A guide to the changing world of gender-neutral sex toys
A 1998 episode of sex and the city saw Charlotte go from a dildo-hating puritan to a straight-up wanker thanks to a vibrator known as the Rampant Rabbit. “Look, that’s so cute,” she cried with joy. “I thought it would be scary and weird, but it’s not. It’s pink! For the girls!” Sales of the rabbit then exploded. Within months, a slew of equally “girly” imitators had flooded the market.
The success of the bunny laid the groundwork for an even sexier sex toy industry. Even today, walk into a sex store and you’ll see “FOR MEN” Fleshlights packaged in black, miles away from vibrators in hot pink packaging, decorated with images of cis women in gasping orgasms.
Trans-run businesses like Enby and trans-specific products like the Buck Off are slowly changing the game, but buying sex toys as a non-binary trans customer—or anyone looking for a less overtly gendered sex toy experience— can still be an absolute shit show. Here’s how to navigate a still heavily gendered market as someone looking for a more gender-neutral approach to pleasure products.
Get creative with customization
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to guaranteed orgasm, and brands are increasingly understanding this. “We’ve noticed that our multi-purpose products like our Kyro and Bess are popular among the LGBTQ+ community because of their versatility,” says Peter Ovsonka, founder of pleasure tech brand ZALO.
Both toys come with multiple accessories, and the deluxe packaging is designed around themes – Egyptian mythology, the awe-inspiring aesthetic of Versailles – as opposed to gender. Kyro’s big wand can be used by just about anyone, and the Bess, despite being billed as a clitoral vibrator, has multiple uses when you remove sex from the equation. The petal-shaped attachment is perfect for nipple play, and any vibrator feels snug between your buttocks for external prostate stimulation or more general anal stimulation. Bess’ small ball-shaped attachment is designed to more precisely stimulate the clitoris, but feels amazing when pressed against the mega-sensitive tip of a penis.
Other companies go even further in personalization. UK-based Phreak Club sells sex toys in the shape of tentacles, dragon eggs and big ridged monster cocks, all of which offer the option of choosing a level of firmness. If you go for a soft and squishy, you can use it as a caresser; if you prefer direct penetration, choose the more difficult option and enjoy yourself.
Get off the beaten track
The days of single-use pleasure products are numbered. Nowadays, more and more mainstream companies are thinking creatively about multi-purpose sex toys.
“Gender-neutral devices give us the ability to explore the body without limits,” says Megwyn White, clinical sexologist and director of education at Satisfyer. “You could look at a device like Elastic Game and be like, ‘Ooh, what does that do?’ According to White, this creative thinking opens up new possibilities; Depending on your mood, Elastic Game can be a cock ring, a vibrator, or a device to sandwich between you and your partner during sex.
Companies are increasingly considering the desire for multi-purpose toys when writing product descriptions. “We like to think our toys can be used by anyone who identifies as a sexy human – whether you’re a fluid angel, a hot stud, or a hot queen,” says Amber, CMO of Moana Lisa.
In her eyes, the company’s most trans-inclusive toys are the Stallion and Empress, but she also suggests “using the Cassius with a strap, or around the fingers or inside the underwear. clothes, because it’s a pretty big and very versatile ring”. The product description hints at it, recommending it for balls, nipples, and clitoris. Basically, there’s potential for pleasure no matter what body parts you’re working with – if you think creatively enough.
Follow gay writers
In today’s world of rainbow capitalism, there are endless reasons to be skeptical of Pride product releases and brands that splash the language of inclusivity into their marketing. Products may claim to be great for gay bodies, but the best way to know for sure is to seek out reviews from people who actually identify.
Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to find queer sex writers, bloggers and influencers willing to share their experiences –– and for brands, it’s more advisable than ever to pay trans and non-binary consultants to improve their products. Betty Butch creates unboxing videos on YouTube and writes in-depth reviews of everything from vulva pumps to monster swamp dildos. Kelvin Sparks has dabbled in strap-ons, squirting dildos and naughty accessories, while Epiphora has a detailed backlog to choose from.
There is still a long way to go in terms of improvement, and many brands are aware of this. “The pleasure industry has only just begun to wonder what real sex looks like,” Amber says. “It’s easy to feel invisible when you don’t fit the gendered ideal of sex and pleasure, but one way to navigate is to seek out brands, influencers and educators who use inclusive language, and whose advice and ideas affirm and celebrate trans.bodies.” Amber recommends Sex Debbie, Moana Lisa’s in-house expert, as well as Dodo Potato and Alix Renard.
Ask questions on trans-run forums
Reddit is often chaotic, but it’s also a gold mine of coal for curious trans people looking to get by. Subreddits like r/ftm, r/sex, and r/mtf are either trans-directed or trans-inclusive, meaning they’re a relatively safe online space to seek out recommendations.
Many products gain a word-of-mouth reputation as being trans-inclusive. The Satisfyer Pro II is exemplary; it has a larger than usual opening for a suction cup toy, making it ideal for trans men taking hormones and experiencing lower growth. Tenga Eggs can be liberally lubricated and used as caresses, while low vibration and rumbling toys are praised by horny trans women.
If you’re worried that a product will trigger dysphoria, feel shitty, or just be a waste of money, there will be trans people online ready to share their experiences.
Don’t be afraid to provide feedback
Every sex toy professional I spoke to for this article stressed the importance of feedback. There’s no default trans, queer, or non-binary body, just like there’s no surefire way to guarantee an orgasm, so sex toy makers are really keen to hear what works and what which does not work.
Some will be happy to send free product samples in exchange for honest reviews; others will work with consultants to create the perfect inclusive designs. “We are always listening to the market and the direction of demand,” Ovsonka says of his assignment for ZALO. “We have always favored pleasure and desire over gender in our marketing. With other brands, I expect there will be a major shift towards de-gendering product descriptions and marketing in the coming years.
As we saw with the Rampant Rabbit, it only takes one cult product to change the landscape of the industry – and there’s no shortage of competing brands at that point. The first trans-specific toys are just starting to come out, and the media frenzy that has greeted them has shown that companies want to think outside the box.
Researchers also come up with creative solutions – Dr Kate Devlin, author of Alight, hypothesized a future filled with less humanoid sex robots and sexier vibrating blankets designed for full-body stimulation. It’s this kind of queer thinking that could push the industry beyond candy pink vibrators and into a world of unlimited sexual potential.
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