A lot of folks have brought Buck Angel’s new product to my attention – the Buck Off, made by the manufacturer Perfect Fit. According to the product description, this is “the first product designed specifically for transmen to engage in stroking fun”. It is made from Perfect Fit’s SilaSkin™ which is a “proprietary blend of TPR and Silicone”. Other highlights from the description are that “every man loves to stroke, but not every man is the same.” and that “the Buck-off is so pleasurable to touch it is addictive”.
When people first started talking to me about this product, I was pretty indifferent. On one hand, I was excited that a product for FtMs was getting mainstream attention, but on the other hand I knew it wasn’t a product for me. I’m sure it’s nice for those who want a toy like this, but the thought of “stroking my cock” has never been one that I feel applies to me or my body. There’s nothing wrong if it applies to you and yours, but every body is different, and that’s not a thing that I care about for me.
I think that there definitely should be strokers made by FtMs for FtMs, and other products built specifically to address the needs and wants of marginalized populations. This is a very important thing to have! Further, I think that mainstream attention for these products is also very important. I want there to be more strokers for trans guys out there, despite my personal ambivalence toward using them.
Okay, so let’s break down the main points in their product description:
- It is made from a blend of TPR and silicone
- Every man will love it because they all love stroking
- It feels so good that you will become addicted to it.
- This is the first stroker made specifically for trans men
As a sex educator. I care deeply about things such as transparency and honest, forthright conversations about safety. I have a problem with the misinformation that’s so often given by manufacturers/companies, and think that it’s absolutely crucial to look at things critically in order to make sure you have the proper information. I also think that advertisements should be clear and without assumptions – assumptions about your gender, body size/shape/preferences, race, ability, sexuality, and more.
Onto the main points!
It is made from a blend of TPR and silicone
Due to my lack of personal interest in the product, I didn’t really look into the toy further until one of my friends asked me if I knew what it was made of. The website listed it as “SilaSkin”, but at that point in time it was not easy to find additional information either on the site or google. So I took to Twitter to find out, asking Lilly and my other connections if they knew. With their help, I discovered that it was claiming to be a TPR and silicone blend; something that I had always heard wasn’t possible but didn’t know much about, as science really isn’t my strong suit.
I hated chemistry class and never really understood why silicone and TPR cannot be blended, so I decided to do some research in order to better understand it. I spoke to some manufacturers of quality silicone toys, I spoke to Lilly, and I spoke to an engineer and a scientist. I’m going to sum up what all of them told me as best and plainly as I can, but first I’m going to talk about the difference between TPR and silicone and how these differences are very important when it comes to a sex toy.
- can be boiled/washed by hand/bleached/put in a dishwasher between uses to fully sanitize
- porous (meaning that this toy can grow mold)
- cannot be thoroughly sanitized between uses; only the surface can be cleaned
- made up of a number of different chemicals
- “sweats” out oil/plasticizer (check out Lilly’s post for more info on this!)
- degrades over time
TPR is not necessarily body-safe or body-unsafe. It behaves differently than silicone and it is more likely to cause reactions in people with allergies/chemical sensitivities, however. There are plenty of items, such as certain catheters, that are made out of TPR but to my knowledge these catheters are single-use only.
Now that that’s cleared up – here’s the science!
Before being cured (meaning the process through which molecules are hardened to take a specific shape), TPR and silicone are both just long strings of molecules – think of a plate of cooked spaghetti. Everything is wrapped up together and hard to separate, though they can slide around and change shape very easily (the engineer I spoke to supplied me with this handy spaghetti metaphor, I hope it’s as helpful to you as it was to me).
It needs to be taken from this spaghetti-like state and locked together so that it maintains the desired shape.
In order to get TPR to form the shape you wish, you heat it up. When it is at a normal temperature, it is a solid; at high temperatures it behaves like a liquid. Once hot, it is molded into the shape you want (hotter material has weaker intermolecular force, which makes it easier to shape). The material is then cooled, which allows the intermolecular force to increase, locking the material into place. This process can be repeated as many times as you want; if it has already been formed but is then exposed to heat, it will melt and once again become mold-able.
Silicone, on the other hand, is bonded together using chemical bonding. A tin or platinum catalyst is added, which is what causes the chemical reaction that hardens/cures the silicone. Once cured, it essentially cannot be cured again. Silicone that was cured with platinum is thermo-reactive, meaning it cures faster at higher temperatures.
