Sex toys for men: wading through the bullshit

Image by the mighty Stuart F Taylor

Sex toys for men: I love them, some people hate them, but every sex and relationships columnist has to have an opinion on them. And some of those opinions are bullshit. While I’ll often get very shouty about facts, very rarely would I tell someone that their opinion is bullshit, but in the case of male sex toys I am comfortable doing this. Because if you think that sex toys for men are somehow less acceptable than sex toys for anyone else, chances are you’re doing this based on either bad facts or an incomplete grasp of the benefits of sex toys. Not only are you catastrophically wrong, you’re also doing an entirely unnecessary harm.

Sex toys for men: defining our terms

Let’s start with an important question: what does ‘sex toys for men’ actually mean? Dudes can, technically, use any sex toy they like. The sex toys themselves don’t need to be gendered. When describing toys for anyone, it’s far more helpful to use terms like ‘butt plug’, ‘rabbit vibrator’, ‘prostate vibrator’ or ‘masturbation sheath’ – they’re specific to the product. ‘Sex toys for men’ could include anything from handcuffs to anal beads and everything in between.

What’s more, specific terms are inclusive – they don’t equate genitals with gender, and thus immediately turn off trans, intersex and non-binary users. There’s a useful rant to have another day about why gendered language isn’t just bad from an ethical and linguistic perspective, it’s ultimately bad business.

However, I can’t realistically say that ‘sex toys for men’ or ‘male sex toys’ are meaningless terms: they are frequently used and understood to mean ‘sex toys which cisgendered men put their dicks in.’ While I’d prefer terms like ‘masturbator’ or ‘masturbation sheath’ or even – as this delightfully geeky sex toy company says – ‘penetrable’ – when describing dick toys, the fact remains that many people use ‘male sex toys’ to refer to a particular kind of product: the masturbator. And the gendered way we conceive of these kinds of sex toys is – I think – central to why it has such a stigma attached.

So before we begin, please know that:

  1. Men can use any sex toys they like including (but not limited to) butt plugs, wands like the Doxy, bondage equipment, vibrators, etc.
  2. The term ‘sex toys for men’ is exclusionary and deeply flawed.
  3. I am using that term in this piece to refer specifically to ‘toys that you put your dick in.’ While it’s not accurate, it speaks directly to the stigma surrounding these toys, and will make it easier for people to find this article.

Sex toys for men: what’s the stigma?

In February 2016, GQ magazine asked: “Why are sex toys for men so creepy?” More recently Smash toured a Fleshlight factory and declared the whole thing ‘creepy’ too, as well as making the (false) assertion that:

“No guy would ever admit to owning anything relating to male sex toys, not unless they were very drunk.”

Vice recently suggested that the ‘creep factor’ which attaches to male sex toys as opposed to female ones comes down to the anatomical designs. Basically, sex toys for men are horrid because they look like bums, vaginas or mouths in a tube. This is categorically not true, as I’ll show you below.

Some people are fighting this stigma – great sex bloggers like Marvelous Darling are doing excellent mythbusting, Metro’s Rebecca Reid recently asked: “Why do we still see male sex toys as something creepy?” and encouraged guys to try more toys. But by and large there is still a huge stigma surrounding sex toys that you put your dick in. Whether it’s the ‘eww look he’s creepy he has a vagina in his bedside drawer’ or the more insidious ‘he’s only using that because he can’t ‘get it’ anywhere else.’

The stigma surrounding sex toys for men is spawned by an existing stigma around male sexuality. That men are desperately horny, and will stop at nothing to get their rocks off. That male sexuality is altogether more urgent and necessary than female sexuality – which comes in soft focus, with shitloads of candles and a bubble bath.

It’s part and parcel of what feminists call ‘toxic masculinity’ – where men are expected to behave in a certain way purely because they are men, and held to either unrealistic standards (“You MUST want to shag everyone/have sex every day, because you are a MAN! If you don’t, what’s wrong with you?!”) or treated as if they are incapable of making conscious choices, because their dicks make decisions for them (“He couldn’t help himself/she led him on/God men will fuck anything won’t they?”).

There are few places where sex stigma is so unapologetic as in sneering articles about male sex toys. Whether it’s someone pointing out that ‘real men can just use their hands’ or remarking that – tee hee – this one looks like a bum, and aren’t men creepy and gross. Let’s get stuck in to the ‘bum’ thing first.

Are sex toys for men all anatomical?

Hell no.

