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Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009

Buying a Sexy Gift for Someone? Proceed with Caution

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At this time of year, we get many people in the store who are looking to purchase presents for their partners. Buying a sexy toy, book or DVD for someone can be a great way to spice up your relationship or carve out some me-time during the crazy holiday season, but since every person's sexual desires and responses are so unique, it can also be really difficult to pick out just the right thing.

If you have your heart set on this type of gift, stick with items that you and your partner have already discussed. For instance, if the two of you have expressed a mutual interest in giving cock rings a try, then a moderately priced, adjustable ring or two can make a great stocking stuffer. However, if you've never talked about cock rings before, receiving one as a gift might make the recipient wonder if you're unsatisfied with your current sex life. This is a common anxiety for first-time toy users anyway, so it's best to avoid springing totally new things on people without prior discussion.

As with any other present, make sure that you're thinking about the recipient's desires rather than just your own (I'm reminded here of the year that I got tired of making my partner's coffee when I got up in the morning, so purchased a programmable coffee maker as a gift. Bad move). For example, if your girlfriend has expressed an interest in bisexuality or threesomes, then getting her a book or DVD—whether instructional or erotic—about these topics can be a great way of supporting her sexual exploration. If you harbor a secret fantasy about seeing your lady get it on with another woman but have no idea if she'd be down for that, then such a gift can seem selfish.

One of the most popular gifts for people is a vibrator. This is understandable, as they are by far the most frequently purchased item in our store, but is also problematic, as the variety among different styles of vibes is huge. Does your partner prefer external, clitoral stimulation or internal, vaginal stimulation? Does she like gentle vibration, or does she enjoy the type of intense power provided by plug-in vibes? Does she like a firm, hard surface or does she go for softer materials? These are just a few of the questions I ask customers who come in to shop for vibes. Unless you are able to answer these types of questions on your partner's behalf with reasonable certainty, it might be better to get a gift certificate or to plan a special shopping trip together instead of actually purchasing a toy.

Upgrades to equipment that your partner already owns are usually sure-fire gifts. Maybe she loves her dildo harness, but the straps are getting worn or she has to keep adjusting it during use. Springing for a more solidly built or comfortable harness in her size could be a welcome present. Or maybe his masturbation sleeve is his very best friend, and one of the brand-new models with vibration or suction would open up whole new realms of playtime possibilities for him.

If you have any doubts about purchasing a sex-related gift for your honey, I advise holding off until you can talk about it together. Sometimes it's more thoughtful to let a person pick out his or her own present than to try to surprise them. Don't forget that making time to talk about sex with your partner or to shop together is a gift in itself.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.