Rethinking ‘Toys for Men’
Have you ever been working behind the counter at your store and had someone come to you and ask you, “Where are the toys for men?” I know I’ve fielded a lot of questions like this and I bet your staff has too. While it might seem easy enough to point that customer to the shelves of cock rings and masturbation sleeves, it’s important to take that a step further.
There are a lot of reasons why people think of sex toys as something women use. Many of the more popular products are designed for clitoral or vaginal pleasure. Women have also been more consistent and loyal purchasers of pleasure products, though that’s changing. And stereotypical definitions of masculinity encourage men to think of sex toys as something we don’t need. It’s not a surprise that the Fleshlight opened the door and gave more men permission to try toys. It mimics intercourse, which makes it and other sleeves an easier first step for guys who think that’s what sex is all about.
But all of those reasons aside, the truth of the matter is that sex toys aren’t about gender. They’re about anatomy. And although we live in a world that says that men and women are worlds apart, people are much more similar than most folks think. We’re not from Mars or Venus. We’re all from Earth. To understand that, we need a quick anatomy lesson.
People all develop from the same basic anatomical template. If you could see a developing fetus before the seventh week, you wouldn’t be able to determine what its genitals would eventually look like. Once it hits that milestone, hormonal changes cause it to differentiate. That means that while genitals might look different, they have the same foundation.
For example, the penis and the clitoris have very similar structures. They’re both made from erectile tissue, they both have a Y-shape, though the clitoris looks more like a wishbone when you see the internal structure and the penis has a longer shaft. They also both respond to the same kinds of stimulation, and while most people think of vibrators as something for women, they also feel amazing on the head of the penis. Just think how many toys you could sell if more men knew about that!
There are other pairs of sexual organs that have this kind of relationship. For example, the ovaries and the testicles, the outer labia and the scrotum, and the G-spot and the prostate are all examples of these kinds of similarities. And while there are important differences, it means that there are toys that can be used in similar ways. A G-spot toy can work great on the prostate, as long as it’s safe for anal play. (That means that it’s smooth, is non-porous, and has a base to keep it from getting lost).
So what’s the point of all of this? If sex toys are about anatomy rather than gender, then it makes sense to talk about G-spot toys, or anal toys, or clitoral stimulators, or cock & ball toys, rather than toys for women or toys for men. That opens up possibilities for a sale that you might not make if you think that your customer’s gender limits what toys they’d enjoy.
In all of this, it’s also good to remember that someone’s gender doesn’t necessarily imply anything about their sexual organs ... When you talk about toys for men or toys for women, you lose the opportunity to serve transgender customers. So talking about toys for anatomy makes it easier to connect with folks who are often underserved by the sex toy world.
Of course, even when your staff knows to do this, lots of customers are still going to ask about toys for men. But that’s an easy thing to respond to. All it takes is saying something like, “Almost all of our products can be used by people of any gender. Is there something in particular you’re looking for?” It creates a teachable moment and an opportunity for a cross-sell. Some guys simply want to be steered to the cock rings, but others will be intrigued by the idea of using a vibrator and it never hurts to suggest that possibility. The trick is to do it without sounding like you’re schooling them. You have to meet customers where they are before you take them somewhere new.
Speaking of which, this all becomes a little different when you’re talking about SEO and your website. “Sex toys for men” is a popular search phrase and it wouldn’t be wise to discard it. But there are ways to use it to your advantage.
You could create a landing page with links to your cock & ball toys, prostate toys, vibrators, anal toys and dildos. If you want, you could include a brief explanation about how men can use any of them, just like women can. Or you could write an article for your blog to let people learn about this. With a well-chosen title, that could get some great traction on your Facebook or Twitter feed.
When it comes down to it, attitudes about men using sex toys are probably going to be slow to change. But it doesn’t take much for the sex toy trade to get that ball rolling. All we need to do is stop talking about “toys for men” and start talking about toys for anatomy. It might seem awkward at first, but changing habits always does. And when you see how it opens up opportunities to get more products into your customers’ hands, you’ll see the return on your investment of time and training. Plus, it just makes sense.
Charlie Glickman PhD is a sexuality speaker, trainer, writer, blogger, and coach. He’s an AASECT-certified sex educator and has been working in this field for over 20 years. Charlie is the co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners. Find out more about him at www.charlieglickman.com or on Twitter and Facebook.