WHY MEN NEED TO USE SEX TOYS AND STOP BEING ASHAMED OF MASTURBATING
In the 1990s, Sex and The City caused cultural shockwaves (or vibrations) by honestly depicting women masturbating and using sex toys. It was seen as a huge leap forward in breaking down taboos around self-love and female sexuality.
Fast-forward almost two decades, and trends forecaster JWT Intelligence named 2017 the year of “vagina-nomics”, as pelvic floor muscle exercises, vulvar skincare, and g-spot stimulators gain popularity. Thanks to the fourth wave of feminism, women are encouraged to “talk about their vaginas and vulvas like never before, whether that’s to do with periods, health, sex and masturbation or wellbeing,” Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group, JWT, wrote in 2016.
Straight men, on the other hand, are made to feel ashamed about masturbation and using sex toys – at least according to writer Magnus Sullivan. He’s the author of Better Than the Hand: How Masturbation is the Key to Better Sex and Healthier Living. He also runs the men’s sex toy website Manshop.com. To him, it is vital that both men and women give these gadgets a try, as he believes they help to build a person’s understanding of their body and in turn helps them to a better lover.
To find out more, The Independent quizzed Sullivan on the politics of sex toys, gender, and what the future holds.
Hi Magnus, tell us a little about yourself
I’m 49 and a fourth-generation San Franciscan native. I am a professional masturbator—a career I’ve chronicled in my recent book, Better Than the Hand: How Masturbation Is the Key to Better Sex and Healthier Living.
What do men need to know about trying out sex toys?
Sex toys are the best way to become a much better lover. With toys, you can learn how to explore your entire body with greater patience and skill, understanding how to prevent immediate escalation to penis-centric masturbation. This parlays really well into appreciating your partner’s body and learning how to both relax your lover while really turning her on.
Sex toys help you break down cultural barriers in a safe, private setting and help us understand not only our bodies but our selves. Particularly for straight men, there are so many acts that compromise our concept of masculinity and ‘what it means to be a man.’ These cultural walls corral not only our behaviour, but our psyches and our sense of self. We end up being who we’re told or expected to be instead of who we want to be, and this is the cause of deep insecurity and a lack of clear identity. More important, however, is that is cripples empathy; for experience is the best route to understanding and understanding is the source of empathy. I believe that a lack of empathy due to the increasingly narrow range of acceptable behavior for straight men is the source of a lot of violence in this world. It is so easy to demonise ‘the other’ when you don’t understand them and fear them.
Toys can also help men learn to delay orgasm, remain hard after orgasm, and have multiple orgasms. Once you get over this mental hump and you experience this, you’re no longer worried about ejaculating too quickly, losing your erection or not getting an erection.
Current trends are towards remote interactivity, like controlling a device via the internet or via bluetooth at close range, more realistic flesh-like textures, interactive and artificial intelligence elements including virtual reality and talking, quasi-interactive dolls and or robots. Women’s toys are already so far ahead of men’s toys that there’s a bit of catching up to do.
2017 will be ‘year of vagina-nomics’ thanks to women sex toy makers
For instance, while men seem to want more life-like interactivity from their sex toy – full size, robotic sex dolls – I’ve never heard a woman say she wished her vibrator could talk to her.
What is your view of sex toys taking over from having sex with a real person?
This is already the case for some, I’m sure, and it will likely increase as straight men struggle to integrate into a world where simply being straight and white doesn’t automatically imbue you with power – despite present circumstances. We could see more of what’s playing out in Italy and Japan—an increasingly sexless society—or we could see the broader acceptance of toys, sexuality and the increased effectiveness in preventing and fighting STDs lead to another sexual awakening. Like everything else right now, things are at a tipping point—and I’m doing my part to ensure that more people are having more sex with themselves and others.
Do you think men who are worried about trying anal or using sex toys are struggling with internalised homophobia and seeming ‘gay’?
Of course. This is a huge fear for many straight men. What would it mean to enjoy it? What would it mean to even explore it? What would I do if I did enjoy it? As the treatment of Donald Trump showed, it is more acceptable for straight men to sexually assault women than it is for them to explore all aspects of pleasure in a consensual way. The box of behaviour for straight men is frighteningly narrow, and this negatively affects not only men, but the people and the world around them.
