Dear Sex Toy Shops: Sex Toys are Gender Neutral. Really!

I started a bit of a rant on Twitter but I really had to go beyond 140 characters. I’ve seen a lot of great sex toy shops and a lot of crap sex toy shops and often it has nothing to do with their selection – it’s how they list their selection. Shops that insist on gendering their wares are honestly baffling to me. I wonder though, do they have any idea that they’re alienating a large portion of the sex toy buying crowd?

When I come across a store that immediately makes me choose between “For Him”, “For Her” and “For Couples” I am frozen. I don’t quite know where to turn. All I am looking for is a damn dildo, why are you making me choose between only two genders??? Why are you making me choose a gender at all?? EVERYBODY loves dildos! Butts love dildos. Vaginas love dildos. Ok, maybe not EVERYBODY as in every person, but any gender or any sexuality can love a dildo. When you gender the choices right off the bat, what are saying to people who don’t fit your cookie-cutter heteronormative structure? What are you saying to that dude who likes to use dildos, for example?

Yes, there are sex toys that are fairly specific to a certain body part, like pussy pumps or penis pumps or cock rings. So why can’t the sex toys be listed this way?

  • Vibrators
  • Dildos
  • Anal Toys
    • Prostate toys
  • BDSM
    • Impact
    • Restraints
  • Pumps
  • Penis Toys (is there a better more “friendly” / less clinical way to word this without going into gender i.e. “male toys”?)

There’s more to list out, of course, but you get my point. ANY sex toy can be “for couples” if you use your imagination, really. Stop trying to put me in a box! I may be a ciswoman married to a cisman but even I am troubled by these shops.

And somewhat off-tangent but still applicable: Unless you’re a specialty/fetish store, stop equating toys with sexuality. A lesbian is going to want the same sex toys as a hetero, csigender woman, for the most part. Sure someone who identifies as a lesbian might want a harness and dildo set but….so might a hetero ciswoman and her cismale partner. A person with a prostate who enjoys butt play is just that – a person who enjoys butt play. It doesn’t make them gay. Or straight. Or a man, even. I like vegetables, but I’m not a vegetarian. You follow?

Expand your view and be less restrictive. You won’t offend anybody this way. Okay? I realize it’s going to break your page structure but I’m more likely to browse your store or refer someone to it.

23 Responses

  1. I couldn’t have worded that better! :D

  2. Squarilyn says:

    I like the Come As You Are descriptions for penis-related toys: one category for “rings and things” and one for “sleeves and insertion toys”. They’re awesome for being gender inclusive in general.

  3. Adriana says:

    Totally agree!

  4. That IS a great way to describe it!!

  5. I agree with this so much,

    So many times I have looked on a website and literally Face Palmed whilst asking my monitor ‘WHY’ is there sections – Female, Male and GAY…. Just what?!

  6. Erin Basler-Francis says:

    When I categorize things I tend to use: Vibes, Dils, Butts, Partners, Strokers, etc. This kind of leaves kegel balls and cock rings hanging, but it is an alternative to the for her, for him language that a lot of places use.

  7. Sarah says:

    Yes!!!! I’ve been trying to implement this. There’s really no reason to say “female vibrator”, which is something I’ve been fighting against a bit lately in my professional life. We’ve settled on G-spot vibrator (which is what it is…) but I cannot seem to shake “male masturbator”. People with vanilla marketing experience often don’t seem to understand the necessity or preference for marketing toys as gender neutral.

  8. TinyBurg says:

    I think “penis toys” can be separated to be something like masturbation sleeves or even penetrable toys. I’m glad you made a post like this, it expesses a lot of my personal feelings as well. I see a lot of sites and even bloggers refer to toys as “male” or “female” and it’s always bothered me

  9. Myrna Conley says:

    I agree that sex toys shouldn’t be gendered. People have different preference and they shouldn’t be restricted of their biological sex. You can see people in best porn sites using different kinds of toys for men and women and they shareit. no idea why people had to divide.

  10. Pantophile Panic says:

    I know it’s already been mentioned, but it is totally possible to break down the category of penis toys into subcategories: pumps, strokers, masturbation sleeves, rings, slings, sounding plugs, vibrators, etc.

  11. The Naughty Boutique says:

    Never really thought about this until now, i have just opened my own online adult store so this blog leaves me with a lot to think about and a few days of relabeling to do.

