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Shock news: male sex toys are popular, and men read erotica too

Wankers unite! There is a revolution upon us and it’s important that you’re part of it. Wipe up the jizz, pull up your trousers, and join your brethren in the march for acceptance.

A while ago I wrote about male sex toys, and a desperately judgmental article at Jezebel that described the guys who used them as ‘lonely fucks.’ But it’s not just Jezebel – I’m frequently coming across examples of the double-standards we have around what men and women do to get off. The overall narrative goes a little something like this:

Men masturbate loads as a matter of necessity, and hence their wanking is something filthy and sordid that should be done behind closed doors, like defecation or voting UKIP. Women don’t really need to wank, because they don’t need sex, so female masturbation is empowering, yet also gentle and feminine and pink. 

From this narrative, a lot of bullshit flows, of which the following is just a tiny snippet:

  • Female sex toys must be pink and sparkly and ‘unintimidating’ and should mainly be used to ‘enhance’ a woman’s sex life with a partner.
  • Male sex toys are a bit shameful and dirty, and must be hidden in a drawer so no one ever finds out.
  • Porn for women is basically a romance novel with a bit of shagging in it. Which men will never read.

All these things are bullshit, but it can be hard to discern that they’re bullshit because so much of our culture plays along to this tune. But even the most basic of research (and I cannot stress enough just how basic my ‘research’ is) shows that sexuality – male, female, or not-easily-forced-into-a-gender-binary – is clearly far more interesting than that.

Male and female sex toys

How many times have you read a mainstream sex advice article that recommends straight guys include vibrators during sex to please their partner? Loads, right? And now count up the number of sex advice articles that recommend women use a masturbator when they give hand jobs because holy Jesus they’re amazing and they make it way more fun? I bet you could count those articles on one hand, and at least two were written by me.

Similarly, guys using toys during solo masturbation is only just beginning to get talked about – traditionally our culture told the dude buying sex dolls and wanking sheaths that he was a lonely, desperate perv. So what’s the deal – are male sex toys only bought by lonely dudes? Or are they, in fact, bought by a significant number of people?

It’s the latter.

Thanks to for giving me some info – here are the most viewed toys on their site.

To be fair, they have recently been doing some research and surveys into sex doll use, so it’s possible that’s what’s bumped ‘Brad’ and the ‘sisters’ up the list, but of the three remaining one could be used by anyone, and two are specifically designed to be used on a penis. Taking a peek at the top five search terms…

See? The search terms are delightfully universal – some of these toys can be used no matter what configuration of genitals you have. And as for the top toys, most are aimed at people with dicks. I appreciate this doesn’t prove that every guy has a Fleshlight in the cupboard, but I think it shows that male sex toys are not – as the general narrative has us believe – things bought by the few to sate loneliness or desperation. Male sex toys are, in fact, exactly the same as female sex toys: fun, optional additions to your sex life, whether you’re with a partner or on your own.

Men reading erotica

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a post or two then you have read erotica. I don’t call it erotica, though, I call it filth. And there’s a bloody good reason for that: as soon as you call writing ‘erotic’ people file it away in the ‘just for women’ bank. As if men can’t cope with porn that’s told via this mysterious medium of ‘words on a page.’

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone publishing-related (not my publisher though, natch) has told me ‘oh but men don’t buy books, and they definitely don’t buy erotica, so we make the covers to appeal to women.’ Can you see the flaw in this? Course you can – covers designed to appeal to women may well put men off, because men are human and therefore influenced by their peers: they’re less likely to buy a book with a cover they interpret as ‘female-friendly’ because someone has effectively painted a barrier around it saying ‘this isn’t for you. If you buy it you’ll be the odd one out.’

I’ve used Google stats for the following, and it’s worth noting that Google’s demographic info can never be 100% accurate (and it also forces people into a gender binary, which naturally is a flaw in and of itself). But anyway. Here are my gender demographics – blue is male, green is female:

Girlonthenet blog demographics

Sexuality isn’t simple

The info above doesn’t conclusively prove anything, so don’t go showing it to a proper journalist or anything. But what it does show, I think, is that sexuality is far more complicated than we’re tricked into believing.

I frequently talk about how women like sex too, and that it isn’t just a currency with which we barter for money or love, despite the constant stream of depressing sex advice that seems to assume it is. I think that male sexuality falls victim to the same assumptions. This idea that men are sex-obsessed, and only after one thing, is one of the foundations on which the original bullshit story is built. If sex is such a grotesque necessity for men then everything they do with it must be disgusting: the porn they watch, the toys they use, the dirty things they get up to alone behind closed doors, etc.

