Why Is There Such a Lack of Sex Toys in TV and Film?

Posted by Anna Bergeron on

Sex toys are slowly but surely becoming a part of people’s sexual experience, but they are still the butt of all the jokes in mainstream media more often than not.

The Importance of Mainstream Representation of Sex Toys

The very first works of cinematography were released to the public many decades ago. It is not surprising that the films of that time closely reflected the attitudes of its society, and the change was slow-going.

Today, many would say that sex is no longer taboo — both on and off the screen. Compared to the cinema and television of the 20th century, that would undoubtedly be correct. The modern directors and writers at the very least reference sex. Additionally, they often have some sort of sexual activity portrayed in their work. The reasons for that are many.

One is the desire to keep up with the changing generations who are more sex-positive than ever. Fiction should always reflect reality to a certain degree, especially when human experience is concerned. If viewers freely discuss and engage in sex in their day-to-day lives, they will wish to see characters who are allowed to do the same.

However, many argue that television and film also play a part in the way we perceive our lives. The shows we watch can have an influence that may be greater than one would think. Does sexual freedom expressed on the screen impact our own experiences? Which side is actually pushing the other toward progression?

Also, let us not forget that sex sells. The appeal is undoubtedly driving writers to the obligatory sexual or romantic moments in most work aimed at adults. And the mere existence of sex on screen is not the only change. The characters engaging in the activities reflect all kinds of relationships that have been historically under or misrepresented.

The Depiction of Sex in Present-Day Media

If we look at the ever-growing number of LGBT TV shows and the increasing diversity of representation in mainstream media, the progress is evident. But some aspects of sex are still very much taboo.

The act itself is typically not highly realistic; it skews either toward too pornographic or too romanticized. The conversation surrounding sex is also often censored and, therefore, not too informative.

For instance, sex toys or sex shops rarely play a significant role in the vast majority of popular films or TV shows. Unfortunately, the silver screen rarely addresses their existence. But when it does, the effect is usually comedic. Why is that the case? And, more importantly, why should it not be?

How Would Sex Toys on TV and Film Benefit the Viewers?

It should not surprise anyone that the current state of sex on TV and film was different in the past. The change was gradual. Once upon a time, even a simple kiss was sensational. That is no longer the case. Today, it would be challenging to find a contemporary TV show without one.

However, we can’t say the same about sex toys. Yes, kissing is probably a bit more universal than a dildo, but even so, sex toys are probably a bit more universal than modern cinematography would have you believe.

Sadly, films and shows have not yet caught up with their audiences. If they had, the consequences could only have had a positive impact. Firstly, valuable information would reach people more easily. And that knowledge could be highly beneficial to one’s sex life. Normalizing sex toys is not only a way to introduce more pleasure to anyone’s bedroom; it may also prevent misuse and issues that often come with taboo topics.

The more shameful or awkward societies consider particular actions taboo, the more difficult it is to have an informed and meaningful conversation about them. Feeling the need to keep something a secret can lead to misinformation, which can hurt an individual.

Mainstream media has a unique privilege and responsibility to normalize specific aspects of everyday life. The more obscure and confusing a topic is, the more difficult it is for the general public to accept it. Films and TV shows have the power to erase all awkwardness surrounding most subjects, including sex toys.

By doing so, the media familiarizes its viewers with the topic, removing all the shame associated with it. And when the topic is sex toys, meaningful representation would mean safe practice and more pleasure. Everybody wins.

However, we are not quite there yet.

Why Are Sex Toys Still Not Taken Seriously?

If you take a look at the catalog of films and shows that have featured sex toys, comedy is the number-one genre. In addition, the list has some indie shows that predominantly talk about sex. The mainstream appears to have steered away from the subject.

What is it about sex toys that makes them a cause for laughter? What prevents them from taking part in serious cinema?

The answer has to do with society’s general attitudes toward sex. Sex jokes are a subgenre of its own, and the topic is still awkward and uncomfortable for many. The toys’ appearance on screen is typically more comical than sexy, thanks to the limited number of contexts in which we see them. These fictional characters either hide them like some dirty little secret, or they take it to a different extreme. In the latter scenarios, these characters come off as quirky or eccentric, contrasting the “normal” protagonists.

In any case, the representation we have seen throughout the years is not too satisfying.

We could say the same thing about some other kinds of representation on TV and the silver screen. For example, a gay character once meant being a funny guy interested in fashion and a fixed place on the sidelines of the plot. Today, there are various kinds of shows and films where LGBT characters and their stories are the focus and not an accessory. Could the same happen with sex toys in the near future? The signs are pointing to an optimistic answer.

TV Shows and Films That Have Been Doing It Right

Even if there is an evident lack of sex toys in films and the mainstream media, there are a few good examples to be found without much research. For instance, “Sex and the City” was a highly popular show that spoke quite openly about all aspects of sex.

There was hardly an episode without a conversation about sexual activities, most notably, female sexual pleasure. On top of that, a few dealt precisely with the topic of sex toys. Even if the title suggested a sex TV show, the issues that it dabbled in were about women’s experience. They involved many aspects of life, including romantic relationships and all that goes hand in hand.

When it comes to films, recent years have brought us an exceptionally popular franchise — “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Even if there is no denying that these movies were controversial, they have most certainly brought sex toys to the public’s attention.

Other examples are perhaps not as well-known, but they have made significant steps in normalizing the idea of owning and using sex toys as the aforementioned film. These are typically works that are already quite progressive, such as lesbian TV shows, transgender TV shows, or LGBT films in general. A diverse cast of characters is not the only way they differ from the old standards of the industry. These feature more sexual freedom and discuss “taboo” subjects openly and honestly. Such examples include Sense8 or The L Word.

They have done a great job talking about sex toys in a way that does not feel comedic or demeaning. Instead, the casual nature of these scenes takes away the stigma from the objects. They appear as a normal part of the characters’ lives that is neither funny nor shocking. It just is.

Final Note

If the continuous progress in the visual storytelling stays on its present track, the future should bring more positive examples. These are bound to be more instances of representation where the screen reflects realistic sexual experience without glorification or shame; sex toys included.

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