In life, we often aim for stability as the ultimate goal. And then, it happens—the stability we once dreamed of soon turns into boredom, making us wish for a little excitement. Whether it’s that job you wish to change or your sex life you want to improve, it’s natural to fall into a rut and even more so to want to get out of it. Luckily, you’re not alone when it comes to the latter.
In 2017, an e-commerce adult toy site, ThatsPersonal.com, collected data from 80,000 orders over 52 months to conclude that Indians are, contrary to the popular narrative, spicing things up in the bedroom. The sale of sex toys is on the rise in metros, tier 2, and tier 3 cities, and women are fast making up a sizable percentage of customers served. But as much as this is true, it also isn’t easy to get the conversation going, both with yourself and with your partner.
The Midlife Crisis spoke to Dr Sakshi Tickoo, an occupational therapist and sexuality counsellor, for her expert insights. Tickoo is also the author of the book SexCare, which serves as a self-help guide for sexual wellness.
Understand Your Needs
Our bodies are constantly changing, as are our needs in bed. For women above the age of 30, according to Dr Tickoo’s client base, both internal and external environments matter.
“Some may have just gotten married and moved from a nuclear family setup to a joint family, which can cause cortisol levels to fluctuate,” explains Dr Tickoo. Major events such as childbirth can lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, which can cause painful sex. Combine that with the lack of information on how our hormones impact our sex lives, and we’ve got a disaster in the bedroom.
To help solve some of these problems, Dr Tickoo “prescribes” sex toys to her patients.
“We call sex toys an assistive aid; it assists you in reaching parts of your body you want to access,” she elaborates. “Some people have low hand strength or carpal tunnel due to their job. Some have tennis elbow or other issues that get in the way of sex, which is how I push the idea to them. I say, ‘If your hand starts hurting, this is a good tool to go with.’”
If you relate to any of these issues, sex toys can help you access pleasure in situations where you physically or mentally cannot. So it’s important to first understand your needs and pain points in the bedroom.
Leave The Judgement Aside
All thanks to the taboo surrounding sex in our culture, we tend to curb our curiosity and sweep it under the rug. The first thing you can do to have a better sex life is to leave your biases outside of the bedroom. And yes, this means understanding your aversion to sex toys.
“Men have been told that erections and ejaculation mean everything. That if they can’t get erect or satisfy their woman with their penis, it’s shameful. Their pride is tied to their penis,” says Dr Tickoo. This would explain why many men believe that toys are a replacement for ‘the real thing’. Because women are tied to no such expectations, they are keener on using toys.
It can be difficult to let go of shame and explore one’s body for pleasure. For those in their late ’40s and early ’50s, sex is a problem that needs to be solved—it is considered more a release than an experience. This can be attributed to the roles and responsibilities of middle-aged adults—from raising a family to being good role models, there are many other tasks that take priority, leaving sex behind.
Dr Tickoo’s approach leans towards restructuring the idea that penetration is the only way to have sex. “I don’t prescribe sex toys as a remedial measure or a tool to overcome your shortcomings. Instead, I imply that those willing to try it are curious and want to access pleasure.” And it indeed is possible to make a change—Dr Tickoo’s oldest and most progressive client is 92 years old!
Learn About Your Body
The math is simple: If you don’t know your body, how will you know how to pleasure it?
“Most men and women don’t understand human anatomy. They don’t know what’s happening with women’s bodies. That’s why it’s important to re-centre the conversation from penetration to pleasure and sensations,” asserts Dr Tickoo. And toys help bring back the joy of sex.
Today, there is a myriad of toys available for both men and women, and they can be used in a number of ways. Cock rings and masturbation sleeves are toys made exclusively for people with penises, but Dr Tickoo believes all toys can be used in more ways than one. “Suction toys can be used for scrotum and nipple play, for instance,” she says. Similarly, vibrators can be used to stimulate other parts of the body. There is no dearth of toys when you let your imagination take the lead.
Try It Solo
If you haven’t yet dipped your toes in the pool of pleasure, test it out for yourself before you let your partner in. This can also help you ask the important questions: Does it hurt? What toy do I want? Will it desensitise my vagina? How do I keep it clean? Dr Tickoo works with her clients to create a comprehensive understanding of sex toys and how they can only make sex better.
Dr Tickoo’s book, SexCare, is a workbook that helps you explore your relationship with your body. Through guided activities fit for both solo and partnered sex, it can help you work through your doubts and fears regarding sex and teach you how to enjoy it. “The idea behind this book was to help someone have a conversation with themselves and evaluate their relationship with their body. It helps you understand your sexuality and how touch and sensations feel.”
You can purchase the book here.
Communicate With Your Partner
They say every healthy relationship is based on clear communication, and this especially applies to sex. But what does ‘communication’ even mean? Starting the conversation with curiosity, for one.
“Instead of saying, ‘I want a sex toy, let’s get one’, let your partner know that you saw an ad that got you curious and you’d like to try it,” Dr Tickoo advises. “Ensure you’re in a similar mental state.”
The world of sex toys is expansive, but you need not dive into it headfirst to get an idea. “You don’t have to purchase a toy to experience the thrill of the toy,” asserts Dr Tickoo. Some everyday objects can double as great accessories during sexy times. “You can use a sleeping mask as a blindfold or scrunchies as hand ties. You could even use a cold spoon or gua-sha stones to experiment with temperature play.” Don’t hesitate to introduce these before you pull out the big guns.
If you wish to simply get out of your sexual rut, you can consider taking online courses that educate people on different aspects of sex: kink for beginners, how to use a sex toy, oral play tips, etc. Following sexual educators on Instagram and YouTube is a good way to go as well.
Sex, at the end of the day, is an experience meant to be enjoyed. But our everyday problems often become hindrances, forcing us to put it on the back burner. Toys can help bring you out of that rut—and realising that sex is more than just a way to keep your dynasty going is the first step. It can help you see toys as investments towards your pleasure.
If you’ve decided to make that purchase, here are some brands Dr Tickoo recommends:
That Sassy Thing
With these points in mind, go on and have the best sex of your life!