Content Warning: Sexual assault, fat-phobia, ageism, misogyny.
We shouldn’t have to keep doing this. But, here we are again.
This morning I woke up to an email from Brian Sloan. He asked if I’d like to review his new product, the Silicone Stroker.
Brian Sloan is the same person who made the Autoblow2. It’s the very same person that allegedly tried to pay The Big Gay Review to remove his negative review. He also allegedly repeatedly threatened Gay In The Middle for not removing his negative review of the same.
But I didn’t know this bit yet. All I knew was that a fresh young company was hoping for me to review their silicone male sleeve. I’m always pleased to hear about more bodysafe products. I raised my eyebrows when he stated that he was excited to “usher in the age of silicone products for men” (they certainly already exist), but that was fine. Almost all newer companies try to boast that they’re the first of something in order to stand out.
But then I visited the website, siliconestroker.com.
The Silicone Stroker uses sexual violence as a marketing tool
Silicone Stroker’s homepage features a cartoon-animated “Silicone Stroker Song” as its main advertising tool. Ladies and gentlemen, it begins with the line, “If you want to drill a strong female.”
What follows appears to be a sexual assault.
Content Warning for below: Sexual violence. Please skip over the slideshow below if you are triggered by depictions of sexual violence.
In the above storyline, a “strong female” is in a bar surrounded by friends. The protagonist appears hiding behind the counter, eyes the woman, and jumps over the counter to her side of the bar. She notices him and starts to run away. He pushes her forward so that she falls. Her pants are removed in the next sequence, where he forcibly spreads her legs. He appears to rape her before the sequence rolls into a depiction of the Silicone Stroker toy. There is some ambiguity — there’s also a chance he’s using the Silicone Stroker on himself while he has her pushed onto the table. There’s also a chance he’s taking a scan of her to use to sculpt the sleeve. Either way, it appears sexually violent.
I am not shocked. But I am unequivocally disgusted. This is 2017. How can gendered violence still be thought of as an acceptable marketing tool.
Fat-phobia and Ageism
Things continue to go downhill. In a following sequence, the singer/narrator states that the Silicone Stroker “won’t go to ruin like other strokers or humans.” They then show a timeclock of a woman gaining weight and aging naturally.
In the above, the message seems to be that a woman’s body loses all value the moment it starts to age. As she naturally gains weight and grows old, her body stops being a satisfying sexual object to the protagonist. She, essentially, becomes worthless. What is not fuckable has no worth.
In the above sequence, the value-less woman is compared to the Silicone Stroker, which never ages or loses shape or function. The product itself is actually designed based on a photo contest he ran (“Most Beautiful Vaginal Contest”). Uhhhh…weird. Even weirder is when he pointed out that he didn’t “coerce” anyone into providing photos for the contest.
Less extreme, but still excessively tasteless, is the the song’s grand finale. On a wedding day between the protagonist and a woman, the protagonist shoves the woman off the screen to grab his sleeve, while the lyrics read, “A man loves a woman / What he loves more is pushin’ / His manhood into silicone.”
I highlight these things because Brian Sloan has the audacity to claim himself a feminist. The following is a response to Dangerous Lilly when she refused, as a feminist, to work with him.
Someone is wrong, someone is right. I’m not saying who. pic.twitter.com/PMOrYClUd7
— Lilly (@dangerouslilly) June 9, 2017
His excuse is that he is a feminist and that he should be allowed to use humor to sell products.
In other words: Relax, it’s a joke. I can’t help but feel that this is the most cowardly response imaginable. I hear misogynists say this when they tell a rape joke. I hear childish bullies say when they realize they’ve said something harmful and don’t want to apologize.
Let me make some things clear about advertising methods like these.
If someone really feels the need to resort to rape jokes, misogyny, fat-phobia, and ageism to promote their product, then I doubt their product will be one that any sex+ blogger in this community supports.
In my view, the excuse of humor doesn’t hold. Telling people that your harmful comment is just a joke does not stop it from being harmful. It’s a inexcusable way to place the burden on the person who is harmed — it puts pressure on them to pretend that what you said didn’t hurt them. It’s a simply another silencing tool that keeps the status quo intact.
In general, humor can be an incredible tool. It can highlight flaws in the system, help us make sense of the unthinkable, and get us through life. But a basic rule of humor is this: punch UP. Any white university-educated male in the USA is statistically placed in a demographic with a ton of systematic privilege. By making rape jokes involving women, such a person is punching down. There is no intelligence or wit to this: it only encourages other misogynists to feel they have the right to make light of and endorse the violation of women.
Lastly, if I notice that any company I work with starts to carry this product, I will personally encourage them to re-think it. Yes, I am only one person. But one sex blogger isn’t isolated: we’re all in conversation, in constant dialogue, all fighting for a better, more inclusive, more humane sex toy industry. I have a whole team of sex bloggers behind me, supporting me, and we reach countless readers and companies.
