"You're not putting those in my butt," Anastasia tells Christian in Fifty Shades Darker when he shows her a set of Ben Wa balls. He doesn't; Christian inserts them into her vagina. Anastasia wears them all night long at an upscale party as a secret accessory. Afterwards, the balls are removed, and the two proceed to have their infamously hot sex.
Ben Wa balls — also referred to as love balls, smart balls, or Kegel balls — are weighted balls meant to be worn inside the vagina. They're an ancient method used to train the pelvic muscles, says Jessica Shepherd, MD, an Ob/Gyn at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and using them feels similar to doing Kegel exercises. But you don't have to actively do Kegels while wearing them, since the balls are weighted, so your pelvic muscles naturally work to hold them in place, explains Madeleine Castellanos, MD, an NYC-based sex therapist, on her blog.
For many people (including Anastasia), Ben Wa balls increase sexual sensation, since they're typically worn for a while before penetrative sex, and then taken out just prior to penetration. In my experience, wearing a pair for a few hours prior to penetrative intercourse wasn't as automatically orgasmic as Fifty Shades Darker would make it seem. But when it comes to strengthening pelvic floor muscles, reaping the sexual benefits is a long game — it takes time to build those muscles.
"When the pelvic floor is 'alert,' it lifts our spines up out of our pelvis a bit. When that happens, the walls of the vagina cinch like one of those Chinese finger traps and [sex] is much more pleasurable for both people," Michelle Weber, a personal trainer who specializes in pelvic-floor health, told Refinery29 last year. So I'd recommend focusing on the long-term benefits, rather than searching for instant gratification. That's not to say that using Ben Wa balls isn't a fun way to get in your Kegels, though — sharing a sexy secret with your partner (or simply knowing you're holding something in your vagina) can be super hot.
As far as how Ben Wa balls work, it's a good thing Christian didn't place them in Anastasia's butt, as they lack a flared, sturdy base like the ones found in butt plugs, so they can get lost inside your anus if you mistake them for anal beads (it happened to me). To insert Ben Wa balls, use your fingers to gently push them into your vagina, like you would a tampon (adding lube helps). Removing the balls is fairly simple, too. If the set includes a string, gently pull them out (again, like a tampon); if there's no string, simply crouch and use your pelvic floor muscles to squeeze them out. And don't forget to wash them with soap and warm water every time you use them.
Interested in trying this unique sex toy for yourself? Here are 15 Ben Wa balls for you to try.
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The fact that this black glass pair looks plain badass deserves a primary mention. Available in small or medium, weighing one or two ounces, respectively, these 1-inch balls are an ideal (and stylish) starter set. Plus, glass conducts temperature — for an extra sensation, put these Ben Wa balls in the freezer or wrap them in a warm towel for a minute before inserting them.
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Using the same Kegel-strengthening science behind classic Ben Wa balls, this bead has touch sensors that customize a "workout" for you based on your natural squeezes. Think of it as a personal trainer for your orgasm potential.
Lelo LUNA SmartBead™, $119, available at Lelo
Lelo LUNA SmartBead™, $119, available at Lelo
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Find everything you need to start toning your pelvic floor in this silicone Ben Wa set from Je Joue. Start with the lightest, smallest ball and work your way up to the final 3.7 ounce piece.
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Fifty Shades may have gotten a lot wrong, but the franchise's set of "jiggle balls" perfectly fills a needed niche: They're an ideal pair for beginners. If you have never tried Ben Wa balls, but are interested in owning a pair, these 70 gram-weighted balls, complete with a stretchy string for easy removal, are the way to go.
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These weighted, silicone balls are best for those with experience practicing their Kegels, as the smaller shape makes them more difficult to hold in place. This set comes with one 30-gram ball and two 40-gram balls that you can swap out, so you can work your way up in difficulty. Remember: The smaller the ball, the harder it is to keep in place. If you're using these with lube, make sure to use one that's water-based, since silicone-based lubricants can break down silicone toys.
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While anyone can own and enjoy this cute pink and white set, it was made specifically for those who struggle with incontinence.
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For those brave enough to wear a pair of balls sans string, these surgical-grade stainless steel Ben Wa balls are where it's at.
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Your vagina deserves nothing less than the gold standard. Like many Ben Wa balls, these "jiggle balls" come with free-floating weights inside. The gold balls dare you to wear them out in public (if Anastasia can do it, so can you), but my personal tip is to first try wearing Ben Wa balls while lying down on your couch binge-watching Arrested Development before venturing outside.
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This no-frills set is ideal for beginners, as the sleek ball design and looped cord make both insertion and removal easy peasy.
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Not only is this set of metal Ben Wa balls cordless, making for slightly trickier insertion and removal, but the weighted balls inside are magnets. The magnetized weights will help the set cling together, and create a different sensation than non-magnetized versions — they'll pull together inside your vagina without any effort on your part.
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Lelo's take on Ben Wa balls is on the more expensive side, but toys from the tried-and-true brand tend to be worth the price tag. Available in classic and mini, the floating weights inside the LUNA beads vibrate along with your body's motions. Based on customer reviews, this set of Ben Wa balls really does appear to provide Fifty Shades-level sexual stimulation.
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Feel like upping your game? This string features not two, but three, weighted Ben Wa balls, each just an inch wide. They're coated with polyurethane for a smooth feeling on entry, and the extra ball provides more complex stimulation than a standard pair. Whether you're using them to strengthen your Kegels or intensify your foreplay, just be sure to clean them with antibacterial soap once you're done.