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The giveaway is open world wide, and winners will need to contact me within 48 hours of being emailed. The book is being shipped directly from CleisPress.
Excerpt from “What Should We Call Sex Toys?” by Epiphora
I use the term automatically: sex toys. That’s what they’ve always been to me. As a sex toy reviewer, I spend most of my waking hours researching, photographing, testing, and writing about them. The term is commonplace, innocuous—in my seven years of blogging, I’ve never questioned it. Yet each day, as I wade through press releases and peruse manufacturer websites, I see that the universe seems hell-bent on introducing new alternatives into the vernacular.
While others might cry “semantics!”, I think that the words we use to describe things have an impact on how they are perceived. In the case of the sex toy industry, where we have to claw and fight to even be seen as legitimate at all, this is immensely important. I do not believe that, as Shakespeare famously wrote, a sex toy by any other name would feel as good. Call something a “dong” and nobody will want to put that inside themselves.
The trend probably started with manufacturers wanting to distance themselves from the term “novelty.” Understandably so: it’s an old-fashioned industry word that no longer applies. It sounds trivial and frivolous. Novelties are silly, laughable trinkets from Spencer’s that end up in the garbage. When I hear the word “novelty,” I picture a windup vulva. Although I definitely need a windup vulva for my office, such a product is not in the same league as a $150 rechargeable silicone vibrator that comes with a sleek gift box, satin storage bag, and warranty.
Thankfully, we’re also hearing less and less of the term “marital aid,” with its heteronormative connotations and undercurrent of shame. But in eschewing outdated terms such as these, companies are overlooking the most basic and unambiguous replacement.
If you read my blog on a regular basis, you’ll notice that I prefer to call things by their proper names. I correct and challenge coy idiots who use phrases like “C-spot” instead of clitoris, “big O” instead of orgasm, “battery-operated boyfriend” instead of vibrator, “dilly” instead of dildo, and so on. Therefore, I like the term “sex toys” because it is straightforward. It is not a euphemism. It is specific and unwavering. Sex toys are simply toys meant for play, for use during sexual activity.
At least that’s what I thought. When I engaged my boyfriend in this debate, he asked whether “sex” is too narrow, whether it implies a partner. I’ve always considered the word to be all encompassing, but I can see his point. Still, every other option for that slot falls short.
These days it is hip and trendy for companies to come up with their own cutesy little terms—“pleasure objects,” “erotic toys,” “love toys”—that are clearly marketing ploys more than anything else. But this clogs the industry with superfluous terms. We could play mix-and-match all day with these words, but the bottom line is that something will always be the dominant term, and I don’t particularly want that dominant term to become “pleasure products.”
I’m not opposed to the idea of pleasure, obviously—and I do like the way “pleasure” refers to what a toy does, rather than when it is used. However, I feel that when we replace “sex” with “pleasure,” we are sugarcoating, somehow rejecting “sex” as not representative of what we want to say. It seems like an aversion to the word “sex,” which is the last thing we need. It’s also less specific. “Pleasure” is much more broad, and then you tack “products” onto it and suddenly you could be referring to great music, delicious food, really comfortable couches…
The word “toy” comes with its own baggage, of course. In a certain context, it implies something childish and unimportant. You could argue that it is itself a euphemism. Yet despite these less than stellar connotations, I think it works better than “product” or “object”—words that sound sterile and generic, like jugs of all-purpose cleaner sitting on a shelf. They are not associated with anything in particular.
“Toy,” on the other hand, is associated with a feeling. Not just any feeling, but a feeling that I am trying, time and again, to convey to people. Sex toys are not just mechanical devices that will get in the way of sex. They are not ominous gadgets that will turn your girlfriend into a vibrator-wielding recluse. They are toys, meant for adding playfulness and fun to your sex life. They inspire creativity and improvisation. In our sex-negative culture, where to enjoy sex (especially as a woman) is somehow blasphemous, this is essential.