Yesterday in the Sun Herald, an article I had been waiting for appeared, but it shocked me with its new and quite controversial angle. I was expecting to find a review about the new Durex pleasure vibes being stocked in supermarkets and instead was greeted with an article title, “ Sex toys canned: woolies bites the bullet and dumps vibrators” What?
I was quoted in this article and do support Durex’s move to put these products into supermarkets, however I do agree that it is controversial and potentially risky. What I don’t agree with is Woolworths being threaten with a boycott from a Christian group who are presenting information and reasoning that has flaws.
Roslyn Phillips, research officer with Christian advocacy group, Family Voice Australia (the same group that is against gay marriage, abortion and believes sex is only for a husband and wife) stated, “society is already suffering massive problems with young children being over-sexualised. This move by Woolies just makes the problem worse”.
I agree with Roslyn Phillips on one thing, children are being over-sexualised but a discrete vibrator sold in a supermarket is not the problem or going to make this problem worse, our attitudes and lack of adequate information are. Thanks to media, advertising and technology, children are exposed to sexual imagery at a younger age and are pressured to emulate scenes, images, and trends they have been exposed to. We are never going to win the fight again this, no matter how good the parental lock is on the TV. However, our attitudes towards sex and sexual information can be a way that the negative effects can be decreased.
The modern revision of the birds and the bees has to be had with children at a younger age these days but it does not necessarily rob them of their childhood, it gives them more of a chance at making sense of this complex world. I hate to tell you, but children are curious about their bodies, what they are and what they do. They will explore this wether we allow them to or not. We need to be more open and honest with them and give them the right age appropriate information so there are no myths and misinformation. Their minds are like sponges, and what do you think they pick up on when people react negatively to sex or the appearance of sexual imagery? Stopping them from seeing something and telling them it’s wrong and negative are two totally different issues. What message do you think they are given when we react to sex as being wrong, shameful, dirty, or even against Christian beliefs?
I conducted some research at my local supermarket ( a very sophisticated experiment which consisted of me walking up and down the isles with my iphone in hand) and found other objects and products sold that could be also responsible for over sexualising children under a similar so called category as these vibrators. A Zoo magazine with a glamorous half naked girl on the front cover, another magazine with the words ”crank up the sex” on the front cover, a massage oil with a picture of a naked women on the bottle and also condoms and lubricant. How are these different to a discreetly packaged bullet vibrator in terms of the messages they might send to children? What about Horny Goat Weed, try explaining that to a child. There are also two condom packets which contained and openly advertised cock rings inside. These have been available in supermarkets for years, so I struggle to see how a vibrating cock ring is so different to a clitoral vibe. Is it just because it’s package with a condom? If they combined the vibrators in a condom pack, would that make it less damaging to children and more acceptable? Isn’t it sexiest that more than one type of vibrating cock ring is available but a clitoral vibe is not?
If you child happens to find this product in the supermarket, why couldn’t you say, “That’s a product SOME adults use during sex to make it fun?” (and please notice the emphasis of some not all). Is that harmful to a child? One sentence such as that just might make your child feel comfortable enough to come to you with questions when the are exposed to material, objects or imagery that either confuse them or they want to know more about. My mother (who always has a good opinion when it comes to these matters) also suggested after reading this article that perhaps these products should be placed on higher shelves where children could not easily reach them – this I do tend to agree with. There is nothing wrong with having these conversations about vibrating bullets with your children if need be, but in some instances wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to quite yet.
I wonder in the time they have been on the shelves if one child has asked a parent about their use or even if a vibrating cock ring has been questioned. Is it the impact on children (who generally don’t do the grocery shopping and are only sometimes with their parents when they do) we are worried about? Is there a deeper uncomfortable feeling about this product that comes from within and our thoughts and beliefs about sex, vibrators, pleasure and women taking control of their sexual needs?
Though out life, children are going to be exposed to sexual imagery and it’s important that we open up the dialogue about sex so they can ask the right questions to the right people. I grew up on the Gold Coast with a very public shop “The Condom Kingdom” with a sign out the front that you could not miss when you drove past and I remember asking my mum what that was. I also felt comfortable enough that I could and I remember getting a matter of fact answer that solved my curiosity. There are billboards, signs, adds in magazine, adds on TV, scenes in books and movies that all show some form of sexual content that children might come across. Instead of putting all our efforts to ban and block every one , why don’t we focus more on explaining these to our children and in the right context so they grow up with a healthy and not harmful view about sex?
We teach children about safer sex and the importance of condoms, but when in life do we teach them that sex can be pleasurable and fun? I understand we walk a thin line with sex education and what we should and shouldn’t say. Do we want to boast to teenage children who are not yet developed enough to understand consequences how much fun sex can be? But if we keep teaching only a fear based model of sex, we will continue to have a world full of negativity and shame placed upon anything associated with this act and subject.
The push to boycott Woolies because of this product I truly believe is more harmful than having these vibrating friends on the shelves. If they would have stayed in place maybe just a few, not even any children would have noticed them. It seems vibrating cock ring have not gotten reaction. With these products being labelled as “diabolically wrong” a message is being sent that this product, one used to bring pleasure to people is shameful, wrong, dirty and so horrible an entire supermarket must be boycotted for selling it. You would think these products are coming to life, jumping off the shelves and attacking people.
As many of 80% of women experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation and many of these require the assistance of a vibrating friend. It does not mean they don’t enjoy sex with their partner or that their partner should feel inadequate but until recently, the right of a women to desire, want and explore climax during intercourse was not a message that was fed in the main stream. We are living in a different era where women want the same rights and pleasures as men in the bedroom. If we can sell condoms, lubricant and massage oil in a supermarket, products that not only promote safer sex but fun sex too, why is it so offensive for this bullet to sit along side with them? After all, sexual pleasure is important in relationships and parents need to have fun and connect together too. People need to redefine the definition of terms like “family friendly” and see that happy parents are better parents, and some of those parents but need a bit more help in the bedroom to be really happy.
This is a controversial move but a positive and strong one by Durex. However, it was weak of Woolworths to cave into the pressure of a Christian advocacy group and remove the products from their shelves. I am not suggesting that we turn supermarkets into sex shops or have even an entire section dedicated to sexual pleasure. But I do think there is no harm in keeping these discrete bullet vibes where they have stayed for the past few weeks.
I’m not sure about you but I go to my supermarket for proximity not because of the products they do or do not sell. Is this threat of a boycott even serious? How many people do you really think are going to shop elsewhere due to a small vibrating bullet sitting on the shelves? Another reason maybe why Woolies should have stood their ground. If you have made a decision to sell a product such as this, keep the decision instead of caving into empty threats. ( And I really hope someone from Woolworths get the chance to read this).
Is this an issue of protecting children from being over sexualised or being uncomfortable with a pleasurable focus on sex next to our every day household items? We all have sex and we all buy toilet paper, so why do these always have to be separately?
I am proud to say that my local supermarket, A Woolworths in Potts Point, is still stocking these bullet vibes and there is no picketing out the front.
Buy them while you can!