By Deirdre O’Donnell
Who Has Access to Safer Sex Toys and Why They Should Appeal to Leftists and Rightists Alike
When we think of sex toys, a word we don’t often associate with them is privilege. However, it is important to recognize that there is a very particular demographic to whom the sex toy industry is accessible. Sex toys run at expensive costs, safer sex toy shops can be difficult to locate, and knowledge about what makes a safe toy is not always at everybody’s fingertips. Sex toys can be wonderful tools for increasing pleasure during solo sexual acts or with partners, while also encouraging communication, dialogue, and sex-positivity. So it is unfortunate that it isn’t a well-known fact that erotic toys are not available to all. Not only are they inaccessible to many for systemic reasons, but they are also often stigmatized for those who can and do purchase and/or use them.
Sex toys are usually labeled by those who are in opposition to them as dirty or gross. This probably links back to upbringing and socialization that involves developing a strong “moral” compass that says producing orgasms and using sexual organs without the intent of reproduction is lustful and wrong. Therefore, sex toys are stigmatized despite their many productive qualities, since their sole purpose is for pleasure and they cannot play a role in reproduction. Sex toys should not be discredited and avoided as a subject for moral reasons, because it denies an opportunity to talk about important health issues. Many sex toys are able to spread sexually transmitted infections and pose other concerns to human health without the proper care and cleaning so therefore should be taught about in a comprehensive manner just as sex should. People are going to make bad decisions if knowledge is not accessible to them.
Not providing knowledge is a form of oppression, since information is power. Human beings have biological and psychological impulses, desires and needs. They are going to engage in sexual behavior if they decide to regardless of law or public opinion so they should be capable of doing so in the safest and most informed way. Even making sex toys illegal is not an effective or intelligent option, because then people will put things into orifices that do not belong there and are unsafe. If a sexual behavior involves a risk (and all do except for manual, organic, solo masturbation) then discussing those risks should be accepted as valid when discussed in familial and academic settings in a way that promotes safety and health. When human health is at stake, it is irresponsible to approach the issue exclusively as a moral debate, regardless of political and/or personal emotional response to the topic.
This lack of information translates into the denial of personal rights for minorities and subcultures, which have the most difficult time accessing health and pleasure information. Sex toys are either not viable options for some, or knowledge about them is limited. Both of these facts are limiting disadvantages. If sex toys were normalized and masturbation was in turn a more acceptable and talked about behavior for both categories of the sexual binary, then over time heated issues like teen pregnancy and abortion would probably not be as prevalent and in turn not as major controversies.
If information was taught about them in schools in a detailed, accessible and proud way, then this would probably limit transmission of STI’s and bacterial imbalances. Dialogue, easily obtainable education and equality in the distribution of resources are the only ways to truly create a healthy and sex-positive nation.
There are many resources available that provide cheap or free information about sex toys, sex-positivity, communication and safer sex practices. However, even this information can be limited to more privileged groups in society. In order to help redistribute information and power to the people we can; orally spread knowledge, be proud of who we are and what we represent and hold one another accountable as allies. We can have discussions about the taboo and share experiences. We can make zines and freely distribute them. We can make our own safer sex toys out of zucchinis and cucumbers with condoms over them as dildos. We can re-appropriate resources and orgasms in order to play safer and stay healthy.