Squeamishness about sex seems so old-fashioned. We’re living in a post-porn, post 50 Shades, post-kink world. Dick pics fly through cyberspace at a rate of knots. Sexts are now the primary mode of communication for horny adolescents the world over. Tinder, Bumble, Happn, Grindr, 3ndr and OkCupid are all routinely downloaded, deleted, and re-downloaded, as people of all generations attempt to navigate their way through this new kind of sexual revolution. On the surface, it looks like sexual taboos are a thing of the past. One major exception? Sex toys for men.
It’s becoming more and more common for women to discuss, debate, borrow and gift each other sex toys like it ain’t no thing. If you look at the research, this is unsurprising. The Kinsey Institute reported in 2010 that women are much more likely to be “nearly always orgasmic,” or “always orgasmic” alone than with a partner.
Clearly, women have decided enough is enough and are getting theirs. It’s the addressing of a problem that, for men, isn’t there. Men can orgasm at the drop of a hat, generally speaking (at least if it’s a particularly sexy hat — I’m thinking a Carmen Miranda fruit hat, that big wide-brimmed one Beyonce wears in the Formation video, one of those ones that has a beer can on either side). Men don’t need toys to help them get off, so why would men want toys to help them get off?
However, a deep dive into the data of the U.K.’s largest sex-toy website, Lovehoney, shows that, whether or not they’re opening up about it, men are experimenting. Lovehoney’s user base is split between men and women, with 1 in 5 buying a male sex toy, and while only 5 percent of Lovehoney’s sales are Fleshlights or Fleshjacks (the dude version of a Fleshlight, if you will), this still means more people are buying them than are buying some more commonly known sex toys, including dildos and restraints.
Fortunately there’s a community for everything on the internet, where people can chat about their sexual proclivities at length and in detail. I spoke to a few Fleshlight evangelists about why they got involved, and whether the taboo will ever dissipate. (Some names have been changed.)
Eduardo, 20, Southern California
I own four Fleshlights, and two Quickshots — they’re smaller versions, I use them for trips and vacations and stuff. My ex bought me my first one for my 18th birthday, and like, I’m pretty open about it, but male sex toys are more talked about in the gay community, since we’re just more open to using them.
For straight people, I think they’re maybe a bit more insecure about talking about them. It’s okay for women to have sex toys, but if a straight man has one, I don’t know, he’s treated like he can’t get a real woman to sleep with him or something. In gay culture we understand why they’re useful and how much it can help. This is more true with regard to anal sex toys, as that’s seen as a “gay” thing to a lot of straight guys. Which is ridiculous, by the way. If straight men tried it out, either with a toy or with their finger, they’d probably like it. The prostate is like the male G-spot, they don’t know what they’re missing.
Jack, 19, South Carolina
I used to think it was pointless to spend money on something like a Fleshlight when I had a perfectly good hand. Also I just thought I’d feel like a creep if I owned one. Then a buddy of mine in the Air Force, who hadn’t seen his girlfriend in over a year, told us that he had one, and that it was nothing to be ashamed about. I got my first one over Christmas, and ordered another around Valentines, which will be my ninth sleeve.
When I made my first purchase I only wanted one, but I ended up getting a warmer sleeve for added realism, and one extra sleeve after seeing how many different options there were. I then found out if I bought another sleeve, I’d get one for free (that’s four sleeves total). That’s also how my second order ended up being—wanted just one more sleeve, ended up buying three and getting a fourth for free. Then I also got one sent by mistake. I’m still not too open about the fact that I own a collection of fleshlights, and if I had a girlfriend I think I’d probably use them a lot less anyway. My friends don’t know about it yet, but if I do eventually tell them, I’m more than likely going to leave out the fact that I own as many as I do. Everything is fine in moderation, but I feel like I’ve gone overboard here.
Gordon, 40, United Kingdom
I grew up in a very religious household where everything was very “porn is wrong,” “masturbation is wrong.” But then, I found a lot of adult magazines hidden in the attic that I assume were my dad’s — so I’m a little conflicted about my sex toy usage, to say the least.
A few years ago me and my wife moved house, 400 miles away, and I had to stay behind for a while to sell the old one. I ordered my first Fleshlight the day after she left. I didn’t consider it cheating on her, but it’s something she finds morally unpalatable, so I kept it secret from her. She only found out I had one because I left the lube out, but even since, she’s never seen it. She just accepts I have one now.
She’s very morally aligned, and distances herself from sexual talk or activities unless we’re actually having sex — even then, she’s very passive in bed. Sex is like a Sunday night activity for her, I sometimes feel like she just uses me. Sometimes we don’t have sex for up to three weeks, so I need to use the fleshlight to plug the gap. I’ve been trying to get her into Karezza Sex recently, where you just lie together for like an hour, with the penis inside her, to allow the energy of the act to pass between you. I don’t know much about it but I feel like it might satisfy the need for intimacy without the pressure of intercourse, and be a more acceptable alternative to the fleshlight.
Jason, 29, California
When I was first dating my current wife I bought my first Fleshlight, partly for my own pleasure, partly to improve my performance — the model I bought was called the Stamina Training Unit. We haven’t done it yet, but she’d be totally up for using it in the bedroom. When’s she not in the mood, she just prefers I use it in my office, to let her sleep.
Here’s the thing though: most women understand that men masturbate a lot, so why should it be frowned upon if we want to enhance it with a toy? Remember internet dating? You used to be ridiculed if you used the internet to find a date, now almost everyone uses it. Society shifts and changes all the time. It’s generally the norm for women to buy and enjoy sex toys — dildos and vibrators are out in the open at any Good Vibes and nobody complains — Fleshlights and other male toys are just too new. When virtual reality sex advances further, you’ll see a big increase in the acceptance of male sex toys. Right now though, there’s definitely a stigma.
Dan, 46, Las Vegas
In the ‘90s I used to go through pocket pussies regularly. I can’t remember if that’s what they were actually called, we used to call them “meat puppets” too, but essentially they’re the same thing as a Japanese Onahole — a kind of proto-Fleshlight. They were good, but they wore out pretty easily. The toy would just split down the seam. I must have put my last one in the dumpster in the mid-‘90s.
A couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and bought my first Fleshlight — I actually ordered a few on sale — and it’s a much improved product. My wife and I live apart because of my work at the moment, so y’know, lots of time spent alone. I refuse to be unfaithful to her, but traditional masturbation wasn’t working for me — I was DYING for the sensation and satisfaction that accompanies actual intercourse. I probably use it on average once a day, sometimes up to three times a day, but I know that my wife would probably be open to incorporating it into foreplay.
I’m not sure there’s a stigma attached to it, but if there is, it can’t be any worse than the stigma attached to pornography. I’ve experience that first hand on countless occasions. Frankly though, I don’t think most guys care. We are going to do what we need to do to get off, as long as it doesn’t have a negative impact on anyone else.