But actually that’s just as crap as the claim that women lie back and think of England. Not only does it paint every single man into the same sexual corner, but it spectacularly fails to understand the vast differences between individual sexuality (not to mention those who don’t identify with one side or other of the gender binary). It also fucks with morality, assigning moral actions to things which are at best amoral (such as wanking) and painting men as creatures incapable of making moral choices when their sexual desires are involved.

This started as a light-hearted blog, aimed at showing men that they’re being short-changed by society’s views on how they should and shouldn’t wank. It’s turned into something much more depressing. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. As women have gradually changed society’s views on female sexuality (Women can wank too! And watch porn! And be the architects of our own sexual fulfilment!) I think we can change what people think about men as well.

We can start by not giggling when guys buy sex toys, or read erotic stories. When we’ve mastered that, perhaps we can move on to the idea that men – like women – are unique individuals, whose sexuality can’t be easily generalised about or packaged. Then comes the wankers’ revolution. If you don’t want to join in then please step aside: it might get a little bit sticky.


  • Geoff says:

    I like your writing but may I add two comments which probably don’t fit your worldview or that of many (most?) of your readers:-

    (1) I have lived long enough to have had sex with plenty of different women, women aged from 16 to 50 or so. I also have a fair number of open-minded male friends who talk honestly about sex (particularly when women are not around). And two close friends – one male, one female – are professional therapists and talk to me about their patients (anonymously of course). Experience suggests that many (of course not all) women change their attitude to / feelings about sex once they have children. I don’t mean days, weeks or months after the birth but for years, perhaps forever. Maybe biology plays a role at least as significant as bullshit?

    2) Here is a summary of some developing knowledge about online porn:- Yes, this book got a plug in The Sunday Times this weekend but don’t blame the messenger: I have some access to this area of research and it is convincing enough not to need bigging up by the Right. It is a pity (he said pulling up his trousers) but there may be something to this, whether we like the conclusions or not.

    • Girl on the net says:

      OK, here’s the deal. Please bear in mind that my message is ‘your sexuality probably doesn’t fit neatly into a standard narrative.’ Given that:

      1. You’ve provided a couple of anecdotes for your point here, which is cool, because basically the more anecdotal evidence there is the better my point is supported. Essentially anecdotal info isn’t particularly useful unless you’re trying to disprove a universal (which is exactly what I’m trying to do!). So. If some women exist who feel differently about sex to me, that 100% supports what I’m saying, and makes me look badass-awesome. So, if many women change their opinions on sex after they’ve had children, then this doesn’t disprove what I’m saying. Nor is it helpful for those women who don’t have children. Within the subset of ‘women’ there will still be a vast and varied spectrum of sexuality, right? So I’m not sure why this is relevant. My point is that people take generalisations and apply them to all behaviour. ‘Women read more erotica than men do, so we will only ever publish erotica for women’ for example. This is unhelpful.
      2. Blergh to that book for a million reasons, but here are a couple:
      – not all porn is the kind of mainstream, quick-release, extreme-as-possible stuff that this book (I’m familiar with it) is campaigning against. This blog, for instance, is porn (or some of it is – I appreciate that this comment might be a challenging wank).
      – the person who wrote the book has (helpfully!) provided links to a number of studies that come to the opposite conclusions as he does: While he labels these ‘questionable studies’, and I haven’t had time to go through them (I’ll have a bash though if I get proper time) I think it’s pretty significant that most of these have been published by reputable journals, as opposed to just ‘in a book you can buy off the internet.’

      [Edited to add: this seems a bit more abrupt than I mean it to be, so I hope you don’t think I’m rude. Obviously constructive criticism always welcome, and appreciate your thoughts on it!]

    • Azkyroth says:

      (1) I have lived long enough to have had sex with plenty of different women, women aged from 16 to 50 or so. I also have a fair number of open-minded male friends who talk honestly about sex (particularly when women are not around). And two close friends – one male, one female – are professional therapists and talk to me about their patients (anonymously of course). Experience suggests that many (of course not all) women change their attitude to / feelings about sex once they have children. I don’t mean days, weeks or months after the birth but for years, perhaps forever. Maybe biology plays a role at least as significant as bullshit?

      Because of course motherhood is a purely biological, culturally neutral act/state.

    • Azkyroth says:

      As for number 2: the combination of Motivated Reasoning + Green Jelly Beans has made “$MEDIA_UNPOPULAR_WITH_SELF_APPOINTED_MORAL_GUARDIANS ROTS YOUR BRAIN D:” in all its tedious interchangeable incarnations a toxic zombie hypothesis. It’s jumped the shark, it’s had its moment, it falls apart every time you dig into it, it’s time to MOVE ON.

    • In relation to point 1 isn’t it simply true that over time: ” many (of course not all) women change their attitude to / feelings about sex” regardless of childbirth.
      This may be due to many things. I’m not sure WHAT changes exactly you are referring to.

