Thanks to popular culture, sex toys aren’t the taboo they used to be. Chances are that a large proportion of the people you know own at least one. But commonality doesn’t necessarily mean that that having a toy box comes without a little stigma.
When I was 19, I wandered into an adult store because I heard that you could get opera-length fishnet gloves in the fetish section and that seemed like the perfect gift for my goth-tastic best friend. The gloves were everything my friend ever wanted, but the experience was pretty horrifying otherwise… None of the freakish caramel-colored hunks of silicone and cheaply packaged dolphin-shaped vibrating goodies seemed appealing or even attractive. It was all a little morbid really – disembodied phallic shapes that looked as if they’d recently popped out of an alien space-pod; and people actually allowed these things in or around their bodies? It was decidedly unsexy.
This attitude itself is actually pretty normal. Sex positivity is often something that needs to be actively worked on, especially during the formative years of your sexual awareness. But why might we have these ideas in the first place? What is so shameful about sex toys anyway? Below are a few common misconceptions. It’s not punk rock to listen to or care about what other people think, and you are so punk rock.
Myth: Toys are for people who are bored with sex.
Every school had the one person who filled the role of the “sexuality guru”. Our guru once complained to me that one girl had just entered her first sexual relationship and was already asking for advice on toys. “Toys are for people who are getting bored!” she said, flapping her hands in teenage exasperation. Bored? Imagine someone you care about saying that about your relationship, implying that you are that bored couple on their proverbial last legs who need to incorporate something else as a last-ditch attempt to save their relationship. Who would want that on their conscience?
Our high school guru didn’t factor in the idea that toys can be a fulfilling addition to any partnership. Instead of indicating that your relationship is failing or that it needs external influences to keep intimacy worthwhile, sex toys function as tools to facilitate the intimacy you already share. Obviously, an orgasm and feelings of love and happiness are separate things, but it is rather nice when the two coincide. Which brings us to the second misconception…
Myth: Orgasms from toys will replace partnered sex.
Normal human beings do not, as a rule, have a vibrate function. Neither are they ridged, rotating, covered in flexible nubs, multi-pronged or utterly, disproportionately enormous. This might be the reason why a male friend of mine, when confronted with a varied array of dildos, had to be reassured that a) these were not of ‘normal’ proportions, and b) toys aren’t a real person.
Toys can’t replace the affection, comfort and intense intimacy we can feel when we’re with someone we care about. A vibrator can’t kiss or hold you. A dildo can’t provide the experience that a human can, so it may as well not even try. Sex toys need to compensate in other ways – by being extremely good at what they’re meant to do. And why not make them rainbow-colored and oddly-shaped while you’re at it?
Myth: You shouldn’t need sexual aids to get off.
Actually, toys can serve an entirely functional purpose for those who struggle with orgasm due to anatomy, medication side-effects, or even something like difficulty masturbating due to carpal tunnel or another disability. In fact, sex toys may be the only way of bringing yourself or a partner to climax. Denying yourself or a loved one pleasure just due to nervousness or stigma is a little limiting. Instead of killing intimacy, sexual aids can facilitate it. Reasons to celebrate, right?
However, the real shame is reserved for those who have absolutely no trouble reaching orgasm but choose to use toys anyway. It’s almost as if those people are being greedy in their hedonistic pleasure – you have two hands, right? That’s all you should need, right? Anything else just isn’t natural.
Well, that just feels a little too close to the ideas about people not being entitled to their own pleasure. And dildos have evidently been around for thousands of years, so what’s more natural than that?
Myth: You can become desensitized to vibrators.
Okay, this is sort of true. Prolonged stimulation (especially from more buzzy vibrations that focus mainly on the surface of the skin) can lead to temporary numbness. This usually dissipates after a few hours. If you have a more powerful vibe like a Magic Wand which has intense, rumbly vibrations that penetrate deeper into the skin, it might cause your body to get used to that sort of stimulation. A two-day break will sort you out just fine though. Hey, even your hair enjoys a shampoo switch from time.
Myth: Guys who use toys are just weird.
It’s good to be “female-bodied” sometimes. Not only do you have more variety to choose from, but toys for those with clits and vaginas can be sculptural, classy and quite pretty really. Many people have been decidedly turned off by the weird, sometimes scary appearance of the more … anatomical aids. Dismembered vaginas and anuses abound, and if your partner is unfamiliar with sex toys, in general, it might be a little unsettling. After all, vibrators are part of popular culture now. It’s okay to talk about “female-friendly” toys in public, amid peals of laughter, while you’re standing in the insoles section of your local pharmacy. I don’t hear boys ever talking about a fulfilling experience with their new C-ring or Fleshlight. Maybe we need the male equivalent of the famous “rabbit” episode of Sex in the City. Oh wait – Blue Mountain State already did that, and it was gross. Way to go, people.
It’s worse for guys that want to explore sensations from pegging or prostate stimulation. Toxic masculinity decrees that more stereotypically “submissive” activities or anything anal-related carry homosexual undertones. To make things worse, some toy companies market specifically to the homosexual market. It seems that cis, hetero dudes aren’t allowed to have fun exploring their sexuality. But I say MYTH.
Overcoming the stigma
If you’ve ever felt the awkward mix of curiosity and repugnance towards sex toys, it might be worthwhile to examine the experiences which may have influenced why you feel that way. It may have been some negative reactions from the high school sex-guru, fear of offending a partner, or just the idea of having a dirty little secret that’s freaking you out. Maybe it’s the oddly anatomical references that make you squeamish. If so, try browsing a real or online store (we recommend our favorite affiliates, linked in our toy reviews) for non-representational toys that are a little less obvious in purpose. You can get some pretty sneaky-looking bullet vibes that resemble makeup, and even masturbation sleeves that don’t make you feel like a serial killer hoarding disembodied trophies.
Just remember that everyone needs a little extra help sometimes; and that you are entitled to your pleasure. Every. Single. Orgasm.