  12. Rina Esquieres says:

    There is nothing wrong when it comes to being too adventurous or naughty when you’re giving your intimate partner a different kind of erotic experience. Using sex toys have now become a trend, but people who use them should take extra care in cleaning them before use as they may also be a source of infection. Some people get really turned on even with just the sight of a sex toy when couples get to take a tour in a sex shop. They will surely be enticed to purchase one for their own little naughty sex fantasies.

  13. Pantophile Panic says:

    In the same way that we say dildos and vibrators instead of “Vagina toys” I think we can all agree that breaking the toy names into categories such as masturbation sleeves, vibrators, urethral sounds, etc. is a much better alternative.

  14. Tzipora says:

    Sooo true. I have such an issue with how for example dildos aren’t listed as a couples toy yet the harnesses are. It’s like uh, what are you putting into that harness then? Lol. I’m a lesbian and I would say that I really, really love a shop that splits their dildos up from realistic and not as seperate categories. I’m very NOT into realistic penis shapes. And of course there are lesbians who may like that and there’s all kinds of homophobic and lesphobic crap people say about lesbians and dildos and all of that too. But shoot I love penetration and I love penetrating a partner. But the whole fake dixk appearance is a major turn off for me personally and its nice to be able to have a split section then for toys not shaped like that. Makes sense for endless reasons anyway (maybe for hetero guys who would like their partner to use a strap on or who want a dildo, for even hetero cisgendered women who prefer pretty, creative designs and especially too for abuse survivors who are actively trying to reclaim their sexuality and feel particularly uncomfortable with them..).

    But then that brings to mind another issue… I dislike also when a curved toy is specifically called a g or p spot toy. That’s when you really see genders listed (SheVibe is guilty of this one. I was just browsing Epiphora’s list and saw a few toys I’m sure she personally used herself and enjoyed and recommended for everyone listed as male toys on the SheVibe Epiphoras recs list). I mean for the most part a curved toy can rock the socks off anybody, prostate or g spot, right? And that curved butt plug is probably gonna feel awesome to any anal lover. It’s one thing to say in the description “perfect for hitting or g spot or his p spot” but to off the bad gender the label/link to the toy, ugh! I mean I literally saw a butt plug labeled as male that as soon as I saw the photo I was all “ooh I bet that feels ah-mazing!” And then it said Men’s plug. Gah. Maybe I feel even a little extra weird if I were to order it precisely because as a lesbian there’s really no reason I’d ever order a genuinely specifically male toy, you know? A penis pump or masturbator is gonna go to waste between myself and my cisgendered female partner! Lol. Now that butt plug, fun for everybody!

  15. Preach it sister! It never fails to amaze me how much this happens!

  16. Minx Charlestown says:

    Thank you for this article. It caused us to re-do our category system, and get rid of gendering and euphemisms. It’s much simpler now anyway!

  17. Minx Charlestown says:

    The only part I have been stuck on how to fix the gendering of is lingerie… Does anyone have any suggestions?

  18. Instead of gendering, you could try dividing it up into types – bra, panty, teddy, shorts?

  19. Minx Charlestown says:

    Thanks, I’ll try that. But how do I separate the male underwear? Or underwear for masculine-identifying people?

  20. FieryRed says:

    You could do Briefs, Boxers, Pouch Thongs/G-Strings? Because someone with a penis may not be masculine-identifying.

  21. Nis says:

    Thank you so much for this post! as a genderqueer person, it just immediately ticks me off when websites do the “for Her/ for Him” bs. It makes trying to buy sex toys unnecessarily confusing and off-putting. I realise that trans people are a minority, but we do exist and we do buy sex toys. Also, as others here already said, people of all genders and with varying anatomies can and do enjoy all sorts of toys.

    A feature that’s almost always going to be helpful (and annoying if it’s missing) is sorting products by material. Worst is when the material isn’t even listed in the product description anywhere…

    Another pet peeve is when they use vague, coy euphemisms in the product descriptions such as “will bring pleasure to both Her and Him”. That really doesn’t tell me anything!
    I assume what they mean is “can safely be used vaginally and anally”, or “designed to provide both g-spot and prostate stimulation”.
    Why not be specific and give some actual, relevant information? I mean, it’s a sex toy site, surely they can bring themselves to mention the specific anatomy a product is meant for? (and it can be really important to know if the shape will be safe to put up one’s butt, or if there’s danger of it getting lost.)

    I know we won’t entirely get rid of gendered language or product design anytime soon, but I heavily dislike when they use these coy phrases that don’t actually say anything, leaving me trying to decipher and entangle gendered assumptions from potentially very important information.