History? Check. Did you know that the oldest sex toy was discovered in Germany and is about 30,000 years old? Religion? Check. Four words: www.koshersextoys.net. Pop culture? Check. Did anyone catch the latest episode of Californication? Hank Moody and company engage in some seriously frank sex talk around the dinner table.
No matter who you are and what (or who) you’re into, sex toys can be a great, fun, safe way to enjoy and experiment with sex with or without a partner. Whether you’re gay, trans, bi, straight, intersexual, pansexual, in a monogamous relationship, polyamorous, in a friends-with-benefits situation or single, sex toys can add pleasure to any sexual encounter. They can be useful for overcoming sexual issues like, say, premature ejaculation, or trouble climaxing with a partner.
At the same time, sexual satisfaction with bedside accessories can still be seriously stigmatized.
Let me be up front: I’m certainly no expert on the subject, and I can only speak as a straight, 20-something woman. Sex toys can be used for an almost endless list of ways to pleasure yourself or others, and at the same time, can help dismantle the socially entrenched idea that sex is only what happens between a penis and a vagina.
That being said, I’d like to focus on one region of the vast territory that is sex toys. I’d like to take a closer look at the stigma behind men using sex toys—specifically masturbation sleeves such as the Fleshlight or Pocket Pussy—as a masturbatory aid. Why is it OK for women to use vibrators, dildos, or other toys during sex, while for men it’s still often seen as taboo?
We like to think of ourselves as enlightened, open-minded, liberated individuals. When we think of a woman using a sex toy, I think it’s safe to say that there’s a, “You go girl! You do you,” sentiment attached. Society not only accepts it, but encourages women to experiment with sex toys. If a woman is comfortable using bedside accessories, it signals that she feels secure enough with her body and her sexuality to explore them. Typically, we hail women who use sex toys as empowered, adventurous and fun.
What about the idea of men using a Fleshlight? Fleshlights simulate penetrative sex with a vagina, an anus, or a mouth. Although Fleshlights can be used with a partner and in any wide range of sexual encounters, if we’re talking about straight male solo sex, I think it’s fair to say that we’re not so open.
Okay, I’ll be honest. My gut reaction to the Fleshlight is: *not so sexy*. Sure, as enlightened, open-minded folks, we want to be OK with it. But thinking about the dudes we know thrusting into a flashlight-shaped vagina? As a woman, and as much as I value sexual equality, I have to say I find it a little off-putting.
Obviously there’s a double standard at play here, but why? Men masturbate (sometimes a lot). We all know that, and by no means is it considered taboo. Women masturbate, too. Sure, in the past it has been considered sort of “off-limits”, but we’re living in the 21st century. So what difference does a little external aid make?
In this post-Sex and the City era, surely we must be able to appreciate equal opportunity sex toys. While we can’t underestimate the influence of the media messages we receive (porn, in particular), I think what’s at the heart of the issue are the hypocritical remnants of traditional and restrictive sexual roles.
If a woman is sexually active without a partner and using sex toys, we could come up with any number of reasons for her choice—maybe she doesn’t want to run the risk of getting pregnant, or she has trouble climaxing with a partner, or she doesn’t want to be seen as sleeping around—and the world supports her.
But I think that an unfortunate and unjust truth is that, generally speaking, women (and the rest of the world), are bothered when men use sex toys as a sexual aid. Either we think it’s kind of lame that a guy would have to use a toy instead of “the real thing” (a standard that is absurd, not to mention completely reversed for women), or that it’s weird for dudes to use aids if they’re not really “necessary”. After a long history of sexual oppression, we are all too happy to give the thumbs up to women and their vibrators, but we shame men for trying a sex toy of their own.
What can we do to change this unfair double standard? Before Sex and the City, men were threatened by the sex toys women were using, right? Men worried that vibrators would replace what they had to offer. But hey, here we all are, still standing and still fooling around with each other. So maybe we ladies need to put our reservations about penetrative sex toys for men aside.