Sexism In Swinging: I Call Bullshit
In 2005, if you were to walk into a typical sex shop, after you stepped beyond the threshold of a blacked out door of an adult store on the wrong side of town, you’d be inundated with sex toys that were created for women, but marketed to them in a very sexist way. It was like, asking what women wanted was an afterthought.
You couldn’t even get a bullet vibe without some porn star spread across the packaging. It was cheesy, uncomfortable and decidedly unsophisticated. Sure, there were toys for women, and while the women themselves were the other half of the marketing equation, they were seemingly left out of the entire process up until the purchase…which conveniently, was the one part women actually mattered in the equation.
Women who shopped- you know what I mean..the walls of old school sex stores were full of toys like this. You had to wonder who they were selling to?
Of course, we didn’t have too many choices in terms of savvy packaging or body safe toys, so we took what we could get, and usually shoved it in a black plastic bag and darted out the door. Luckily for us lady-folks, sex toys and shops have become more inclusive, diverse and savvy from the products themselves to the people owning the shops.
Additionally, the products themselves have become less offensive both to our tastes, and to our bodies (screw you shitty products with your shady cancer-causing jelly plastics.). If you still want the stereotypical sex store that smacks of that seedy vibe, you can still totally find those- but if you want a fun and comfortable place to shop, places like Early To Bed, Smitten Kitten & SheVibe cater to creating a safe, inclusive environment that only sells products that promote those standards (both online and in store).
We’ve come a long way baby- sex stores now are SO much better. We have so many sex bloggers and advocates for women’s voices and needs in the sex industry- but when it comes to swinging, I feel we’re still getting the short end of the stick.
When it comes to swinging, we are still navigating that seedy side of town. It seems the swinging lifestyle preaches the line “the women are in charge,” they just don’t know how to actually market it that way.
I get that sex sells. I get that women are pretty and you can sell more tickets to your events or membership sites by promoting gorgeous backsides and buxom boobies- but that aside, why are we selling swinging this way to begin with?
We love using Kasidie, but am I the only one with a bullshit meter going off? For any feminist who wants to swing, this image may make you feel unwelcomed- but don’t worry, there’s more.
We now know that we don’t need a naked chick on top of a vibrator or lube to sell it. A good product sells itself. So, what is with the cliché marketing for swinging, and why is it stuck in the 90’s?
I love Kasidie, it’s a great site and helps vet the right people, but I’m so lost as to why Kasidie & their event partners market things so…stereotypically?
When you log in to Kasidie, you’re met with a gorgeous (and perfect) woman’s ass. Yes, it’s sexy…but we don’t seem to hold the swinging sites to the standard we as consumers hold the sex toy industry- where using women as props is kind of lame, even to use sex to sell….sex.
A typical listing of community events on Kasidie- lots of stereotypically perfect bodies. Mainly women. It feels so….truckstop porn shop to me. Are we really in charge, or are we accessories, or both?
I started writing this post in March, when we first entered the lifestyle. I hadn’t yet been to a party, and we had only been to the club a few times. Since then, my eyes have been opened to the reality that most swingers don’t really respond to this, they don’t look like this in real life, but also- that this doesn’t necessarily phase most of the people I spoke to. (Granted the sample size is still rather small).
It can be argued that this is just one flavor of swinging sexuality- some people, women included, may find this type of marketing totally sexy. It may float their boat. Good for them!
There are also women out there who don’t mind going to a sex store and finding nothing but dildos that are packaged with pictures of porn stars giving blow jobs, or the body image or the “acceptable” forms of sexual expressions it perpetuates. To each, his or her own- if it doesn’t bother you, great.
What I will challenge people to wonder, is this- why aren’t there alternatives? Can’t we do better?
Why aren’t we, as a community, more inclusive? More diverse?
I can say, when my partner and I first entered the lifestyle, the imagery was startling. It had been ages since I felt like I didn’t belong when I consumed sexual products- the local stores, blogs and online shops had done a great deal in helping me feel welcomed and included. I could shop for sexy toys without getting ANY messages about what I should look like, how I should act, or what sexual expression was deemed “valuably sexy.”
I guess, it boils down to the fact that it’s been ages since I felt the cliché male gaze of oppression in the sexual spaces I run in- where women are used to sell, but aren’t invited to the table to create. I am spoiled, but I should be, I’m spending money and I’m an active participant. As a woman, I should feel that I’m not left out of the process of crafting a sexual space, and really- there aren’t many alternatives in swinging.
As a couple, we were SO lucky that the “front door” to swinging, which for us, was an online dating site for swingers, was NOT where we stopped exploring.
We’ve been able to find safe, inclusive, and body positive parties and venues that make us feel welcomed- but really, as a whole, we could do better. If we want the community to grow and make it feel safer for newbies, we should do better.