Oscillation envy

If I’m to write with any regularity for The Vibe, I feel like I should get something off my chest. I think it’s a pretty typical feeling, one that many men share, but if I’m going to be blogging for sextoys.co.uk I should probably be honest about it.


I’m occasionally intimidated by sex toys.

I use them, with aplomb, technical ability and flair, even if I do say so myself. But it’s hard – given their primary function – not to sometimes feel threatened. It stems more from what they can do than what they represent. If I could oscillate my penis at 1000 rpm I’d feel more… competitive, but so far I haven’t even figured out which muscles to flex.

It’s connected to a fundamental insecurity that men and women share. We cannot – invasive and dangerous surgery aside – change the physical aspects of our sexual nature. The puberty fairy – that capricious bitch – comes around and leaves you with a set of secondary sexual characteristics, and that’s your lot.

Which would be all right, except that we are told – sometimes subtly, most times not so subtly – that some physical characteristics are better than others. What we’re supposed to want varies, but a general rule of thumb for men is that bigger is better.

So the knowledge that you ain’t the biggest, or the pertest, or the most bootylicious, can be a sharp prod to the old ego balloon.

A very basic theory of psychology states that our self esteem is decided in part by the difference between two perceptions of ourselves. Our ‘ideal’ self is the thing we want or feel we ought to be, and it’s decided not just by us but by the society around us. Our ‘real’ self is basically just that – the self we see in the mirror. If the gap between these two selves is large – if we don’t think we’re anywhere near the ‘ideal’ we’ve set for ourselves – then our self-esteem is probably poor.

The problem with the idealisation of the sexual is… well, without doing something drastic, you can’t change your ‘real’ self. And the ‘ideal’ self is a fluid and unattainable concept. Even if you’re big, there’s always someone bigger. Even if you’re pert, there’s always someone perter.

Ed O’Nist’s informative primer on penis size might address some of these insecurities, partly by pointing out that bigger isn’t always better (sometimes it’s downright painful), and that on average, we’re all fairly similar. It ain’t what you got, it’s what you do with it that counts.

But, for me at least, sex toys affect these same insecurities. If you’re unsure about your penis size it’s understandable that you’d be somewhat uneasy about a dildo that’s twice ‘the man you are’. So unless you consider yourself absolutely untouchable in the sack you might also be threatened by a toy that does something you never could. There’s my aforementioned non-oscillating penis issue, for one.

During the early part of the sex toy boom many items were advertised as ‘men replacements’ (I’m looking at you, Rampant Rabbit). When it’s described like that, it’s hard not to feel… emasculated, even redundant. And you ladies can stop smirking at the back, because this issue is likely to become more inclusive. It’s easy to spot the link between vibrators that do things men can’t and a crisis of masculinity. But with the growing popularity of male masturbators, might women one day be threatened by a Fleshlight?

I spoke to one of my lesbian friends, and she give me a sympathetic look and a head shake (I get that a lot). She wasn’t threatened by sex toys at all. I pointed out – rather churlishly, it must be said – that this was perhaps because no ‘aspect’ of her was being replaced. She countered (after a fully justified smack in the face) that it’s not the how of sexual contact that matters to her and her partner, it’s the why and the what. They’re both looking to satisfy and entertain their better half. How they get there isn’t so important. And even with the most inventive sex toys in the world, you’ll always have more variety with a partner, “if only to get the angles right”.

She also pointed out that sex is about more than the dash to orgasm. “You can’t have skin on skin contact with a dildo.” And when you put it like that, even a sex toy that totally replaces an aspect of you – even one that outdoes you in the vital statistics  –  can’t really compete. I still can’t frantically oscillate my penis, but a bullet vibe hasn’t got my sparkling wit. It can’t cook a steak, or plot a graph, or summarise a movie. It’s a specific tool with a specific function, and as soon as I pick it up, it’s my tool.

So perhaps the best way to stop being intimidated by sex toys is to just embrace them. The whole ‘bigger is better’ stereotype is simplistic, redundant and counterproductive, and we all rationally know this is true. So it seems like a waste of time to apply it to bits of plastic and silicone. You shouldn’t feel like you’re losing out in comparison, because you’re comparing enitrely dissimilar things.

Sex toys needn’t be a challenge to your ‘real’ self. They could be a part of your ‘ideal’ self instead. Everybody wins, and I can cease my oscillating-penis training regime, which in all honesty is becoming a burden.

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