“Sex toys are only for masturbation.” I’m not sure where people get off saying something like that. But it’s certainly not the first time it’s been said, especially by frum Jews. The problem is, this is a complete misconception. But the question the assumption is based on is still a good one: how can a sex toy, which tends to be used for masturbation, actually bring a couple closer together?
A little anecdote to elucidate the issue. When I was starting Better2gether, I met with a frum business consultant to mull over the idea. When I sat down with him, I told him tersely that my idea was to build a business which would help all religious and conservative people have access to (as we like to call them) marital aids, without any nudity or vulgarity. The conversation continued more as an argument and less as a discussion of the viability of my business idea. The remainder of the conversation was an attempt to convince this individual that religious Jews may actually have a need for these products. The conversation never went anywhere, but in effect, this individual was saying, “Sex toys are only for masterbation” and since masturbation is forbidden, what utility could they have for religious people? This notion couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The problem of viewing adult toys as nothing more than a masturbation aid stems from a few factors. The first factor being that religious Jews face a unique problem, that being that they marry having never even touched someone of the opposite sex. This reality has made sex, in general, taboo. Most children grow up learning nothing about sex. Not from their parents, not from their schools. At best they learn the laws of family purity a few months before the wedding in a very general way from Madrich(a) (pre-marriage trainer) who may or may not delve into issues of sexuality. So from the outset, the religious Jewish community is treating sex as a ‘don’t ask don’t tell policy’.
The second factor is, most of the websites and adult toy shops that exist aren’t geared towards the conservative pallet. There are pictures of naked men and women everywhere, from the walls of the shop, to the item’s packaging. These images give the adult toy industry a feeling of ordering a call girl or going to a peep show. But the toys themselves and what they do are not necessarily connected to their packaging. They themselves are aids that can help a couple’s love life flourish.
The final factor in this negative connotation is the reality on the ground. The truth is, to date, masturbation is what most of these products have been used for. People have traditionally bought these products to replace their partner. To fill some void that their partner has left in them. But the reality is, that does not have to be the case. The sexual issues a couple struggles with do not have to be viewed as “yours” or “my” problem. In fact, it doesn’t have to be viewed as a problem at all. It should be viewed as a goal, as if to say: ‘what do we want our sexuaul lives to look like?’ And the addition of a marital aid (or two) can get a couple where they want to go. And they’ll do it together.
But none of this addresses how the couple feels about using a marital aid. From the social pressure alone, one could easily see why a couple could get down on themselves, feeling like their sexual encounter is nothing more than masturbation. But again, this is so far from the truth. Pleasing one’s partner is not about the how, it’s about the why. It is totally irrelevant whether a person pleases their partner in the traditional ways or in a new, more innovative ways. The only relevant factor is that the act is a selfless one. That the one partner wants nothing more than to make their better half, well, better. Make them feel better, experience sex better, and just downright feel good. And the amazing thing is that using marital aids can do the complete opposite of what one might think. It can actually bring a couple closer together, even though it may not be its “traditional” usage. But then again, what’s tradition to religious Jewry anyway?