How to choose a dildo, according to a sexpert

How big? What material? We asked a sex expert exactly what's what when it comes to dildos

bag full of sex toys
(Image credit: Anna Shvets from Pexels)

Dildos have come a long way since the early incarnations of the phallic-shaped sex toy saw ancient civilisations use unripe bananas or camel dung dipped in resin to satisfy sexual desires. Now you can find dildos that inflate, deflate, strap on, glow in the dark, stick to the shower wall… the list is endless and the choice is wonderfully expansive. They remain one of the most popular sex toys out there. 

We've selected some of the best dildos on the market to help you choose, but before you make that all-important purchase there are crucial factors that need to be considered first. Who better to guide us than sexpert, erotic author, adult toy reviewer and educator, Amy Norton (she/her). Here are all your dildo questions answered...

How big should your dildo be?

When choosing your dildo one of the first and most important considerations is size and while the cliche 'big is best' still abounds, it's a maxim that doesn't hold true for sex toys (or penises for that matter). "There is a real cultural narrative with penises and I think it's carried over and I don't think it's true," says Amy. "I would always advise people not to go for the biggest thing they can find straight away because that can end up being uncomfortable or painful." 

Rather, start with modest aspirations and turn your attention to the balance between girth and length. "Often we talk about length but actually if you're talking about someone with a vagina, the G-spot is located just a few inches inside and you don't actually need something that's 10 or 12 inches long to reach it. A lot of people have started saying girth matters more than length but I would say it's not universal. If you like the feeling of being stretched, or having a challenge, going for something girthier is a good idea but otherwise I would advise something a bit more slimline to moderate for a first timer."

tape measure

(Image credit: Marta Longas from Pexels)

What's the best material for a dildo?

Metal, glass, silicone, wood, ceramic… the choice of material not only affects the experience you have but it can pose some serious safety issues, so listen up! "I have strong opinions about material," says Amy. "The sex toy industry is broadly unregulated so companies can claim anything and they're not really beholden to anyone to prove that what they're saying is true. Anything that is labelled jelly or gel – avoid!" Tests have shown these toys contain high levels of phthalates, which can leak into the body. 

"PVC and latex and TPE/TPR are not going to leak toxic materials into you but they're porous, which means they will harbour bacteria, you can never get them 100% clean and so they're best avoided or used with a condom." (Head to our best condom guide for our top picks for use with sex toys or without.)

One hundred per cent pure silicone is the best way to go, believes Amy, "It's completely body safe, it's non porous, it's easy to sterilise and it lasts forever. If people want to experiment with other sensations, other options are borosilicate glass, stainless steel, wood and, if it's properly treated, glazed and sealed, hard ABS plastic, which is cheaper."

Can a dildo make you orgasm?

While the vibrator market sells itself on the ability of its product to make you orgasm, the dildo is a little more opaque about the effect it has on the user. While some sex-toy users like dildos for the simple feeling of penetration, for others it can stimulate a G-spot orgasm, female ejaculation or if being used anally on a man trigger a P-spot orgasm. 

"Depending on which research you believe, 60-90 per cent of people with vulvas can't orgasm just from penetration and need clitoral stimulation as well," says Amy. "So some people can orgasm from a dildo and some people can't, either way that's fine and normal. If you enjoy the feeling of penetration and want to orgasm just combine it with clitoral stimulation using your hands or with your partner using their hands or mouth, or a vibrator."

Do I need to use a condom or lube with a dildo?

A question that is often considered by dildo users is, 'Do I need a condom with this?'. As well as protecting yourself from the bacteria that can be harboured in porous materials the other reason you might want to pop a jacket on it is if you're sharing the toy with someone, as Amy says, "you're not fluid bonded with". 

One accessory you always need, however, is lube. "Always, always… always!" says Amy. "It's so important with dildos because the harder materials can be quite rigid if not properly lubricated and it can be a bit painful; if you're using silicone sometimes the material can be a bit 'grabby' against the skin. So using lots of lube can make it smoother and more fun. If fact, Amy's is a strong advocate of this wonder juice in general: "Lube just needs to be in everyone's sex life," she adds.

Amy is author of the Coffee & Kink blog and organiser of Smutathon (@SmutForACause) an annual sex-writing marathon event that raises money for endometriosis.  

Alice Claridge

Alice is a freelance editor and writer, with experience covering sexual happiness products and general lifestyle