Monthly Archives: October 2012

Halloween Genital Candy Spectacular

Pictured is my sexual-candy smorgasbord.

Capitalistic societies have their problems. They’re rife with income inequality, workers rights are routinely ignored, and the jobs worth doing are the ones that pay the least. But there’s something beautiful about capitalism: money motivates people to create the most bizarre and amazingly unnecessary products. The prospect of making money fuels the imagination. And our imagination is fueled by our most basic instincts (drives for sex and food). That’s why we see so many sexual sales pitches for hamburgers, chocolate, and Italian subs. (All of which my students showed me during their presentation on sexualized advertising.They know me well).

But there’s another, less remarked upon way to incorporate the themes of sex and food and that’s by creating food that’s shaped like sexual and excretory organs. Although sexual sales pitches for food have a better track record than food shaped like sex organs—which is why Hershey’s calls their candies Kisses and not Tits—genital-shaped candies do exist. So, in the spirit of Halloween, I’m surveying the genital candy universe. I’m even testing some of it out. Although no major candy company produces sex-organ-shaped candies, the fact that they exist and are purchased in large enough quantities to justify being mass manufactured, shows that they have earned a place in the dank basement of consumer culture.

Why do genitals spur this particular type of creativity? It’s because they’re so frequently eaten. Think of the verbs we use to describe oral sex. They’re very similar to the verbs we use to describe eating candy: suck, blow, lick, eat, devour.  So it feels like a natural fit. Continue reading

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Do Sex Toys Infantilize Women?

I Rub My Duckie Kitty

Is this a sex toy or a children’s toy?

Sex toy. The very name implies a childish device, something that doesn’t take sexuality seriously. While in theory this is fine, in practice the toy-ness of the devices sometimes ends up flowing through the design in a way that implies that female sexuality is infantile and frivolous.

It’s not that I want all sex toys to be realistic looking. In fact, one of the appealing things about sex toys is that they represent the cleaning up of the genitals. They’re not marred tangly pubic hair, pendulous droopy testicles, or uneven textures. But it’s worth examining why we have so many cloyingly designed genital stimulators. There is something decidedly un-erotic about many of the female sex toys on the market. It’s as if sex toy companies were focus-group testing  themes on elementary school-aged girls. Why else would we have sex toys in the shape of seahorses, kitty cats, butterflies, roses, and cupcakes?

Take the Big Teaze Toys’ I Rub My Duckie, which is, as its name implies, a rubber duck-shaped vibrator (pictured above in the Furry Hoodie Kitty version). More akin to a Polly Pocket doll than to a dildo, the I Rub My Duckie comes in a variety of personalities, including Bondage Fashionista, Sweetheart, and Pirate. Most of these come with matching removable accessories, including a feather boa for the Paris and Sweetheart ducks and a fuzzy hat for the Furry Hoodie Kitty, unfortunate accessories for devices that routinely get slathered in female sexual juices. (In all fairness, the boas and hats are removable.) With its Swarovski crystals and hard plastic exterior, the design of the I Rub My Duckie has very little to do with sexual pleasure, and everything to do with play. It’s all toy and no sex. Continue reading

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The History of Sex Toy Humor

The Delighter

Sketch of “The Delighter.” (Circa 1920s) From the National Museum of American History Archives Center Business Americana Collection

For as long as sex toys have been around, we’ve been laughing at them. But why we think they’re funny is difficult to explain. If you asked a group of people to explain why they laugh at dildos, you’d be met with blank stares. (Or you’d be forcibly removed from your family reunion. Don’t ask).

In an attempt to understand the mechanics behind sex-toy humor, I recently read Gershon Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke. In the book, Legman argues that one of the functions of humor is that it allows us to discuss taboo subjects in polite society. We can joke about sex in venues where we can’t talk seriously about it because the humor “absorbs and controls… by means of laughter, the great anxiety that both teller and listener feel in connection with certain culturally determined themes.” Following this logic, we joke about sex toys because it’s the only way that our society allows us to discuss them without facing societal repercussions.

One of the earliest records of dildo humor  is from the Greek poet Herodas, who was writing in the 3rd Century BC.  In a bawdy sketch titled Mime , a woman (Metro) is asking her friend (Koritto) where she bought her dildo. Koritto responds to Metro’s question with a rhapsodic description of her sex toys: When I saw them, my eyes swam at the sight—men don’t have such firm pricks! Not only that, but its smoothness is sleep, and its straps are like wool, not leather. As is typical of much dildo comedy throughout history, the humor is related to men’s fears of penile inadequacy, a fear that given a choice, women would prefer the smooth, perpetually hard dildo to the flawed and fallible penises of their partners. Continue reading

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