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It’s time to close the pleasure gap.
. . .
We often talk about the “pleasure gap” in terms of cis women’s sexuality: Who gets to orgasm during sex, who doesn’t, and who has their sexual needs prioritized at another’s expense? That gap becomes even wider for trans women.
With sex toys, we’re often DIY’ing it, experimenting with gadgets made for both cis men and women alike. It’s a time-consuming and, at times, dysphoric process. It can cost a fair amount of money, too. But most of all, it sucks knowing that the sex toy industry doesn’t care about your body.
I experienced this first-hand when I reviewed the Le Wand in 2017. While talking to my friend Octavia Leona Kohner, a New York-based sex educator, she stressed that non-op trans women’s nerves are “essentially spread out in a larger area” and “need a little more dispersal,” which means “lower frequency, more rumbly vibrations” generally do the trick. I was pretty impressed by Kohner’s knowledge on trans women’s bodies, and we started talking about the issues with sex toys on the market for trans women. Why aren’t there any? When will there be some? Kohner concluded it all comes back to buying power, and companies aren’t interested in selling to a marginalized group like trans women. That conversation sparked an interest in reporting on trans women’s sex lives that culminated in, well, this column.
So when I wanted to write further about sex toys for pre-op and non-op girls, I immediately pinged Kohner for suggestions. She threw a couple of ideas my way, but among them, one stood out the most: the Hot Octopuss Pulse III Duo. As Kohner put it, the toy is “designed for use with people with disabilities who can’t masturbate in a hands-on kinda way,” so it “makes you cum.” My interest was peaked. This toy sounded like it was about to change my solo sex life.
But before I get into the newer stuff, I have to touch on the gold standard in trans girl masturbation: the Magic Wand.
The Magic Wand
Better known as the “Hitachi” (albeit the toy’s patent is now owned by Vibratex), the Magic Wand comes in three different variations: the iconic Original, the mid-range Plus, or the powerful, wireless Magic Wand Rechargeable. I own the latter of the three, and it’s an investment I’m immensely proud of. Over the past two years, I’ve squeezed plenty of orgasms out of its powerful head.
But I’m no sex toy expert. I just overshare my sex life for a living. So I reached out to Babeland, which is known for being a women-friendly boutique sex shop, and its New York locations are some of the most trans-friendly adult stores in the city. Babeland sex educator Luna, who uses she and they pronouns, said they love showing the Magic Wand to trans femmes who come into the store. That’s not just because the vibrator is legitimately useful, but also because it has a feminist history as a “secret, empowering sex toy” housewives used to in the 1960s to reach an orgasm. Fifty years later, that history is pretty gender-affirming for trans femmes, too.
“What’s really cool about the Wand is that, besides being powerful, [the vibrations are] also low-frequency, or rumbly,” Luna told me over a phone call, stressing that the Magic Wand’s sensations can penetrate through the skin and reach tissue underneath. “Just by pressing it up against the taint, you can actually access internal hot spots like the prostate for some extra fun.”
The Magic Wand is a popular toy among trans women for a reason: It’s versatile, plays well with our genitals, and gives plenty of pre-op and non-op trans girls the helping hand they need to cum. The Magic Wand Rechargeable, in particular, gives its users a lot of control over its head’s speed and intensity. In short, it’s a must-have for a solid masturbation session.
Except the Magic Wand has its flaws. Remember, this is a toy that wasn’t specifically designed for trans women’s bodies. And a body is, well, a body. Even cis straight men’s genitals don’t come out of a factory, let alone trans women’s girldicks on HRT. So while the Magic Wand is an ideal choice for many, it may just not be the right fit for others. In my case, my orgasms are nice on the Magic Wand, but they could be better.
The Tenga Egg
When I spoke to Kohner, she recommended trying out either the Tenga Flip 0 Black masturbation sleeve or a Tenga Egg as an alternative. I went with the latter of the two for being cheap and easy to pick up. Plus I’ve seen trans performers use the Tenga Eggs before on their clits, and it looked quite enjoyable, so why not try it out? I’d happily take one for the team, doubly so because it’s a popular pick among Babeland’s pre-op and non-op shoppers.
“The Tenga Egg is made of super soft elastomer that is textured on the inside, and can either stretch down the shaft or be focused on the head (the less you stretch, the more intense the texture will feel),” another Babeland sex educator, Lisa Finn, explained to me over email. “A ‘hack’ that we like to show in our Oral 101 class is to snip the tip of the Tenga Egg off, so you can use it along the shaft while exposing the head for the giver to focus on with their mouth. Additionally, the Tenga Egg makes a great addition to the Magic Wand, just flip the textured side out and stretch it over the head of the wand for a new sensation with your toy!”
I bought a Tenga Egg Spider from Babeland, unwrapped it, and gave it a shot. It’s basically a stretchy, ribbed sleeve filled with lube that you can use on your clit to stroke it up and down. It was a little weird for me at first, and I had to stay hard to get the most out of the experience, but I became relatively used to it in no time. And it certainly felt good against my cock, as if I was using a flexible little masturbation sleeve the whole time.
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But while the Tenga Egg certainly felt good, I’m not sure it’s the right choice for me. My body needs toys that stimulate, vibrate, and rumble against my underside, hitting the nerves within my clit and letting me lose myself in their touch. That’s just not the Tenga Egg. I wouldn’t discount using the Tenga Egg in conjunction with another toy, of course, or with a lover. Luna even recommends turning the Tenga Egg inside out over your hand for a pleasurable massage. But for me? I could do better. And I did.
