A Very Brief Look at Sex Toys in Popular Culture

Despite its problematic elements (and OH GODS there are a lot, TW for biphobia, transphobia and racism in that link,) Sex & the City was groundbreaking for its time. In 1998, when the episode “The Turtle and the Hare” aired featuring the women discovering the Rabbit sex toy, a frank discussion of vibrators on a prime-time, hugely popular TV show was a big deal. A few years later came The L Word – queer women’s answer to Sex & the City, which I devoured when I was in my late teens, low-key ridiculous though it undoubtedly is. Alice asks her girlfriend Dana to penetrate her with a strap-on. Sex toys then feature as a recurring theme throughout their relationship.

DivaInner G-Spot Rabbit vibrator with box, for a post on sex toys in popular cultureBut let’s face it, the portrayal of sex toys in popular culture hasn’t been hugely positive.

In the fairly recent past, sex toys in movies and TV were treated as the butt of a joke. 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, for example, famously opens with Janey getting caught masturbating by her entire family (and for some reason a few random children and a priest.) The idea of a woman masturbating – especially a geeky, not-classically-beautiful young woman – is supposed to be hilarious in itself. The “Rabbit” episode of SATC depicts Miranda’s friends shaming her for using a vibrator instead of having sex with a man. (“You can’t take it home to meet your parents!”) Later they stage an intervention to stop Charlotte using hers, treating her like an addict.

In The L Word, Dana’s shame around using toys is an ongoing theme in the depiction of her relationship with Alice – including a cringe-inducing scene where they go through airport security. (“Yup. Nipple clamps.”) Later, a jilted Alice dumps out a box of toys in front of Dana and her new girlfriend, who recoil in disgust. It’s a dildo, guys! It’s not going to hurt you!

Thankfully, things are starting to improve.

The wonderful Sense8 features a beautiful scene of two women having sex using a strap-on dildo. Netflix’s Grace and Frankie feature the two main characters trying to design sex toys for women over 60 – and older women’s sexuality is not treated as gross or as a joke. And, of course, Broad City’s pegging scene became such an instant classic that there is now a line of sex toys themed around the show.

This is all a great start. I’d really like to see more positive portrayals of sex toy usage in popular media going forward. Give us joyful depictions of female masturbation, divorced from shame or guilt or narratives about being addicted, a nymphomaniac, or unable to find a man. Give us sex scenes in which partners reach for toys and no-one thinks it’s weird, gross or offensive. I’d even like to see vibrators casually sitting on female characters’ night stands without it being a big deal.

Popular culture has begun to catch up, but still has a way to go in the sex positivity realm.

Luckily, sex toys themselves have (s0metimes) improved tremendously in the last twenty years. The infamous 1998 SATC “Rabbit” is made of some kind of translucent jelly material, which is certainly not body-safe. Jelly toys are softened with phthalates, plasticiser chemicals which are now banned in children’s toys in many countries as they are known carcinogens. They’re also horrible for the environment! Unfortunately, the adult product industry remains largely unregulated, allowing unscrupulous manufacturers to keep making cheap, dangerous sex toys. There have been documented cases of people getting chemical burns in their genital area from unsafe toys!

Fortunately, there are reputable adult brands out there dedicated to offering body-safe and eco-friendly toys. DIVAINNER is one of them, creating intimate products of the highest standard such as this fab G-Spot Rabbit, out of exclusively premium, body-safe materials such as non-porous, phthalate-free silicone! Despite the silly stereotypes, it’s impossible to get addicted to a sex toy – so you can let go of your inhibitions and have as much fun as you want.

This post was commissioned by DivaInner and first appeared on their blog. Featured image is property of DivaInner. All opinions, as ever, are my own. Want to see YOUR company, brand or product on these pages? Get in touch!

[Offsite] The Five Biggest Lies I Was Told About Sex…

…And You Probably Were Too!

