Let’s Talk About Sex Toys, Shame, and Ableism

by Cam Fraser // November 11 // 0 Comments

Whenever I talk about sex toys, I typically receive a comment like this:

I don't want to shame anyone for their opinions and I'm not encouraging dogpiling, but I do want to use this comment as an opportunity to educate. A common argument I hear from people who are anti-sex toys is that these "machines" are not natural. For example:

If we take natural to mean "existing in nature," then I am not sure this argument is very solid. Because, in the wild, long-tailed macaques have been observed masturbating by stimulating their genitals with stones (Cenni et al., 2020). McLennan and van Dijk (2021) also observed a wild chimpanzee using a plastic bottle as a masturbatory tool.

The oldest human sex toy discovered is believed to be 28,000 years old. The stone phallus was discovered at Hohle Fels Cave in Germany (Conard & Kieselbach, 2006).

So the use of toys seems to be natural. Of course, this doesn't necessarily extend to using motorised vibrations. This is where we need to consider what argument is being made here.

It is argued that vibrating sex toys desensitize the genitals, but research doesn't fully support this. Genital desensitization has been reported by some women, but it is largely described as mild and transitory (Herbenick et al., 2009). Similarly, given the continuous restructuring of female genital nerve beds, it is unlikely that vibrator use could result in long-term genital desensitization (Prause et al., 2012).

However, there is another layer to this argument that is necessary to address. If sex toys are unnatural and shouldn't be used because of this, where do we draw the line?

Our phones are unnatural yet we use them to send and receive messages every day, including typing and replying to these comments. Have people who send emails lost the "personal and sacred" element of writing letters?

Our cars are unnatural yet we use them to travel places almost every day. Have the people who drive lost the "personal and sacred" element of walking?

What about people with impaired mobility or who can't use their hands? Many people with disabilities need to use sex toys when masturbating. Labelling sex toy users as "creepy" and "sad" is an ableist way of thinking about masturbation and pleasure. Consider listening to these podcasts for more information about this:

As I mentioned, this is not about shaming anyone for their preference. I saw this comment as a teachable moment because if one person has this opinion it is likely that others share it.

There is nothing wrong with using sex toys and you are not any less of a sexual being for using them. I do notice a lot of shaming of specifically men and male sex toys in the communities I am a part of and this is something I plan to address in a future blog post.

Enjoy your self-pleasuring, regardless of what it looks like!

Cam Fraser is a Certified Professional Sex Coach and Certified Sexologist. Being a former Tantric Yoga Teacher, his work integrates scientifically validated, medically accurate information about sexual health, with sacred sexuality teachings from the mystery traditions. As a coach, he helps men go beyond surface-level sex and into full-bodied, self-expressed, pleasure-oriented sexual experiences free of anxiety or shame.

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