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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Looking for something? Start here!


Welcome back to the (Student Sexuality Information Service) SSIS column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email ssis@brandeis.edu or leave a question in the Google Form link on the Student Sexuality Information Service Facebook page. Any and all questions are welcome: there are no bad, stupid or weird questions! 

(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community, and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind, or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)


My partner recently told me that they frequently watch and enjoy porn. I know a lot of people watch porn and I’m not inherently against them watching it, but I can’t help comparing myself to these porn stars and feeling self-conscious and insecure with my partner now. What can I do to be more comfortable?

Insecurities around porn are extremely common and valid. Many of the body parts and acts depicted in porn are extremes of average sexual encounters and do not represent the reality of sex. Porn stars have trained makeup artists, camera workers, directors and even plastic surgeons who ensure that their bodies and performances look as perfect as possible for the scene, and while this works for these displays, this isn’t how most sex appears. In reality, sexual experiences can be sweaty, noisy, slippery and awkward—and that’s okay! Keeping open communication with your partner can help you work through insecurities together and hopefully make your sexual life all the more enjoyable. 

Discussions around porn can be challenging, especially when discussed with your partner, but they are often necessary and can help in the long run. Asking yourself what makes you self-conscious may help get to the root of the problem. Is it the physical characteristics of these actors? Is it the positions that they are performing? Are there specific kinks or fetishes that your partner is watching that you may not be comfortable with? Realizing the cause of insecurity is the first step in addressing it. 

Once you’ve identified the cause/causes of these feelings, you may want to think about bringing them up with your partner. Having open communication may help your partner ease or explain some of your concerns and give them space to express why they engage with pornography. Understanding why porn matters to your partner may help you sympathize with your partner as they sympathize with you. 


What kind of sex toys would you recommend for first timers?


Exploring sex toys for the first time can be both a really fun and nerve wracking journey! There are tons of sex toys out there, so it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start. Below are some options that can be good for those who would like toys aimed towards beginner play. It’s important to keep in mind that everybody is different, and what is fun and pleasurable for some might not be great for you! 

Bullet Vibrators: For vagina owners, one of the first toys that often come to mind are vibrators. Vibrators are especially great for those who enjoy clitoral or external labia stimulation.  For those looking for a vibrator that is small and discreet, but still packs powerful vibes, a bullet vibrator can be a great place to start! Most bullet vibrators come in a cylinder shape, with a button on the bottom that can be pressed to change the intensity or pattern of the vibrations. They are made of either ABS plastic, which gives it a metallic feel, or silicone, which is often a softer, squishier material. Though typically advertised for vagina owners, bullet vibes can also be used by penis owners! It can be placed on the back of the shaft or perineum for some fun sensations. 

Dildos: Though bullet vibes are great for external play, they are often not long enough or girthy enough to provide great internal stimulation. For vagina owners looking to explore internal play, a dildo can be a great option! Dildos tend to range between 4-8 inches of insertable length and 1.2-1.75 inches of girth, with many different shapes and textures. If you are new to dildos or insertable toys in general, finding a smaller dildo with a soft material can be a good place to start. As with any type of play, adding lube to the mix can help with smoother insertion and an overall more pleasurable experience!

Masturbation Sleeves: For penis owners looking to explore sex toys, a maturbation sleeve can be a great way to spice up solo play. This soft and flexible cylinder toy, usually made of elastomer jelly or silicone, slides up and down the penis to increase grip and stimulation while masturbating. Most sleeves come with soft ridges or bumps on the inside for added pleasure, some even made to mimic the feel of an anus or vagina. More advanced (and expensive) versions can come with a vibrating element as well. Though it may be good to start with a simpler version of this toy, feel free to try different textures and types until you find the one for you!

Butt Plugs: If you are interested in trying anal play, butt plugs are a perfect toy for beginners. Butt plugs are cone shaped toys that are inserted into the rectum. All butt plugs must have a flange, or flared base, to ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the rectal cavity. It’s also extremely important to use lube while exploring butt plugs, as the anus does not self lubricate and is more susceptible to soreness and tears. What’s so great about these toys is that they come in many different sizes, allowing the user to increase size and girth as they become more comfortable with insertion. Smaller butt plugs will be around 2-3 inches in length, while larger ones will range between 5-8 inches. As a beginner, it’s okay to start small and only do what you’re comfortable with! This will keep the experience pleasurable and will allow you to work up over time. 

This list of toys is certainly not exhaustive, but it could provide a good place to begin your sex toy journey! Though these toys can all be used on their own, feel free to bring them into the bedroom with a partner to spice up partnered sex as well. If you are interested in purchasing any of these products or have any further questions, come into the SSIS office or text our texting line (586-ASK-SSIS) and we can help you think through ideas and options.

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