Why It's Time To Retire The Term "Sex Toys"

When we talk about sex toys, we rarely think about why they're called “sex toys.” While the word dildo has been been around since 1400 AD, with roots in both Latin (“dilatare,” meaning “open wide”) and Italian (“diletto” meaning “a woman’s delight”), it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when “sex toys” came into use. Considering how many “toys” fall under this umbrella, it’s a pretty vague term, to say the least.

If that’s the case, maybe we should stop using the term “sex toys” and perhaps find something that fits more appropriately. Or maybe call a dildo a dildo, a vibrator a vibrator, a butt plug a butt plug, and so on down the list; either way, it's time to reconsider the term "sex toys."

“A toy is defined as ‘an object for a child to play with, typically a model or miniature replica of something,’” Polly Rodriguez, CEO of Unbound, an erotic subscription service, tells Bustle.“When we first started Unbound one of the biggest problems we faced was what to call the items we sold. Are they novelty products? No. Are they marital aides? As single women, hell no. What about erotic pleasure items? Barf. So, uh, that leaves... sex toys. That made us feel all kinds of creepy. The truth was, there was no simple, clear and honest phrase to describe the items we felt all women should own,” says Rodriguez.

So maybe it’s time we phase out "sex toys." Here are some reasons why:

1. We’re Adults

As Rodriguez points out, by it’s very definition, a toy is something with which a child plays. Sure, it’s a cute word, but aren’t we mature enough to let it go? It’s like calling your vagina a childish term, when it’s actually a vagina.

2. It’s Time To Be Honest

We shouldn’t flit around the topic of sex or anything that involves sex-related items. Having a great sex life means being able to communicate things in a sex-positive way, as opposed to hiding behind euphemisms. “We came up with our own term: sexual lifestyle products,” says Rodriguez. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

3. It’s About Evolution

As a Bob Dylan wrote, “Times they are a-changin';” that’s just as true now as it was in 1964. And in order to keep up with that change, we all must evolve and change accordingly, even in the words we choose to use for certain things. “Female use of sexual lifestyle products (e.g., vibrators, dildos, lubricants, jewelry accessories) has grown immensely over the past 20 years, while our vernacular remains unchanged,” Rodriguez tells Bustle. “We believe that in order to change the social stigmas surrounding female sexuality, we have to evolve something as seemingly simple as the words we use when talking about it.”

4. We Need To Recognize Female Sexuality

Although we’ve come very far from the thinking that women aren't sexual (I still roll my eyes at that malarkey), we’ve yet to completely get society to really, like really understand that women and men are equal in their sexual desires. Because of this, many women still deal with shame when it comes to sexuality. But Rodriguez feels that the term “sexual lifestyle product” can take away a lot of stigma “Sexual lifestyle products implies that women lead a lifestyle that is, in fact, sexual. We believe that's nothing to be ashamed about,” explains Rodriguez.

5. Terminology Shouldn’t Be Biased

According to Rodriguez, everyone is at a different stage of exploration in their sex life. Because of this, she firmly believes that the terms we use shouldn’t be biased. In using something as broad as “sexual lifestyle,” no one is left out; the term “can encompass everything from buying your first vibrator to the more niche sexual products used in BDSM and role play,” she says. Throwing biases out the window in how we choose to label these products not only leads to female empowerment, but sexual acceptance of oneself and sexual desires.

6. Female Sexuality Deserves Respect

Not only do we need to recognize female sexuality, but we need to respect it. We need to acknowledge it, educate ourselves about it, and not shy away from it. “The blowup dolls you see in 1990s high school rom coms are sex toys,” Rodriguez tells Bustle. “The $79 gorgeous rose gold Crave necklace you playfully wear out on your dinner date is not. We should be using words that elevate the conversation around female sexuality so that we can finally start to give it the respect it deserves."

Hear! Hear!

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (6)