The last taboos of masturbation

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Women & porn

By Tanya Mok

Every 39 minutes, a new pornographic movie is being produced. Somewhere in the world, men and women of all walks of life are copulating in front of cameras.

We’ve all seen it, the titillating moaning and carnal exchange of bodily fluids that is the quintessential adult video. Somehow these images have dribbled their way into our day-to-day lives and have become one of the biggest reasons people browse the internet. With erotic sites making up 12 per cent of all online content, it’s unlikely one has never stumbled upon an adult film online.

But stop a woman and ask her whether or not she watches porn, and chances are she may scoff at the question. It seems that women still have a hard time admitting they enjoy watching other people get it on.

Despite any denials, a 2008 Internet Pornography Statistics report said that 28 per cent of internet porn consumers are in fact women. The statistic has likely risen since, insinuating that not only do women watch porn, they like it.

Cathryn Reagall, a first-year arts and contemporary studies student, thinks that people tend to get the wrong idea of girls who watch porn.

“Guys might judge me,” she said. “[They] start to think that I’m a nympho or something.”

According to Sara Cleland, the manager of Seduction Love Boutique at Yonge and Wellesley Streets, many women just aren’t ready to expose themselves as porn watchers because preconceived social ideas tell us otherwise.

“Socially, when you’re a woman and you watch pornography, you’re addicted or you have an emotional problem,“ Cleland said.

Cleland observes that nearly all the DVD consumers at Seduction are men, but she frequently finds that boyfriends browse the store by themselves not by choice but because their significant others don’t feel comfortable enough to join them.

Another problem is that the majority of porn is produced for men, by men, with the fantasies and perspectives of females left out entirely. However a 28 per cent market share is a huge number to ignore, and some in the industry are taking note.

Female directors like Anna Span and Erika Lust produce porn specifically for a female audience. This kind of porn typically has more of a focus on the women’s pleasure, actually showing female orgasms, a rarity in mainstream porn. Some movies are more sensual and plot-focused than the average skin flick, but women looking to watch a dirty, feelings-free romp can find their fix too.

Here in Toronto, the annual Feminist Porn Awards honour the best in female and queer-friendly porn. To qualify, films must depict genuine female pleasure, have been produced at least in part by women and challenge the stereotypes of mainstream porn.

Even on free porn tube sites, “femalefriendly” categories are popping up more and more as the industry catches on to the growing number of women who aren’t afraid to indulge in some personal time with their laptop.

“Good porn should turn you on and not scare you,” said Hilary Cheong, a firstyear psychology student. “I love me some good porn.”

With the internet’s accessibility growing exponentially, that good porn is only ever a few clicks away.

Men & sex toys

By Lauren Fogazzi

Walk into any typical sex shop and you’ll find more toys for women than you can count.

With endless colours, shapes and functions, females aren’t suffering from a lack of options. The independent woman usually isn’t without a vibrator hidden in her bedroom. Dildos, vibrators and anal beads are just a few of the sex toys advertised for females that dominate the market and the media.

On the flipside, it’s hard to imagine any man bragging about a new sex toy he just experimented with to his friends in the way he would after picking up a girl. After countless years of living in the shadow of the female toy industry, the market for male sex toys may finally be catching up to its female counterpart in the $15 billion industry.

“The market in terms of male toys is almost getting equal to girls in buying vibrators,” said Marie Leeunz, manager of the Stag Shop on Yonge Street.

On some months, the store sells out of its popular male toys in two weeks, on average their stock ranges from a dozen to four dozen a month. The mere thought of using a sex toy for masturbation is embarrassing for many men.

“This may be related to gendered notions of sexual functioning. Male sexual functioning is expected to arise naturally,” said Jessica O’Reilly, a Toronto sexologist. “While women are expected to require more work.”

According to Leeunz, the FleshLight is the most common toy amongst men. But why don’t more men try rubbing one out with this toy in lieu of using their hands?

“In general a guy is soft if he can’t get it in,” said Moathe El-Rabbany, a second-year engineering student. “By buying a sex toy it means he can’t get a girl.”

Thank society for creating a double standard surrounding masturbation. Playing with yourself can be a substitute for sex but if you do it too often and require the assistance of toys it’s frowned upon.

“We can begin by de-stigmatizing masturbation and stop characterizing it as a last resort. People masturbate because it feels good, not because they can’t get a partner,” said O’Reilly. “Everyone is entitled to an orgasm, it’s a choice and a very common one at that. The same is true of sex toys.”

Aaron Meletia, a first-year journalism student admits he may buy a sex toy, but only under circumstance warranted it. “If I felt I wasn’t being satisfied I would go with a sex toy but then if I was dissatisfied every time, maybe it’s me or I need something more,” he said.

“But as men, we are bottle rockets. One-two-go, we’re quick to cum.” Some women share the same feelings about men using sex toys, believing it’s an insult to them if their partner resorts to something like a Fleshlight.

“If he has to use a sex toy, I see it as not being good enough,” said Dominque Bennett, a third-year radio and television arts student.

While the stigma surrounding men and sex toys is gradually becoming less of a talking point, there’s still a fair ways to go before the FleshLight reaches the same level of social acceptability as the dildo.

“As we work to promote more sex-positive values, sex toys may become more popular. I’m an advocate of options,” O’Reilly believes. “You don’t need to use toys. If you like them, use them. Just don’t force your preferences and values onto others by reinforcing stigma.”

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