Sex toy shopping is largely a to-each-their-own practice. Someone’s too strong is someone else’s too subtle; someone’s phenomenal is someone else’s eh. Given this, there are very few rules when it comes to sex toy shopping. There’s no right or wrong way to do it—just right or wrong for you. Except that there are wrong ways to do it. At least, there’s one: Buying anal toys without flared bases is a categorical no-no. Ask any sex toy expert or gynecologist, and they’ll agree.

Anal toys can be an excellent investment, no matter your anatomy.

First things first: Anal play can feel great—like, really great—no matter who’s receiving. That’s because the anus is rich in nerve endings. And since a lot of those nerve endings are exclusively sensory (meaning, they’re designed to pick up on physical sensations), your anus is basically a stimulation hotspot.

Not to mention, anal play can be a great way to explore targeted G-spot and P-spot action. The G-spot, as you well know, is a pleasure zone tucked away on the anterior wall of the vagina. The P-spot, also known as the prostate, is a small gland located between the bladder and the penis. Both of these areas are extremely sensitive and can result in immense pleasure when stimulated. And anal play can offer direct access to both.

But buy an anal toy without a flared base, and you risk genuine (maybe even serious) injury.

Though the anus can be an absolute treasure trove of pleasure, you can’t treat it exactly like you’d treat a vagina. Because, well, it isn’t one. A vagina is kind of like a cul-de-sac: It dead-ends at your cervix, so even if a sex toy gets lost inside you, it doesn’t have very far to go. Your anus is not a dead-end—quite the opposite. It connects to your rectum, which is part of your large intestine. So theoretically, a toy lost inside your anus could make its way up your intestines—and end up somewhere it’s definitely not supposed to be.

And yes, a toy could actually get lost inside your anus. Because when you orgasm, your muscles contract, and there can be a “vacuum effect,” Dr. Natasha Chinn, M.D., a New Jersey-based ob/gyn has this to say. It’s totally normal for your muscles to contract during orgasm (put simply, that’s what an orgasm is). And it’s also totally normal for those contractions to be so intense that they create a “suction-type effect,” Dr. Chinn says. And that’s exactly why you should be thoughtful when shopping sex toys—because some sex toys are less likely to get engulfed than others.

“It is super important to only purchase anal toys with flared bases,” Annabelle Knight, Lovehoney sexpert, said. “There is a very real risk of over-insertion if the toy doesn’t have a flared base.”

But what is a flared base, exactly? Many anal toys taper toward the bottom and then widen—a lot. And that wide part is exactly what we’re talking about when we say flared base. That flared base can come in the form of a T-bar (a horizontal bar at the bottom of the toy that makes it look like an upside-down T), a large ring, a suction cup—even the testicles you find on realistic dildos could get the job done.

Thankfully, most anal toys come with a built-in flared base. But a lot of vaginal toys don’t. So you can’t just repurpose your favorite vaginal dildo for anal play and expect things to go OK.

And for what it’s worth, if you do end up with a toy lost inside your rectum, Dr. Chinn recommends that you go to the emergency room immediately. “The longer you wait, the higher the chance that you’ll need more of a major surgery—and the higher the risk of damage,” she says. (If you lose a toy inside your vagina, you can also call your doctor. But they can usually “get it out with ease,” Dr. Chinn says, so there’s less risk of surgery or major damage.)

Don’t worry—there are tons of flared-base anal toys on the market for you to choose from.

Again, finding flared-base anal toys isn’t hard at all. Browse any sex toy shop’s anal section, and you’ll see flared base after flared base. There’s actually enough variety that you could develop preferences about which flared bases you like best.

Once you’ve met that baseline criteria—once you’ve found an anal toy with a flared base—there are a few other things to consider. “Body-safe, non-porous materials are best for hygiene and prevention of bacterial infection,” Dr. Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., Adam & Eve sexpert, says. “For pleasure, it’s good to start small—and maybe even get a toy that vibrates for a little extra pleasurable sensation.”

And don’t forget the lube. Though your vagina self-lubricates, your anus doesn’t. “So whether you’re inserting a toy, finger or penis you’ll definitely need to use a thick water-based anal lubricant…for long-lasting slip, comfort and safety,” Knight says. (You can try oil- or silicone-based lubes too, just remember that oil-based lubes can degrade condoms and that silicone-based lubes can degrade silicone toys.)

“For beginners, go slow, warm up the whole body, and make sure the arousal of the receiver is super high before attempting penetration,” Dr. Skyler says. Go slow. Feel it out. Have fun. And of course, shop responsibly.

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