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What Are Dildos?

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 16, 2020

Dildos are sex toys that you can put into the mouth, anus, or vagina. While they are sometimes meant to feel like a penis, they don’t have to look like one. They come in all different materials, shapes, and sizes. Some dildos are curved in order to stimulate the prostate or g-spot.

There are many different kinds of dildos. You can find ones that are:

  • Made to look like a penis with testicles
  • Made to be strapped on with a harness
  • Meant for two partners to use at once, called double-sided or double-penetration dildos
  • Vibrating dildos
  • Made with a suction base to adhere to a surface
  • Glass or metal dildos

Dildos have been around for thousands of years. In the Hohle Fels cave in Germany, archeologists unearthed a dildo about 28,000 years old.

Why People Like Them

Dildos are popular with people of all genders and sexualities.

Sometimes they can have a medical purpose. Some sexual medicine experts recommend them as part of therapy for vaginismus, or pelvic floor muscle spasms. 

Dildos can provide internal stimulation to the g-spot, prostate, or other parts of the vagina or anus. They can also play a psychological role in arousal and sex play. 

What’s the Difference Between Dildos and Vibrators?

Dildos and vibrators are both sex toys, and there’s a fair amount of overlap between their functions. The biggest difference is that not all dildos can vibrate, though some do.

Some vibrators are designed to be used externally during solo or partner play, and others are made to be inserted in the vagina or anus.

Myths about Dildos

Some people worry when their partner wants to use a dildo. They fear that it means their partner is sexually dissatisfied or that the dildo will replace them sexually.

However, studies on the use of sex toys have found that they can aid sexual relationships between committed couples. In relationships marked by open communication, sex toys may enhance sexual experiences and intimacy. 

How to Try Dildos Safely

If you’re choosing and using your first dildo, there are a few things to keep in mind so you can have a safe and comfortable experience:

  • Unless you know you prefer a wide girth, start small and work your way up.
  • Choose a dildo made with non-porous materials such as body-safe silicone, glass, or metal.
  • Use plenty of lubricant, but avoid using silicone lubricant with silicone toys.
  • Put a condom on the dildo if you’re using it with multiple partners or with porous material.
  • Wash it after each use.

If you feel any discomfort while using a dildo, stop. You may need more lubricant or a smaller size.

Care and Cleaning

Wash your dildo with a mild soap and warm water. If you’re using a silicone toy, you can clean it by putting it in boiling water for several seconds.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Archives of Sexual Behavior: “Sex Toy Use By Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States.”

Cosmopolitan: “How to Get the Absolute Most Out of Your Dildo.”

Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy: ““Women's vibrator use in sexual partnerships: results from a nationally representative survey in the United States.”

The Journal of Sex Research: “What Keeps Passion Alive? Sexual Satisfaction Is Associated With Sexual Communication, Mood Setting, Sexual Variety, Oral Sex, Orgasm, and Sex Frequency in a National U.S. Study.”

Planned Parenthood: “Sex Toys.”

Sexuality & Culture: Adventures with the “Plastic Man”: Sex Toys, Compulsory Heterosexuality, and the Politics of Women’s Sexual Pleasure.”

Sexuality & Culture: “Using Sex Toys and the Assimilation of Tools into Bodies: Can Sex Toys Incorporate Tools into Human Sexuality.”

Sociology of Health & Illness: “Treating women’s sexual difficulties: the body work of sexual therapy.”

Women’s Health: “The 30 Best Dildos You Can Buy Online, Plus How to Find Your Perfect Match.”

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