No Shame in the Pleasure Game
At Pure Romance we know full well that sex toys have a stigma amongst some groups. But why? These are products that are meant to bring pleasure, relaxation, and joy. It’s time to end the negativity and start thinking of the benefits that sex toys bring, but first let’s break down why there’s a stigma around it.
Research on sexual diversity in the United States shows nearly one third of men and half of women have used a sex toy in their lifetime. Recent research also discovered 65% of non-binary people reported using one during the pandemic. Despite their widespread use across all genders, they’re still heavily stigmatized.
So, why does something designed to make us feel good cause some people to feel guilty?
As a sexuality educator, I’ve heard countless judgments about sex toys being “shameful” and “embarrassing.”
Here’s an example: a good friend of mine from college ordered a box of new sex toy goodies from their favorite store. They were so excited for the box to arrive, but when it finally did, they were mortified to find out their roommate checked the mail and brought the package inside. They agonized for the rest of the day over what they should do or say to explain their purchase if their roommate asked. They even mentioned throwing the box away to “avoid further embarrassment.” Though my friend certainly didn’t owe anyone an explanation, they feared judgement so much, they considered pitching the very box that gave them so much joy to order.
Another example: a friend’s partner, who criticized her use of sex toys, thought that they might eventually replace him. “If you need to use a sex toy, clearly I’m not doing my job right,” he told her. She ended up hiding away her favorite toys and only used them secretly when he was gone for work.
While many of us might have similar stories, what if we were to rewrite our narratives? What if we let go of the pressure to shoulder the burden of external shame and, instead, embrace our worthiness for self-love? What if we boldly claim that our pleasure matters and we have the right to explore, play, discover, and (gasp) orgasm with sex toys (if we desire it and choose to).
After all, sex toys don’t sabotage our relationships or sexual health, stigma does.
So, let’s rewrite the narrative of shame surrounding sex toys with four reminders of how they are awesome, beneficial, and deserving of celebration!
Sex Toys Benefit Your Health
It might feel like a taboo topic to discuss with your sexual health care provider, but sex toys can help you lead a healthier, happier life. Think of them as a tool that can improve mental health, boost sexual functioning, and even help with sexual pain.
When you orgasm, feel-good hormones are released that encourage relaxation and inhibit cortisol, the stress hormone. Other hormones that are naturally produced at night are also released after climax, which can give you some extra help getting to sleep… talk about a bonus!
With the collective stress that we’ve all felt over the pandemic, it’s no surprise that there has been a marked increase in the percentage of Americans who have used sex. In fact, during the pandemic, a significant portion of people in both the U.S. and other countries reported masturbating more often as a form of self-care, compared to pre-isolation!
Sex toys can also increase sexual function by reducing pain. For people with vaginal pain conditions, using a vibrating sex toy can help with their treatment, in turn increasing sexual enjoyment.
Sex Toys Narrow the Orgasm Gap
By now, it might come as no surprise that there’s a gendered gap in orgasms, however, this gap is also connected to sexual orientation. According to a study on orgasm frequency across gender and sexual orientation, heterosexual women are having the fewest orgasms compared to men and women of different sexual orientations. While this finding deserves a heavy sigh, integrating sex toys into partnered sex acts can help narrow this gap.
Many heterosexual women report experiencing their first orgasm with a sex toy and research shows clitoral stimulation can increase the likelihood of orgasm for people with vulvas. So, not only do sex toys help heterosexual women prioritize their pleasure during partnered sex, it helps them explore and understand what they like and what feels good during solo-sex too. Regardless of gender and sexual orientation, sex toys can help everyone advocate for their pleasure!
Sex Toys Help with Body Exploration and Self-Discovery
I think we can agree that comprehensive sex education as a whole is woefully lacking in the US. As someone who teaches a college level human sexuality course, most of my students consistently tell me they’re unsure how to locate different parts of the penis and vulva. Also, they’ve never had formal conversations about pleasure until reaching my classroom. Many of us are disconnected from our bodies, our erotic power, and our potential for pleasure because we’re bombarded by risk and consequence-based messaging about sex.
Sex toys are a tool to help us learn about our bodies and the bodies of our partner(s) where our sex education may have failed us. Maybe you didn’t know you were capable of squirting until using an internal vibrator. Or, perhaps using goodies like collars and nipple clamps helped you indulge and embrace your kinky self. Maybe a partner(s) wasn’t sure how to pinpoint your clitoris until using an air suction vibrator.
The potential for discovery and learning goes on and on. By experimenting with different sensations, temperatures, textures, speeds, and sizes of toys, we learn how to optimize pleasure for ourselves and for others. We may also learn something exciting in the process.
Sex Toys Enhance Communication and Intimacy
Incorporating sex toys into you and your partner(s) lives can open the door to more meaningful communication and intimacy during and outside of sex.
Take the experience of purchasing a sex toy. If you’re planning to buy a toy to use with your partner(s), try buying it together. Turning the shopping experience into an intimate, partnered date or activity requires you and your partner(s) to open up to each other about what you want and don’t want in a toy. This is a perfect conversation starter for a deeper discussion on boundaries, needs, desires, and fantasies about sex and other subjects.
When partners open up, listen, and affirm each other during these moments, trust and intimacy are built. In fact, partners who are able to communicate openly about their sexual interests have enhanced satisfaction and are more likely to maintain passion and sexual excitement over time. So, experimenting with toys is a great way to add some adventure into your sex life while strengthening emotional bonds.
So, no matter how and if you celebrate today, let’s continue rewriting our stories and leaning into good vibrations.