As a team, probably one of the longest ongoing debates we’ve had is over the use of the word ‘Guybrator’. And we know that some of our customers and reviewers have thoughts on this as well.
As today sees the launch of our latest Guybrator – JETT – we thought we’d take the opportunity to explain the thinking behind the term, and our approach to gendered language in general.
When we launched our first ever sex toy, PULSE, we created and trademarked the term ‘Guybrator’ as a tongue-in-cheek shorthand to help people quickly grasp what the toy was designed to do. At the time, most sex toys aimed at men were masturbation sleeves, and we needed a term to distinguish our unique oscillating product from the other penis-focused toys on the market.
The term was also important to us because it fitted our mission of reducing male masturbation stigma. In recent years society has warmed up to the idea of women using sex toys – with the media often presenting it as sexy and empowering – but guys using toys is still often seen as ‘weird’. ‘What’s wrong with using your hand?’ or ‘Can’t you get a girlfriend?’ cry people who don’t think that men also deserve to have enhanced pleasure through toys, or who aren’t considerate of the needs of disabled guys, or those with erectile dysfunction, who can often benefit from tools like PULSE.
So as a way to grab the attention of mainstream media and cisgender men, and tackle that stigma, ‘Guybrator’ worked really well. But there are of course other issues here: a dick vibrator isn’t just for cis men – there are many trans and non-binary people who could get enjoyment from a toy like PULSE, but may feel excluded by gendered language that makes them think it isn’t for them. So how do we solve this?
After a lot of internal discussion, we realised that the best thing to do would be to ask the experts. So we went to cliniQ, a trans-led sexual health service based in London. They offer a Wednesday evening drop-in clinic, plus counselling and holistic wellbeing services, to trans, non-binary and gender diverse people in Soho and St. Pancras. They also train organisations that would like to better serve trans customers, and we thoroughly recommend their services to other sex industry organisations.
With cliniQ we talked about ways to make trans customers feel welcome during customer support queries, and how our products could work for trans people post-medical transition. We also discussed the issue of gendered language. We explained that ‘Guybrator’ was valuable for selling our concept to men who had previously been given the message that sex toys weren’t for them, but that we didn’t want trans and non-binary people to be excluded from our offering.
The team at cliniQ pointed out that while ‘Guybrator’ certainly doesn’t work for trans women, the term could in fact be affirming for some trans masculine people, and we shouldn’t leave them out of our thinking. They recommended that rather than shutting down options when it comes to the language we use to describe our toys, we should instead think about how best to open them up, speaking directly to people of all genders to make sure they are included.
With their guidance, we’ve come up with a few core rules that will inform how we discuss our toys in future – a lot of which you’ll see implemented on our new website which will launch in a couple of months’ time.
1. Use a variety of terms for our products – penis toys, guybrators, clitoral toys, masturbators, women’s sex toys, wand toys, men’s sex toys and more – so people can see themselves among a full range of users represented on our site.
2. Expand our content to include more writing by and for trans and non-binary people.
3. Give people the option to remove gendered language if they want, to avoid causing distress for those who may prefer not to read gendered terms.
To that end, our new website will include more information about how to use our toys, with specific info for people at different stages of medical transition. We’re working with cliniQ on creating this, and planning to run workshops with some of their team and clients to make sure we’re giving accurate and pleasurable advice on using our toys.
We’ll use a variety of terms in blog posts, product pages, press releases and other materials. While not everyone will identify with every word, we hope that everyone – no matter what their gender – will see themselves represented somewhere on our site, and have a good idea of which of our toys will work best for them.
We know this isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ answer to this issue – and that some will disagree with our approach – but it’s one we’re excited to explore on our new site. We’re always open to customer feedback, and we’re especially interested in hearing from trans and non-binary customers about things they’d like to see more of.
We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with you all: learning more about how our products can work for trans and NB customers, creating more focused content for our site, and featuring more guest blogs by trans writers too. So if this is of interest to you, please do get in touch!