This is PULSE. It is a toy that goes on your dick, and it looks like what you’d get if Darth Vader fucked a stingray.
image of Hot Octopuss PULSE

This is the inside of a Tenga Spiral. It looks like an Excel spreadsheet had sex with a 3D printer.

image of tenga spiral - a spiral tube

This is the ElectraStim Jack Socket. It is what Red Dwarf’s Kryten would use if he didn’t have a front-loading washing machine to hand.

picture of a black tube with pink coloured insides and attached battery pack

 

Oh, were you mainly thinking of Fleshlights, though? Yeah, those Fleshlights are the ones modelled on real vaginas, right? Except this is the Fleshlight Flight Pilot:

black tube with crystal-colourd center that looks nothing like a human body part

This is the Fleshlight Quickshot Vantage:

See-throguh short tube which looks nothing like a human body part

 

This is me when I hear for the millionth time that sex toys for men are all anatomical.

That’s right, I am so annoyed I used a gif.

Note I’m not saying that anatomical toys are bad: just that they aren’t the only option. I prefer buying the non-anatomical ones to use on my other half, but if he liked ones that looked more like vaginas, I would happily pick up a couple of those and then eagerly quiz him on which he liked best.

Sex toys – they’re not just for turbo-charged wanks

When someone writes an article about how creepy sex toys for men are, usually what they mean is ‘I do not personally find this arousing, and therefore people who do must have abnormal sexual desires.’ While it’s absolutely fine to say ‘fuck no’ to sex toys – we all have our own kinks and preferences – there are two things about this attitude that I find baffline.

Firstly – ‘arousing.’ Sex toys can be arousing, but ultimately they do not have to be. I don’t get wet with excitement when I look at my new favourite dildo, no matter how much I love fucking it. I might get a bit turned on if a new toy arrives and I can’t wait to use it, but ultimately the look of a battery-operated fuckstick is never going to ‘arouse’ me in the same way a naked guy is. And that’s OK, because it’s not usually the point. Sex toys are tools to get you off. They provide physical stimulation: that’s their job. If they turn you on, then great! But if they don’t? Don’t worry – there are other tools for that! Fantasies, erotic stories, videos, etc. I’d no more expect my sex toy to give me a wide-on than I’d expect my porn to leap off the computer screen and start vibrating against my clit.

While we’re on this subject, can people please please stop asking men who have no interest whatsoever in sex toys to write opinion pieces on sex toys? More than once in the last couple of months I’ve seen pieces by guys who are not even curious about sex toys, which go into detail about just how bored/turned off they were when they had to go through the rigmarole of using them. It’s like commissioning lawnmower reviews from a bloke who doesn’t have a garden.

The second part of the assumption – that people who like male sex toys must be somehow abnormal – takes a little longer to unpack. And to illustrate, I’m going to give you a list of…

Reasons men use sex toys

The ‘men who use sex toys are creepy/weird/desperate’ assumption is understandable if you’re being introduced to male sex toys for the first time – I probably thought the same when I first saw a Fleshlight, because I too had been conditioned to believe that men would only use toys if they were desperate and/or a specific kind of perv.

But that assumption cannot possibly hold if you do more than about five minutes of thinking. Just consider the reasons people use sex toys:

  • Jake uses sex toys because he’s curious about all the different sensations
  • Thomas uses sex toys because he has arthritis in both hands, which makes wanking incredibly difficult and painful without something to grip his cock tighter
  • Bill uses sex toys because his ex bought him a Fleshlight and he likes to reminisce about the sexy first time they used it together
  • Simon uses sex toys because he likes variety and gets easily bored of the same masturbation routine
  • Josh struggles to get hard, so he uses a sex toy that means he can orgasm even when he’s flaccid
  • Abel is in a relationship, and he uses sex toys because his partner finds it intensely hot to watch him use them
  • Ed has severely limited mobility, and he doesn’t want to talk to his carer about masturbation and sex, so he found a sex toy online that he can use without assistance
  • Adnan uses sex toys because he makes money on the side from camming, and the people who watch ask him for feedback and recommendations. He makes even more money from sex toy affiliation, by recommending the ones he likes
  • Jack likes nipple play, and using a high-tech masturbator leaves his hands free to play with his nipples
  • Sadiq has had trouble getting hard ever since a brush with prostate cancer, but doesn’t want to lose the connection he has with his wife – sex toys make it easier for him to get hard, and have awesome sex with the lady he loves

On top of this, sure, some guys will be using sex toys because they like the sensation of putting their cock in something a bit vagina-esque, or something that looks a bit like a mouth, but they either can’t or don’t want to do the Sex Things with an actual person right now. Personally, I find I am often horny but far too lazy/tired to engage in seduction techniques that’ll get me a shag. Or I realise that all I need right now is a quick admin wank, and only a wank with a particular sex toy will scratch the itch I have right now.

