Michael G. sent in this image (found here via reddit) that shows two different sex toys and asks why the one generally associated with women and female masturbation is viewed as empowering and liberating, while the one usually associated with men is often seen much more negatively, and men who use it are often stigmatized. It’s Not Safe for Work.
Michael points out that the assumptions about the type of man who would use sex toys tell us something about what men should be like:
Obviously, a good straight male either has a girlfriend or has no trouble getting a date that ends in sex. He also has no interest in masturbation (or at least spending money on toys for it), and is clearly not afflicted with the great social plague of virginity.
There are a couple of interesting things going on here. It does spark some interesting discussion of how we think about male and female sexuality differently. For some people, women masturbating is a sign of their liberation–that they can admit they enjoy sex for its own sake. Using sex toys is just more evidence of this. But the only reason we can imagine a man would use a sex toy is that he can’t find a woman to have sex with. It’s assumed to be a fill-in, a sad, pathetic substitute, used only by men who can’t have “real” sex (i.e., intercourse) with an actual woman.
Of course, as Michael points out, “it would be entirely unfair to presume that the sex-positive attitude towards female masturbation is universal” (it isn’t). And this image can be read multiple ways. Is it an attempt to reduce the stigma on men’s use of sex toys? Or is it an effort to stigmatize female masturbation equally, or an expression of anger at what is perceived to be women’s increased liberation at the expense of men? My initial reading was the former, but there’s no reason to automatically assume that.
You might also look at this post about men and expensive sex dolls.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, I’m not saying most people are comfortable with female masturbation (or male masturbation, for that matter), or even female sexuality in general. But for some people, it’s become this sign of female liberation and empowerment. Think of “Sex and the City” and such shows–the women’s willingness to masturbate, use sex toys, etc., is supposed to be a sign that they are strong, independent, sexually empowered women. Many people wouldn’t agree, and of course as SarahMC points out, in some states sex toys are illegal. I’m just saying it’s a cultural message that this image is drawing on to make its comparison.
NEW! (Nov. ’09) Erin M. sent in a video review from Gizmodo of a couple of fake vaginas. The reviewer, especially by the end, clearly thinks is a gross, “shameful” product to use. It’s not liberating, it’s “dehumanizing.” But what’s the difference between this and a dildo or vibrator?