Let’s Talk About Sex (Toys), Baby

 

Getting pegged made me the man I am today. This is a lofty claim, I realize, but let me explain why I believe it. When I was twenty-two years old, my girlfriend at the time successfully did what no man had managed to do before her: she helped me fall in love with bottoming. True, it wasn’t just her (she had the help of a vibrating seven-inch dildo), but with her I had one of the most liberating experiences of my life. In the process, she opened me up (both literally and metaphorically) to a whole new world of sexual pleasure, which is one that I cannot imagine living fully and happily without today.

Still, it wasn’t a simple process. Getting to that place with my then-girlfriend required a great deal of mental and physical preparation. It also required that we cultivate a deep sense of trust between us. To do both, I had to open myself up to the idea of using sex toys in the bedroom, and engage in honest and direct conversations with my partner about my likes, dislikes, fantasies and fears. It is this process that I argue leads to a healthier and happier sex life for all, which more partners and especially men could benefit from if they learned to explore both together.

However, today it seems that most men aren’t really doing much of either. On the toy front, although there is a dearth of research that specifically focuses on the use of sex toys, (probably because we live in a puritanical society where many folks still consider using toys in the bedroom taboo), the limited information that is out there suggests that only a little more than half of couples have ever explored using a sex toy together, and that nearly half of them waited at least a year to do so. When it comes to solo play, the numbers for men in particular are even worse, with less than a quarter having ever used a sex toy to masturbate.

There are many reasons why I suspect that these dismal numbers are the case. Perhaps the most notable of these reasons is that many guys often feel emasculated by the use of a sex toy. For example, I remember one encounter I had with a sex therapist in her 50s when she whipped out a Hitachi Magic Wand during sex, and even though I already had experience using sex toys in the bedroom, my gut reaction was still, “Woah, why did she bring this toy to my apartment? Did she assume I wouldn’t be able to satisfy her?” Luckily, I managed to take a few deep breathes and push the thoughts down, and as a result, we were able to have an incredible time together utilizing the wand.

This initial feeling of failure that I and many other men have experienced as the result of a sex toy stems from the very impractical presumption that we should somehow be able to satisfy all of our partners with nothing more than our God-given rods. Our inability to do so (which is what the use of a toy is presumed to imply) means that something is inherently wrong with us—i.e. that we are not “real” men. As silly as it may sound, this belief is rooted in more than just a simple case of ignorance or big ego, but instead speaks to the social norms and external expectations that insist guys should be able to please their partners without any assistance. Obviously, this belief is a total crock of shit, but it is one that is surprisingly easy to internalize and difficult to shake.

Another likely reason for the low usage of sex toys among men with their female partners is that there is a complex irony when it comes to how modern society approaches and differentiates sexual pleasure. Historically, I think we can all agree that a woman’s pleasure hasn’t been valued highly by society—sex was always about the man getting off, and that is why for many couples, sex is still considered “over” the moment that he orgasms. However, in recent years, we have seen a change, particularly in Western societies, where there are now hundreds of magazines and blogs that cater to women achieving orgasms and having meaningful sex lives. This, obviously, is great news, but unfortunately, there has been a catch: it has meant that men and women often have conversations about sex parallel to one another, rather than together.

If you are a woman reading this, for example, think about all the magazines you may have read as a teenager that gave you (mediocre) sex tips: Glamour, Cosmo, etc. Not many men read these, right? And think about the sites you go to now. Who is the main target audience? Are these sexual advice columns predominantly reaching one gender?

Conversely, like most men my age, much of my early understandings of sex came from internet porn, which taught me to go as hard and rough as humanly possible. I think the only bit of advice I ever received about how to please a woman before going to college was to “play with her clitoris in a circular motion.” It was like, okay, I’ve done that for a few minutes, now what?

Using this example, it becomes clear that society has separated the discussion of pleasure along gender lines, with women talking to other women about sex, and men talking to other men (or simply not talking about sexual pleasure at all). This trend has occurred in large part because much of society still struggles and feels uncomfortable with open discussions of sex. Men and women engaging in these conversations together would be deemed too “sexually suggestive” (yes, but that’s the whole point!). Of course, this isn’t always the case—sex advice columnists like Dan Savage do an incredible job at engaging all parties involved in discussion of the sexual act. However, for the most part, it seems obvious that we need to do more. We need to talk about sexual pleasure directly with our partners, rather than simply talk about them. I also think that men need to step up their game and start discussing and exploring sex toys, their own pleasure, and their partners’ pleasure more.

I suspect that there are currently so few sex toy review columns dedicated to men because it is assumed that male mechanics are simple. And yes, 95% of the time, it is a lot easier to get a guy off than a woman, but that still doesn’t mean that male mechanics are straightforward. Between the prostate, penis head, and scrotal sack, there’s a lot going on down there. Not to mention all the mental stimulation required to be sexually aroused, which brings up a whole other set of issues.

The truth is that it takes work to figure out which sex toys feel good alone and with a partner (or partners), which requires sleeping with people more than once or twice to develop that special (and communicative) connection. I certainly never would have been able to have that life-changing bottoming experience with my girlfriend at twenty-two if I hadn’t gotten to a place of mutual trust with her through communication first, and taken the necessary leap of faith to venture into the world of sexy toys.

Still, I am not trying to turn everyone out there into a BDSM kinkster (unless that is something that interests you—then go for it!). I do, however, want to facilitate exploration, and encourage folks to step outside their comfort zones, because when sex without toys is already pretty good, it can be tough to put in the extra physical and mental work necessary to make it great. However, the extra effort is worth it. Just like driving around in a luxury car, only to discover that it can fly, opening up your bedroom to the use of sex toys can take both you and your partner’s experience to a whole other level.

It is also fun reveling in sexual exploration, and while good sex always feels great, great sex can be therapeutic. It can bond us to others in ways we never thought possible. It can not only help you destress, but the positive effects of exploring your sexuality – elements of dominance and submission – can extend far beyond the bedroom.

So ready or not, here you cum.

 
 
Zachary ZaneZachary Zane