Sex toys have been around for thousands of years, and if the spike in sales during the pandemic is anything to go by, they’re going to be here for many more.

But why is it so confronting and embarrassing to buy one?

“It’s a pretty common thing now, but the experience of trying to buy one feels like it hasn’t caught up to that at all,” says Lucy Wark, founder of sex and wellbeing startup Normal. “It still feels like pink and purple dildos [are] flying at your face when you walk into a sex shop.”

Normal wants to change that, and to make discussions around sexual health, pleasure and activity – well, normal.

Wark enlisted the help of certified sex coach, columnist and author Georgia Grace to help design six toys to suit different needs, film instructional videos on how to use them, and put together guides that discuss different facets of sexual wellbeing, from setting the mood to busting myths about masturbation.

You can browse and choose the toys directly, but if you’re unsure what you’re looking for, there’s a quiz on Normal’s website to help you find what you need.

There are six toys so far, with two clear bestsellers. Charlie is a classic wand vibrator with nine modes that’s suited for both solo use and couple play, while Quinn is a relatively newer invention that stimulates the clitoris using pulses of air pressure to mimic oral sex.

There’s also Piper, which stimulates both inside and out; a bullet vibrator called Frankie; Darcy, billed as a good gateway into the world of internal toys; and Flynn, a cock ring for men that can be used during sex with a partner.

“We had a pretty extensive checklist of what we wanted to do and one was to take away a lot of the confusing sets of choices that exist when you’re trying to buy a sex toy,” Wark says. “So we said we would [make] high-quality, really good versions of classic categories, we’d only make one of each, and we’ll explain really well what they are, so all you have to do is pick the one that feels right.”

And if you think you’ve made the wrong choice, you can get a refund (and potentially try something else).

“We recognise that there’s no toy that’s right for everybody, but we wanted to make sure that no matter what you’re doing, you’ll never have a bad experience with our products,” Wark explains. “We introduced the 100-night stand policy, which essentially says no matter what issue you have with it, you can return your purchase and get a full refund.”

In the future, Normal wants to be a one-stop shop for products surrounding sexual wellbeing, with plans for lubricants, cleaning sprays, massage candles, condoms and more toys.

“I think historically there have been these stereotypes associated with using a sex toy, like it’s a bit deviant or creepy, so it’s a version of the promiscuity stereotype that’s sometimes put on women. And I think there’s also a stereotype that says you probably have a romantic failure, and toys are just the second best thing to sex from a person,” Wark says.

“But no, this is a form of self-care, empowerment and a form of pleasure you should have access to. We’re trying to tell women, ‘Your pleasure is important, and it’s something you should never feel embarrassed about’,” she adds. “There’s something quite powerful to feeling like that’s a side of your life that gives you confidence and strength rather than a source of insecurity.”

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