What the asexual people reviewing sex toys can teach us about their orientation

Sex toys are for everyone.
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Yes, asexual people use sex toys too.

Its a common misconception that someone who is asexual – or ace as theyve nicknamed themselves would have no use for gadgets that are, well, sexual. But Taryn, a 26-year-old ace from the Pacific Northwest, wants people to know just how false these stereotypes can be.

For the past year, the marketing professional-by-day has been building up Ace In The Hole, where she writes sex-positive sex toy reviews and blogs candidly about her own sex life. Shes one of a handful of people whove started sex toy review sites aimed at aces.

Taryns work is hardly out of the ordinary in and of itself. It resembles the sex-positive feminist sex toy review sites and blogs that have influenced her, like Hey Epiphora and Dangerous Lily.

Because an asexual doesn’t experience sexual attraction, Taryn recognizes that her blog might seem counterintuitive from someone not of that sexual orientation.

There are a lot of misconceptions about asexuality that make it easy to feel like youre a fraud when youre asexual and writing sex toy reviews, but I think its important,” she said.

Her reviews cover everything from kink to erotic audio to the likelihood of a silicone toy becoming covered in cat hair. Out of context, you might not even be able to tell that an asexual person wrote many of the reviews at all and thats kind of the lesson.

Fighting Misconceptions

In her personal life, Taryn has found that people often assume she isnt interested in romantic relationships, hates sex, has never had it before, or never wants to have it again. None of those things are true. Online, some of her blogs commenters say theyd never even heard of asexuality to begin with.

This lack of public understanding is due at least in part to the fact that asexuality wasnt considered an orientation until 2001. Thats when activist David Jay created the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) as an online space for the dispersed community.

Until then it was commonly pathologized and viewed as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. That diagnosis itself has been the subject of significant criticism within the psychological community.
AVEN defines an asexual person as someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Some asexuals further identify as aromantic, meaning they do not feel romantic attraction either.

While aces are all linked in that they dont experience sexual attraction, its otherwise impossible to paint them with a broad brush.

Its hard to say for sure how many aces there are out there, but the most formal research that exists (which is now over 10 years old) indicates that one percent of people might be asexual. While aces are all linked in that they dont experience sexual attraction, its otherwise impossible to paint them with a broad brush.

Its often assumed that they are celibate or experience extreme sex repulsion though that doesn’t come close to defining everyone within the asexual orientation. AVEN project team member Michael J. Dor told Mashable that many aces are stereotyped in other ways, too. Some common beliefs are that aces are just making a lifestyle choice, are dealing with a medical condition, or can be changed.

You just need to sleep with me is something asexual people hear a lot, Dor said. Largely misconceptions come from ignorance, because there has been so little coverage of asexuality, and sometimes there are inaccurate portrayals of asexuality in the media.

The Role of Sex Toys

Taryn feels romantic and sensual attraction and enjoys sex and masturbation, though she does not experience sexual attraction. Ive just never had that kind of, Oh, I want you right now, feeling, as she explains in her blogs FAQ. She says needs to set reminders for herself to initiate sex when in a relationship.

For her, asexuality plays a lesser role in how she chooses sex toys. But some aces do feel that their orientation shapes the way they shop for sex toys in a significant way.

This is especially true for those that consider themselves towards the other end of sex-repulsion spectrum from Taryn. (Its worth noting that even asexuals who consider themselves sex-repulsed or averse may engage in masturbation or partnered sex for various reasons, like role play, trying to conceive, a partners pleasure, stress relief, or an endorphin boost.)

The role that sex repulsion plays in shopping for sex toys is something Tom, a 31-year-old asexual man living in Seattle, was sensitive to when he started his blog, Asexual Activities. He said he first decided to start his site after he realized there was really no good place for aces interested in talking about sex toys to do so amongst themselves.

He knew discussion of sex toys in existing asexual online communities might make some sex-repulsed people feel uncomfortable. But other broader platforms where sex toys were already being covered often felt alienating for him and other asexuals.

What hes found in Asexual Activities is a community of aces eager to participate. When he posed the question, What would an asexual sex toy be, if a company wanted to try to market sex toys to aces? it garnered over 400 responses.

Commenters said overtly anatomical designs were the biggest turnoff in terms of the way some sex toys are designed.

He told Mashable that commenters said overtly anatomical designs were the biggest turnoff in terms of the way some sex toys are designed. Detailed and exaggerated anatomy was a common dislike. Veiny dildos, in particular, were not a fave.

The same can be said about male masturbation sleeves designed to look like realistic labia. Some asexual commenters noted that they preferred fantasy designs, like those available at the specialty online store Bad Dragon.

Apart from the design of the product itself, the way sex toys are packaged and marketed are also something that many asexual people had specific opinions on.

Things like ride him all night on dildo packaging, or shell suck you dry on a [masturbation] sleeve package was a put-off for people, Tom said, adding that any kind of anthropomorphization, nudity, and sleaze had the same effect.

The Value of Building This Community

While these forums could provide valuable insights to the makers of sex toys, if they wanted to market directly to aces, they also provide a valuable service to asexual people who are in the process of discovering more about what their orientation means.

The internet has certainly shed more light on what some call their invisible orientation in recent years, but asexuality is almost entirely left off of most traditional sexual education curriculums that is, of course, in places where sex ed is even offered to begin with.

This means that aces are largely left to advocate and educate themselves. For Taryn, this means bringing awareness of asexuality to readers who may have been just looking for a sex toy review. And that can be a really enlightening thing for some of them.

I had one comment recently that was from an older gentleman, she said. He told me that he had felt this way for decades but hadnt realize that other people don’t experience sexual attraction either and that it has a name.

Taryn has recently begun featuring guest posts from other bloggers and is hoping to someday monetize her site with ads so that she can continue teaching others about sex toys, asexuality, and sometimes even themselves.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/04/asexual-sex-toy-reviews/