And I don’t want this in our community.
Update June 10, 2017:
Other sex bloggers are disgusted:
— Sugarcan’t Even (@SugarCunt) June 10, 2017
— Cheryl Kaye (@HornyGeekGirl) June 10, 2017
This is wrong on so many levels, why are there idiots like this still around. This disgusts me totally. Good job on calling it out Miss Ruby https://t.co/WMtRzyhVXx
— Joanne’s Reviews (@joannesreviews) June 10, 2017
Oh my god, seriously??? That’s gross. Fuck this dude.
— Rebsy (@OfficialRebsy) June 10, 2017
This sex toy company has been appalling since its inception, but the video for their new stroker is NEXT LEVEL FUCKED UP. Kill it with fire. https://t.co/57JKPhFFJO
— Epiphora (@Epiphora) June 12, 2017
This short thread by Girl on the Net is a must-read:
— Girl on the Net (@girlonthenet) June 10, 2017
Several sex toy retailers, including the fabulous SheVibe, have already promised to not stock these products.
Horrible on so many levels. They will never find their way into our offering.
— Sandra B. (@shevibesandra) June 10, 2017
Ughhh. *adds to Never Stock List*
— nikki darling (@nikkidarlingau) June 10, 2017
Update June 13, 2017
Sloan appears to have exchanged several unprofessional emails with bloggers who declined to work with him.
- When blogger Rebecca stated that the Silicone Stroker will be on their personal ‘do not promote’ list for future reference, Sloan responded, “Thanks, for the reply, I suppose I need a list as well. How about “humorless sexual wellness bloggers”
- On feminism: “I’m not misogynistic. In fact I identify as a feminist.” and “I don’t think one person can tell another person that they are or or not a feminist. Feminism is wide ranging and includes many issues. I am a feminist, like it or not.”
- In defense of comparing the Silicone Stroker to a timelapse of an aging woman, Sloan stated, “How exactly does it perpetuate a negative view of women to point out that as humans age, our bodies deteriorate (and the product doesn’t)? It’s absolutely true that the product will outlast people. We deteriorate and die. It’s not nice to think about but its true. Or is it your view that things you don’t like to be confronted with are all false or negative?”
Update June 14, 2017
I wasn’t paying attention to sex toys when Sloan’s first toy, the Autoblow, was first marketed. @ErosBlog pointed out to me that years ago, they had blogged about Sloan’s original marketing for the Autoblow. You can read their post here. This original marketing has nearly all but been wiped clean from the internet, though there are still a few fragments of it in forums and here.
Sharing here because alleged quotes include comparing the cost of the Autoblow to the costs of oral sex:
- Paying a prostitute for oral sex;
- Paying for activities during a date so you can get oral sex;
- Having a wife to give you oral sex which involves paying for a wedding.
Another quote allegedly compares the Autoblow to a human partner by saying, “It can’t complain!” in regards to ejaculation.
Wow. So I guess this kind of behaviour isn’t new.
Update June 17, 2017
Sloan contacted me to (a) deny any wrongdoing but (b) advise me that he has changed his video (emphasis mine):
Regarding the silicone stroker video, it was not meant to contain anything condoning rape, non-consensual sexual contact, or violence. I see how you could have seen that if that’s what you were looking for, but that’s not what I intended to be in the video nor do I think that’s what most people see when they watch it.Regardless, that there are some people who apparently see it that way disturbs me. You can check siliconestroker.com and watch the video again – I asked the animators to change that part of the video to remove anything that can possibly be construed as violent.
I’ve reviewed the video; the interaction between the protagonist and the blonde woman now appear consensual.
- Before this, the protagonist leered at a woman, hopped over the counter, the woman looked scared, and the protagonist chased and pushed the woman over before removing her pants.
- Now the video has been changed — he still leers at her creepily, but he pulls out the Silicone Stroker to show it to the woman. He then hops over the counter. She grins and looks pleased, which is where consent is implied, and then the next scene flips to her legs spread on the table. This is a world away from her running away from him looking scared and him pushing her down roughly.
I find it insulting to be told that what was originally depicted wasn’t at all sexually violent. Especially when the animations went to great pains to make the woman look afraid and nonconsenting. You didn’t have to go “looking for” it, as he says; anyone chasing a frightened non-consenting person and sexually violating them is committing sexual assault. You don’t need to be a lawyer or a survivor to figure that out.
I also wish he addressed the remaining problematic parts of the video, and that some sort of apology could be given.
Still, I’m relieved that this post, plus the justified outrage of so many bloggers, readers, and stores across the world, appears to have pushed Sloan to make this change.
Update July 30, 2017
This piece was picked up by Salon, who featured me in their article about how the face of sex toys is changing in part because of sex bloggers who demand better from the industry. Thanks, Salon!