      Back to anecdotal: I have encountered many MEN who tell me their older wives go off sex, but being 50 myself with many older friends I’ve yet to meet a woman who says she’s gone off sex.
      For many women sex gets better as they get older (perhaps just not with that particular subset of husbands ;) ).

  • images says:

    I sell sex toys and paraphernalia, mostly to couples. The evening usually starts with the man trying to get the woman to open up and choose something nice for her, but ends with both of them choosing toys for themselves. I show how the toys are used (not full demos though how I’d love to) and how they benefit each person. If the man is made to feel like it’s normal for him to want toys, he opens right up, listens and touches. If I can show the woman how to use toys on her man and show the man that it’s normal and non-threatening for him to use them with his partner, they will both enjoy sex and each other so much more. I also point them to this blog. You do a wonderful service for the human world and I thank you.

  • Thrasy says:

    Curious to know – if you get chance to read it, your opinions on this article:

    I made some polite ranty comments, but I worry that I may have just been overreacting or doing some typical male “whataboutery”…

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hmm. My opinions are that I feel a bit sad for both of them, but I think the advice seems sound (disclaimer: I’m not an expert on sexual dysfunction or anything). What were your rants on it? Would be good to know what you reckon, and I’ll have a bit of a think!

  • Thrasy says:

    Oh, well there were a few comment/replies I made at the time to explain further – I’ll just copy and paste my original comment.

    “I have the same “issue” and commented on a similar thread – that its a shame that women who fail to orgasm through penetrative sex are basically told their partner is inconsiderate for not “seeing to them” through other methods, but when it’s a man the response is a bit “meh, enjoy the fact he can’t cum”.

    Not that I’m bitter – it’s a lot worse when a women takes it personally or gets insecure because of it.”

    I probably was/am bitter though – I mentioned at some other point that “Dr. Pam” basically said the guy probably did it to himself by wanking too hard/often – ignoring possible psychological reasons (probably the case for me) but also for example, some kinds of anti-depressents can have this effect as well. Which I suppose in my oversensitive brain I interpreted as her saying “it’s his own fault anyway”.

    We’re both lucky I’m forced to use my phone to post this, otherwise I’d be writing an essay.

    I’m Thrasymachusfooled on there if you happen to browse the comments.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah, I see what you’re saying. Sorry to hear you have the same problem. I think my instinct is that you’re right, and this is genuinely something I’ve never considered before. V interesting point. Let me think on it and I’ll write something more considered when I’ve got a bit more time.

    • Girl on the net says:

      OK, so sorry for late reply. I agree that there is definitely more to things like this than just saying ‘ah well, enjoy the fact that he can’t come.’ I suspect this stems from the fact that, as a rule, we’re taught that male orgasm is the ‘goal’ of sex, and so for many years female orgasm has been seen as a kind of ‘nice to have’ bit of a shag, when actually sex can still be awesome if neither of you comes. And – as you imply in your comment – it’s a bit harsh to just write off a guy’s pleasure because it might be more difficult for him to come. I think were I in this situation, and with someone who struggled, I’d want to talk about it a fair bit if only so I could get a handle on what he thought might make him come, or what I could do to make it a bit easier. It might be the case, of course, that he’d see no need for an orgasm and would prefer to just go with the flow, which is fine. I’ve been with guys who’ve struggled with this (because of antidepressants, or being too drunk, or stressed, or whatever) and often the solution is to just shag til I’m spent then watch them cracking one off. Which, incidentally, is mind-meltingly hot.

      There is a certain element of blaming in the argument that ‘maybe he wanks too hard’, although I think it’s worth bearing in mind that wanking in a really specific way (particularly if it is hard) can get one accustomed to a particular thing and maybe make it trickier for someone to orgasm during sex (not just for men, btw). But you’re right, there are lots of other reasons why orgasm might be difficult. Not just anti-depressants: stress, drinking, taking other kinds of drugs or medication, etc etc etc. I don’t think she’s necessarily saying ‘it’s his own fault’ but I can see why the article riled you.

      • Thrasy says:

        Thanks for the considered response. I try not to take things personally. On reflection, there were 3 reasons I was getting frustrated and I realise, as a straight male, I’m being kinda hypocritical.

        1) From my perspective, it seems the “popular” (I.e the liberal, non-conservative) view on male sexuality is the guy just wants to get on top, pound for a bit, “finish” and then roll over and fall asleep. I doubt It’s only guys with my “problem” that feel frustrated by this view. However, I’m pretty sure there is unfair criticism of female sexuality within society.