Now that I’ve explained how the materials are shaped, I’m going to get into why my sources don’t believe it’s possible to blend them together.
So when you heat TPR and silicone, the silicone will cure much faster than the TPR does. Because of this, the people I spoke to all agree that they think it is highly unlikely that the two materials could be cured in a blend; instead thinking that the silicone would form around the TPR.
Can they be combined at all?
Possibly. It’s believed that silicone lubricants, oils, and/or powders could be added to TPR in small quantities.
If a blend is possible, it’s suspected it would have to be almost completely silicone or TPR, not a more balanced split.
A bigger combination of the two materials would likely only work if one part was made totally of silicone and another part of TPR instead of actually blended together into one
What advantages/disadvantages would this have?
- TPR is much cheaper than silicone is. If a blend is possible, the resulting product would then become way more expensive, given the addition of the silicone.
- The addition of TPR makes the resulting product porous, thus taking away from one of the biggest draws that silicone has.
- It seems, to myself and everyone I have spoken to, that blending the materials together would only get you the least desirable attributes of each.
- It would let you write that the material is part silicone, however. A lot of people know that silicone is a good material to buy, and seeing “TPR/silicone” may influence them into thinking that the product is safe.
Testing the Material
Have you heard of the flame test?
The short, simplified version of the test is this: You can expose a product to a flame to test if it is silicone or not. If it is silicone, it will not melt or become deformed, if it is TPR it will melt. Why? Because of how the molecules are bonded together. TPR is rendered mold-able through heat exposure, silicone is not.
(If you want a more in-depth explanation, Lilly goes into really great detail about it here. )
Lilly got her hands on a Buck Off and flame tested it:
If the product has trace amounts of silicone powder/oil/lubricant, this may affect the flame test but it’s unclear at this point.
When I questioned Buck about the material, he informed me that “I would never use a product that I felt was going to be detrimental to the health of the community. I would never do that, that’s just not me. I’m a safe sex advocate”, which I appreciate! I asked more specifically about the products and how everything I’ve read suggests that a blend is not possible and he told me he’d put me in touch with the manufacturer for the more technical questions. At the date of publication (November 24, 2016), the manufacturer has not replied to my emails, though I will update my post should they do so.
Every man will love it because they all love stroking
I don’t know about you but I am immediately suspicious of anything that claims to be the “first”. Other things that are red-flags to me are generalizations such as “all”, “every”, etc.
Any time I’m told that “I am not a man unless I like x”, I get my back up real far. My gender is not dictated by anything other than how I feel, thank you very much. I am male. And I have no interest in a stroker. Vibrators or bust, thanks all the same. This product is definitely built for people who have bodies like mine, but that doesn’t mean that I will/should have interest in using it.
Just as it’s frowned on when companies sort their products into “lesbian toys” (double-ended dildos), “toys for her” (vibes and realistic dildos), and “toys for boys” (cock rings, fleshlights), it’s equally unethical to say that “all men” love stroking/strokers. All men, women, and nonbinary folk are different and like different things.
I am sick of gendered assumptions and stereotypes used in advertising and quite frankly I find it even worse coming from other trans folk. We have all heard so many times that how we are born means we are not “really” the gender we identify as. We have all been told what “real” men/women MUST like. We have pushed back against that narrative. It’s upsetting and rude to then turn around and do the same thing to other people. It hurts my heart deeply hearing this kind of thing coming from the mouths of trans folk. We ought to know and behave better than that.
No one should feel like their body is wrong because something is claiming to be safe for everyone/something everyone will love but it doesn’t work for them. This is an industry-wide problem that I see constantly.
When I expressed to Buck that I personally have no interest in a stroker but think that his product is still important, he responded with “not everybody is going to like the stroker, of course not. It’s not going to be for everybody, that would be ridiculous for me to ever even think about. Some people may not even like this material, and that is obvious as well”. Seems a bit contradictory to the ad copy, but at least he realizes that the product is not actually for everyone.
It feels so good that you will become addicted to it
I have a history of addiction. A lot of those I know and love do as well.
Addiction is a serious, dangerous thing. It is not a tool to use to sell your product as something good.
