Dear Dr. G,

I am delighted to see that you responded to an email from a female reader last week, and I am hoping to follow suit by enquiring about similarly taboo matters.

My husband and I have been married for nearly twenty years and raised two children who are both in boarding schools abroad and given the current lockdown, we really appreciate the empty nest and treasure the opportunity to be together again.

Like most couples, we enjoy our active sex life. However, both my husband and I agree that action in the bedroom has gone stale in recent years.

Following advice from friends, my husband and I started to bring some fun into the bedroom such as sensual massages and role-play.

I must say, the anticipation and silliness of such adventures have brought endless fun and giggles into the bedroom and as we get more and more adventurous, I am toying with the ideas of introducing “marital aids” between the sheets.

However, I am surprised that my husband was so shocked with the idea of sex toys and thinks this is a form of sexual deviance and the beginning of the point of no return!

I am a bit lost and would like to put Dr. G on the spot for his views on sex toys.

What constitutes sex toys and are they a form of sexual deviance?

Are sex toys physically harmful and will sex toys cause a strain in a relationship?

Also, why are some partners so against the idea of enhancing sex with marital aids?

Finally, how do I convince my husband to at least try such ideas?

Toying Tania

Sex toys can range from erotic electro-stimulation, penetrative devices, nipple and penile toys. Erotic electro-stimulation objects are generally machines stimulating the nerve endings of genitals with electricity pulses, while penetrative devices generally resemble a penis with the option of additional shapes for G spot stimulation or vibratory functions. Additionally, penile and nipple toys are artificial vaginas and clamps that stimulate erogenous part of the bodies.

Basically, sex toys are objects that have a sole purpose of enhancing human sexual pleasure while sexual deviance is a concept that refers to a behaviour where individuals seek erotic gratification through means that are considered odd, different or unacceptable to most persons in the community.

Although the secret (or open) use of sex toys by individuals (or couples) is not uncommon, the acceptance of such a practice is widely variable in different backgrounds, beliefs and morals. Perhaps, this is the reason why sex toys are deemed illegal in many countries, where the device is considered an “obscene product”. With such perceptions of sex toys, some couples and cultures may have strong view of such “deviation from the norm”, and react in stigmatizing and ostracizing ways.

In recent years, although sex toys were advertised openly, theywere just disguised as other objects in life with sex toy distributors selling their wares with euphemisms such as “marital aids” and “novelty items” to lessen the taboo. For example, Hitachi has yet to clarifiy the purpose of its battery-operated device, famously named The Magic Wand.

All said and done, the industry is estimated to have a market value of US$15 billion in 2008, and a projected annual growth of 30%. Easy purchases online and mainstream drugstores have somewhat diminished the stigma, making sex toys more accessible to couples who want to add a different dimension to their sex life without being perceived as deviant.

Many individuals and couples introduce sex toys into their sex life out of curiosity. According to one study, 82% of couples are keen to keep their sex life as exciting as possible, and 52% opted for sex toys. Nearly half of the couples opted for sex toys and generate open communication. Chapman University reported a study in 2016 that highlighted how couples can explore novel ways of being intimate; the introduction of sex toys tends to have better relationship satisfaction. The

study reflected that the usage of sex toys in couples helps to maintain passion and desire in a relationship. This also enhances other activities like scheduling date nights and trying new sexual positions. The study also revealed that 53% of heterosexual women reported using sex toys, with 86% reporting sexual satisfaction.

On the other hand, the introduction of sex toy without open communication can also cause deterioration in a relationship as one partner may feel threatened about his sexual ability and others may feel judged on the desire to explore. Indeed, heterosexual men who used sex toys in the relationship actually reported lower satisfaction. This may be due to men feeling inferior when the use of devices reflected poorly on their own sexual ability, leading to the feeling of redundancy and fear of their partner being overly reliant on sex toys.

The American theorist and futurist R Buckminster Fuller once warned: “Those who play with the devil’s toy will be brought by degrees to wield his sword.”

Despite the great variation of sex toys hitting the right spots in self-pleasure and spicing up action in the bedroom, many still find introducing sex toys into the bedroom intimidating, unnatural and potentially taking the relationship down the “devil’s path”.

While an over-reliance and excessive use of such devices will result in a partner feeling inferior and left out, the use of sex toys in a relationship with honest communication is beneficial, as the curiosity for novelty and exploration allows open and honest discussion about likes and dislikes.

As acceptance of such novelty evolves, it is important to constantly reflect on the balance between sex, pleasure and human affection. When couples having toying ideas between the sheets puts Dr. G on the spot for his view, he reckons that “balanced playing with the devil’s toy can only enhance the degree of wielding an angelic sword!”

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