I could go on here for hours, and I’m sure you can come up with more. The point is that while it’s easy to sit at your desk and assume that people are using sex toys for the reasons you might, it doesn’t take great leaps of imagination or empathy to see that your experience is not definitive. 

Sex toys for men: changing the conversation

What exactly does someone gain from bitching about sex toys for men? What do they get from declaring that wanking with a sex toy is somehow ‘creepy’ or ‘gross’? Potentially they’re getting paid: if they’re writing an article for a mainstream magazine, or if they run a website that gets ad money based on pageviews. I know only too well that snarkier pieces tend to get shared more often.

But I don’t think that’s the answer. People who write these pieces aren’t cynically Katie-Hopkinsing their way to a higher click rate. I honestly think that they don’t realise:

a) how beneficial sex toys can be, and the sheer variety of reasons why people use and enjoy them and

b) how much of their knee-jerk ‘eww’ reaction is based on a form of misandry. A belief that although female sex toys can be empowering, male sex toys are the dominion of desperate losers and perverts.

These mistakes are understandable. After all, ‘sex toys for men’ still conjures a very specific image of penetrable toys, and anatomical ones at that. The resulting stigma surrounding these toys isn’t always helped by sex toy companies: some still target men with simplistic, leering copy, under the misguided assumption that men are drooling twats. On top of this society has told us that when men wank it is dirty, desperate and gross, and it takes time to unlearn the bad shit we’ve been taught, as it will also take time for people to stop associating ‘sex toys for men’ with ‘things you stick your dick into.’

Changing attitudes on this scale, when they are so deeply ingrained, will not happen overnight. But there’s one important thing you can do to speed the process along:

Talk about this. Recommend your favourite sex toys to someone. Share articles that discuss sex toys in a way that doesn’t shame or stigmatise them (in a gendered way or any other). Tell blokes you know that sex toys are A-OK, and that they can actually be used to do things you may never have thought possible (hands-free wanking, orgasming while flaccid, electrocuting a climax out of your twitching dick, etc). Challenge people who write shaming pieces, or ask whether they’ve considered some of the reasons above.

Share the good stuff, challenge the bad, and help make blog posts like this one entirely redundant.

 

If I were good at my job I’d include a list of sex toys here that you can try out. But I am knackered and this post has taken ages, so I’ll add that at some point later. But if you’re after tips: any of the toys listed above I would thoroughly recommend (two – the PULSE and the Jack Socket – are from companies that advertise with me, so obviously I’d love you to buy stuff from them because I get brownie points). And you can see more sex toys I own/want/like here

13 Comments

  • John says:

    Fantastic article! It’s pissed me off for a long time as to why magazines talk openly about sex toys in a way that it’s “modern and cool” for women to use them but in some way perverted for men.

    Well done and thank you

    • Richard P says:

      I said something similar the last time GOTN talked about this.
      My working theory as to why female sex toys are considered acceptable is the so called Virgin/Whore complex. It’s the idea that what every man wants is a slut willing to do whatever they want whenever, while also being a pure virgin who’s never been with another man. Sex toys cover this neatly as they are considered kinky and slutty without getting a man involved.
      Like all theory’s about what everyone wants it’s bolocks but it would explain the relative social acceptance of female toys. Men on the other hand are just expected to go and pick up a woman if they want sexual gratification. Men exploring their own pleasures are sad loaners who can’t get a woman, hence the use of ‘wanker’, ‘tosser’ etc as insults.
      Both situations are complete crap but it’s a classic example of sexism turning back on itself in a way that screws over everyone.
      The toys considered more acceptable for men to own are things that tend to be assumed to be used on women. Restraints, floggers etc, despite the fact they can be used by any person on any other person the usual image is a man being dominant, excluding domanatrixes who are always presented in a very fetishised way. I can’t recall a single example of a woman experimenting with tying up her boyfriend, they always appear as fully fledged (usually professional) mistresses with a substantial custom leather collection.
      I’m going to stop now as this has got kinda ranty but suffice to say the situation is deeply irritating. I want a world where I can go into a high street store to peruse their selection of sexual aids without stigma. Instead I’m stuck trying to find a delivery date for things I order online where I won’t have to explain what I bought to my housemates.

