Review: The Big Book of Sex Toys

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The Big Book of Sex Toys

Reading The Big Book of Sex Toys, I learned that it’s hard to read a book about subject I already know like the back of my hand. Also a subject I’m snooty and picky about. Also a subject that I believe no book could ever adequately cover unless I wrote it myself. And even that is iffy.

The Big Book of Sex Toys is written by Tristan Taormino, a pornographer/sex educator/badass whom I greatly respect and admire. It is meant to introduce the reader to every kind of sex toy, and it does this extremely well. It offers detailed and comprehensive descriptions of toys, all broken down into manageable categories such as “wearable vibrators” and “cock rings.” Tristan does an excellent job of describing how toys work, even when it comes to complicated ones like the SaSi.

The writing style in The Big Book is very straightforward, with no stupid puns or unfunny jokes, but because of this, it lacks pizazz. It’s not boring, but it’s not fascinating or incredibly engaging. There are very few personal anecdotes or references to others’ experiences. Above all, the book’s focus is on describing the different categories of toys. This would be a lot more useful to a person just discovering sex toys; for me, it’s uninteresting.

There were several aspects of the book that I appreciated a lot:

  • The ongoing “Perfect Pairing” feature, which lists positions that go well with specific toys (Spoon + Hitachi, Lap Dance Position + Eroscillator, etc).
  • Tristan’s answer to the oft-asked, “can I get addicted to my vibrator?”, which is mostly “no,” but includes this excellent point: “sure, you can definitely grow accustomed to climaxing with the help of a vibrator, just as you can get used to coming in a certain position.”
  • The general, though not too overt, favoring of non-porous materials, and the contention that toys made of inferior materials should be replaced at least once a year.
  • The list “How to Shop with Mother Earth in Mind.”
  • The advice that the Hitachi is probably not the best choice for a first vibrator.
  • Many little anal safety tips about flared bases and such, and a much-needed tirade about anal numbing agents.

Specific toys are recommended, but not as frequently as I would’ve liked. Some recommendations made me shake my head (a strap-on vibrator? Really?), but most were fine. Often I felt like toys weren’t being recommended, exactly, but merely mentioned as members of whichever category was being discussed. This resulted in a noticeable lack of enthusiasm about particular toys that deserve it, like the njoy Pure Wand. Which reminds me…

Glaring omissions, from a rabid sex toy reviewer:

There are a couple other things that bothered me more and more as I read: the lack of queer representation in The Big Book, and a definite leaning toward accepted standards of beauty. This isn’t The Big Book of Erotic Photos, yet there are tons of them. There are even some fake boobs to be found, and a distressing ribcage that has no business assaulting me with its presence. The photos remind me of Cosmo spreads. Some of the photos feature sex toys, but some don’t. All of them feature model-skinny people, and whenever there’s a couple — they’re hetero. I’m sorry, but if a person is willing to buy a hardcover book called The Big Book of Sex Toys, I would think he/she/ze can deal with (and probably hopes for) some homo action. (Edit: This seems to be a decision on the part of the publisher, not Tristan herself.)

There’s no doubt this book is geared toward straight, cisgendered couples. Although it is mainly written in second-person (“you”), it often implies that the reader is in a straight relationship. The first chapter, on sexual anatomy, covers male and female parts, and this distinction continues throughout the text. Even in the chapter on strap-ons, I was disappointed to see the male/female dynamic continually referenced. I understand that including other sexual orientations and gender identities can be delicate and grammatically difficult, but it would have been nice.

Enough of my bitching, though. The Big Book of Sex Toys sets out to explain sex toys, and that is what it does. It may not be the most interesting read, but it’s fairly comprehensive. I wouldn’t recommend it to those already familiar with the different types of sex toys, nor to those looking for emphatic product recommendations (hey, there are blogs for that!), but it would work well for someone who wants a far-reaching introduction to the land of sex toys — A.K.A. the point of no return.