Having sex is, at least physically speaking, a relatively simple act. However, because sex is an inherently human act, it can also be hindered by the unique frailties of the human condition. In other words, we tend to make it complicated. In an era where people are much more attuned to their triggers that cause a negative response to what is perceived as benign behavior, having sex is fraught with the potential for catastrophe.
Sex Toys and Consent: How Using Them With a Partner Can Start Important Conversations
Help in ensuring this does not happen has arrived, though. Toys. Sex toys, specifically.
By creating a fun way to initiate a conversation about sharing responsibility, sex toys allow for a safe space where positive, mutually gratifying and relationship enriching sex can become routine.
The toy industry is already quite popular. Earnings are expected to top $29 billion by 2020, and ever since the “rabbit” clitoral stimulator hopped its way into the mainstream via a 1998 episode of “Sex and The City,” the modern surge in the popularity of toys in the bedroom (and elsewhere) has not abated.
However, toys aren't just devices for sensual gratification. In fact, they can be conversation starters for creating a lighthearted context to frame issues regarding consent and boundaries, an easy conduit that allows for these oftentimes difficult talks to occur.
How Sex Toys Promote Healthy Conversations Around Consent
Science reminds us that a wedge is the simplest machine, but that it succeeds because it creates dual-inclined motion. Similarly, the respectful conversation regarding the selection and consensual use of a sex toy can lead to truly impressive results for the dual forces involved in a social and sexual pairing. More so than agreeing upon how you’re going to Netflix and Chill or that you both enjoy roasted Brussels sprouts, discovering that a vibrating cock ring creates intense, mutual desire, passion and pleasure, can truly enhance the growth of a relationship.
Seventh-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes states that “[h]umans are driven by a perpetual and restless desire of power.” Male human ejaculation travels at 28 miles per hour, which is roughly enough power to sway a tree in a storm. That’s certainly enough force over an area to create the kind of relentless passion that keeps people happier, together. In other words, our sexuality and sexual functioning are powerful things.
Consider a conversation that I had at a sex shop in my mid-20s that also framed my thoughts on this topic.
“I don’t stick anything in my ass larger than my thumb,” the conversation started.
I stared at my potential mate’s long, slender fingers and noted that a) my penis was definitely wider and longer than the width and length of her finger, and b), when I looked back into her face, she had cocked her head to the left and cut an eye-rolling glance at me. It was a definite non-verbal cue that there was no way that we were going to engage in any manner of any male-to-female anal activity. Then, she turned to me.
“So, what about you?”
This question presented quite the conundrum. Deep down inside, I’d considered anal. It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I first achieved ejaculation via penile and vaginal intercourse. By my 30th birthday, due to a laundry list of intellectual stressors and emotional pressures on sex, sexuality, and my personal happiness with the quality of my sexual performance, I had, in effect, willed myself into believing that I was to remain inorgasmic for life.
I’d always thought that if I couldn’t ejaculate, that maybe relieving pressure via direct stimulation of my prostate was an idea. Initially, I figured this was only able to occur via anal sex. Plus, while in college, I’d taken a few human sexuality courses that taught that all sex, when based on safety and consent, was good sex.
“Yeah, I’m down to try it,” I timidly responded.
This sparked a conversation that lasted in the shop for 45 minutes. It included walking around and picking up all manner of vibrators, butt plugs, dildos large and small, plus consulting with the woman who worked behind the counter, who finally suggested a prostate stimulator. The technology and industry behind them were still relatively new at the time, but it seemed ideal for achieving my intended goal.
It didn’t work.
Ejaculation didn’t happen until five years later, when, while fully distracted from thinking about my inability to achieve orgasm while having sex, it happened. Even so, I know that my experience in having that initial conversation about my wants, needs and desires that derived from deciding to involve toys in my relationship, then involving them in a way that created a shared atmosphere of mutual pleasure, was important.
When discussing the need for safe, shared sexual space in a relationship, there’s tree-swaying power, plus honest human emotional and physical connectivity, at risk. Developing sustainable definitions of what constitutes consent and boundaries is important. Instead of discussing why “aggressive clitoral stimulation” is a no go, there’s something more erotic, tactile, and highly entertaining about say, picking up a rabbit vibrator, turning it on, and assessing the potential for mutual gratification. Again, a wedge is a simple machine that succeeds best because it creates dual-inclined motion. Simply put, sex toys evolve discovering consent and boundaries from a necessary challenge to the first, of likely many, pleasurable agreements.
Marcus K. Dowling is a journalist, broadcaster and entrepreneur. Recently, he's had a role in concept development, marketing, and promotion for Rewind and Decades, two wildly popular retro-themed entertainment venues in downtown Washington, DC. In the past ten years, Marcus has written for VICE, Pitchfork, Complex, Red Bull, Bandcamp, Mixmag, ESPN's Undefeated, and more. As well, he's the CEO of professional wrestling startup company Capitol Wrestling.