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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

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Sex toys get luckier than traditionalist men

Abigail Cutler
Erica Barbay and Brandon Zeh shop at VaVaVoom on Broadway Street in Asheville.

Women’s orgasms go unprioritized due to deeply rooted toxic masculinity, which causes some men to avoid the attempt of their partner’s orgasm, sex shop employee said. 

“I feel like there’s such an irony of there being a conversation about cis-men not trying very hard and not asking women, ‘Is this good? Do you like this?’ They just focus on getting themselves off and then when some things come into the situation where it’s a toy to help the woman, suddenly they’re like, ‘Woah, am I not good enough?’” VaVaVoom Client Sales Specialist Emma Doerr said. “It’s like, ‘Well, you weren’t trying before but now that I want to bring in this other thing, you think you’re not good enough.’” 

She said when couples go into the store together, some men are typically looking for something that can be used solely in the partnership while women usually look for toys that can be used both in the relationship and by themselves. 

AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor Jamie Brazell said she thinks it would be beneficial to couples if the two people involved could go to a sex shop and each pick out something they could use together and by themselves. 

Licensed Outpatient Therapist Amanda Stem said women can introduce toys simply by suggesting their partner watches them masturbate to exemplify how it makes them feel good. 

“Using sex toys with partners can be a really vulnerable thing and when we’re vulnerable, we’re kind of giving up, sort of, our control in a situation,” Stem said. “Have access to that parasympathetic nervous system by maintaining a little bit of control while still being with your partner. It’s a safe way to introduce (sex toys). It’s a soft landing.” 

Brazell said a great method of introducing sex toys into the relationship is by using Sex Columnist Dan Savage’s ideology: partners don’t have to feel the need to rush into using the toy together immediately, and they can play around with the idea in stages. 

“You can first just let the person know you wanna get there, knowing they want to get there too because they’re into it. Then, try experimenting with just having them know that you’re doing it (masturbating with a sex toy),” the sex therapist said. “Text them when they’re not in the house. Then, have them know that you’re doing it while they’re in the house. And then have them get closer and closer to the door. This can be multiple sessions and take a period of time.” 

Doerr said sex toys are comrades not enemies, and some men don’t understand that due to how traditional masculinity norms appear. 

“I think that there is a lot to the dominant culture about masculinity that produces harmful messages,” Brazell said. “There’s some type of performance aspect for the other males. They care more about what these other men think more than they do about this woman.” 

She said a lot of men think they’re not doing things right during sex and might feel eventually irrelevant, especially since sex toys are transgressive to male dominance in sexual relationships.

“I think that there are plenty of men out there who really want to please their partners and not just for their egos, but they still fall into a lot of insecurities and doubt around thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t do this (the function of the toy).’ Well-meaning, well-intended but misinformed.” 

Doerr said she witnessed sexual male dominance in VaVaVoom when a man tried pulling his partner into the store and coercing her into being interested in incorporating sex toys in intercourse, solely for the purpose of increasing his pleasure. 

“If they don’t want to do it, it’s not going to feel good,” said the VaVaVoom employee. Asheville Psychotherapist Wendy Eliot said in order to prioritize pleasure, communicating with sexual partners is the most beneficial and what she sees most in her work. 

“So much of being able to say what I want requires me to know what feels good. The baby steps to this is knowing if I’m going to use this toy, what feels good for me, first. And then, how do I know that I trust this person to communicate that to them?” she said. 

Eliot said she compares it to giving a neck massage to herself versus someone giving her one: she knows what feels good, so it’s all about feeling comfortable asking for more or less pressure or for a change. 

“If I ask for something to be different, like the angle of a toy or speed of a toy, have I interrupted the hot, erotic spontaneousness of this experience? It’s kind of about overcoming that societal norm or expectation,” she said. 

Stem said boundaries and consent are her main focus when it comes to communicating with partners. She said it’s important to respect if one person involved changes their mind about a sexual activity, too. 

“Say ‘yes’ to the things we want to say ‘yes’, and say ‘no’ to the things we want to say ‘no’ to,” Eliot said. “I think so much of it is about communication. I think about how pressure and expectation are the death of eroticism, so go into it slowly, playfully and intentionally without any specific expectation except to discover what feels good.”

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