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Sex Toy Shaming and Bigoted Wise Cracks, FTW!

January 16th, 2014



It started with a tweet. Erin Gloria Ryan, news editor for Jezebel, tweeted a “great last minute gift.”

It was, of course, a joke. Unless you work for a sex toy company, or have a personal relationship with your boss, you probably wouldn’t buy him a sex toy. But whereas it would be a “haha, funny” joke if *I* told it, because I’m all about sex toys for all genders, it turned into a very not funny joke when David Covucci, a writer for BroBible, requested some Tenga toys for review.

As is usually the case, I found out about the sitch from yet another tweet. Nerve published an article chastising Ryan for her characterization of men who use sex toys, and I followed links to the review. (He also talks about it in a podcast, here. It’s full of nervous laughter and back patting, and around 6:39, he reiterates that sex toy users are weird, and using sex toys is a weird thing to do. Apparently, sex toy users=Quagmire on Family Guy. By the time they segued into sports, I felt a little sick to my stomach. The things I do for you…)

The review begins:

Up until seven days ago, I’d never stuck my dick inside anything other than a woman. Thirty years of living good, the only contact my penis having outside of my own hand being that of another human.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that anymore.

Because last week, I received a bunch of plastic sex toys from Japan—toys meant to recreate the feelings of blowjobs and intercourse—and fucked the shit out of them.


I feel so much shame right now.

And by the end of the second sentence, I was refilling my cup of coffee and settling in for a sex-toy-related ragefest to end all sex-toy-related ragefests. Because if there’s one thing about society and sex toys that pisses me off, it’s the shame and ignorance surrounding them. A close running second is the douchebags (of all genders) who perpetuate and reinforce that shame and ignorance.

Here’s why I’m frustrated with Mr. Covucci’s approach.

First, Tenga is a pretty kick ass company. I’ll admit, when I first heard of them (while I was working for the adult store you can’t trust), I was skeptical. At the time, the Deep Throat (priced at $9.99 at SheVibe) and similar strokers were closer to $20, and were being advertised as strictly one-use. A bunch of reviewers got their hands on them (I even bought one, but M never used it), and in most cases, they had two complaints; the material was porous so if you were inclined to use it again, and didn’t clean it thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap, it would grow things, and the price was too high for something you are technically only supposed to use once.

Tenga responded almost immediately with toys made of silicone (the Tenga Eggs and Flip Hole—listed at $89.99 on SheVibe—that Covucci also reviewed) that were easier to clean, and brought down the price of the one-use items. And for the first time since I’d first stepped into a sex toy shop, I wanted to buy a male sex toy for my partner…but most of all so I could play with it. I wanted to stick my fingers inside and see how close it feels to a vagina. (What? I am bisexual.)

Tenga deserves better than a review filled with bigoted wise cracks.

Which brings me to my second point. Bigoted wise cracks, most of which were “just jokes.” If I’m to believe the current definition, this is just part of “bro culture.” But you know what? Bro culture is disgusting. From the way “bros” say they view women to the way they talk about sex and sexuality, bro culture, as a female bisexual slut, seems like the very embodiment of misogyny.

From the intro to the closing paragraph, Covucci makes it clear he felt weird about doing this, he felt weird about the toys, and he’s worried he’ll become a loser because he used a male sex toy. Granted, this is a typical male reaction to male sex toys because today’s culture demands a man be strong, virile, and get lots of sex with women. Anything less is to be less manly, and a whole lot weird. Sleazy, even. And therein lies my problem. With the second line in his review, and his tone throughout the rest of it (and then the subsequent podcast), Covucci seems to go out of his way to reinforce this ridiculous sentiment by outright calling living without sex toys “living good,” as if heterosexual men should never want or use sex toys, but especially if they’re in a couple because they have real vaginas nearby to fuck…even if he is “just joking.”

For that matter, it seems Covucci didn’t even put any effort into finding out what, exactly, he was sticking his penis in! Though I suppose that’s his prerogative. It just seems kinda silly to me, with as attached to their genitals as cisgender men are.

Bad reviewing (very little factual information about the products, some incorrect information, and lots and lots of misleading “jokes” intended to make strokers sound frightening and shameful) and bigoted jokes aside, I can’t be too mad at BroBible because they are making an attempt to separate bro culture from rape culture, and other hateful ideology. According to an article published today on Slate, the BroBible is doing what it can to draw the line between bros and “douchebags” (among which, you’ll find rapists and gay bashers, apparently) by “celebrating the bros and shaming the douches”. And yay, that’s awesome. But from where I sit, part of that should include flipping the script. Because what a straight, white, cisgender male finds offensive is not always the same as what a woman, an LGBT person, or a person of another race or nationality will find offensive, and when we’re discussing slurs and (at best) bigoted wise cracks, the only opinion that matters is the person on the receiving end.

And I’m really pissed at Covucci (whose acquaintance I’ve only made today through his review, and then Twitter) for making me point that out. It makes me sound like those feminazis who are all “Sit down and shut up, because the only opinion, here, that matters is mine, and my opinion is straight, white, cisgender men should all bow down to all of the people they have oppressed and accept the oppressed as their lords and masters.” That is totally not what I’m about.