You write that men feel shame when it comes to masturbating. Do you think it’s useful to frame this argument in a way where women are regarded as ‘liberated’ and men as not, or is this issue more complex?
Like all behaviour, it gets increasingly complex as you get increasingly granular. Dissecting my personal relationship with masturbation and how family, culture, psychology and experience all collide to create my unique perspective and experience would be a daunting task—and equally daunting to do the same for you. But part of my puzzle is my role as a straight cis male living in America in 2017, and there is clearly a huge difference in the dialogue and culture around masturbation for men than there is for women. My main point is that the door for women is much wider and more inviting for women than it is for straight men. That doesn’t mean all women walk through that door or that is easy for them to do it, but the entry is mapped, known, and people return from the other side to talk about it and share their experience.
Sex worker turns his life into a play on laws, prostitution and men
Women have 50 years of impassioned critical thinking that support and contextualise this sexual pilgrimage in a positive way. While gay men have perhaps the most sophisticated and progressive dialogue around sexuality and identity, straight men have not embraced or benefited much from this progress. In general terms, masturbation has been successfully recast for women as part of an empowered life. This is not the case for straight men. In general, men are very ashamed of their habits, worried what others will think of them, worried that certain acts, if known, will have huge social consequences. In general, women ‘own’ their bodies more than straight men own theirs. In general, women are much more comfortable owning toys, talking about them and incorporating masturbation as a healthy part of their lives. It is very ironic to say this when so much of our culture objectifies and stereotypes women, but in this area, straight men are in the dark ages and women have at least has their enlightenment.
Do you think that men and women are repressed in different ways? For example, it is regarded as normal for teenage boys to masturbate, whereas it is shameful for girls. Men also talk more openly about watching porn.
Again, I think we’re all repressed in different ways. But certainly straight men and women have very different experiences of sexuality in our culture. As I write in the book, I don’t think most men have a clue how difficult it is for women to retain and develop a healthy sense of self in a world that tells them every day that they’re flawed. Everywhere women look and often in their day to day interactions, they are sexualised and trivialised in ways that men rarely experience, let alone understand.
Even now, we have rampant slut-shaming at best and rape and extreme violence at worst. Straight men cannot begin to understand what it is like to live in that world and retain a positive and healthy outlook towards oneself, sex, relationships and humanity. One of the great misconceptions, however, is that somehow male sexuality is accurately represented and male needs are adequately met in this world. Just because a version of male sexuality seems ever-present doesn’t mean anyones needs are being met. So most straight men live in the sexual and emotional straight jacket that the media custom-fits for their particular insecurities around masculinity. Is it any wonder there’s a problem?
Do you think the shame surrounding male masturbation comes down to the content of pornography, and a fear that women have that their partner will try to emulate sexually aggressive moves?
Although you might be right about some women fearing that aggressive porn will lead to unwanted aggressive sex, I’ve never hear this from women. The issues that have been more relevant are tied to a sense of betrayal as desire is directed towards someone that is not them, that does not look like them, that does not do the things in bed that they do. It can also be tied to a sense that any redirection of desire compromises the fidelity of intimacy: and this is strongly tied our a culture of monogamy. Similarly, there’s a sense that if you desire another, you must not really desire me. A surprising number of women I spoke to acknowledged that being desired is the primary erotic trigger for them. Like monogamy, this works only so long as you’re the only object of desire. Finally, I think many women want to be involved and included. This, for many, is both the source and sign of intimacy, so when they’re excluded from such an intimate and important part of their partner’s life, it feels like a betrayal of intimacy.
What it the biggest misconception about male masturbation?
That masturbation is in any way a reflection of your overall identity. We’ve got to de-couple pleasure from sexual identity. We’re highly sexual animals. We’re literally built for pleasure and we should enjoy it, shame free. Masturbation should be considered as an opportunity for creative sexual brainstorming and seen as a pathway for personal growth, health and sexual prowess rather than as a quick, reclusive act of quiet desperation.
Clelia is another busty Brit who has recently posed for Zoo Magazine. Do you like her? I do.