What would you do if someone found one of your sex toys? It’s probably going to depend a lot on the person. Your prudish Aunt Mabel finding a masturbator under your living room sofa is probably going to react differently to your best friend, who already owns six themselves and will only be judging you on the quality. But are sex toys really as embarrassing as people would have us think?
Last week a cute viral story about a girl whose dad found her vibrator got us thinking about masturbation stigma. Sure, it’s not ideal to get a text from your old man saying ‘I found this. Do you want it keeping?’ but surely the fact that she owned one for him to find means that people are getting less embarrassed about owning sex toys. Twenty years ago, when you had to buy vibrators and male masturbators from physical shops, then walk out with a paper bag tucked under your arm, there was a much bigger barrier to owning a sex toy. These days you can buy sex toys online without ever having to have a conversation about which one might do it for you best.
As Lux Alptraum wrote in Motherboard recently, on the topic of online porn – it’s unlikely that the internet is creating brand new, kinky desires where before people never had them. It’s far more likely that people who already have those desires are suddenly able to find new outlets for them.
“If the idea of rough sex leaves you completely cold, it’s unlikely that stumbling on Kink.com in your twenties is going to totally shift your view. If you’re into it, you’re into it; if you’re not, you’re not. While there’s some room for exploration and evolution, 180-degree shifts in sexual tastes are really pretty rare.
“What is plausible, on the other hand, is that the internet’s made people with an incipient interest in BDSM and kinky sex more comfortable owning up to it and exploring it.”
Sex toys aren’t unusual
One of the key drivers in people thinking something is ’embarrassing’ or ‘shameful’ is the idea that it isn’t normal – that somehow you’re the only one (or one of a very limited number of people) doing this particular thing. The more unique and ‘weird’ something seems, the higher the potential stigma attached to it.
But sex toys are no longer unusual. Really, they’re not. Last year a survey conducted for Channel 4 – the Great British Sex Survey – asked people about their kinks and desires. Number one on their ‘fetish’ list was sex toys. Let’s leave aside the question of whether or not liking sex toys counts as a fetish, what the programme discovered is that sex toy usage in the UK has rocketed since more people were able to buy them online, and they’re no longer just seen as something to use on your own.
Want some more stats about sex toy use? John Millward’s analysis of Lovehoney sales data is a seriously fun read. In it he reveals that
- If you laid every butt plug, dildo and vibrator sold in 12 months end-to-end, they’d stretch from Lovehoney’s warehouse in Bath all the way to Gloucester.
- Lovehoney has dispatched about 120,000 cock rings in the last 12 months. If these were combined into one Godzilla-sized cock ring, it could (with the necessary permit) encircle the Empire State Building twenty times.
Even better news? This analysis was published in 2014, and since then sex toy sales have risen even further. In June this year, Lovehoney explained that sales of male masturbators have risen 72% in the last two years.
What to do if someone finds your sex toys
There are a few things you can do if, like the woman in the original article, someone finds your sex toys. Whether it’s a male masturbator, a vibrator, a butt plug, or something cooler like PULSE.
- Act surprised, as if someone must have snuck in and planted the sex toy in your house.
- Make up a lie about what it is – the PULSE II SOLO is cool-looking enough that it could pass for a piece of coffee-table art, or perhaps a Jamie Oliver cooking gadget.
- Shrug your shoulders and say ‘yeah, it’s pretty good.’
We hope you’ll go for option 3, because the more people who do, the quicker we erode the stigma around owning sex toys – and male masturbation in particular. If something makes you feel good, gives you the power to have a hands-free orgasm, and enhances your sex life whether alone or with a partner, we think it’s worth giving that thing credit. After all, whoever’s asking about them might just be curious enough to pick up a sex toy of their own. And not only will there be less masturbation stigma in the world, there’ll also be a little bit more joy.