  • As a boy sex blogger, I get offered sex toys to review from time to time, and although I’m not overly fond of the ones I’ve used, I’ve never held a stigma about male sex toys. I, in fact, think there should be more – partially because there needs to be more variety, but mostly because I’d love there to be one that works for me. I want to experience the kind of orgasms all the other male reviewers seem to be getting!

    OK, so it’s a very rare occurrence that I write a positive review for a sex toy, but that’s just me being honest, insofar as X toy doesn’t work for me. Sure that counts, but it’s just one review. This is why we need more reviews for sex toys of all kinds – to provide a wider example.

    The main problem I’ve had with sex toys isn’t really the fact that some of them resemble genitalia – I’ve used both types, but can’t suspend disbelief enough to pretend a vagina made from TPE is a real vagina – but it’s something to do with the combination of the noise they make (which varies – the PULSE has a low, pleasant purr, but the REV 1000 sounds like roadworks and the Autoblow 2 screams like a banshee), the effort you have to put in (although there shouldn’t be much, I often feel like there is), and the awareness that I am, in fact, using a sex toy (none of which, yet, have actually ever fit my penis – it’s too long to fit in a PULSE and too wide to fit in anything else… and it’s not that sensitive!).

    Of course this has led to the concept that I genuinely don’t like sex toys. This isn’t at all true – I love sex toys. I don’t like using them, but I’m fascinated by the industry and the variety of things there are out there. In the case of the misnomer’d “male” sex toys, the options appear – to me at least – to be “stuff to put your junk in” (as mentioned in your above post, GOTN) vs. “stuff to stick up your arse”, which hypothetically you could do with any insertable sex toy, so it’s just the packaging that characterises this one. I’ve even met a few people who think the only sex toy for men ever created is the Fleshlight.

    I won’t be recommending my favourite toys to my male friends, because I don’t have any. But it’s not a topic I’ll shy away from – ever. It’s an important point to make, as ever: the problem isn’t with sex toys for men. The problem is, as it always seems to be, awareness… or, in this case, lack of it.

  • Archie says:

    People who have a negative view on sex toys men? The real wankers.

  • Tom F says:

    I always think about the practicality before the social/emotional reasons, one of the reasons I think they’re less popular is a hole is harder to clean then a shaft.

  • Ian says:

    Thank you, GOTN – lots of good reasons above. I’d love for those who criticise such toys to show how the exact same issue doesn’t apply to female-intended toys as well. Can’t think of many exceptions…

    And as this was a serious post, not one tagged ‘filthy’, I’ll refrain from sharing just how fun such toys can be in the right hands. Ahem.

  • The quiet one says:

    Every time a woman uses a sex toy, a fluffy unicorn is born under a beautiful rainbow. Every time a guy uses a sex toy, a fairy dies! That’s why there’s a stigma!
    lol

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    It occurs to me that there’s a similar kind of popular double standard about porn. Even though it’s recognised that most men like to watch porn, we generally don’t talk about it, whereas it’s becoming increasingly acceptable for women to do so (in certain contexts at least). It goes something like:

    Woman who enjoys watching (or making) porn: cool, empowered lady in touch with her sexuality.
    Man who enjoys watching (or making) porn: loser/creep/sicko/etc.

    Despite the fact that us dudes are surely the majority of porn viewers!

  • SweetTheSting says:

    “The stigma surrounding sex toys for men is spawned by an existing stigma around male sexuality. That men are desperately horny, and will stop at nothing to get their rocks off. That male sexuality is altogether more urgent and necessary than female sexuality – which comes in soft focus, with shitloads of candles and a bubble bath.”

    So true.

    From sexist thinking, women are the dainty gatekeepers of sex (snort), lying back and thinking of England. So a woman who wanks (or “insert euphemism”) is exciting and liberated and stuff because ooh, she’s a rare one who Actually Likes It.

    Whereas men are driven by sex, says the same bullshit, so of course they wank if there’s no sex to be had. It’s a bit tragic, in this narrative, and of course a sin in the eyes of the ultra religious as a waste of “seed” etc.

    Do we think like this logically, consciously? No.

    Is it ingrained in us culturally, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on upbringing etc? I think so, yes.

    Judgement of the toys is transferring this judgement of masturbation onto something it’s easier to snark about.

    Patriarchy sucks.

  • Peter Smith says:

    Thanks. Just genuinely thanks for writing this

  • Smurphboy says:

    Fucking hell! I just bought a Tenga… and… yes… not quite like a proper fuck but OMG def the best selfnwank I’ve ever had… Might get the more advanced model next.

    Seriously, thanks for writing this and thanks for the offer codes. I’m going to need more lube

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