Sex Toy Shaming and Bigoted Wise Cracks, FTW!
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.