Dan Savage of the absolutely incredible sex/love/relationship column Savage Love (which if you haven’t checked out you should) recently brought up an interesting point in his Podcast that I wanted to discuss on the blog. Sex toys for women enjoy a comfortable place of acceptance in today’s society. People know about vibrators and dildos and, for the most part, if a woman’s partner stumbles across her sex toy cache she doesn’t have to worry about he or she thinking that something is seriously wrong. On the other hand, however, if someone stumbles across a man’s sex toy (be it a vibrator or a Fleshlight) all of a sudden he’s a freak. Seriously – Dan recounts receiving letters from women who find their partner’s Fleshlight and become convinced that he’s a serial killer who wants to remove her vagina and keep it in a jar.
I’d never thought about my own perceptions of male sex toys, but I think Dan is spot on here. It’s empowering for women, but sort of creepy for men. According to the Podcast, this double standard is a result of the perception that men who want to have sex yet can’t find a partner are sexually unsuccessful and pathetic, while women who want to have sex and can’t find a partner are either not at fault or are choosing to be celibate for some reason or another. I agree with him that this perception exists – I think it’s far more acceptable to be alone and lonely as a woman than as a man. There’s this idea that there are “no good men” out there and that seas of totally great women are inexplicably single. If a woman is single, she’s waiting for the right guy. If a man is single, he’s playing the field. Where does this leave all the men who are seeking partners and don’t want to have random sex? It leaves them with a stigma surrounding the sex toys they might want to purchase to give their fists a break.
I think there’s also another factor at play here that Dan doesn’t touch upon, and this is how much a part of female sexuality the sex toy culture has become. I have multiple sex toys, but I never, ever use them. I don’t actually enjoy them that much. BUT I keep buying them because it’s been bashed into my head that women who are single and sexually aware own sex toys. It’s almost another way in which female sexuality is subverted, because it’s something that’s required to “excuse” female masturbation. If she’s using a sex toy, then it’s a part of this cultural understanding that single women waiting around for the right person can still get theirs! When we see images or portrayals of female masturbation, there’s always some reference to a sex toy. Never mind that our hands work just fine.
Sex toys have become synonymous with female sexuality because they’re easy to joke about. Huge dildos and insane vibrators are staples in crude comedies and they work very well for achieving that LOL face (see what I did there??). So now it’s cool that women have them and use them. In fact, lots of women probably feel like they’re supposed to have them and use them. Men’s sex toys don’t enjoy this same privilege, possibly because they haven’t been around as long and possibly because people might find them creepy instead of funny. Also because men are supposed to want to go around and have as much sex as possible, and any man who would rather not risk STIs or unwanted pregnancy by using a sex toy is a weirdo.
I think it’s an interesting concept, and I think the assertion that male sex toys are stigmatized is totally valid and very unfortunate. Even though I personally don’t prefer to use sex toys, I completely recognize their awesomeness. Men should be able to use them at will and not feel as though they’ll be judged, the same way women do. So let’s all just agree to get over it.