A Guide to Alternative Sex Toys


Alternative sex toys are a great tool to use when exploring all the exciting sensations of sex. These toys may not be as mainstream as some other sex toys, but they can be just as pleasurable and fun. Many people who practice kinky sex enjoy using alternative sex toys. Kinky sex includes, but is not limited to, the practice of bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM). Before using alternative sex toys on yourself or your partner(s), it is best to have a clear understanding of each toy’s function and proper usage. Additionally, always obtain affirmative consent from all partners before engaging in sexual play. This article will describe information on alternative sex toys, safety, and finding the perfect toys for you.


The practice of bondage involves physically restraining a person with devices or psychologically restraining them with commands as a key part of the sexual experience. There are many ways to explore bondage. Some choose to try out many different toys in order to find their perfect bondage style. It is a good idea to take your time and explore what you like or what you do not like. If you are experimenting with partner(s), always be sure to establish a safe word before sexual play begins.


Handcuffs and keys.

Restraints, or handcuffs, are a great way to explore bondage restraints for beginners and experts alike. They come in a variety of materials and styles, such as metal, leather, silk, neoprene, cloth, and fur, and can be used to secure you or your partner(s) wrists or ankles. Neoprene and cloth-like materials are budget-friendly, while leather restraints may cost more but will last years.1 If you are trying out restraints for the first time, we recommend playing around with the restraints on your own before using them with a partner so that you are familiar with their feeling and function. Restraints are perfect for foreplay or intercourse. A few places you can handcuff your partner to or have them handcuff you to include a bedpost, stairwell, or table. Always make sure that the restraints are not tied too tightly or cutting off blood circulation.

Rope Bondage

Using rope or rope-like materials can be a great way to experience restraint play. This is because there is a range of creative ways to utilize rope. Many people even consider this style of bondage to be an art form. 

A person tied by the neck with a rope. The person's wrists are also tied with the rope.

Types of Rope

Some popular types of rope bondage include are hemp, cotton, nylon, jute, silk, polyester, and bamboo. Nylon is a great material for beginners because it is affordable, sleek, smooth, and the knots cannot be tied too tightly. Be cautious of pulling nylon rope too fast on the skin because it can burn. Hemp rope is great for all levels of experience. It will not cause rope burn and has a rougher texture. Hemp is strong and will hold knots tightly as well. Some users complain about the intense smell of hemp rope, but if you wash the rope with water and soap a few times, the smell should go away. Cotton ropes look similar to hemp but are best for experienced users because the knots can become very tight and difficult to undo. It is a great material for those who are looking for something cheap, soft, and washable.1 Rope can be used to tie up all parts of the body, varying in tightness and style depending on what users desire. It can also be used to create a harness-like design that doesn’t necessarily restrain the arms or legs but simply accentuates the beauty of the body in a creative and personal way.

Rope Bondage Safety

A person's arms tied with a rope.

When selecting a rope material, keep in mind that certain types of ropes are good for certain styles of bondage. Cotton and nylon are used for non-suspension bondage, while the stronger hemp rope is suspension grade. Suspension bondage occurs when a bound person is suspended in the air from one or more overhead suspension points. It is considered a riskier type of rope bondage that calls for experience and extensive knowledge of bondage safety. It is a good idea to keep a pair of safety shears readily available when experimenting with rope bondage, in case you or your partner(s) want to be cut loose quickly.  There should always be room for one or two fingers in between the rope and the body. Tell your partner(s) at any point if the rope is too tight or is cutting off circulation, or if whoever is tied up begins experiencing tingling or prickling sensation.1


Gags come in a variety of styles and are often used during submissive and dominant scenarios. Using a gag can create a very intimate and intense experience between partners that allows the submissive partner to be silenced or muffled while feeling mental and physical arousal

Types of Gags

The most common type of gag used during sexual play is a ball gag, which sits right behind the teeth. There are small ball gags with easily adjustable straps for beginners. Ball gags made for intermediate and advanced play have larger balls that constrict breathing and audible sound more intensely than a beginner size ball gag does. If you are looking to buy a ball gag, try to find one with a silicone ball. This material provides a cleaner, smoother, and softer experience.2 It is normal for your mouth or jaw to feel slightly sore after using a ball gag. Putting on the ball gag with a partner can be a very sensual experience. When putting on a ball gag with a partner, have the submissive bite down on the ball gag first, then have the dominant adjust the straps so that the gag is secure enough to not fall out, but not so tight that it causes the submissive discomfort or inability to move their head.

