In the age of coronavirus, masturbating is akin to a public service: You stay inside, get all the health benefits of an orgasm, and stave off the urge to break social distancing for some lovin’.
That’s why the recent spike in sex toy sales as COVID-19, the diseased caused by the coronavirus, spreads is something to celebrate. In the now-iconic words of the New York Health Department, during the pandemic, “you are your safest sex partner.” Couples who suddenly find themselves being long-distance while quarantining in separate homes are turning to pricey high-tech, internet-enabled sex toys that claim to keep you connected while apart, according to reports of booming sales from Rolling Stone and Ask Men.
But they’re in for an unpleasant surprise.
Now is the worst time to waste your money on internet-connected sex toys. In our exhaustive testing of some of the most popular high-tech toys, we found that most touting features like Bluetooth connectivity, WiFi-enabled remote play, app features, and interactive long-distance toys that sync with your partner were barely functional even before the pandemic. Now, with internet speeds in cities across America and Europe declining, they are likely more unusable than ever.
So horny, well-meaning social-distancers are now spending between $150 to $400 for internet-connected features made moot by the very thing they sought to circumvent (coronavirus). And in this economy, no one has the cash to waste on a useless, non-refundable smart dildo.
Luckily there are far more affordable, albeit analog, ways to bring innovation into your love life, whether you’re flying solo or with a long-distance partner. You just might have to get a bit more creative.
Why smart sex toys won’t work right now
There’s a multitude of ways and reasons behind the failures of the tech in the smart sex toy space. But the biggest culprit is particularly exacerbated by the ripple effect of coronavirus: bad Bluetooth connection. You see, many smart sex toys claim that by connecting to Bluetooth, you can do everything from let your partner control your toy remotely or sync it up to their smart toy so the two respond to each other’s movements.
No one has the cash to waste on a useless, non-refundable smart dildo.
That sounds awesome! Or it would be, if it weren’t for the fundamental problem that no one’s figured out how to make Bluetooth compatible with the human body, since water repels Bluetooth signals and our bodies consist of up to 60 percent water.
That means most internal toys (which many of the most popular high-tech toys are) inevitably and repeatedly lose connection when used as instructed. The more turned on you get (meaning, well, wet), the worse that connection becomes. That’s not to mention that closing your legs or wearing any clothing can cause even more interference. So your best bet for a spotty connection during your virtual quarantine sex is to remain bare-ass naked and spread eagle the entire time.
On top of all that, the apps used to supposedly connect the toys to you and/or your partner’s phone — boasting integrated video chats and control panels — are also nightmarishly unusable, full of glitches and bad design.
Again, these are just the standard problems for internet-connected toys on the best day. During the pandemic, governments in the EU, UK, and Australia are going so far as to ask Netflix to slow down streaming speeds and quality in order to keep up with the high internet demands. Your smart vibrator just isn’t a necessary strain on those already shaky online infrastructures.
At the same time, not all smart sex toys are created equal. Some address these problems better than others. But many of the top high-tech sex toy companies seeing spikes in their sales during coronavirus are also unfortunately some of the worst offenders.
Every single Bluetooth-connected toy from We-Vibe that we tried — from its internal vibe Jive, to external panty vibe Moxie, and even its interactive couples toys Rey and Reina — couldn’t maintain signals despite several different troubleshooting attempts. That’s not to mention the We-Connect app, which has hundreds of irate reviews on the App Store that speak for themselves.
Another oft-mentioned high-tech sex toy brand seeing an uptick right now is Kiiro, which didn’t fare much better in our tests. When trying the Fleshlight Launch paired with Ohmibod’s Fuse, the two could barely maintain connectivity even when placed right next to each other. For the brief moments they did, we were further disappointed to find that claims of the toys syncing up to mimic a partner’s motions were delayed and spotty (if it happened at all). So imagine all the frustrations of a laggy video chat, but on your genitals. Well, it’s at least extremely effective at chasing away any hope of an orgasm, I guess.
Oh, and that’s only if you don’t receive a malfunctioning Fleshlight Launch (like we and many others did) that comes broken straight out of the box. Kiiro does take returns on these, sending a new one free of charge. But think of the poor delivery person you’re causing extra work for.
To be fair, certain big names in the space are doing more than others to fix these problems.
Though it has its own litany of issues, Ohmibod’s line of app-enabled toys delivers far better connection due to its reliance on cellphone signals rather than just Bluetooth. The is currently seeing higher sales right now and was one of the most reliable during our tests (it’s currently out of stock as of April 8, but will be back up on Ohmibod’s online store the following day). Out of all the interactive long-distance couples toys, Lovense’s Max and Nora was the most functional and reliable, though that could still change depending on lower internet speeds.
What to try instead
Before you sink hundreds of dollars into these high-tech bells and whistles, there are way more reliable and cost-effective methods for staying sexually connected during the pandemic.
Doing a virtual mutual masturbation session where you both get off like you normally would (whether with a regular toy or just your hand) is always an option. If you’re intimidated by the idea of video chat sex, we recommend audio sexting, whether through a phone call or voice notes.
If the idea of audio sexting sounds foreign and weird to you, consider our previous advice espousing the benefits of sexy voice notes:
Just think about how much the sound of your partner’s pleasure adds to your pleasure during IRL sex. Now also remember that you can say everything you’d send in a sext, but with your actual voice, maybe even while touching yourself, and moaning.
The beauty of audio sexting comes back to the benefit of voice feeling far more intimate than texting, while at the same time a lot less unforgiving than video or picture. Also, audio leaves a lot more left up to the imagination, which is very conducive to long-distance desire.
To be totally clear, we’re also not discouraging people from taking this golden opportunity to explore sex toys, whether it’s for self-love or with a partner while social distancing. Just know what’s worth spending your hard-earned money on, particularly if you’re a beginner.
We’ve got a more extensive guide for sex-toy novices here. But the TL;DR is that you really don’t need to shell out a lot of money for high-quality toys that get you there. Personally, my go-to recommendation for people with vaginas is anything by Dame, particularly the Kip, Fin, and Pom. For the extra budget-conscious option, you can’t go wrong with Maude’s Vibe. Satisfyer (which also recently saw a 30 percent increase in sales) makes the suction-style clitoral stimulation innovated by the much pricier Womanizer accessible with the Pro 2’s $44.95 price tag.
Or hell, maybe you do want to splurge on a new, high-tech experience. Lioness, the smart rabbit-style vibrator that tracks biofeedback during your orgasms is worth every penny for that. Since the Lioness only needs to connect to the app on your phone via Bluetooth to transfer data after you’ve finished cumming, it’s more reliable and doesn’t get in the way. And it’s never been a better time to masturbate your heart out to understand and explore your sexuality more, which Lioness can be a great tool for.
But the world of sex tech is also much bigger than just toys, with other digital services offering new ways to get off at far cheaper price points. We can’t recommend apps like Dipsea enough, a platform with audio erotica and how-to guides that’s usually $8.99 per month but with free content available now through the end of April. There’s also O.school, a popular online platform for sex education that’s hot and all about teaching you how to explore more of your pleasure.
It’s not only natural but genuinely responsible to seek safe ways to connect with each other right now. Whether it’s with a partner or by yourself, deepening your intimacy is one of the most productive things to do during quarantine.
While Bluetooth-enabled smart sex toys might have a tough time being able to maintain connection right now, you don’t have to.