Bottom line: It’s great that Covucci recognized his own ignorance, and decided to give male sex toys a go. Kudos to him for attempting to open his own mind a little. However, by joining the ranks of BroBible, he put cleaning up the bros on himself, and I feel like the way he handled this test of his own sexuality negates that.

Though apparently, those of us offended are just being ridiculous, because the review was called “better than Hemingway, Hawthorne, or Faulkner,” and Covucci assures us that Tenga has been in contact with him, and they say they love his review. Thing is, most sex toy companies have learned the hard way that chastising a blogger over a product review, regardless the reason, can be brand suicide, and much to my chagrin, BroBible is a rather popular site. So even if they hated it, they’d probably tell him they love it, if only to maintain their brand image.

Is this what really happened? Who knows? I just know I was required to blow smoke up writers’ asses when I worked for a sex toy company for that very reason.

I can look beyond Covucci’s personal feelings about his relationship with sex toys. He is, after all, entitled to his opinion and sexuality. But I can’t look past Covucci’s characterization of men who use sex toys. Using sex toys does not a slimeball make. Slimeball characteristics include things like viewing women as objects placed on the earth for the pure enjoyment of men, openly labeling people who are comfortable with their sexuality “weirdos,” and taking jabs at marginalized groups and calling it a “joke.”

In response to Cuvocci’s review, Ryan felt obligated to respond, and published an article on Jezebel in which she let the reader know just how much of a joke the tweet that started the whole thing was, asking “What is wrong with your preferred jerk off hand, guys?!” Of all the misandrist bullshit…

In this day and age, when a woman goes out and gets a vibrator, she’s empowering herself, and she’s brave, and she should be proud of embracing her sexuality. But when a man uses a sex toy, he’s a “lonely fuck” and a “chairsniffer who buys used women’s underwear off eBay.”

I know scores and scores of couples who include sex toys of all sorts in their intercourse, including toys for men. I know some couples who had their own sex toy collections when they met, and the sex toys just naturally came out from the very first time they had sex. For these people, using sex toys is not about “spicing things up.” They just like sex toys.

But so what if they are a “lonely fuck” looking for stimulation other than their hand or a woman’s vagina? So what if they do like the smell of used underwear, and order it from strangers on eBay? I mean, pussy smells good, right? It’s only natural for heterosexual men to like the smell you’ll find in a pair of used panties. It’s better to be an uptight douchebag than to embrace your sexuality and singleness? It’s better to be an uptight douchebag than to take advantage of a market that has existed as long as the internet? It’s better to be an uptight douchebag than a sex toy user?

I call shenanigans. And frankly, I feel a little bit of pity for Ryan and the bros. They’re doing themselves and the people around them a grave disservice.

Categories: Rayne Tags:
  1. January 17th, 2014 at 21:45 | #1

    I remember when religion was part of all this, when religion saw sex as something extremely taboo. Now that religion is a little bit out of the way, science barged in, and started claiming all kinds of stuff. I don’t know if you realized, but people most often times don’t like to talk about “pleasure” when it comes to sex. It always have to lead to some scientific things. For example “Masturbation is good because it’s good for the health”, but so little people will just say “I love to jerk off because it feels good”. If someone actually said that, society will immediately categorize that person as someone similar to Quagmire.
    Then part of our society still thinks that sex should be something that’s done between two people. A men, and a women. Nothing more. If we need sex toys in between, well it’s because we are fucked up people that are desperate. We are looking for pleasure, which is totally not “normal” in our society.
    I don’t know…that’s what I think is happening, and it’s sad to see the society this way.

  2. Camryn
    January 19th, 2014 at 14:01 | #2

    Woohoo! I know you’re not one for censoring people, but I firmly believe that someone-him or whoever edited and/or published the post should have said, “Hey, these parts are kind of messed up. You really want that in there?” so that at least he would know it was problematic before it went online. “I felt it was okay to say ‘f****t’ in this context’ -Obviously no one suggested otherwise. I like to think that if he’d thought about it he’d have changed his mind about including that stuff. (I like to dream big ya’ll!)
    Even setting my views aside, it was not an effective review. I’ve read reviews that were more helpful on Amazon *laughs* (Granted, I’m used to awesome sex bloggers telling me what’s up.)
    That Jezebel article in response threw me for a loop. It was totally unnecessary and blatantly mocking. Why even post that?! Given their usual content it was hypocritical and sexist (Vagina knitting? Remember that?!) Instead of laughing at him, maybe you could talk about the misogyny in the post? Argh!
    The whole thing was weird. Also, damn you Gmail, for putting this on spam! I thought you’d taken that nap mid-rant after all *laughs*

  3. February 18th, 2014 at 14:06 | #3

    Frankly one of the nicest things I like about the Tenga masturbation sleeves is that they let me add something extra to my sex life with my partner. I got him a Tenga Egg (Thunder model) and it made for some phenomenal hand jobs.

  4. September 24th, 2014 at 00:14 | #4

    It’s going to be this one!

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