When The Novelty Wears Off

When The Novelty Wears Off

People...I feel like we know each other. I feel like you know me well enough to know what I love and hate in life. And if I’m right, I hope that by now you know exactly what my stance is on “novelty” toys.

Let me clarify what I’m talking about here when I mention “novelty” toys. They’re usually poorly made, low quality items that are manufactured solely for the sake of cheap laughs. I’m talking about dick straws, wind up dancing penises, smiley faced dildos, shitty blow up dolls, or just really bad cheaply made masturbators, dongs and vibrators. However I’m also referring to high quality products that are purchased for the intent of a gag. So for instance the bag of silicone dildos you buy for a bride-to-be’s engagement party or the fleshlight you bought for your mate’s eighteenth birthday.

We’ve all been there, at the workplace Secret Santa exchange or the twenty-first party where someone gives someone else a novelty sex toy as a gift. You’ve probably smiled and laughed with the rest of the crowd as you’ve watched someone awkwardly unwrapping a dildo the size of their torso. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end and had to uncomfortably unpack a box of shitty clitoral vibrators. There’s a chance you’ve been the person that’s bought the present…I’m sorry, we can’t be friends any more.

You may be wondering what the big deal is. You’re probably asking “But Miss Smut Buttons, there are far worse things in this world, why are you so irrationally angry about novelty toys?” That’s a fine question, dear reader. Allow me to illuminate you.

For a start, I am not a fan of any product, sex toy or otherwise, that is so shittily made that it can cause harm to its intended recipients. Novelty toys are exactly that. Any sex toy that doesn’t hit the EFTPOS minimum in the store you’re buying it from is probably going to do you some damage. If it’s made from plastic, there’s a good chance that the mould they used was really damn thin, which means you’ll either have a really sharp seam or when the toy breaks the plastic will splinter. I shouldn’t have to tell you that splintered plastic is not something you want near your junk. Perhaps you’ve bought some kind of joke lubricant or novelty condom. Do you really want to be putting something that’s made with the lowest cost price materials, inside or on your genitals? God I hope not. Then of course there’s all the products that just have carcinogenic materials in them. But hey, what’s a little cancer if it saves you like $20, am I right? Cheap cock rings can give your dick gangrene, poorly made butt plugs can end up somewhere inside your colon and low cost vibes can cause nerve damage to your clitoris. You know popping candy? A lot of sex toy stores sell this packaged as “BJ BLAST!” and the idea is that you put popping candy in your mouth and then give your partner head. You know what else you’re giving your partner if you do this? A yeast infection. Hooray!

And yet people continue to buy these toys because we assume that every manufacturer has a duty of care to not make something that can hurt us. Normally that is the case, there are governing bodies that dictate what materials are safe to be used in products and they hold manufacturers up to those standards. Well, here’s the catch, when you put “novelty” on a product, you’re basically calling “barleys” from future legal action because the manufacturer can claim that it was never intended to be used for anything other than a laugh. Which even if this was the case, we now have an entire industry that manufactures plastic junk items designed to be unwrapped, laughed at then thrown out immediately. Even a climate change sceptic would have to admit that’s a problematic business model.

So let’s say that hypothetically, I was as villainous as my high school chaplain believed me to be, and I actually took great pleasure in the physical harm these products caused thousands of idiots a year. Is there anything else wrong with novelty toys, aside from their shitty quality? Oh dear god yes. So much.

Novelty sex toys and toys bought for novelty purposes can be used as a form of bullying and harassment. Giving the “ugly” guy at work a fleshlight, giving the office “slut” a gigantic dildo, gifting your "asshole" boss a packet of the world’s tiniest condoms. These are all things I’ve seen people come into sex stores to buy. Many people found it hilarious to buy male friends and co-workers male blow up dolls* (when they weren’t buying them blow up farm animals). If you do this, you are literally making “homosexuality” the punch line. At which point I can only assume that you’re working up the courage to buy yourself a blow up doll because surely you’re too homophobic and rotten inside for anyone to actually want to sleep with you. Congratulations on reducing someone’s sexual identity to a cheap laugh. You’re using poorly made toys to belittle whatever you and society deems to be sexually threatening. Which as it turns out is pretty much everything.     

