There is nothing worse than the feeling of walking into a store or browsing a website that claims to be diverse and inclusive, and not seeing yourself and your needs reflected in the marketing material or product selection. I think this is particularly true when it comes to intimate items like sex toys.
We all suffer from a lack of holistic sex education and we all tend to receive very binary messages about sex and self-worth, so being able to find sexual health and pleasure products that don’t double down on negative societal messages about bodies and pleasure can be an affirming experience.
Nikki Darling set out to be non-gendered from the beginning. I’d worked in the industry for a number of years and had always found it frustrating that even in stores that purported to be progressive and feminist, sex toys were presumed to be for women, and then there would be a small section of sleeves, pumps and rings for the men. It is such a limiting way to categorise your products, and the segregation only perpetuates these binary ideas about sex, bodies, gender and toys.
Nikki Darling was, to my knowledge, the first sex toy business in Australia to refrain from using any gendered terminology in the categorising and marketing of our range of products and events. This has seen us build up a strong customer base of trans and gender diverse (TGD) people who appreciate us not suggesting a product is “for men” or that a product is designed “for women”. But it isn’t just our TGD customers who appreciate the non-gendered approach - by removing gender, everyone is given permission to explore sex toys with less preconceptions and limitations, and that can lead to people making discoveries and choices they previously wouldn’t have considered.
Take for example the humble bullet vibrator - for so many years, bullet vibes have been marketed as as a woman’s toy for use on the clitoris, but you needn’t be a woman or have a clitoris to use one - they are great for stimulating the perineum, the frenulum, inguinal canals, nipples.. When you remove gender from the equation, toys start to become more multifaceted than their packaging or sales pitch might have allowed for.
Something that is disappointing to me is that we are still seeing businesses fall short when it comes to recognising and accommodating diversity. Even toy makers who are progressive and innovative in other areas fall short when it comes to gender diversity - toys made “by and for” lesbian and queer women can be guilty of throwing their trans sisters under the bus with their language use. I’ve witnessed discrimination when it comes to hiring TGD people in the sex toy industry, and that too is part of the problem.
On the other hand, there are companies who are beginning to create and market toys specifically for trans people, which is amazing that we live in a time where that can happen, but I am somewhat cynical about introducing another gender-segregated category of toys, and I believe our collective goal should be doing away with gender-categorising of toys altogether. Thankfully, I am also beginning to see this happen.
Let’s acknowledge and honour the complexity of gender, sex and bodies and stop trying to force folk into these limiting boxes with our lazy use of language.
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