Two ball gags.

There are other types of gags to explore as well, such as bit gags. Bit gags allow for easier breathing and do not require the mouth to open as widely as a ball gag may. Common objects such as scarves and ties can also make for great gags that are discreet, breathable, and easily removable. If you or your partner(s) have never used a gag before, a scarf or tie could be a great starting point to see if the gag experience is something you enjoy. It may take some time to find the gag that you enjoy the most.                    

Gag Safety

When using a gag, it is crucial to establish a safety signal. Because speech may be impeded, try coordinating a special tap, noise, or tune to hum. If you are the dominant partner in this scenario, make sure to communicate with your submissive about the tightness and secureness of the gag, as well as make sure that they are comfortable and having fun. It is not recommended to wear the gag for more than 20 minutes at a time.3


Blindfolds are a form of bondage restraint that temporarily removes a person’s ability to see. By removing one of the senses, blindfolds can increase physical arousal and sexual anticipation. Additionally, if you are shy about exploring something sexually, a blindfold may help to improve confidence and comfort.4

Like most toys, blindfolds come in a variety of sizes, designs, and colors. Silk blindfolds offer a soft and sensual experience while materials like vinyl offer a more intense experience. Using a tie or scarf as a blindfold is easy, affordable, and can add a feeling of spontaneity to a sexual encounter. Another fun option is applying a blindfold and engaging in sensual touching; because the other senses are heightened, this gentle and intimate touching can create an electric sensation.

Collar and Leash

A collar, handcuffs, and leashes hanging on a chain.

Collars and leashes are bondage restraint toys commonly used in pet play and BDSM. Pet play is a type of role play that parallels a dominant and submissive scenario. Pet play enthusiasts can gain arousal from role playing as animal and owner, which is why the collar is used. The submissive wears a collar that can be used as a decorative piece displaying that they are “owned” by the dominant. The collar can also be paired with a leash and used by the dominant to control the submissive’s movements. There are a variety of collars to choose from, but if you are a beginner, we recommend starting with a simple collar to test your comfort and find out what you like.

Collar and Leash Safety

A collar on a person's neck.

When using a collar and/or leash, make sure it fits comfortably and safely. Check to see if breathing or swallowing are hindered by the collar and confirm that two fingers can be fit between the neck and the collar. Never pull too sharply on the collar or leash as this could cause injury or whiplash.5

Whips and Other Toys

There is an assortment of “punishment” and impact toys that are commonly used in BDSM play. These toys are meant to inflict pain on the receiver. This pain can range anywhere from very mild to extreme. In general, toys with small surface areas inflict more pain.6 Impact toys come in many different materials that correlate with experience and pain levels. Only experienced users should engage with metal impact toys.

Handcuffs and a whip with tassels.


Whips are a high intensity toy that can increase pleasure and excitement during sex when used with adequate experience and practice. Whips are considered high intensity due to their small surface area and fast speed of movement. Some whips come with tassels on the end, which are great for gliding over erogenous zones to tease or create sexual anticipation.7 Single tail whips are considered a form of edge play, which is a type of extreme BDSM that is thought to be dangerous. These kinds of whips can wrap around the body and create an extremely sharp sensation. We do not recommend using a single tail whip during impact play unless you are very experienced with edge play and understand the dangers.7


A black flogger.

