Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Finding Sex Toys that Work for Me: Part 2

iroha toys for pelvic floor dysfunction

Darling Nikki is Rebellious Magazine’s resident sex toy reviewer. While she writes her reviews from the perspective of a cisgender woman, she wants to remind her readers that any sex toy can be for any body!

Last month, this column focused on clitoral toys that work for me while I deal with pelvic floor dysfunction. I have learned a lot about my body through pelvic floor physical therapy. For the first several weeks, my PT advised I stay away from penetrative sex as I worked on healing my pelvic floor muscles. Of course, she wasn’t going to be policing my sex life and trying to have penetrative sex wasn’t going to get me a slap on the wrist — but after months of painful/impossible intercourse and UTI symptoms, I was willing to try everything she suggested in order to start healing.

After what seemed like months (or, well, actually was months), she thought I’d made enough progress that I could probably start to handle penetration with dilators (or, in my case, dildos of varying sizes, since she knew I’d amassed a small collection as a toy reviewer). It was both exciting and a bit scary. For the last several weeks, I hadn’t tried penetration at all, and in the couple of months before that, it had been painful. I had to utilize the deep breathing and pelvic floor lengthening/dropping techniques I’d learned from my physical therapist in order to re-introduce my body to vaginal penetration. This month, I’m focusing on those toys that helped me do that.

Pelvic floor physical therapy, if you’re not very familiar with it, involves a hands-on approach. I tolerated digital (finger) penetration all through therapy, and I experienced a bit of pain not from the penetration itself, but from the actual massage and treatment. However, I hadn’t had more than two fingers in me at once and never in a sexual context—as the context of physical therapy is, obviously, very clinical—so this was a big step in my recovery.

TENGA is a Japanese brand that has been making sex toys for penises since 2005. In 2013, they started iroha, a line of sex toys aimed at people with vaginas (they call it their “female self-care brand”), and they have two vibrators—the Mikazuki and the Minamo (pictured above)—that are incredibly slim, soft, and insertable. (See the specs in the previous link.) The Mikazuki is smooth and reminds me of a banana, and the shape of the Minamo reminds me of gentle waves. Their sizes, shapes, and texture (super squishy elastomer covered in silky soft silicone) seemed like they’d be comfortable for starter penetration. A note on the quality of the vibrations first—they’re pretty strong, though a bit buzzy (so more surface level rather than deeper stimulation). They have three power settings, followed by a rhythmic pulsating setting. The truth is, though, that I rarely turn them on. I have other vibrators that I like and prefer for clitoral stimulation, and their vibrations were especially uncomfortable for me while I was experiencing clitoral pain. While that has improved, I still only use them as internal toys.

After plenty of relaxing and deep breathing, the Mikazuki was a perfect starter dildo with its tiny, squishy tip. I used a water-based lube to slide it inside and it gently stretched me the further I inserted it (it’s got a few inches of insertable length), as it gets wider from tip to top. I didn’t turn it on as I wasn’t ready for internal vibrations. It didn’t feel too intense because it was so soft and smooth, which is what I needed—to not fear pain with penetration. That fear alone is enough to cause some pain—the tenser I am, the tenser my muscles, which is why you usually need professional help healing from hypertonic pelvic floor dysfunction. With its small size and softness, I wasn’t afraid to clench around it during orgasm (I simultaneously used my Eroscillator for clitoral stimulation). It actually felt nice, but (hard truth) what felt even better than the orgasm was the fact that I’d just come with something inside me, something that I hadn’t been able to do for weeks.

I was so thrilled with the results from the Mikazuki, I had to try the Minamo later that night. In fact, the Mikazuki was so comfortable, I was confident I could also take the Minamo, even though the ripples on it make its circumference larger. I can’t tell you how excited I was when, not only was I relaxed enough to take the Minamo, the ripples created a totally new sensation for me—I’d not felt anything quite like it, with its soft, squishy waves. Clenching around it felt like I was squeezing a cloud with my vagina. The Minamo has become a favorite.

The Mikazuki and Minamo come in little black plastic cases that double as charging docks, so they can always be out on your nightstand and ready to go. If you like firmness, lots of texture, and bigger toys, they may not be for you, but if you’re new to penetration, have vaginal or vulvar pain, or just like gentler squishier toys (or toys that look less phallic), check them out. At $130 each, they’re a bit pricey, but comfortably reintroducing myself to penetration would be worth that much to me. I also appreciate the variety they add to my collection.

Once I conquered the irohas, I decided it was time to try something a little firmer and more phallic since a personal goal in my recovery is penetrative sex with a penis-having partner. I used a toy I already owned, the Silk Medium by Tantus, Inc., for my next step up (it’s made of firmer silicone and is completely textureless for easy insertion, but a little harder to clench around), followed by the realistically shaped VixSkin Spur by Vixen Creations. VixSkin toys are 100 percent platinum silicone, but the formula, (which creates a “realistic feel and greater elasticity”) is exclusive to Vixen Creations. It looks like a circumcised penis, so it’s got a coronal ridge, and has more texture than any of the toys I’d tried thus far, and is soft enough that clenching around it felt less intense than the Silk Medium. Both of these dildos are small (and therefore are frequently recommended for those newer to anal sex) and unintimidating enough, again, for someone new to penetration or who simply likes smaller toys. I feel like it’s much easier to find larger, intimidating dildos rather than smaller ones like these, and I wish there were more options for those of us who prefer or need insertables on the smaller end of the spectrum.

Since the Silk Medium is so, well, silky, it doesn’t have quite enough texture for me to reach for it on the reg. I’m much more likely to stick to using it for easing into penetration or on particularly sensitive days, whereas I can see myself playing with the VixSkin Spur on a more regular basis. The Silk Medium ranges in price from $40-47 and the Spur starts at $80 (VixSkin is an expensive material, but oh so worth it if you like squishier—I hesitate to say “more realistic”—silicone.)

Just a reminder that what works for one person’s pelvic pain might not work for another’s, but I hope that my reviews offer some insight into these toys from a pelvic pain perspective. I was so excited to share the irohas with you since they worked so nicely for me. Smaller, gentler toys don’t tend to have as many reviews as larger and/or more powerful toys do, which is a shame. Bigger sizes and more power don’t matter as much to those of us with bodies that can’t handle those qualities right now—or maybe ever. And that’s totally OK. Just because you might not be able to use the newest, most powerful vibrator on the market doesn’t mean you’re weak or broken, it just means you’re in touch enough with your body to know when something feels wrong for you—or very, very right.

Columnist’s full disclosure: I wouldn’t be able to provide quite as many reviews without the occasional generosity of manufacturers and, sometimes, online retailers whose missions I can get behind [insert obligatory sex joke here]. However, my reviews are always honest and unbiased.

This month I’d like to thank iroha for providing the Mikazuki and Minamo for review, and Lovehoney for providing the Spur. The Silk Medium was a personal purchase.

Find these toys from the links above or from some of my favorite retailers: Peepshow Toys, Shevibe, Betty’s Toy Box, and Chicago’s own Early to Bed.

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Nicole Guappone is a freelance writer living in Chicago, previously published by Rolling Stone, Glamour, The Rumpus, The Establishment, and more. Much of her writing and research focuses on sexual health, sexuality, and kink from a pelvic pain perspective. Read more of her work and find out about her consulting services at https://nicoleguappone.journoportfolio.com/.