So, a feminist blogger writes a piece that says kind of mean things about guys who use sex toys, and a guy responds. And I view the whole thing with some fascination, because it turns out that it actually stirs up some sort of complicated feelings for me, as I discovered when I started talking about it with a friend.
Here's the thing: I am pro (safe, well-made) sex toys for everyone. I think that sex toys can be a great way to learn about your body, a great way to empower yourself, and potentially a great way to have fun with partners, too. And I firmly believe that as long as what you're doing doesn't harm anyone, you should go right ahead with your bad self and enjoy it while you're at it, and it's not my business. Seriously. I don't care.
We've come a long way in the sex toy department from the, uh, "massagers" that old timey doctors used to offer their female patients for "hysteria," and some of the biggest strides have been made in terms of toys designed for use with the clit/vulva/vagina configuration (can I get a "hallelujah!" from the crowd?). Correspondingly, there's been a lot of deconstruction about negative attitudes surrounding masturbation and the use of toys in same (although I note that the local drug store charmingly still insists on calling its vibrators "back massagers").
As a society, we seem to be growing accustomed to the fact that people with clits seem to enjoy using sex toys with them (and other bits) in addition to their, uh, jerkoff hands, as Erin Gloria Ryan put it. (I've been told people with clits can't jerkoff, but whatever, dude, don't tell me how to choke my chicken.) We have tons of awesome sex-positive and amazing toy stores like Toys in Babeland and Good Vibrations that provide a positive, fun, respectful atmosphere for toy shopping so we don't have to skulk around in tacky, gross sex shops filled with skeezes, even!
Which is awesome, because for centuries we've been shaming people for getting familiar with their own bodies, and women in particular have been told that sexuality is gross and shameful and only done for procreation, not pleasure. (PS People have been using dildos for at least 28,000 years.)
Everyone was warned against the perils of masturbation, but it came with some really socially loaded stuff for ladies, who were informed that taking pleasure from their own bodies, and using that knowledge to improve their sex lives, was just plain wrong. Because, you know, who knows what might happen if women go thinking that they can be sexual.
We owe a lot to the women's movement and the sex positive movement for that. Some folks fought long and hard for my right to walk into Good Vibrations and buy myself a sleek, well-engineered German vibrator and use it to my heart's content. And I love those people. I also love the gynecologists who took a little time off from work to design this beast (which sparked a conversation about what the "fourth level" of orgasm would do).
Corresponding advances haven't been made nearly as much for men, which is a little weird. I mean, on the one hand, as I put it to my friend, you could argue that the entire world is basically catered to the sexual desires of men, so, like, do they really need parity here? But, uh, yeah, they do need parity. Boys deserve toys too, and I know lots of guys who love bullets, butt toys, and, among my guy friends with penises, various sex sleeves.
A lot of them will also freely admit that sex sleeves aren't exactly aesthetically appealing, since they're basically kind of like those gel-filled destresser things except you're supposed to put your wang in them. But whatever, they work, and actually, the fancy Japanese sex toys that started this whole (hole?) thing sound pretty awesome. I'm not gonna lie: I'd put my dick in them.
Much of the talk about sex sleeves is pretty judgey, though. And yet, I understand these reservations. I think it's pretty gross to call a sex toy a "hole" when it's very obviously meant to be a simalcrum of a vagina (and, of course, many sex sleeves are designed like anal tracts because gay boys like toys too, but I'm talking specifically here about vaginal simulators), because I think calling vaginas "holes" is gross and dehumanising. And the idea of a disembodied vagina is very loaded when you consider the fact that some dudes seem to think that actual ladies are just disembodied vaginas there for their personal use and subsequent pleasure.
So like, yeah, there's some stuff to unpack there, you know? The fact is that a realistic dildo and a realistic sex sleeve don't carry the same social implications, and while both of them are totally fine to use, it is fair to talk about those implications. And it's important to talk about why male sex toys are treated like jokes (hahaha guys use toys to masturbate!) when, you know, they're just sex toys, everybody. We can all be grownups here, surely.
At Nerve, Brian Moylan pointed out in his response that Ryan's Jezebel piece was, well, rather shaming when it comes to men (and, though he didn't say it, other folks with penises) who use sex toys, which surprised him, given that Ryan's a feminist who, you know, probably knows her way around a sex toy or two. Isn't there a way to talk about how some of the language used to advertise these toys is gross, without making it sound like it's not okay for men to use sex toys?
Because, dudes, it's totally okay, I promise. Not that you need my permission, but, like, yay sex toys. SEX TOYS FOR EVERYONE! (Who wants them.) And let them be well made, and shame-free, and not marketed with language that's kind of objectifying and icky.
Because, honestly, using a sex toy doesn't make you a "lonely fuck." It just means you like toys. And hey. Who wouldn't? Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go visit Good Vibrations.
Offers of free (new!) sex toys can be directed to @sesmithwrites.