What comes to your mind when thinking of sex toys?
My previous (imagined) experience would include images of tacky, badly photoshopped, even vulgar sex shop webpages with funny product names that sometimes I like to call to my partner’s cat with because they’re small, cute, and like to interfere, like a butt plug (I’m terrible at making jokes, I know, and I do apologize for the effort).
I grew up in a quite sheltered environment, so I know how weird and shameful it might feel the first time when you sneak a few peaks online – let alone visit a sex shop irl – even if, as a queer person, you think you’ve overcome all your internalized shaming when it comes to body, gender and sexuality.
I was lucky enough to be with a friend who didn’t have any of this internalized bullshit, and was also much better educated than me on the matters of silicone friends and jelly companions.
She introduced me to LoveHoney from which I ordered my first goodies – in value-for-money prices, quick delivery, high quality and very discreet packaging. It’s a website I really do recommend, even without getting anything out of promote it because, as my friend thought too, I think that everyone deserves a good, affordable, quality sex life, and sex toys really can help discover what your body likes, spend some bonding time with yourself, or explore further hidden pleasure islands with your sexy times partner.
There are all different kinds of sex toys – and sex shops – out there, willing to fulfill all your different needs and fantasies. Of course, some of them are more queer friendly than others, but what most of us can agree is that, the majority of marketing, advertising, and toy production, is still wrapped in normalized hetero – and cis-normativity. Small steps are still being made towards inclusion – and accessible sexy times for all – but there still remain some issues to be addressed.
In this article, I will not speak as an expert who has visited all basement wonderlands in my country and has written a hoard of reviews online. On the contrary, what I wish to share with other newbies out there, is my young, pure, yet opposed to social constructions of virginity, experience as a fellow newbie who still hasn’t figured out what a Vac U Lock is.
I want to share with you what first grasped my attention on my short and fresh journey through google searches about sex toys for queer peepz, my first floral harness eBay order, and my first ideas of hosting an artistic exhibition with nebula-painted clone-a-pussies, what baffled me, what annoyed me, and what made me squee with sweet-summer-child excitement.
The steps already made – and all the cool stuff
When I said heteronormative, I’ll have to be honest that I expected much worse. I’m gonna stick with LoveHoney just because this was my own lived experience – and because it’s affordable enough to get anyone as indecisive as me easily started – but I’m going to share more directly queer-oriented sex shops below.
First of all, the reviews are pretty amazing. I especially love how explanatory, full of personal experience, and valuable advice the reviews are on the two impeccable rainbow dildos! People can also state their gender and sexual orientation so that the customers reading the reviews can decide how much they relate. The options are quite limited though, to male, female, and I’d rather not say, as well as straight, gay, and bi. I found that rather problematic – I chose “I’d rather not say” and “bisexual”, but when I tried to register for student discount, the options were only male and female…
Now it’s true that the variety of sex toys I came into was intense, and while I didn’t feel that a trans person would see themselves represented, the language was at least not heterosexist.
There were some great products that I wished I had infinite money to order, like the Big Box of Sexual Happiness, the chocolate orange body paint and the dick shaped food I’d love to cook for a formal family dinner one day.
But first of all, let me introduce myself, to…
Oh, all the fanfiction read under the covers, all the fantasies my upbringing told me to push away. All the fluidity of my different identities and the connotations that came with them… I finally decided to browse online and educate myself on my options. Anal can be particularly tricky – even dangerous – if not done right, so better do your research first. I’ll step away now because I’m certainly not an expert, and do not wish to misinform you on anything, but here is a handy anal guide from early2bed. Warning: some anatomical language.
Before I leave you wondering if I actually have anything to share or if I’m just gonna read some more fanfiction, I’ll show you my fave glittery alien tiny anal starter dildo. Go read the reviews. I trust they will be overly helpful for you.
The whole new world of people whose gender I do not wish to assume based on their genitals
I know that a “whole new lesbian world” is a section many people may feel like it’s lacking from the general sex toy discourse, and it is. It’s something I would be desperately looking for a couple of years ago, in the midst of heterosexist guides and advice. But right now I’d rather not use the term “lesbian”, for several reasons: not all women who love women are lesbians, not all lesbians, bi and pan women have the same anatomy and therefore the same needs, not all people who might be interested in similar products are women, let alone lesbians, and the point, in my opinion, is to start making the sex language– the language that has to do with bodily pleasure – less gendered than it already, heavily and oppressively is.