Floggers are different from whips because they are thicker and have multiple tails. Floggers require experience and practice because the tails and thick material cause hard and precise hits, which means there is not much room for error. Beginners may want to start with a short or mini flogger made of soft material like deer hide. Higher intensity floggers have long and thin tails made of stiff material like cowhide. Floggers may be braided or made out of other materials like rubber, silicone, and metal.6


Crops are a semi-intense toy that causes a sting or “thuddy” impact. A stinging sensation can be brought by a quick hit that is immediately lifted off the skin after impact. This stinging impact is often sharp and more intense. A “thuddy” sensation occurs when the crop is hit onto the body and kept on the skin, possibly rubbing it around the impact zone. This “thuddy” impact is a deep impact that is often not very painful.6 Although it is important to practice before using a crop, they are rigid and long, so they are generally easier to use. The end of a crop can also be used to tease erogenous zones or create sexual anticipation.


A black paddle.

Paddles have a larger surface area, so they are a low intensity toy that can be great for beginners. Because they inflict less pain, paddles can be used more often than some other toys. Additionally, paddles are the perfect spanking tool to create a “thuddy” sensation. There are sensitive nerve endings all around the buttocks that can send an erotic and pleasurable feeling throughout the body when being hit with a paddle. When using a paddle, it is best to aim for the fattier and lower part of the butt cheek. There are two popular methods of spanking. One is using an underhand hit pushing swiftly into the fatty part of the cheek. The second is hitting directly onto the buttocks by moving the paddle down flat from an above angle for a harder impact. It can feel nice to rub the buttocks with the paddle after each spank or use some oil or lotion to soothe the sensitive skin. Avoid paddling near the tailbone or back. A traditional BDSM paddle has leather on one side and soft faux fur on the other, which is great for alternating sensations or working up from the lower-intensity fur side to the higher-intensity leather side.7 The classic style wooden paddle tends to be more affordable but can inflict more pain and stinging than a leather paddle.


Canes are a very high intensity toy that could cause a strong stinging sensation. Similar to crops, they are long and rigid. These toys can come in a range of flexibility. If a cane is more flexible, that means it is harder to control and can inflict more pain than a cane that is rigid.1 Avoid using a metal cane unless you have sufficient experience with cane play.

Anal Play

Anal sex toys can be a great tool to help explore and enhance anal play. In addition to anal plugs and anal beads, there are a variety of alternative anal sex toys that can be fun to experiment with.

Prostate Massagers

The prostate, often called the male G-spot, can cause an extremely pleasurable orgasm when stimulated. Prostate massagers allow users to safely explore and massage the prostate gland. In addition to feeling incredible, prostate massagers may promote prostate health.8 Before using this toy, it is a good idea to explore the prostate with a finger to get familiar with the prostate area. We recommend using a massager made of silicone, which is a non-porous material that will not trap bacteria.2  

A black and red prostate massager.

How to Use a Prostate Massager

Begin by lubricating the toy with a water-based anal lube. The lube will increase stimulation and make insertion easier. Gently insert the massager into the anus with the curve facing towards your stomach. Start by moving the massager around manually, taking note of what feels good. You can play with different levels of pressure and motion. With experience, some males find that they can achieve a hands-free orgasm by controlling the movement of the massager through contracting and loosening the pelvic floor muscles.9

Sagittal view of finger inserting male anus.

Anal Vibrators

Anal vibrators are vibrating toys designed specifically for anal play that can be used by anyone. They are great for extra stimulation during masturbation or sex. Most come with tapered heads for easy insertion and a textured or beaded design that increases stimulation. Keep in mind that anal vibrators are designed to be safe for your anus. Using another vibrator in the anus, such as a vaginal vibrator, can cause discomfort and injury.10

How to Use an Anal Vibrator

Begin by lubricating your toy with a water-based anal lube. Beginners may want to start with a slimmer sized vibrator.10 Choose a comfortable position, which may be lying on your back or on your hands and knees, and slowly insert the toy. If at any point you feel pain or discomfort, stop inserting the vibrator. You can turn on the vibration setting once the toy is inside your anus, or while inserting it. Many vibrators come with multiple settings, so you can build up the sensation to your liking. Once the vibrator is comfortably inserted, relax and enjoy the pleasures of the vibrations.

