A new generation of male sex toys are taking masturbation from horrific to hot

A new generation of male sex toys are taking masturbation from horrific to hot

SexMarch 14, 2017 By Isabelle Kohn

While it's generally acceptable for women to stockpile dildos, vibrators and an arsenal of other equipment to make themselves come with, using sex toys to get off is a completely different story for men. There's an undying stigma around male masturbatory aids; one that plays off our culture's negative concept of male sexuality in order to shame Brads and Kyles interested in a humble FleshLight, butt plug, prostate stimulator or suction pump.

The data makes this taboo blisteringly obvious. One 2014 survey by the Guardian found that 52 percent of women and 66 percent of gay men use sex toys regularly. Yet, only about half that amount of straight men copped to a silicone friend, a discrepancy that shows that a large number of hetero dudes either don't feel comfortable using sex toys, or are too ashamed to admit they use them at all.

Nobody understands this better than Greg*, a 37-year-old manager at a the Los Angeles-based sex shop The Pleasure Chest. After discovering how good his then-girlfriend's vibrator felt on his cock at age 18, he became fascinated by the world of sex toys, particularly the ones designed for couples that are capable of pleasuring both people at once. In his late twenties, Greg awarded himself his first butt plug, and would sometimes wear it while he masturbated. One day, he asked his female partner if she'd mind if he wore it while they boned.

She freaked. After a barrage of pearl-clutching interrogations such as, but not limited to, "How long have you been gay, Greg?" and "Am I not enough for you?" he dropped the subject entirely and the couple lived out the rest of their moderately dysfunctional two-year relationship. The whole time, however, this girl had a vibrator ... a vibrator she frequently insisted they use together during sex. To be fair, Greg didn't mind. He knew that's what felt good for her, and so he was happy to oblige. But he couldn't shake the unfair double standard. She felt entitled to orgasm-by-vibrator (and she should have), yet he wasn't "allowed" to use his butt plug — which he says felt awesome — anywhere near her.

After that experience, he was hush-hush about his love of sex toys, all the while secretly stockpiling vibrating cock rings and silky-soft Tenga eggs to masturbate into. It wasn't one of male friends admitted he'd been using a FleshLight for years — sometimes even having "threesomes" with it and his partners — that Greg started to come out from his of his shell.

Greg's not-uncommon experience with sex toy shame has several underlying causes. 

Primarily, it has a lot to do with our culture's image of male masturbation. We're taught to see female whack-off sessions as lovely and fresh, like some sort of a jasmine-scented cum breeze on a moonlit night. Meanwhile, we're constantly inundated with imagery of male masturbation as vulgar. We react to it like we would if a guy who was supposed to be dead reanimated from the depths of a swamp and lurched towards our exposed throats to feed on our mortal blood ... that is to say, we're reviled. That man over there, beating his salami, he must be desperate and horny beyond control. The perceived lack of control is dangerous. It's "creepy."

Think of the (many) masturbation scenes in American Pie. Or the pool scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Parents walking in on masturbating sons are disgusted and embarrassed. Girlfriends and wives become enraged when they find their boyfriends and husbands watching porn. The universal reaction to men's need to whack off seems to be repulsion and disapproval, toys or not. That gets ingrained in men's subconscious sometimes, preventing them from seeking out implements that could not only make them come better, but in more diverse ways that improve their sexual capacity and expression past the limits society caps them at (Hand. Vaseline. Tissue. Done.)

"When my girlfriend butt plug shamed me, I got the message that what I wanted to do was gross or wrong," says Greg. "For a while, I internalized that. Even though I've always loved toys, I developed some insecurity about my interest in them."

On top of that, there's also a lingering taboo about straight men being seen as gay if they admit to using toys like butt plugs or prostate stimulators.

"I once bought myself this thing called an Aneros, which is a prostate stimulator," Greg tells me. "I thought it felt so fucking good. So I told my friends about it. Some of them thought it was cool and were really interested, but others immediately responded by calling me gay. It's so sad that in 2017, people still equate enjoying anal stimulation with any particular sexuality. Everyone has an anus. It doesn't matter if you're gay, straight, male, female or somewhere in between, some people just have anuses that feel good when there's stuff in them. It just goes to show you that people are still scared of being laughed at for going after the type of pleasure they desire."