So what I’m gonna do, is redirect you to another article that you might find pretty helpful, on Cosmopolitan which has been doing admirable work in including sex-positive, explanatory and inclusive LGBT issues. Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo share their experience on visiting Toys in Babeland, a queer-owned sex shop in Brooklyn, and also make perfectly clear that all toys can be used for all bodies and genders, with some creativity! They unbox Strap-Ons, Harnesses, Dildos, vibrating fingertips, butt plugs, and cuffing.
Also check LoveHoney for excellent range of love eggs and jiggle balls, affordable vibrators (this rubber duck is next on my list), and a wide range of Strap-Ons to use with your partner. If you are as cheap as I am, you can go on eBay for harnesses. Just be a bit creative with keywording (you might end up with sexy lacey products directed to cis gay men, but they do their work just fine) but it’s gonna cost you less than 3 euros.
Smitten Kitten is another queer-friendly online shop – with much less gendered, and more inclusive language for people of all genders and bodies. It’s slightly on the pricier side but it is value-for-money, considering just how attractive and artistic most of their products look, the fabulous pelvic exercisers, the realistic skin-tones of their sex toys, the BDSM gear, and finally, their gender expression section.
They also have a mouthwatering, heart-eye-inducing book section, with LGBTQ guides, Polyamory books, Body positive books, and adorable feminist, funny, kitsch, sex and companionship gifts.
The wall-mounted toys
Thank Cosmo and her queer majesty Lane Moore, here you can find a complete guide to wall-mounted sex toys. Riding your wall or kitchen counter can be more fun than you think, but please stay away from the fridge.
The lack of toys directed to trans women
Which is pretty self-explanatory on its own, and it’s very sad and discouraging. An extensive google search will leave you with few to no results, and certainly everyone can use the toys that already exist, but I imagine it cannot feel that welcoming to browse through a page that is misgendering you. I don’t think it would be that hard to create another page directed to the needs of binary and non-binary trans individuals, or at least to keep your products ungendered when it comes to language, colours and stereotyping imagery, in the way that Smitten Kitten does.
Early2bed has this pretty extensive guide for trans women and sex toys, written by trans artist and educator Rebecca Kling. Warning: Just keep in mind that, while it seems very helpful and offers really important information, it uses some explicit, anatomic language.
What people of the LGBTQ+ community are also looking for when browsing on online sex shops, are packers, packing underwear and harnesses. While usually it’s trans men who pack, in this well-researched and sourced Cosmo article by Lane Moore, that is also a guide to packing for all people, examples of people of all different genders and bodies who are into the habit of packing are given, either for aligning more their body image to what makes them comfortable, altering their gender expression, or feeling more at ease during sex.
If you are looking for something affordable to start with I will inevitably redirect you to LoveHoney, just because I made my first purchase there, but there are many sites directed especially to trans men and gender-non-conforming people out there, that also have a wide range of packers in different skin tones that also allow people to have sex or pee while standing.
Buck Off is another trans-directed toy, considered the world’s first sex toy for trans men, designed by trans activist and entrepreneur Buck Angel. It is specifically designed for people who are experiencing the effects of testosterone while transitioning, and the reason I’m including it is that it might not only be trans men who are in the process or transitioning and experience discomfort with their bodies, but also gender-non-conforming people who might prefer this toy for masturbation. (Warning: anatomic language used in the sites linked).
A quick google search or just an online/mouth-to-mouth conversation with people from your local community will provide you with many queer friendly-inclusive-oriented shops. Other shops I have no experience with but looked promising were Good Vibes, My Bedroom Spice, Wet For Her, and another great article on sex toys for queer folks. The main issue I think we need to keep fighting against, and urge the mainstream – both straight and queer – sex shop industry to stop doing, is the use of problematic and harmful heteronormative and cis-sexist labelling and language, so that everyone feels comfortable when shopping for their sexual wellbeing and pleasure.