Straight Men Need Sex Toys, Too

The sex toy market for heterosexual men has been limping along for awhile now

My first experience with a male masturbator wasn’t a good one. Frankly, none of my encounters were, but my first was definitely the worst. I’d just been shipped my first-ever Fleshlight, the world’s best-selling male masturbator and was beyond excited to try it. I lived with my parents at the time, so when they left the house one afternoon, I eagerly ran upstairs, opened my toy box and uncovered the Fleshlight buried under some Batman figures.

I sat in bed examining the device. My first impression was that it is definitely larger than a flashlight, the non-assuming object the toy is modeled after. I proceeded to watch some porn and absentmindedly plopped the Fleshlight on my member. The sensation was...excruciating. Blinded by the excitement, I’d forgotten to lube up prior to penetration. After one resistant pump, I immediately removed the Fleshlight and inspected my penis in fear I’d severed my foreskin.

Luckily, I hadn’t. But my opinion of male masturbators was forever scarred. Each experience that followed was no better. Even with copious amounts of lube, I found the Fleshlight and other male masturbators (“sleeves,” “pumps,” “strokers,” whatever you choose to call them) always paled in comparison to my hand, which didn’t cost a penny. It’s also quiet and doesn’t require storage—or potential embarrassment in its discovery.

Masturbators are often made of silicone, rubber or rubber-like materials, which tend to tug on the sensitive penile skin. Not a sensation you’re looking for when getting off. And while vibrating sensations can be deeply satisfying, these features often require a bulkier device, which further removes the intimacy from skin-on-skin contact. As for the masturbator’s eclectic textures, which are designed to delicately tickle the shaft, I’ve never once felt a difference. At least not enough of one to warrant a purchase. Lastly, witnessing a non-human device swallowing your dick can be jarring.

I’m not alone in feeling this way, reviews on Amazon cite these same shortcomings. For example, the first review on the Pink Lady Fleshlight model—the device to pop my sex toy cherry—is rated one star. “This product has so much hype, but fell so so short of expectations,” they write. “Regardless of the lubricant used, it was rough and felt like it was giving me a friction burn...and there was so little texture on the inside...the grip was exactly as they promised, but that was about it. It was not, my friends, as good as the real thing.” Of course, there are fantastic five-star reviews as well. Different strokes for different folks.
There’s still this idea that a man who masturbates a lot is a reclusive loser, while a woman who masturbates is sexually liberated and desirable.
Did you know that 75 percent of Americans own dildos? And that they were voted the second most effective device in achieving orgasm, bested only by the vibrator? Here’s something you definitely don’t know: When broken down by gender, American men are twice as likely as women to deem dildos more effective in bringing them to climax.

The problem with male-marketed toys in particular isn’t so much in the toys themselves, but rather how they’re observed by straight men. “One reason that women and gay men are so far ahead of straight men is because toys [being] much better than one’s own hands is the allure of penetration,” Magnus Sullivan, owner of Manshop and author of Better Than the Hand: How Masturbation Is the Key to Better Sex and Healthier Living, tells Playboy. “Add vibration, temperature, variations in length and girth, and you get the picture. These sensations cannot be achieved without toys.”

Unlike straight men, the gay community has openly embraced sex toys. In doing so, they’ve developed sophisticated conversations around sexuality and toys, which has motivated the market to manufacture better, more innovative devices. Straight men have hindered themselves when it comes to the cultural advances of the communities that surround them. Their apprehension in seeking masturbatory aids has stunted further development.

“There’s still this idea that a man who masturbates a lot is a reclusive loser, while a woman who masturbates is sexually liberated and desirable,” Sullivan mentions of the societal shame plaguing male masturbation. “One effect of this cultural advance is that the dialogue around self-pleasure is much more developed among women and the LGBT community. Not only is the cultural hurdle much lower for them, but they tend to know a lot more about what to use and how to use it.” 
Combine the shame straight men feel around male sex toys with the lack of knowledge in our culture, and it’s understandable why most men never cross the chasm.
Combine the shame straight men feel around male sex toys with the lack of knowledge in our culture, and it’s understandable why most men never cross the chasm. In many cases, their sense of masculinity is at stake. As a result, you won’t find male masturbators—or any male sex toys, for that matter—on big-box store shelves as you would female toys. Of course, this lack of availability further impacts sales.

Another perception impacting male masturbator sales is the collective idea that men don’t need them since the male orgasm is simple to navigate. Because male masturbators are generally regarded as unnecessary, they don’t sell as well as, say, a penetrative device like a G-Spot stimulator might. It’s supply and demand. With limited interest comes little room for innovation. Male masturbators lack because there’s no interest or motivation in making them better.

After speaking with Sullivan, my stance on male masturbators has changed, though I’m still not fond of them. I’ve come to understand that approaching male masturbators from a comparative perspective is the wrong approach. In doing so, I’m only hurting an already injured market. The question is not whether toys are better than the hand, but rather how toys enable intensely pleasurable, unique experiences. “This is where the marketing of men’s toys has gone terribly wrong. We’re led to believe that it’s like or better than ‘the real thing,’” Sullivan says. “It’s often not better than a good manual stroke. But it can be. And when it is, it can be a mind-opening experience.”
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