You Need Help: Old Sex Toys, New Partners

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Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.


Q:

I’ve just come out of a year-long relationship (about a month ago) where I got my first spare parts harness and lots and lots of toys and dildos. I LOVE this harness. And I love one of the dildos that is double-sided. The end of the dildo that I’m wearing is much, much smaller, of course, as I prefer, but it also gives me a bit more control when I’m having sex because I can get a sense of feeling of what I’m doing. And I’m just really really comfortable with it.

So I’ve met someone new. And I’m wondering about my toys. I’ve heard it’s taboo to use the same toys on a new partner. Would it be so wrong to go to and buy the exact same harness and dildo that I prefer?


A:

The short answer: nope, not wrong at all!

But let’s unpack this a bit in the long answer, shall we? Come sit down in my grey armchair, have a cup of tea, because I’m about to argue that we have all been duped by a very weird societal expectation. That’s not always easy to hear. It goes down easier with tea. And this time we’re going to invite a bevy of Autostraddle family into my figurative living room with us, because when I shared your question with your loving, chattering Agony Aunties over here, we had a lot of things to say. So come on in, fellow advice-givers, and take some seats on my red couch and my dining room chairs! Here are just a few of our thoughts, edited for length and flow.

KaeLyn: what would your answer be, ali? like…my response is talk to your partner about it (duh). it might not be an issue at all. if it is, that’s fine and definitely get the harness and dildo you prefer? why would you not get something that you prefer?

Me: ^ that’s basically exactly what i’m going to say, because it sounds like she might have already ditched the toys? and she didn’t have to do that. especially since spare parts goes in the laundry. that’s like throwing out all your underwear because you have a new partner

Stef: i make all my partners buy all new underwear

Carmen: write an impassioned post that’s just called FULL STOP: DON’T THROW OUT THOSE SEX TOYS

KaeLyn: i am sad that this person might have discarded sex toys because of weird relationship rules that don’t exist. finding the strap-on situation that works best for you is such a big deal. why would you mess with what you know you like?

I want to go back to something KaeLyn said because I think it’s really worth repeating: “weird relationship rules that don’t exist.” We’ve ALL been told these rules over and over again — that every relationship is a unique, special snowflake and your partner doesn’t love you enough if they don’t do crazy rom-com things and the relationship wasn’t valid if you don’t feel the need to burn every love letter and teddy bear and everything that reminds you of a person. Those things all make for great, silly movies but we are humans. And humans love story. And humans love to make their lives look like the narratives we see and hear over and over again. In this case, our human love for story is not serving us well here — life is not like the relationship rules we see in movies and magazines. What I’m saying is, as long as your toys are medical grade silicone or another sterilizable material and haven’t been damaged (like this one that Laura M wrecked for science), there is no scientific reason that you need to throw out your sex toys. Think about it — you do not throw out your genitalia when you get into a new relationship, and that’s not even something you can sterilize! Keeping your old sex toys is infinitely safer! But! Some people feel weird about it, so that brings me to the next part of the answer.

If you’re worried that keeping your sex toys from partner to partner is weird, talk to your partner. If they think it’s strange, okay. What do they need to not feel strange? A shopping trip where you pick some new ones out together? Barrier methods on the ones you’re keeping? Talk it out! This is not a weird topic for conversation. There’s also the chance that they don’t see anything wrong with it at all, and this worry was for naught. So sit them down in your own grey armchair with a cup of tea and have a chat. Speaking of tea, do you need a refill? It’s cold today!

And lastly, if you’ve already ditched your toys (and it sounds like you might’ve, but might not’ve?), there is nothing wrong with purchasing the same sex toys over again, especially if you really love them! There’s no rule that states you have to only have one type of toy or one type of sex with one partner, and then totally change it up when you wind up partnering with someone different. If we applied that flawed logic to everything, square dances would become very difficult. Finding a strap-on situation that’s ideal is like finding buried sex treasure in a sex negative world — don’t re-bury that treasure just because you’ve got a new first mate!


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Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 528 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. This is the happy-new-relationship flipside of that terrible moment during a breakup when you have to sort out and re-divide your Toy Drawer and give your ex their toys back, and your drawer looks sad and empty but it still smells like that coconut oil massage bar they bought for you because you’re obviously not giving that back, and you can’t even open the damn drawer for months without thinking about them…

    Ahem. Sorry, where were we?

  2. yeah seriously, that shit is expensive. though I have a cluttering of dildos in my sex-toy drawer because when I was younger I sort of believed in the secret and thought that if I threw money at buying new sex toys that the appropriate partner would arrive. idk if it works, I definitely didn’t use a dildo-wand sexy seance to summon my girlfriend, I just used the internet.

  3. Well, I have zero experience with this, but I guess as with all things relationshippy:
    If you went and bought it as an “us” thing and it was very specific and the experience of getting it was a very couply and emotional and meaningful one, I wouldn’t use it with a new lover.
    Especially not if it’s only been a month.
    However, if it feels like something that is a part of you, and yours,and it sounds more like that is the case, go for it.
    I hate sleeping with someone in the same bed they slept with someone else, btw., especially if that was recent, so, you know, where do you want to draw that line?

  4. Sex toys are expensive. And cleanable! I have totally kept them from relationship to relationship, unless it wasn’t cleanable. I felt a little strange about keeping a really nice leather harness as that isn’t exactly silicone-cleanable but I loved it and it was not cheap. I just made sure to clean it super well. Of course if there was anything a new partner was uncomfortable with I’d toss it (or just retire it).

    Also I think it’s fun to see what toys a new partner comes with (pun intended)!

  5. Depending on the relationship my partner has had with their sex toys, I often see it as an extension of themselves. I know that one of my previous sexual partners had used their feel-do on previous sexual partners and I know that they use the same one with their current partner. To me, it was as much their body as anything anybody has been born with.

    And besides, what my partner’s jams are, are probably also going to become my jam. And we can make it unique in ways beyond the actual physical toy.

  6. I mean, should you throw out your old bed for someone new? Honestly, I’m not someone who finds sentimental value (or has any kind of emotional attachment) in inanimate objects so I would not mind using my toys on someone new and I wouldn’t mind them using old toys on me.

    However, if I was to date someone new, I would want to make sure they are okay with it. I’m not going to judge anyone for being weirded out by it. You want me to throw away old toys? Fine.

    • I feel like new babes get to be like “I don’t want to use that” but I feel like they have to earn the right to request you throw your shit out. like, don’t care if it’s a shirt or a strap-on or a book, (or a BED omg those are expensive) but I’m not gonna throw my shit out because new babe is jealous, I’m just not.

      • I concur. There’s a huge difference between “I don’t feel comfortable using that toy” (Which can apply to any situation) and “You have to throw that toy out.” That would be really weird and probably the sign of a not healthy relationship.

  7. I loved this advice! I guess, though, I have never asked partners before using toys if they were okay that it was once used by other people (and was cleaned after obvi), because I thought the assumption was if it wasn’t bought together, then of course it was probably used with other folks. I didn’t really realize this was something people were concerned about!

  8. No way. I always got rid of my toys between partners. Too much emotion wrapped in those to share with a new person. Yes, expensive, but better for me than the vomity taste of guilt for remembering something I shouldn’t with someone new.

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