The Pulse III Duo
The Pulse III Duo looks a bit like a purple tentacle from a cyberpunk video game. It’s soft, relatively light, and easy to slip on. Like the Tenga Egg line, it isn’t gendered at all (advertising aside, as the website calls the Pulse III a “Guybrator”), and it can be used with or without lubricant. But the most interesting part about the Pulse III Duo isn’t its look. It’s the hardware underneath its surface.
“The Pulse III Duo is meant to target the hot spots on the underside of a shaft, like the frenulum,” Finn told me. “While many stroker-style toys rely only on vibration, the Pulse III Duo also uses an oscillating ‘PulsePlate’ to target these hot spots, and can be used while being held in place or while stroking with the toy. The outside of the toy also vibrates, so it provides external stimulation if someone wanted to sit on the toy solo, or while it is being used on a shaft.”
For those unfamiliar with oscillators, Hot Octopuss notes the PulsePlate provides “high-amplitude oscillations rather than the low-amplitude vibrations typically found in conventional sex toys.” These movements are fast and precise, making them perfect for the frenulum, and the technology stimulates the penis in such a way that it “can lead to orgasm even when the user remains flaccid.” That includes trans women on HRT.
Over the past month, I used the Pulse III Duo repeatedly, comparing and contrasting it to the Magic Wand Rechargeable. On the one hand, the Magic Wand lasts longer after being charged and provides those wide, rumbly, low-frequency sensations that Kohner and Luna praise. But because my preferred masturbation experience involves stimulating my shaft’s frenulum or underside, I usually place the Wand against my cock and finger my perineum. That means I need both hands to masturbate—one to hold the Magic Wand, one to finger myself—and I have to maintain a pretty solid rhythm with both at the same time. It works, but it requires some extra effort, it can take a long time to reach an orgasm, and it’s impossible to use my phone to flip through porn when I’m really in the thick of it.
The Pulse III Duo knocks out a lot of these problems. Just placing its oscillator against my frenulum, or slightly down the shaft, puts its vibrations right where I need them to go, and believe me, it feels really fucking good. In one case, I just laid down, turned on the Pulse III Duo, and flipped through videos on ManyVids. It took a few minutes to get me in the right mindset, but once I let go, I came fast. With the Magic Wand, I really have to fight for my orgasm and feel around for what I want. The Pulse III Duo, on the other hand, seems to understand my body and where I’m going. Plus, the entire experience is hands-free. At most, I just need to engage one hand, freeing my other for my phone or mouse.
The Atom Plus
I can’t just recommend the Pulse III Duo by itself, though. There’s one other product I need to mention: Hot Octopuss’ Atom Plus cock ring. After I reached out to Hot Octopuss about the Pulse III Duo, the team offered a free sample of the Atom Plus to try in conjunction with their oscillator. Never one to pass up on complimentary sex toys, I happily accepted the opportunity.
For the uninitiated, the Atom Plus features powerful dual motors designed for stimulating both the penis’ base and the perineum. Slip on the cock ring, put your clit into the Pulse III’s sleeve, turn on both, and feel your entire nether regions enveloped by the toys’ pleasurable vibrations and oscillations.
I’m not exaggerating, by the way. The Atom Plus and Pulse III Duo work incredibly well together because they stimulate the wide web of nerves that reside within pre-op and non-op trans girls’ crotches. Plus, the Atom Plus restricts some of the blood flow to the shaft to make it slightly harder for longer, which helps the oscillator stick close to the frenulum. While the Atom Plus is a little difficult to get on—you have to position it sideways and really stretch it over the balls to prevent them from slipping out—once it’s on, it stays in place pretty well, letting you shift around and grab additional toy:
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You don’t need the Pulse III Duo to enjoy the Atom Plus, either. When I first got the toy, my Pulse III Duo ran out of power mid-use, so I switched it out with my Magic Wand Rechargeable and continued my masturbation session. I actually found this incredibly enjoyable in its own right: By laying down, throwing a sheet over my cock, and pressing the Magic Wand’s head against the tip of my clit until it reached the Atom Plus’ top motor, I felt a wide range of vibrations flow through me that hit my prostate, enveloped my cock, and left me with a ridiculously intense late-night orgasm that literally left me speechless.
There’s a caveat here though: I don’t have genital dysphoria. In fact, I love being a girl with a dick, it’s pretty hot and affirming for me. That’s definitely not the case for every trans woman. While the Atom Plus is pretty gender-neutral, it’s still a cock ring. It’s designed to both pleasure you and get you erect. Trans women with genital dysphoria may feel uncomfortable with how the toy arouses and lengthens their shaft. If you’re a pre-op trans woman who isn’t exactly on speaking terms with your clit, I suggest sticking with the Pulse III Duo to start.
Which brings me to the most important part of my sex toy adventure: Vibrations, oscillations, and pleasurable sensations aren’t the key to a solid sex life. Yes, each of these things are important in a good toy, but even the best luxury, premium, ribbed-for-your-pleasure technology won’t make you cum if you don’t feel comfortable cumming. Because I experience anxiety and a lot of OCD, it can be tough to reach the right headspace to masturbate, and that came through with my experience using the Pulse III Duo, the Tenga Egg Spider, the Atom Plus, and even the Magic Wand Rechargeable.
That’s important to remember, because these toys aren’t cheap. The Magic Wand Rechargeable is $124.95, the Pulse III Duo $149, and the Atom Plus $99. Granted, some of these toys have cheaper counterparts: The Magic Wand Plus is $89.95, and the Pulse III Solo is just $119. But those prices are still enormously high for trans women living on relatively low incomes.
True, there are ways around that issue, like splitting the cost with your polycule or sharing the Pulse III Duo with your friends-with-benefits (if you’re fluid-bound in both cases). But no toy can put you on speaking terms with your private bits, even if they’re scientifically engineered to make you cum.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.