A 1998 episode of Sex and The City saw Charlotte go from a dildo-hating puritan to a die-hard wanker thanks to a vibrator known as the Rampant Rabbit. “Look, it’s so cute,” she squealed with delight. “I thought it would be all scary and weird, but it isn’t. It’s pink! For girls!” Sales of the Rabbit subsequently skyrocketed. Within months, a slew of similarly “girly” copycats had flooded the market.
The Rabbit’s success laid the blueprint for an even more heavily gendered sex toy industry. Even today, step into a sex store and you’ll see Fleshlights “FOR MEN” boxed in black, miles away from vibrators in hot pink packaging, decorated with images of cis women in the midst of breathy orgasms.
Trans-led companies like Enby and trans-specific products like the Buck Off are slowly changing the game, but sex toy shopping as a trans, non-binary customer — or anyone seeking 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.
There’s no-one-size-fits-all approach to guaranteed orgasm, and brands increasingly understand this. “We’ve noticed our multi-use 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 attachments, and the luxe packaging is designed around themes — Egyptian mythology, the grandiose aesthetics of Versailles — as opposed to gender. Kyro’s chunky wand can be used by just about anybody, and the Bess, despite being billed as a clitoral vibrator, has multiple uses when you remove gender from the equation. The petal-shaped attachment is perfect for nipple play, and any vibrator feels great lodged between your butt cheeks for external prostate or more general anal stimulation. Bess’ small, ball-shaped attachment is designed to more precisely stimulate the clit, but it feels amazing when pressed up against the mega-sensitive tip of a penis.
Other companies take customization a step further. U.K.-based Phreak Club sells sex toys shaped like tentacles, dragon eggs and girthy, ridged monster dicks, all of which come with the option to choose a level of firmness. If you opt for soft and squishy, you can use it as a stroker; if you prefer straight-up penetration, choose the hardest option and rail yourself to your heart’s content.
The days of single-use pleasure products are numbered. Nowadays, even more mainstream companies are thinking creatively about multi-use sex toys.
“Gender-neutral devices offer us the opportunity to explore the body without limitations,” says Megwyn White, a clinical sexologist and Director of Education at Satisfyer. “You might look at a device like Elastic Game and say to yourself, ‘Ooh, what can this do?’”According to White, this creative thinking opens up new possibilities; depending what mood you’re in, Elastic Game can be a cock ring, a lay-on vibrator or a device to sandwich between you and your partner during sex.
Companies are increasingly bearing the desire for multi-use toys in mind 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 sexy queen,” says Amber, CMO of Moana Lisa.
In her eyes, the company’s most trans-inclusive toys are the Stallion and the Empress, but she also suggests “using the Cassius with a strap, or around fingers or inside underwear, as it’s quite a chunky ring and very versatile.” The product description alludes to this, recommending it for balls, nipples and clits. Basically, there’s potential for fun no matter what body parts you’re working with — if you think creatively enough.
In today’s world of rainbow capitalism, there’s endless reason to be skeptical of Pride product releases and brands splashing the language of inclusivity across their marketing. The products might claim to be great for queer bodies, but the best way to know for sure is to seek out reviews from actual queer-identifying folks.
Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to find queer sex writers, bloggers and influencers willing to share their experience –– and for brands, it’s more advisable than ever to pay trans and non-binary consultants to improve their products. Betty Butch creates YouTube unboxing videos and writes in-depth reviews of everything from vulva pumps to swamp monster dildos. Kelvin Sparks has tried out straps, ejaculating dildos and kinky accessories, whereas Epiphora has an in-depth backlog of reviews to choose from.
There’s still a long way to go in terms of improvement, and plenty of brands are aware of this. “The pleasure industry only just started considering what real sex actually looks like,” says Amber. “It’s easy to feel invisible when you don’t fit into the gendered ideal of sex and pleasure, but one way to navigate that is to seek out brands, influencers and educators who use inclusive language, and whose tips and insight affirm and celebrate trans bodies.” Amber recommends Moana Lisa’s in-house expert Sex Debbie, as well as Dodo Potato and Alix Fox.
Reddit is often chaotic, but it’s also a goldmine of smut for inquisitive trans folks looking to get off. Subreddits like r/ftm, r/sex and r/mtf are either trans-led or trans-inclusive, meaning they’re a relatively safe online space to seek out recommendations.
Plenty of products get a word-of-mouth reputation as trans-inclusive. The Satisfyer Pro II is exemplary; it has a larger-than-usual opening for a suction toy, making it ideal for trans guys taking hormones and experiencing bottom growth. Tenga Eggs can be lubed up liberally and used as strokers, whereas toys with low, rumbly vibrations are praised by horny trans women.
If you’re worried a product will trigger dysphoria, feel shitty or just be a straight-up waste of money, there’ll be trans folks online willing to share their experiences.
Every sex toy professional I spoke to for this piece emphasized the importance of feedback. There’s no such thing as a default trans, queer or non-binary body, just like there’s no sure-fire way to guarantee an orgasm, so sex toy manufacturers are genuinely keen to hear what works and what doesn’t.
Some will happily send free product samples in exchange for honest reviews; others will work with consultants to nail the perfect inclusive designs. “We’re always listening to the market and where the demand is going,” says Ovsonka of his mission for ZALO. “We’ve always prioritized pleasure and desire over gender in our marketing. Along with other brands, I expect there’ll be a major shift towards de-gendering product descriptions and marketing in the coming years.”
As we saw with the Rampant Rabbit, all it takes is one cult product to change the industry landscape — and there is no shortage of brands competing for that moment. The earliest trans-specific toys are just starting to trickle out, and the media frenzy that’s greeted them has shown there’s desire for companies to think outside the box. Researchers are throwing out creative solutions, too — Dr. Kate Devlin, author of Turned On, has hypothesized a future filled with less humanoid sex robots and more sexy, 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 boundless sexual potential.
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