As a person who walks around all day, every day with a vagina between my legs, I’m obviously plagued with countless social pressures and double standards that I won’t go into now, because we could be here all day, and I know some of you actually have classes to attend. However as a proud, yet somewhat socially oppressed vagina-haver, there is one particular double standard that I benefit from – sex toy ownership.
When we imagine a typical female sex toy owner, what do we see? A fun-loving, sexually adventurous, Samantha Jones type character who’s educated and knows what she wants out of life. Sadly for male sex toy owners the stereotypical image put forth by pop-culture isn’t exactly the same – lonely, creepy, socially awkward, hates women. This double standard is something I’ve been trying to figure out and battle against since I started Sex Siopa 3 years ago.
I believe there are several facets to this issue. Because female genitalia is just that extra bit more complex by being both internal as well as external, and roughly 70% of women cannot get off by just penetration alone, a lot more women actually need a sex toy – typically a vibrator – to reach orgasm. Western culture has accepted this fact and has now begun to encourage women to use whatever tools necessary to get themselves off.
Men’s genitalia benefits from hanging on the outside of their body, and thus guys generally know exactly what to do with it when they reach puberty. However because of this, if a man prefers or requires a masturbation style different from “the norm,” the (completely wrong) assumption is that he may be defective.
Equally this double standard exists in simply wanting a sex toy for variety, not just through necessity. Again when women wish to purchase a sex toy, society is delighted for us. “You go, girl!” they collectively cheer, as we click “Purchase” on that new vibrator. We’re empowered and subversive goddesses who will smash the patriarchy one orgasm at a time. If a straight lad buys a masturbation toy – he clearly has a dysfunctional and possibly misogynist view of women. There’s also a macho element to this as well, the idea that a sex toy is the last resort for a socially awkward fellow who can’t get laid.
Part of the problem is the kind of toys available. While the market is definitely growing and creating more and more better designed toys, for a very long time, the majority of toys available to men were quite frankly rather scary looking and reduced people down to fetishised body parts: pussy, tits, ass, feet. The added stigma of buying such a toy was such that it wasn’t until relatively recently that men’s toy design has evolved.
We can thank the internet for that. As more and more men are able to anonymously share their toy reviews, manufacturers are competing to make better toys that appeal to a wider, global market. The Tenga 3D for example, which took the idea of a masturbation sleeve and made it appeal to the techy and art crowds by using aesthetically pleasing geometric patterns instead of semi-realistic, cartoon body parts. In fact Tenga won a prestigious Red Dot design award for their 3D range, which is nothing to sniff at considering other winners include mainstream companies like Apple and Porsche.
It’s ironic that while women are going through an empowered renaissance of sex toy ownership, the misogyny that once held us back from enjoying ourselves and exploring new avenues of our sexuality is now keeping men from doing the same. We need to give ourselves permission to own our sexualities and allow our lovers to own theirs, no matter what gender they are. Pathologising men for doing something that is celebrated in women stems from the same sexism that women have suffered for millennia, and it needs to end.
Shawna would like us to mention that she is giving a talk, along with former UCD Economics Soc. guest speaker Peter Antonioni, about the economics of sex and the worth of an orgasm at the Kilkenomics Festival in Kilkenny on Saturday, 7th of November. Tickets are available at Kilkenomics.com
You can read more of Shawna’s writing and check out some of the bodysafe products she sells over at the Sex Siopa website.