I’m a size queen — always have been, always will be. I figured out my body out at a very young age, and ever since, I’ve been a firm believer that “the bigger, the better.” This is strictly a personal preference; I don’t expect everyone I sleep with to be equipped with a 12-inch dick, which is why I keep an extensive collection of my own. This in-and-of-itself, though, can be really intimidating.
For instance, a few months ago, a friend took a photo of me in front of a wall of dildos at an L.A. art show, and I decided to use it as my Tinder profile photo. Immediately, I noticed the guys I matched with had a lot of feelings about the photo, while the women were unphased. Namely, the conversations with the guys quickly turned to dildos, size anxiety and what I sensed could be an underlying insecurity about potentially dating a woman who likes huge dildos — something that rarely (if ever) comes up when I match with women. “I was beginning to feel pretty insecure,” says James*, who understandably had a few questions about the dildo display and asked if they were mine. (I wish.)
According to Andre Shakti, a queer feminist adult performer, writer and sex educator, there’s definitely truth to my theory that some guys are freaked out by the idea of dating a lady who likes big silicone dongs. “I’ve noticed that the individuals who are the most intimidated by partners wanting longer and/or girthier objects for penetration are those who were assigned male at birth,” Shakti tells me. “Folks socialized masculine are taught that their genitals — and their genitals alone! — are to be responsible for the penetration during sexual intercourse.”
As Shakti explains, centering sex solely on penetration can lead to feelings of inadequacy for people with penises, and the idea of a partner who gets their rocks off on their own with the help of a faux dick might be intimidating to someone who believes penis-in-vagina penetration should be the main — or best — event of any sexual encounter.
Also tied to that idea, Shakti adds, “is the concept of people being responsible for their partner’s orgasm,” which can turn sex into a high-pressure experience focused on performance rather than pleasure and fun. Such strict beliefs about who gives and who gets — or who penetrates and who gets penetrated — are all tied to incredibly narrow beliefs about masculinity and gender expectations. “We need to unpack ALL of that in order to have great sex!” Shakti says.
For some guys, though, there’s a lot more to unpack. I dated Chris* on and off for almost a year, and when I ask him now, he says my inclination toward large dongs did make him feel intimidated. “It’s kind of hard not to be. And it’s not like I resent women who do [like big toys], but it’s just like involuntary, instinctual feelings of inadequacy.” Unlike a battery-operated or permanently erect silicone toy, he says, “My dick isn’t great. Nor does it work all the time.” Rob*, who I dated briefly a few years ago, also points out the fear that a woman who likes big toys “might get addicted to it,” which, as I’ve written elsewhere, is virtually impossible.
Chris and Rob aren’t alone. Shame about penis size is a common experience for many men who’ve internalized social messages about their penises as symbols for masculinity or value as a sex partner — regardless of sexual orientation. According to a 2006 study published in Psychology of Men and Masculinity, only 55 percent of the men surveyed felt confident about how they measured up, even though 85 percent of women surveyed were satisfied with their partner’s penis size. A more recent study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior asked men to rate their satisfaction with their genital self-image, and only 27 percent felt satisfied with the length of their penis in its flaccid state. Studies also indicate that most women probably don’t care much about penis size either way — and those who do are in the minority — but undoing social messaging that correlates penis size with self-worth can be difficult.
Again, it’s interesting to note that when I’ve dated other women or matched with them online, my size preference doesn’t come up, aside from the occasional tease or harmless joke about my collection of cartoonish monster dicks. When I ask my friend Chynna, who dates other women, if she might ever feel insecure about hooking up with a size-loving partner, any reservations she might have, she explains, would be about accidentally hurting a partner with their favorite extra large toy. “My first reaction would probably be like fear and awe, and then to have you show me how you like it,” she says. Mary, another queer friend who dates women, adds, “I personally own multiple dildos so the person I’m having sex with has the say in what’s going to feel best. It’s about her, not me. If there’s a dildo, regardless of size, that’s going to feel good!”
As a few of my former Tinder dates point out, sex toy panic (or big dildo anxiety) might also be tied to underlying concerns about the intersections of sex and technology. “I’m scared we’re all gonna be fucking robots within 20 years,” says Andy*. “A human dick can’t compete with a 12-inch vibrating robot sex machine,” adds Chris.
Given that sex-tech innovations like sex robots and biofeedback devices are becoming more and more sophisticated, these anxieties are valid. But they don’t have to put a limit on your sex repertoire. If you’re feeling skittish about sex with a partner who’s into girth, sometimes it’s best to embrace the initial discomfort and run with it. Imagining a partner going at a favorite toy, or even incorporating one into partnered sex, can be extremely hot and might turn into a new favorite activity. “Dildos are sick, I have some!” my friend Kash tells me. “If you pulled out toys during sex, I’d be like, ‘Sick!’”
As Shakti explains, “Sex toys in the bedroom aren’t a replacement for human connection, interaction and intimacy; they’re designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of sexual sensitivities, preferences and response cycles. They meet the sexual demands that simple bodies often cannot. The same goes for introducing a toy — or a hand! — as a penetration tool for someone looking to up the size ante.”
In this way, however large or small, sophisticated or simple, dildos are made to lend a helping hand or bonus dick. And so, we should appreciate them for their service, not resent them for being something we can’t. Not to mention, even the biggest, fattest vibrating dick in the world can’t text you back, make you breakfast or let you drool on their pillow.
That’s what humans are for.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.