Sex shops can be a daunting place for the unenlightened. Being surrounded by whirring, grinding, buzzing silicone shapes is not everyone’s idea of a good time. Even for those of us who approach such situations with a determination, picking out a new best friend from the rows of sensual pinks and teasing purples is not always easy.

The choice is even harder if you, like most students, are not only working with a very strict budget, but also live in a terraced house built from little more than paper walls and mildew. This guide is here to help you get your head (and other body parts) around the huge choice of sex toys out there.

The Rampant Rabbit

Overlord of all sex toys, the Rampant Rabbit (or one of the cheaper alternatives) is often the first things that springs to mind when people think of sex toys, and with good reason.

It’s the best way to stimulate all your favourite spots simultaneously, with as much or as little power as you would like. There are countless different variations on the market – Mr Big, Slimline Oh! and Total Ecstasy Triple Stimulator, to name but a few.

If you are new to sex toys, a virgin, or simply not a budding size queen, it might be an idea to start small. Getting the angle right can be a bit tricky for beginners working solo, but do not let that put you off – it is just a good excuse to practice more.

The downsides to the Rampant Rabbit are that, firstly, it is a little bit pricey, but consider it an investment. If you look after your toy by keeping it clean and taking the batteries out when it is not in use, it will last a long time. Secondly, all that orgasmic power can be a bit on the loud side for your average, house-sharing student. It is definitely worth it, just so long as you have a decent set of speakers.

The dildo

Dildo

With dildos, it is very much a case of what you see is what you get, whether it is an ultra-realistic silicone or a twisted glass pole that looks more like an art installation.

They are usually very easy to look after, do not require batteries, and are completely silent (although that does not mean you will be).

The dildo is perfect for anyone into good old penetration. That said, dildos might be simple to use but choosing a new one is not always straight forward; there is a lot more variety in dildos than there is in real penises. You need to take into consideration aspects such as size, colour, shape, and how you will be using it.

There are dildos designed specifically for anal play or G-spot stimulation, as well as the usual P-in-V penetration. Bear in mind that not all dildos have the wide base needed to be compatible with strap on harnesses, so be sure to do your research before you buy.

When purchasing a dildo, you also need to consider the material it is made of. There are four main types – silicone, glass, wood and metal – and each one has its advantages and disadvantages.

Silicone

This is probably the most popular material for sex toys as it is incredibly versatile, so whether you prefer your dildos wobbly or totally inflexible, silicone can cater to you. They are also generally quite cheap and easy to clean – just remember never to use silicone based lube with your silicone toys – it will damage them.

Glass

Glass is popular with those who like their toys hard, unbending and quite often aesthetically pleasing.

Run your glass dildo under hot or cold water for a few minutes for a new sensation, but make sure you test the temperature by pressing it against the skin on your arm before using it anywhere more sensitive.

Many people worry about glass dildos shattering during use, but rest at ease knowing that you can drive cars over them and they will not smash. No one does enough Kegel floor exercises to break one of these bad boys.

Wood

Wooden dildos are the toy of choice for the sex positive eco-warrior, or anyone who is prone to leaving things lying around, seeing as they are more likely to be mistaken for a wayward banister than a sex toy. They are also a good option for people with silicone allergies.

Along with being uncommon, they can also be quite expensive. In addition, if you are planning on sharing your dildo with a partner, wood probably is not the best choice as they are not as easy to sterilize as glass or silicone.

Metal

Metal toys are less rare than wood, whilst still being an expensive option. While they lack the ridges and knobs that are common in glass dildos, fans of metal toys swear by the cool, smooth curves and the unique heaviness, although a sex toy that might legitimately break your toe if you drop it is not for everyone.

The plugs and beads

Anal beads

The main types of anal sex toys – excluding dildos designed especially for anal play – are butt plugs and anal beads.

You may already be a fan of anal sex, and are now interested in incorporating it into your personal routine, or you may be a curious beginner looking to get started. Either way, plugs and beads are a good way to go, as they are often smaller and less intimidating than dildos or real penises.

As with dildos, they come in many different sizes, materials and colours, and are generally quite cheap. While anal beads and butt plugs are great on their own, they can be combined with other sex toys or used with a partner for twice the fun.

If you are interested in double penetration, anal toys are a safe and comfortable way of achieving it. As with all anal play, make sure you invest in a good quality lubricant and be generous. The trick to a good anal experience, whether alone or with a partner, is lube, lube, and more lube.

The bullet

Bullet or clit vibrators are arguably the best first sex toys for people with a vagina; they are small enough to be discrete, often quite cheap, and fairly quiet in comparison to other vibrating toys, such as the Rampant Rabbit.

It is easy to find one that suits you, as unlike with toys designed for internal use, there is not as much need to get a feel for the size, shape and weight beforehand.

Bullet vibes are all quite similar and usually offer at least three different settings, although there are many varieties that offer considerably more. A tip for figuring out how strong a bullet’s vibrations are is to turn it on and touch it to the tip of your nose; if it makes your eyes water, you know you are onto a winner.

The Fleshlight

Fleshlight

There is a lot of stigma surrounding sex toys for people with penises, with a significant amount of it focused on the Fleshlight, one of the most interesting and well-known toys of its kind.

There are many different styles to choose from, ranging from multi-coloured aliens to models of popular porn stars.

The great thing about the Fleshlight is that while some of them may look like vaginas or anuses on the outside, on the inside they are very different. Each one is a unique tunnel of lumps, bumps and ridges designed to provide an experience probably unlike anything you have ever felt before.

Fleshlights have two major shortcomings. Firstly, they are expensive, so not something most students are likely to buy on a whim. Do your research before investing – make sure you shop around and read reviews, you are far more likely to find the toy that suits you. Secondly, if you do take the plunge, be warned: Fleshlights need to be cleaned out regularly.