Urethral Sounds

The head of the penis, or the glans, is a highly sensitive part of the male anatomy, inside and out. Urethral sounding is the act of sliding a well-lubricated rod down the urethra, starting at the glans. It offers an exciting experience that can stimulate the sensitive nerve endings within the urethra and apply pressure to the prostate gland. Although not a hugely popular trend, many people are beginning to try out sounding and find that is an interesting and pleasurable experience.11

Stainless steel urethral play sound.

How to Sound

Sounds come in different materials, the two most common being silicone and stainless steel.11 Silicone sounds are flexible but require more lube and force to push down into the urethra. Stainless steel sounds slide down easier, and do not need to be re-lubed as often but are harder to control. There are even vibrating sounds, which take urethral stimulation to the next level of intensity. When choosing a sound toy, avoid getting one that is too big or too small. A sound that is too big can cause overstretching or tearing of the urethra. A sound that is too thin can cause a puncture.11 Taking the time to find the right toy for you will result in the safest, most pleasurable experience. Never put an item in the urethra that was not made specifically for urethral sounding, including fingers. Before urethral play, make sure you have sterilized your toys, washed your hands, and applied water-based lube to the sound rod. Keep in mind that sounding is a slow play, and it is not meant to be rushed. You can begin by slowly inserting the rod, paying attention to what speed and pressure feel good to you. If you experience any discomfort or pain while inserting the rod, you should stop immediately as this may cause injury. Right after you are done with the sound play, remember to urinate to flush out any bacteria or lube that may be in your urethra. Urination may sting when you pee afterward, but that is a normal response. If the stinging or pain lasts more than 24 hours, or if there is blood in the urine, we recommend contacting a medical professional.11

Concluding Remarks

One of the most important factors when using any of the alternative sex toys listed above is consent. It is crucial that all parties involved consent to everything that happens. Consent must be given continually throughout the duration of the encounter in order for all parties to enjoy themselves. One way that people assure consent is by planning out what they are going to do together beforehand. Get comfortable with your partner by expressing what each of you wants out of the sexual experience, including any sexual desires or fantasies you are curious about trying. There is no shame in sharing what turns you on. From there, you can decide what you want to do. When it comes to restraint, impact, anal, or sound play, planning out what to do can give all partners a sense of security and comfort. Also, make sure to agree on a safe word, noise, or movement that indicates you or your partner(s) want to stop. There is nothing wrong with taking a break during sexual play or stopping completely. Sex is always best when everyone is enjoying themselves, and alternative sex toys are a great way to make sex more fun.


  1. Gilbert, Claire. “Intro to BDSM Toys” Killerandasweetthang.
  2. Kinkly Staff. “Sex Toy Safety: A Guide to Materials.” Kinkly. 2018.
  3. HelloFlo. “Interested in Wearing a Gag? Here’s the Lowdown.” 2017.
  4. Hatcher, Mike. “5 Super Sexy Beginner Tips To Bring Blindfolds Into Your Bedroom Routine.” Yourtango. 2017.
  5.  “Beginner’s Guide To Slave Collars.” UberKinky.
  6. Zandrock. “BDSM 101—Impact Play.” Eden Fantasys. 2013.
  7. Saint Thomas, Sophie. “Kinky Sex Whips Guide.” Refinery29. 2018.
  8. Borzillo, Carrie. “6 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try a Prostate Massage.” Men’s Health. 2018.
  9.  “How to Use a Prostate Massager.” Lovehoney.
  10.  “How to Use an Anal Vibrator.” Lovehoney.
  11. Fenn, Violet. “Would you push a rod down your penis for sexual pleasure? What you need to know about sounding.” Metro News. 2018. 

Last Updated: 15 October 2018.