root in them, it is not only a sporadic condition, but one that has come to stay… which is why I want the reader to definitely understand that, while conditions may be similar, they may require different treatment due to their severity and/or cause.

A burning, sudden, pain like sensation – if nothing happened out of ordinary, stop immediately what you were doing and see a professional to exclude any physical reasons. It could, also, be a reaction to a lube, or a condom, or even the toy. Let your partner comfort you and then make sure you get medical help to figure out what went wrong.

Fear of a toy or an act involving that toy – I’ve noticed that that happens a lot. Most of the time, there are two reasons – bad experience (either in general or with the toy in question) and generalised fear, often based in one’s past sex life or psychological approach to sexuality (often familial). If there is no reason for you to fear the toy because something went wrong once (and there, you may want to make sure you just aren’t scared any more!), you will need to figure out what is really bothering you (check the section on psychological trouble).

* Plenty of women, for instance, totally coo over the We Vibe 4 Plus, but I have seen a few reviews that didn’t, or that have mentioned the fear of pain or discomfort when penetrated with the toy inside the woman; the reviews that don’t coo often state similar reasons (and don’t forget – if you’re scared, you just might cause yourself pain – so either avoid what you don’t feel comfortable with, or, with the help of your partner, overcome the fear).

Discomfort or even pain during deep penetration – one of the most common reasons for this (apart from fear, because women STILL think that this will hurt!) is either a simple time of the month or a medical state called endometriosis. Endometriosis is a state in which the tissues grow out of your uterine neck (so that little roundish thing inside you, deep in) and try to go elsewhere. It can be very unpleasant, but the good news is it can be curable – please visit your GP if you have any of the symptoms (of that, you can learn more here). And why the simple time of the month?
Because, before your period, everything will swell up a bit more. And if you’re not very exercised in there, which will protect you somewhat (or sometimes, if you’re REALLY swollen and your partner is quite impressive), you may feel discomfort even then. Solution? Simple. Just figure out when in the month you don’t feel like that angle or that position or going that deep, and tell. Your. Partner. Case closed.
As for fear – remember what Christian Grey says. You expand too. And yes, you do. This has something to do with how exercised you are, though – because the better your pelvics, the more you are elastic and comfortable. Fine – so you may actually reach a limit, and you may start to feel uncomfortable with a toy/guy that is over 10 inches in length and I don’t know how much in girth. But in general, it’s not likely to be a problem of physical nature, and even if you think it may be, just communicate how you feel. Things are bound to get better.

Lubricating “too much” so that the toy slips out – firstly, there is never such a thing as lubricating too much. Don’t EVER think that. Chances are that you may need to train up your pelvics a little bit, or that that particular toy just won’t work in that particular position.

Specific toy related problems – I’m afraid that there’s nothing to say about that. We are all different – I may like one thing, you will like another, and if one set of vibes works for me, it might not work for you. So sigh, shrug shoulders… and go for another toy.


Psychological failure –

This section deserves a lot of time. Most of the time, especially women have fears of pain and discomfort in connection to sex. This may have the following reasons – social, cultural and/or religious repression, myths about, feelings of guilt, lack of arousal (often due to another psychological reason, or to an uncaring partner – in that case, communicate, or change the partner!), bad experience, general feelings of repression (which comes back to social, cultural and religious, and some!).
The worst thing is that plenty of women don’t communicate, especially with their male partners (and don’t think they have no problems – how many men, do you think, actually exist, who have never had any fears about discomfort, or not performing well, or social, cultural, etc., issues? Preciously few!) – it seems that lesbian couples can and do communicate better, possibly because there is no artificial divide between the partners due to both being of the same sex (and yes, that divide is artificial, so kick it in the teeth!). As you have seen above, pretty much any symptom that one may experience can be due to psychological trouble – and that’s because psychological issues are such a huge part of us and our lives, and because often, they revolve about pointless taboos and fears we have developed because of our experience or environment.
If you suspect your issues might be psychological, then the only solution is to try and figure out what is happening. This might be a long road to take, but it is worth it. Because at the end of that road is a healthy, relaxed, sexually happy you. Damn right it’s worth it!

One thing you can always do (although it you have ever had any over-tightness problems, you may want to ask for your gyno’s advice first!) is to get really fit down there. Having a fit set of pelvics means better sensation, better lubrication, better, deeper and longer orgasms and a healthier body altogether. Your pelvics (you may know them as Kegels), when well exercised, can give you a whole lot of pleasure, and will protect you from a whole lot of issues – like, for instance, lack of feeling. The more you exercise them, the more blood there is in there, and the more blood there is in there, the better your arousal.
But arousal is not only physical – you have to be psychologically willing and ready too. So, if that isn’t happening – why not? And so, an exploration begins. You may get to the reason yourself, or you may have to talk to a professional – but really, don’t just wait for a miracle to happen, do something about this!
An easy way to do exercising in the land down under? Kegel balls. Such as Fun Factory’s Single Ball. Worth it’s little weight in gold, nay, diamonds, this little thing trains you up without you even noticing. (Yes, I own one, and the only reason why it’s not in there right now is because I’m having my period, and I don’t have the soft tampons! 🙂 )


Expectation failure –

So everyone is talking about this toy… and then you try it… and – nothing.
WHAAAT???
Yes, that can easily happen. But – is it happening because you are depressed? And the expectations make you shut down? Or is it just that the toy simply doesn’t do it for you? Introspection to follow!


Combination of any of the above – says it all.


Unknown –

This one’s a bitch. But it can happen. Sometimes, there are really no answers. Sorry. It may be some subtle smell of the toy that you may not even be aware of… or its looks… but hey, nobody’s perfect, and neither are sex toys.


I hope this article provides a glance into the world of why sex toys might not work for you. Of all of the reasons, I find the psychological and the physical to be the most important – so please, take them seriously. If you wish for more explanation, don’t hesitate to ask, or, for that matter, send a direct question or even schedule your own personal consultation where we can discuss everything you wish to know.


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