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Dan Summers….coming to a high street near you?

Laura Marsden wonders if men will ever want to shop for sex toys

Published on April 11th 2011.

Dan Summers….coming to a high street near you?

All men masturbate; we know that for a fact.

Nobody seems to mind or feel embarrassed by it. Certainly, I’ve heard male friends, admittedly at university, nonchalantly announce at regular intervals, ‘I’m just off for a wank’ in the same vein as ‘I’m just putting the kettle on’ or ‘I’m just going for a pint.’

‘They also have fake ‘orifices’ disguised as beer cans. Possibly inspired by the Twilight Trilogy, one of these is called ‘Succu Dry’ and contains ‘vampire sex in a can.’

Women masturbate too, but a lot of them pretend they don’t. At school, it was one of those questions you feared the boys might ask, like ‘have you started your periods?’ or ‘ever been fingered?’ It remains a taboo in adulthood too, usually only discussed late at night, in whispered tones under the bed sheets.

Strange really, when you consider that there’s a high street shop dedicated to a woman’s sexual discovery. Yes, I’m talking about Ann Summers.

It might be an emporium of tack but it has done a lot for women’s sexual liberation, as have their (in)famous parties. There are also classier outlets like Nua on Tib Street and Coco de Mer for those of us who have £40,000 to spend on a dildo made of Ancient Greek marble.

The idea of women (and gay men) consuming items connected to sexual pleasure is seen as modern, fun and frivolous. It’s probably weirder these days to admit to not owning a vibrator as opposed to a treasure chest full of wacky plastic penises. It’s totally normal.

Straight men, on the other hand, have got fewer options and the whole concept of them engaging with sexual paraphernalia is generally seen as being dark, weird and possibly a bit gay. When it really shouldn’t be.

Is this because as a society, we view male heterosexuality as something not to be messed with? Must straight men have the internet as their only sexual resource? Seems a bit unfair, considering it’s the 21st century and all that.

On the other hand, it is hard to imagine a male version of Ann Summers. But let’s try. We’ll call it Dan Summers. Now let’s consider what it would sell.

Boys’ toys fall into two broad categories: things you put on your penis and things you put up your bum.

The first category contains fake vaginas, a market largely dominated by Fleshlight. A Fleshlight looks like a torch, but if you unscrew the lid, it contains a rubber vagina, mouth, or bum. The website encourages you to ‘pick the orifice of your choice’ and there are sub-categories that allow the browser to choose a ‘designer vagina’ (great name for a band).

They also have fake ‘orifices’ disguised as beer cans. Possibly inspired by the Twilight Trilogy, one of these is called ‘Succu Dry’ and contains ‘vampire sex in a can’. (http://www.fleshlight-international.eu/succu-dry/) Interestingly, all the products on the Fleshlight website are ‘demonstrated’ by women inserting their fingers into the orifices.

With regard to the ‘things you put up your bum’ end of thngs, there are obviously thousands of products out there. These toys have got quite cool names too - Rude-Boy and Bad-Boy for example, are guaranteed to enhance male orgasm. The question is, how far are straight men willing to give them a go?

When I tried to canvass opinion, my questions were met with fear and revulsion. Why is this, when everyone knows access to the male G-spot requires investigation jusqu'àl'anus?

Thirty years ago, if you’d tried to sell moisturiser to men, it probably wouldn’t have worked. Nowadays, however, almost every man I know under 40 wears moisturiser, and most are keen to stress its merits. This is arguably because the marketing of moisturiser for men, cleverly, targeted women first. Women started buying face cream for their boyfriends to try, they got hooked and continued to buy it for themselves. Men over a certain age may still react with scorn but things have changed, and there is no going back. By analogy, if Dan Summers was marketed as a place where women could drag their boyfriends, it could take off, right?

There is a strong sexual-visual culture among women and gay men. Women learn from an early age that their ‘role’ is to excite and titillate. We get it drilled into us that men are aroused ‘visually’ whereas women like to be charmed, seduced and relaxed into bed.

It’s perhaps high time we challenged this. If we really want equality in the 21st century, should we not question the differences between men and women’s supposed modes of sexual attraction? To say women aren’t aroused visually is just an excuse for men to make zero effort and keep their socks on.

Dan Summers could do a line in ‘fantasy’ clothing for men - fireman/policeman/soldier uniforms; a dirty miner costume; randy scaffolder; butcher; baker; candlestick maker? Could men be cajoled into this?

It’s an interesting idea but somehow I just can’t see Dan Summers ever taking off. It’s like trying to imagine a role reversal on the TV show ‘Take Me Out’. It would never work. Thirty single men competing for the attentions of one woman. For a start, no one would ever turn their lights off. It would also be seen as sleazy, threatening and tantamount to a gang-bang.

Dan Summers would need to represent male heterosexuality in a harmless light, free from aggression and with the focus on frivolity. In our society the penis still represents the antithesis of this though.

Lest we forget the Marilyn French character, who said ‘all men are rapists.’ Perhaps in 30 years, things will be different. For the time being, the subject remains a can of worms. A sexy can of vampire worms. Up your bum.

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