Male Sex Toys Show Sales Increase

by David-Elijah Nahmod

South Florida Gay News

Wednesday October 2, 2013

On September 5th, X Biz Magazine, an industry resource for the adult industry, reported that sex toys targeting a male demographic had recently shown an 18 percent increase in sales.

For several decades, authors such as Susie Bright, Germain Greer and others have specialized in writing and lecturing about what they call sex positive feminism. These writers, and others, told women that it's OK to pursue and take control of their sexual fantasies. Men, on the other hand, were often encouraged to "sow their wild oats" and left to figure it out for themselves.

But all that's changing, according to Sarah Forbes-Roberts of Come As You Are, an adult pleasure emporium in Toronto. Forbes-Roberts and Carol Queen of San Francisco based Good Vibrations both chatted with SFGN on the new phenomenon of pleasure enhancers marketed towards men.

For the uninitiated, an adult pleasure shop is a business that caters to adult sexuality. While selling porn DVDs is a part of the inventory, a pleasure shop offers much more. According to Good Vibrations website, the company was founded in 1977 "to provide high quality products, education and information that promotes sexual health, pleasure and empowerment."

In addition to adult DVDs and toys, businesses such as these offer classes and workshops in which patrons can educate themselves on how to fulfill their sexual fantasies in a safe environment. Once geared primarily towards women, these shops are now adapting to the changing demographic of their customer base.

Sarah Forbes-Roberts feels that things have changed considerably across the sexual landscape, for both men and women. "I don't think 'chaste until marriage' is the cultural norm these days," she said. "Women have been writing, researching and teaching for years on exploring sexuality. Popular media moments like "Sex and the City" and "Fifty Shades" have enabled communities of women to chat openly with each other. We haven't seen cultural acceptance of heterosexual male sexuality from the grassroots."

But it's now different, Forbes-Roberts reports. Straight, gay, bisexual and transgender men are embracing their fantasies and educating themselves as women have been doing. "I think it is right across the board with men starting to see the kind of high end products that validate their ideas that sexuality is not a joke or a novelty but something precious and deserving of expense. The shift I think has been women introducing sex toys into the bedroom and gifting masturbation toys with a wink. We definitely have customers of all generations and orientations and it is pretty rare for customers to identify their orientation."

Carol Queen said the change began awhile ago. "Men have been a significant part of our customer base since the 1980s," she said. "But it's a gradual rise, nothing sudden at all. In San Francisco it's always been interesting to reach out to the gay male community, and many guys who might otherwise be interested in the products see us as too female-coded a place, even now. But we've been mindfully carrying toys for men since the 80s, and if more gay men knew how great silicone dildos were, more guys would have them!"

Of course we wondered how a male sex toy might differ from toys that women use.

"There's a lot of difference between the two," Forbes-Roberts said. "We know that although it is not a popular conception lots of heterosexual men are using vibrators on the outside of the body and prostate stimulators and general anal play with their partners. Then there are new high end toys for insertion that are more specific to male anatomy. When talking to men, many men use sex toys with their partners or on their own but the anatomy is very similar. We encourage exploration with toys. Finding all the sensitive areas on the body which may not be the obvious ones, (feet, necks, etc)."

"In terms of Good Vibrations customer base, it's really mixed," Queen said. "Lots of transmen know us, and we've been stocking dildos and harnesses for years. I'd say our male customer base is heavier on the hetero/bi men, but we do have a large gay male clientele as well. When you look at the way the adult industry packages sex toys, there is still, very obviously, a style of packaging that they intend to be attractive to gay men. It's an interesting question whether or not the 'busty porn starlet' packaging is meant to get straight men to buy, or women consumers themselves. In fact it's off-putting to many women, and Good Vibrations pioneered the idea that you could sell plenty of sex toys to happy customers without porn references on the packages."

Queen offered an amusing and fun explanation as to the change in sex toy demographics. "For partners of any gender mix, shopping for sex toys makes for a pretty great date night!"

Both women feel there should be a strong "sense of fun" when pursuing one's sexual fantasies.

"One of our values is 'nerdy fun,' " Forbes -Roberts said. "We think sex should be fun but not at the expense of someone else. Definitely there is no performance standard, we encourage being awkward and enjoying the awkward, absurd moments that sex is all about. "We can never take ourselves too seriously. We encourage exploration and gentleness and humor with our bodies and feelings."
"Some people don't have fun with sex because it's still stressful for them, with a background of shame and not enough information," said Queen. "Plenty of people still feel they are broken in some way, and it's our job to introduce them to possibility and the information they didn't get in the first place. That's when the fun can really begin, when you can relax about it and begin to figure out what you truly desire."
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