To avoid vibrator fatigue, don't pay the clitoris too much direct attention, says Miriam Graham, a physical therapist in Rockville, Md., specializing in sexual issues. It's easy for the pudendal nerve (genitalia’s uplink to the brain) to be overwhelmed by constant vibration in such a small area and shut down.
Nerves like variety. One monotonous vibration—like hearing someone hum a single note endlessly—can tire them out quickly. Choose a vibrator with intensity settings and switch around, Graham says. Some devices even come with a repertoire of vibratory patterns that will keep nerves awake for longer.
And put up a barrier. After all, jackhammer workers use thick gloves to diffuse vibrations and prevent hand injury; vibrator users can put a sheet or underwear between the vibrator and clitoris as a barrier for protection, Graham says.
Penis rings: These account for only about 2 percent of sex toy ER visits, but when things go wrong, they can go really wrong, with rescue treatments sometimes involving firefighting equipment and partial amputation. Yet penile constriction devices (aka cock rings) can be safe if used correctly, Shindel says.
These rings are placed at the base of the penis and trap blood in the shaft during arousal, theoretically resulting in a firmer, longer lasting erection. The problem: tight rings trap too much blood, making them difficult to remove from the penis after ejaculation due to continued engorgement. In severe cases a lack of oxygen (medical term: "penile strangulation") can lead to blackened skin, gangrene or a urethral fistula, in which urine is diverted out into the penis through another passage.
Counterintuitively, soft rings—made of rubber or leather, for instance—can lead to more severe injuries, Shindel says, because it is tempting to fasten them too tightly. Trapped metal rings demand more heavy-machinery rescue techniques, but traumatic complications are usually milder. Also, tucking the scrotum as well as the shaft inside a ring seems to relieve compression on the penis and reduce injuries.
Leave them on for no more than one or two hours, Shindel says. Avoid drugs and alcohol: Many ER visits involve men who passed out after ejaculation only to wake up after it was too late. Men with diabetes or those taking blood thinners or aspirin should be extra careful.
Finally, know how to clean and store your toys. In the Indiana University study 14 percent of women admitted to never cleaning their vibrators—ever. Good sex shops will provide detailed information about sex toy materials and care—although explaining away the dildo in your dishwasher is left up to you.