In the years I’ve been writing about sex toys, I’ve seen one fear come up more than any other: can sex toys replace human sexual partners?
This manifests in two main ways. The first is a specific, relational fear. This tends to be along the lines of, “if my partner likes this dildo/stroker more than my dick/pussy, they’ll leave me”. The second is a more general moral panic, of the “we’re all getting too reliant on technology and soon none of us will know real intimacy any more” variety.
I think this is absolute nonsense of the highest order on both counts. Here’s why.
We don’t own our partners’ sexuality
Being in a relationship, even a monogamous relationship, does not imply ownership over our partners’ bodies or sexualities. I firmly believe that it’s healthy for people in relationships to maintain a satisfying solo sex life, and that sex toys can be a significant part of that.
Even if you and your partner agree to a closed relationship, using sex toys isn’t cheating because toys are objects, not people. Using a sex toy is a form of masturbation (i.e. sex with oneself) and your partner cannot cheat on you with themselves.
I believe that it’s deeply unhealthy, and can even be abusive, to try to restrict your partner from enjoying solo sex. Our bodies are our own and we all have the right to enjoy them. I’d never leave a partner because I “preferred” a sex toy, but I would leave a partner who tried to police my solo sex life (consensual BDSM games notwithstanding).
Toys can make partnered sex better
Using sex toys can improve your partnered sex life in a variety of ways.
First and most obviously, you can use sex toys together with your lover. This might involve using a toy on them, watching and talking dirty to them while they get themselves off with a toy, or using a strap-on or double-ended toy together. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also try things like remote controlled and app controlled toys.
Even if one or both of you prefers to use toys solo, they can still improve your partnered sex by teaching you more about your bodies, your preferences, and how you experience pleasure. You can bring this knowledge back to each other and enjoy hotter sex as a result. Pretty cool.
If you start seeing sex toys as something that can benefit and bring pleasure to both of you, you’re less likely to find them threatening.
Relationships are a lot more than just sex
Sex is a part of most romantic relationships, and the sexual connection you share might be one of the things you deeply value in your relationship. But think of some of the other things you love about your partner. Is it their loving and caring nature, the way their eyes crinkle when they laugh, how amazing they are at planning fun experiences? Chances are, there are tonnes of things you love about them that have absolutely nothing to do with sex.
You can’t cuddle up with a sex toy and watch TV. It can’t take you on a date or tell you it loves you or build a life with you. Even if a toy can give you, most reliable, most toe-curlingly amazing orgasms of your life, it still couldn’t begin to provide all those other wonderful things you love about your partner. The same is true in reverse.
Sex is a lot more than orgasms
When you have sex with your partner, chances are you get more out of the experience than just the physical pleasure of orgasm. Sex toys are amazing, but they don’t replace the human element of sex.
Think about all the other things you love about sex. The physicality of another person’s body close to yours, the warmth and taste and smell of them, the flirtation that begins days or hours or minutes before sex, the post-sex cuddles as you bask in the afterglow.
Orgasms matter, but they’re not everything. A sex toy might give you great orgasms, but it can’t provide any of those other things that make partnered sex so wonderful.
Toys are tools
So, can sex toys replace human sexual partners?
Ultimately, there’s one simple reason why sex toys cannot replace people: because sex toys are not people!
However advanced and sophisticated they get, sex toys are ultimately just tools. Think of any item you own that serves a specific purpose. Sex toys are no different, it’s just that their purpose is to bring you pleasure.
And I think that’s something to be embraced and celebrated, not feared.