The mockery of sexual content makes the sexual content socially acceptable; it’s okay to give a drunken bride to be a bag full of dildos, but you can’t actually use those same dildos to provide quality sex education to teenagers. I’ve seen conservative family members gift each other “hilarious” sexual products, like underpants built for two people and knitted willy warmers, but when I bring up being a brothel manager I’m banned from family Christmases. The joke’s on them, I spend Christmas day having rampant orgies anyway.

When you buy someone a fleshlight as a gag gift, you’re laughing at every person who has ever legitimately purchased one. When you give a bride-to-be a bag of dildos and vibrators, you’re implying that she’s a joke if she ever actually uses them. You’re shaming sexuality. You’re devaluing the significance of something as wonderful as sex, and you’re taking away the intimacy and importance of it with gaudy, plastic novelty items. And every time you treat sex as a joke you’re alienating the people who are genuinely curious. You’re teaching them that if they have questions, if they want to know something, their enquiries will be met with laughter and derision. Think about the impression this leaves on young people. So many “grown ups” complain that kids these days are too ready to jump into sex, that they don’t understand the consequences or don’t appreciate the importance of their first time. Who can fucking blame them when every TV show and film without an M rating is treating sex like it’s a huge joke? How can they appreciate the gravity of sexual content when they’re exposed to adults guffawing over a vibrating rubber duck?

If you give a young person a novelty sex toy, you’re exposing that person to the risk of serious injury or psychological barriers. When someone’s only experience with sex toys is as a joke, you’re already teaching them that they should be ashamed to go and seek out a legitimate toy. They should be embarrassed to look for a quality product. So they’ll use the shitty novelty item you got them. They might hurt themselves. They might assume that all sex toys are this terrible, or worse that all attempts to masturbate with sex toys will be this disappointing. And if that’s their first experience, why the hell would they want a second one?! 

So you’ve cheapened and potentially destroyed what might have been someone’s first time with a toy. All because you wanted a laugh.

The intention of novelty toys is to cause embarrassment. You can argue that it’s to “have a laugh”, but it’s at the expense of the person receiving it, or at the expense of the person in the room who is legitimately into whatever just got handed out as a gag. The use of toys for novelty purposes encourages a repression of sexual conversation. It’s an industry that fuels this idea that sex is shameful or inherently embarrassing. We don’t need more of that shit.

So, what to do? There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a sex toy as a gift. But don’t do it publicly. Don’t use it to shame or embarrass them. And only do it if you know them well enough that you’ve discussed sex toys consensually together before. Don’t buy cheap, shitty products, it only encourages them to make more.

If you’re at a party and you see someone receive a novelty sex toy, you don’t have to make a big scene. Make a point of going up to the recipient quietly later and pointing out that they’ve just received a really shitty toy, but if they want a decent toy they should ask you for some advice, or refer them to a reliable website for more information. Alternatively, if you’re a bit of an asshole like me, turn it around and shame the person who gave the gift in the first place. Turn to that douche and say “Holy shit man, it’s the lady’s 21st, you couldn’t spring for a decent sex toy? Or do you just not know what a decent sex toy looks like?” or “Nice buy! I have that exact same model of fleshlight, it’s awesome!”

At the end of the day you can make sex funny, but do it without making fun of it. It’s okay to laugh about sex, it is actually pretty hilarious, but don’t cheapen it. Sex is amazing and funny and we should celebrate its wonderfulness as well as its weirdness, without making anyone feel bad about themselves or their curiosity in the process.

That is all.

You may go now.  

*Just in the interests of clarity, I would like to point out that I have nothing against blow up dolls that are made from quality materials. As you can see from the header image on this article though, many blow up dolls are made with protruding plastic seams and these can literally cut your skin open, they're that sharp. They're manufactured as a novelty, for laughs and this in turn puts people off investing in legitimate, high quality blow up dolls.