I’m honoured to be featured again as a guest writer for the excellent Exhibit A, talking lies we were all fed about sex, love and relationships. Here’s the teaser…

We are all fed toxic beliefs about sex and relationships from the time we’re tiny. Whether it’s parents, the church, teachers, your peers or crappy internet porn teaching you these things, they’re almost impossible to escape. Here are some of the most toxic, thoroughly busted by Yours Truly.

  1. “Your first time will be the best sex of your life.”

Why It’s Told: We live in a society where (female, or those read as female) virginity is highly prized and highly commodified, and where woman/vulva-owning people are not supposed to enjoy sex or seek it out for its own sake. Setting up sky-high expectations for the mythical perfect ‘first time’ puts young women under huge pressure to find the ‘right person’ and effectively serves as a warning. If it’s with the ‘wrong’ person, we’re told, we will miss out on the One And Only Opportunity to have The Best Sex Of Our Lives.

Read the whole post here.

[Offsite] Pegging with CK and Exhibit A

I can’t believe I forgot to link to this one! Exhibit A and I co-authored a piece on everything you need to know about pegging (and probably a few things you didn’t!)

A close up of some colourful clothes pegs hanging on a washing line. For post about pegging.

Here’s the teaser

EA: Right, ok! So pegging. It might be useful to start with a bit of context here. At Eroticon, we discussed the possibility of you writing a guest post for me, and a few days later you suggested pegging as a potential topic. Can you explain a bit about why you landed on that, and what you had in mind?

CK: I thought of it while writing a post for my blog on my top 5 favourite sex toys (GOD it was hard to limit that to five!) and ended up picking my strap-on as one of them. I’m bi but tend to end up dating more male-bodied people (just a symptom of there being more straight men than queer women around I guess!) and pegging is something I’ve quite recently discovered but really fallen in love with. Beyond the act itself I’m also interested in the power dynamics and the questions around gender roles that it throws up.

Read it all here.

Note: the image in this post was offered under Creative Commons Licensing.

[Offsite] Guest blog for Kayla Lords: “Abuse, D/s and the Art of Knowing the Difference.”

I was honoured to be asked by the amazing Kayla to guest blog for her site. After sharing some of my story with her when we met at Eroticon, the topic became obvious.

Here’s the teaser of ‘Abuse, D/s, and the Art of Knowing the Difference’:

We’ve all seen the lists. The ‘if your partner ticks more than five of these behaviours then you’re being abused’ lists, that is. There are many of them available online, so I’ve pulled out the one that helped me to leave my last abuser for the examples used here. Anything listed is far from exhaustive and ultimately, if your relationship makes you feel unhappy or unsafe, you should start thinking about making a plan to leave.

Read the whole post here.

[Offsite] Guest blog for Girl on the Net on Female Orgasm Denial

Today I am immensely proud and privileged to have had a guest blog accepted and published by Girl on the Net. This is a big deal for me for two reasons: first, I love GOTN’s work and I’m full of joy that she likes something of mine too. Second, this marks the first time I’ve been paid to write about sex. (Also, I was inspired – dared? – to send the pitch by GOTN’s amazing panel on pitching at Eroticon.)

Here’s the teaser (heh) of ‘Female Orgasm Denial (or: Why I Get Off on Not Getting Off)’:

‘Don’t stop… please don’t stop… I’m going to…’

‘No you’re not.’ The vibrator is yanked away. I cry out in frustration as my clit pulses with need and my cunt clenches in anticipation of the orgasm it’s been denied.

He does it again. And again. And fucking again. I am ready to cry with desperation, ready to promise anything in exchange for release.

Read the whole post here.

[Offsite] My work in Exhibit A’s International Women’s Day Special

My erotic vignette Four Minutes featured in Exhibit A’s International Women’s Day fantasies special alongside work from The Other Livvy, Hannahlects, @19Syllables and several other anonymous authors.

Here’s the teaser:

A lot can happen in four minutes.

It’s long enough for him to sidle up behind me as I’m towelling off after my shower, him already dressed and ready for the day. Long enough for him to slide a hand along my hip, over my still-damp stomach, and up to grab a nipple between his fingers. To squeeze, hard enough that I bite my lip but not hard enough to elicit that squeak I know he loves…

Read it all here!