Musings

Masturbation myths to blame for sex toy double standard

Female masturbation and sex toy use have become more mainstream in the past few years, yet there is still a pretty pervasive stigma when it comes to a man using a sex toy for masturbation. This thoughtful article by feminist blogger and gender studies professorย Hugo Schwyzer examines this sex toy double standard — and why it continues to prevail.

It all traces back to myths about male and female masturbation.ย One such myth is that “real men have sex with real vaginas.” According to this myth,

. . . male masturbation — and especially a “penis sleeve” . . . signals a “lack of sexual success.” Male masturbation, in other words, is about relieving frustration — and for too many people, frustration is a consequence of failure. A sexually successful man should have enough sex (with women, of course, as our myths tend to exclude gay and bi men) that he only rarely gets “frustrated.”

But that’s not the only myth at play. Schwyzer spoke with sex educator Charlie Glickman to get his thoughts on the subject. Glickman believes that male sexuality is traditionally viewed as simple, whereas female sexuality is seen as complex, and this leads to a skewed perception of both.

Female sexuality is seen as complicated and mysterious, he told me, while male sexuality is seen as simple. Men learn to masturbate early, and usually quickly, worried that they’ll get caught. As a result, Charlie said, many of the men he works with still masturbate the same way at 40 that they did at 14. The focus is on “getting off” fast, not on drawing out ecstasy. Though many women do masturbate for quick relief . . . a focus on prolonged pleasure rather than simple release is still viewed as female.

Charlie pointed out that he’s never heard a gay man complain about a male lover who masturbates. But some women are threatened by their boyfriends or husbands masturbating, frequently because they’ve been raised to believe that it’s their job to be the pleasure provider in the relationship. As long as we believe that men masturbate out of a simple lack of opportunity for “real sex,” then women will believe that masturbation is a kind of rejection . . . On the other hand, plenty of folks believe that women’s sexuality is so intense and mysterious that men can rarely hope to satisfy it. So a woman masturbating with a wonderful toy she bought online is doing for herself something no man can — but a guy rubbing one out by himself is “depriving” his female partner of what is rightfully “hers.”

Read the whole post — it’s wonderful. There is not enough conversation surrounding this issue, so it’s good to see someone tackling it so eloquently.

It’s important for us to view these myths as what they are — to realize when they are influencing us, and to actively reject them. Sex toys for men are awesome, and they serve the exact same purpose as sex toys for women: to make sex with ourselves and with others more interesting and fun.