Before this summer, I had never lived on my own for more than a week. I moved out of my parents’ place with my partner, with whom I still live (happily). Without getting into details, let’s just say that my sex life has been pretty consistent for the past few years, and I’ve never really felt the need to add anything extra to my solo sessions. That is, until my partner decided to pursue a field school in Germany for the semester.
Faced with the prospect of two months alone with my hand, a box of tissues, and a spotty Internet connection, I did what many would do in my position. I decided to buy myself a sex toy.
I like to do a little research before I make a big purchase, so I spent a few days searching through Amazon reviews, looking up independent sex shops, and browsing Internet forums and review sites. While I did end up finding something that works for me, most of the toys I found ended up confirming a long-held suspicion: sex toys for folks with penises are the worst.
Seriously. Walk into any sex store and you’re likely to see one of two scenes: either all the male sex toys will feature sleazy, sexist portraits of big-breasted women with pouty lips and thick blonde hair, or the selection of male toys will be limited to flavoured condoms and maybe a cock ring or two.
On the other hand, most other sex toys — whether they be female-centric, like dildos and vibrators, or relatively gender-neutral toys like butt plugs or handcuffs — are comparably classy and, well, normal. Though there’s definitely a weird streak of dildo brands featuring pictures of naked ladies on them, people with vaginas looking to have a good time tend to have a much wider variety of options at their disposal, most of which are not overly offensive or cringe-inducing.
Male sex toys remain a taboo, despite being a totally normal and natural tool for expressing one’s sexuality.
It should come as no surprise that a lot of this is a result of a patriarchal system which compels men (and women) to think of women as objects. This is the main reason there are so many weird, uncomfortable toys molded after female porn stars’ various orifices, or given gross names like “MILF in a Box.”
But there’s another factor at play here, too: straight men tend to be more afraid of experimenting with their sexuality. This is part of what people are talking about when they joke that masculinity is fragile: many guys are so afraid of falling outside culturally acceptable expressions of maleness that they’d probably be unwilling to purchase a more neutral, less misogynistic male sex toy.
In fact, many are not even willing to experiment at all. A 2014 survey by The Guardian found that only 39 percent of British men had ever used sex toys, as opposed to 52 percent of women. Male sex toys remain a taboo, despite being a totally normal and natural tool for expressing one’s sexuality.
Some have even claimed that men simply don’t need sex toys. The argument goes that, since men masturbate so often, they’re good enough at it already and don’t need any help. I don’t buy that. Sure, sex toys aren’t for everyone, but that shouldn’t stop men from experimenting with their sexuality solo just because they can get themselves off without. That’s like saying you might as well never have sex ever again, because you can just jerk off.
For the record, there are some good sex toys for guys on the market. I’m a particularly big fan of the sleeves made by Tenga, a Japanese company whose toys are so pretty you almost don’t want to use them. (Almost.) But until men become more comfortable with their sexuality and stop ordering so many gross, sexist vagina moulds, we’ll be stuck with the underwhelming selection we currently have. What a turn-off.