A Look at the Wide World of Sex Toy Controls

A Look at the Wide World of Sex Toy Controls

When we talk about sex toy innovation, a lot of the conversation centers around means of stimulation. Yet while buzzing, thumping and sucking are certainly important, they are not the be-all and end-all of product advancement. Sometimes, what makes a product cutting-edge is not the stimulation it provides or how it provides it, but how the user operates it. Which is why I want to talk about the evolution of toy controls!

On its face, this might not seem like a sexy or exciting topic, but advancements in toy control mechanisms represent huge leaps forward in terms of sex toy accessibility, and offer users different and fun ways to interact with their own bodies and their partners'. Read on to learn about the variety of toy controls, from basic to high-tech — and how this information can benefit your customers.

Toy controls may feel like an afterthought when shopping for pleasure products, but actually comprise a significant part of the toy experience.

Keeping it Simple

A twister controller built into the base of a toy — you guessed it — twists to first turn the toy on and then further to turn up the power. Twist it in the opposite direction to taper the power down. The twister controller may be one of the first and original ways to operate massagers — think mini torpedo shapes from the ’70s — which gives it a vintage vibe.

Dial controls have evolved to come in multiple styles, but today are often unfairly assumed to indicate that a product is low-power, low-tech or simply antiquated. While some basic intro vibrators might fit that description, dial controls also exist on larger-scale power players such as wand massagers. They are even standard on super-powerful products like sex machines, on which dials make switching through multiple power and function combinations nearly effortless. 

Some dials are wheel-shaped and half-embedded in the body of a toy or its remote. Unlike a twister, which must be held to be turned, this kind of dial can be operated with one finger — often the thumb. The dial rotates in one direction to turn the toy on and increase the power, and requires little effort or strength to operate, making most dials far more accessible than traditional buttons.

Another original, straightforward mode of toy operation is the single push-button control. Whether located on the base of a toy or on its side, this one button does everything. Sometimes this is because the toy in question only has one speed and simply turns on and off. However, a single push-button control can also operate multiple features if the user presses the button repeatedly to cycle through different settings. While this is not always a terribly functional design, depending on the placement of the button, a single push-button control can be ideal when accessibility outweighs technology.

The single-button design eventually evolved into a stacked or side-by-side two-button design, with one button to turn the device on and off, and a separate button to cycle through vibration speeds and functions. This tech upgrade prevented users from accidentally turning their toy off mid-session while hunting for the perfect setting — possibly one of the most frustrating things that can happen right before the Big O.

Taking (Remote) Control

One of the biggest game changers in sex toy history was the remote control. Remote-control toys have changed the face of solo and partnered play and introduced the world to entirely new ways to engage sexually. During solo play, a remote-control toy offers the ability to change settings without having to fumble around for the right button and risk moving the toy from that perfect spot. What really put remote-control toys on the map, though, was enabling partners to control each other’s toys.

The earliest remote-control toys were corded, with a cable running from the remote to the toy, and some products still feature this cost-effective option. Then came wireless remotes — and even remotes containing their own vibrating motors. Vibrating remotes allow users to stimulate a second part of their own body while controlling the product’s speeds and functions, or to pleasure themself while controlling their partner’s experience.

Controls Go High-Tech

One of the biggest developments in toy controls in recent years was the emergence of voice- or sound-activated toys. Voice-activated toys are appealing for many couples, since they let users control toys using only their voice — a bonus for anyone who gets particularly revved up by dirty talk. Users can also switch through speeds and functions no matter how lubed up and slippery their hands and fingers may be. Voice- or sound-activated products can be ideal for solo play by users with arthritis or challenges with grip, hand or finger mobility, offering a genuine hands-free experience that does not require the ability to press a button or turn a dial.

Another trend that has emerged in toy operation is the digital display. Products equipped with a large LCD display featuring large print and icons make it easy to tell what vibration speed and intensity the product is set on, and remaining battery charge, no matter how dark it might be in the room. 

Help Your Shoppers Pick the Right Toy

As with most customer support, asking the right questions can help you make the right recommendations. With so many different ways to operate a sex toy and so many different factors to consider — including accessibility — it’s important to get right to the point:

1. What is their budget? A lower budget tends to mean simpler controls or corded remote controls.

2. Who are they using it with? Solo users may have different control needs than couples.

3. Do they have mobility concerns? Some controls are far easier to use than others, so make sure you specify usability and accessibility when you describe the pros/cons of certain product options.

Toy controls may seem like an afterthought for folks shopping for pleasure products, but actually comprise a significant part of the toy experience. With a little conversation and education, you can help your customers find the product with the controls that give them the best experience possible.

Rebecca Weinberg is an award-winning industry leader with more than 20 years of experience in the adult industry. She is the president of multi-award-winning pleasure product manufacturer XR Brands.


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