Toys, triggers and trouble

trouble

troubleLike more people than you think, I have avoided, as far as possible, paying much attention to the misogyny shitshow that was the broadcasting of the Heard/Depp trial. (And, whatever you think about who was right and who was wrong, misogyny shitshow is an accurate description of the way Heard was treated). Someone, however, had the bright idea of marketing a new sex toy inspired by some of the evidence, which… hasn’t won them many fans.

There are clearly still lots of marketing types who believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and that setting out to cause trouble, to be confrontational, offensive etc will win you far more admirers than haters (not entirely true, as Pillocky Piers is finding out). There are a few signs that many of us are both unconvinced and frankly bored by the screaming of endless bigots and anti-woke warriors about how silenced they are.

There’s still something concerning about the reception this sex toy got, though. Spend any time in kink or sex-positive circles and you will soon find out that some people’s fantasies go to some pretty dark places but those people are not, themselves, monstrous. Very often, the Terrible Things they want to engage in are things that they want done to them, not actual harms they want to inflict on others. Many years ago I was discussing the Jodie Foster film The Accused with an acquaintance (if you are not familiar with the film it is about an assault survivor’s fight for justice and includes one very graphic scene. If you want to research it further, don’t unless you feel up to doing so. It’s an acclaimed film but definitely needs a content warning.) My acquaintance is a gentle, ethical human who happens to have some hardcore kinks. They found this harrowing scene a turn on.

troubleAnything can be a turn on for someone, just as anything can be a trigger. Anti-porn campaigners often go after films which depict activities they label ‘abusive’, usually from the starting point that they would not do that stuff, therefore no one would do it willingly, therefore all porn is abuse waa waa waa. It isn’t helpful: what matters with porn is whether the performers are treated well, fully informed about what acts they are going to engage in, not whether the storyline shows you the consent negotiations and aftercare.

What matters most with a sex toy is whether it is safe to use or at least has instructions for use and information about potential risks in use on the packaging, whether it is made by workers who are properly paid etc. In terms of what we get up to and what fantasies we choose to share or act out with our partners, it’s communication and consent that matter, not whether the roles, language and activities would distress or offend someone not directly involved in the encounter or relationship. If we start insisting that there must be limits on what consenting adults can do on the grounds of some fantasies being ‘disgusting’ to other people, in the current climate, we might be bringing more trouble on ourselves and our friends.

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