That may be so, but it also doesn't help that many adult toy companies also brand and design their products specifically for the gay community. According to Nichi Hodgson, sex expert, ex-dominatrix and Ooh by Je Joue brand ambassador, this is because gay men have historically been allowed to freely explore their sexual interests as a marginalized group. Because of that, they've simply been easier to market to than straight men, who often don't feel as comfortable expressing their needs and interest, particularly in a commercial setting. “There was a stigma around [gay men's] sexuality, so they’ve had to fight for sexual liberation and were able to experiment. As a result, a lot of sex toys are pitched at gay men. This has put off heterosexual men, who believe they might have a gay inclination if they try them out,” she explains.

But perhaps the biggest, and worst culprit is the persistent belief in our culture that "real men" don't need aids. An American man is an island — if he can't get off on his own, there must be something wrong with him sexually ... just like if he can't change a tire or build a shed by himself, there's something wrong with his masculinity. It's a stupid belief, but it's omnipresent.

"The reaction I always got from my guy friends was this oversimplified take on male sexuality," Greg explains. "They'd be like, 'You have two hands, and they're right there. What are you buying toys for?'"

Things are really looking up for male sex toys, though. Thanks to a new wave of progressive male fun-things with more neutral, approachable marketing, sales, and interest, are steadily rising (up 1,000 percent over the past 10 years). In 2014 FHM surveyed 5,000 men to find out how they felt about buying sex toys for themselves. They found that 78 percent of them would be down to get one, and 69 percent would like their partner to use one on them.

The internet has played a huge role in men's increasing acceptance that kind of tool-aided sex. Whereas guys used to have to — gasp — step foot in a sex store to get their masturbation sleeves and whatnot, they can now order them safely and anonymously online, affording them the opportunity to explore their own sexuality to a much greater extent than they've previously been able to.  “The market is expanding with innovation at its forefront. An increasing number of toys are now becoming non-gender specific, which means more men feel comfortable exploring sex toys themselves,” Hodgson says. “E-commerce is where the big boom is happening. Straight men no longer have to go into seedy-looking sex shops that tend to be geared towards a gay audience.”

Today, the best­selling male sex toys are cock rings and the FleshLight; a realistic-looking vagina, ass, throat or unidentifiable orifice that's packaged neatly in an unassuming container. FleshLight even makes something called a Stamina Training Unit, which helps men re-train themselves to masturbate in a way that increases their stamina and sensitivity. There are also male-specific vibrators like the Pulse or the Fun Factory Cobra Libre, anal vibrators like B-Vibe, and prostate stimulators that bring intense orgasms both solo and with a partner. That's important, because orgasms bring more than just wet socks to the equation — Harvard research shows they not only improve physical and mental wellbeing, but they they can reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by 22 percent too.

Studies conducted at Indiana University also revealed that 45 percent of men who use sex toys were more likely to participate in sexual health promoting behaviors such as testicular examination and male sexual health clinics. They also reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction, orgasmic function and sexual desire, as well as decreased erectile difficulties. With those kind of benefits, who could shame a dude for wanting to come in more diverse ways than the old-cramped hand and elbow grease method?

To achieve long-term change though, Greg argues there needs to be wider discussion around male sex toy use, especially in the media. Examples of it in pop culture are few and far between, which is why he thinks men are still weirded out by employing a device to help them do something they're already capable of doing.

Amanda Major, senior practice consultant for psycho-sexual therapy at Relate, agrees. She explained to Dazed Digital that, "It is much more likely in current films for women to reference or use sex toys – and I’m not talking about pornographic films. While I can’t speak for the entire film industry, I can’t think of one mainline film where men would happily promote the use of sex toys.” According to Major, the pervasive taboo is also tied into how men are culturally allowed to communicate. “Unlike women, men find it more difficult to have these conversations with their friends. When men start having these conversations, it will start to become normalized and accepted,” she says.

Greg, for his part, is trying to have those conversations, not just with his friends, but with the people he helps at his job.

"I love walking straight men through the vast array of toy options when they come in," he says. "They're usually stunned that there are so many male-oriented products out there; so many things to make their sex lives better. They never even knew they were allowed to seek them out."

Well, access granted men. Now please, go fuck a disembodied vagina. It's like chicken soup for the soul.