        2) The last woman I was with just handled it in a way that made it about her and her insecurities. Then she didn’t understand, for example, refusing oral sex on the basis of “boys don’t know what they are doing down there anyway” is kinda just feeding into mine…if I try to talk about this I get “you’re a bloke, you don’t know what insecurities are…” – if I was upset at her for projecting her negative experiences of previous partners onto me, I should avoid doing the same myself.

        3) I’ve not had any for ages – and I’ve realised I’ve kinda turned down more sex than I’ve actually had (which probably isn’t that difficult in fairness) and part of this is because I don’t want to deal with another girl projecting her own ideas of what male sexuality is and just ignoring that I’m *me* – not some construction of a male based on past sexual experiences and what she read in a Cosmo article – but then how many women just avoid sex because they can’t be arsed dealing with those men whose expectations are based on previous partners and porn?

  • Blue Romantic says:

    Top work GOTN. I’ve never bought a sex toy in my life, but only because of naivety and the fact that I spend a lot of time sleeping in a room with 17 other blokes than through any sort of shame.

    (That’s not quite as bad as it sounds – I’m in the Navy).

  • Hoodlight says:

    My prostate toy is the best 30 quid I’ve ever spent, having a wank is amped up to 11 with one of those stuck up your bum.

    • Amy says:

      This has given me an idea for a guest blog request: a man explaining for the benefit of other men why they should consider using some sex toys, describing exactly how they feel, how they improve things, or what not to bother with! Could even be a collaborative effort to cover more ground. Not sure if you know anyone with that experience, GOTN, as I seem to only read female sex bloggers on a regular basis.

      • Girl on the net says:

        Oooh, cracking idea. I’ll see if I can find someone. Thanks!

      • Hoodlight says:

        I did the prostate massager coupled with a Japanese Tenga egg, couldn’t go through with it, nearly passed out twice, do plan to revisit this though, I was very unfit at the time, working on that. These things are great and I love em

        • Girl on the net says:

          Ah, blimey – that sounds stressful. Maybe v v gradually work your way up to it if it’s tricky. Agree that Tenga eggs and prostate massagers are awesome, though. CANNOT describe how amazing it is to use prostate massage stuff on a dude who has never experienced it before. One of my absolute favourite things: it’s rare to be able to introduce someone to a genuinely new experience.

      • Mr. Will says:

        Alas, there are whole blogs dedicated to this ;-)

  • Azkyroth says:

    As women have gradually changed society’s views on female sexuality (Women can wank too! And watch porn! And be the architects of our own sexual fulfilment!) I think we can change what people think about men as well.

    We can start by not giggling when guys buy sex toys, or read erotic stories. When we’ve mastered that, perhaps we can move on to the idea that men – like women – are unique individuals, whose sexuality can’t be easily generalised about or packaged.

    And certain of them can stop making up tendentious, blatantly-motivated-reasoned bullshit like “But masturbators and sex dolls ARE disgusting and ethically problematic because disembodied woman parts argle bargle dehumanizing NO OF COURSE THAT DOESN’T APPLY TO DILDOES.” >.>

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yep. I think this stuff kinda dies down a bit as more ‘abstract’ sex toys come to market. This, for instance, no more looks like a vagina than my TV remote looks like a dick. Obviously there will still be many people who prefer the less abstract moulded vaginas/mouths etc, but I think the fact that this stuff exists should help people get their head around the fact that it’s not about ‘buying a disembodied vagina’ and more about ‘having a lovely wank’ – as with dildos.

  • J. Constance says:

    John Millward published a statistical analysis of sex toys sold on this month; it goes really in-depth regarding the types and sub-types of toys people buy and breaks it down by gender. While nothing in the survey really surprised me, it’s well-written and very detailed!

    Thank you for writing about how the way that we talk about the intersection of sexuality and gender hurts men as well as women. Critical conversations about gender and sex are usually focused on the disempowerment of women in terms of voicing and owning desire; we encourage women to talk openly and joyfully about sex — all kinds, including masturbation. We definitely don’t encourage men to do the same. There is a strong social narrative that says that all men are sexual aggressors who distance themselves emotionally from sex, and that’s just not true. When we buy into that narrative, it hurts everyone.

  • Not from Limerick says:

    I appreciate that this comment might be a challenging wank

    Challenge accepted.

  • erm, women changing their feelings towards sex after having kids?

    Well, i have a 7yr old and nearly 4yr old and, if anything, i have found ‘my way’ within my sexual nature and am more open to aspects. Of course i shield my kids from this.

    But once you have a small village up in your foo foo, during labour, dignity packs up, moves out and refuses to come home……..

    • 3 kids here and yes absolutely.
      We need a recovery period.
      And finding the time and the privacy when we’re not exhausted can be a challenge.
      But in my experience as we get older we shed our inhibitions and live life to the max when we can.

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