Yes, I realize that they aren’t saying that you’ll actually become addicted to using the stroker. It’s just a ‘harmless metaphor’ to say how nice this product is. But here’s the thing: actual addiction is essentially criminalized (through the “War on Drugs” and the fact that most drugs are illegal). Actual addiction can be hereditary and, according to recovery.org, “an estimated 50% of people seeking treatment for an addiction also have PTSD” and “the prevalence of PTSD is highest among rape victims, genocide survivors, military personnel and people imprisoned for political or ethnic reasons”. What does that mean? People who have experience trauma and/or people of colour are at higher risk of developing addictions.
Addiction is such a common trope in TV – a character becomes addicted and, through sheer willpower, overcomes it in the course of one 45 minute episode. We constantly consume and trivialize the struggle of an addict (whether we are aware of it or not) through media and advertizement, and then we criminalize actual addicts and act as if these people just haven’t tried hard enough to stop.
What’s more – addictions are rarely about love. I know mine wasn’t.
Mine was about being miserable, not wanting to die, and almost succeeding. Mine was years of struggling to get better. Mine is permanent, negative changes to my physical health. Mine is unavoidable in everyday life, which makes it that much harder some days.
According to World Health Rankings, 100 people die in America every day due to drug overdoses. And they only rank in at 37 out of 192 on a list of countries’ mortality rates.
And yet advertisements say that you will “become addicted” as if this is a good thing. As if it’s about love and wanting. As if the thing killing so many people is something so tempting that it’s a selling point for a product instead of a deterrent.
Can we just not compare enjoying masturbation to having an addiction? These things are so very different.
Oh, and in case anyone forgot, for hundreds of years people with uteri were believed to suffer from “hysteria”. These people were deemed for so many reasons; two of the biggest being sexual frustration and/or a high libido. Have a vagina and want to masturbate? You were obviously mentally ill (“treatments” for hysteria, oddly enough, was doctor-prescribed orgasms. If that didn’t work, however, they would also “treat” through sending you to an asylum or forcing you to undergo a hysterectomy).
The sexuality of people with vaginas and trans people (especially trans people who enjoy/are comfortable with their pre- or no-op genitals) has been policed and stigmatized for so long. Both of these populations have had to fight so hard to not be seen as mentally ill for merely existing, let alone wanting sex. For the love of all things, just say “you will love using this product” or something similar, don’t say that, through using this product you will become mentally ill.
If your stroker is good, great! If people are going to want to use it again, even better! But this is not an addiction. This is a super insensitive and fairly odd way of trying to say your product is worth buying.
This is the first stroker made specifically for trans men
I asked Buck about this point specifically, as my research had found some products out there.
Buck: How come at the toy show I go to there’s never been any others?
Me: They’re small companies
Buck: That’s my point. Of course there are others. […] There’s probably all kinds of things on the market but when I did my research, and I looked, there was nothing on the market […] Yes 100% there are probably other products out there, but I wouldn’t even know that. […] But nobody ever marketed on the level that I did. What I’m saying is I produced a product in an environment that didn’t exist before. That it is on the shelves in the stores across the world. I’m the first person who did that.
Upon talking to Buck, it’s clear that he’s not claiming that he’s the first to create this product – he’s really claiming that it’s the first product of its kind on the mainstream market.
That said, I wish to provide my readers with other products that were made with the same population in mind; perhaps one that will work better for you specifically (due to size/shape, material, sensitivities, etc).
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this article are mine alone, not those of the below manufacturers other than when I am directly quoting them.
- So there’s the Etsy manufacturer A Krow’s Nest. They make fantasy toys made out of silicone and have an “eel” which is a stroker designed for trans guys. You can view all the Eels that are available here – they have an opening on each side; one larger and one smaller, so you can choose based on what fits your body best. They know that one size does not fit all! According to the item description, the Eel is a “small mini-sleeve prototype intended for pre-op transmen undergoing HRT or anyone with a large clit”. Horray for understanding that bodies are different and it isn’t just folks taking testosterone who may want this product! A Krow’s Nest launched their stroker in October, 2015.
- Next we have FtM Pitstop. This company currently sells two products; one of which is a stroker called the Shotpocket, which was launched on August 17, 2016. It is made from medical-grade platinum silicone, therefore non-porous, non-toxic, and body-safe.
I spoke to the manufacturer at FtM Pitstop who reported that ensuring their product is body-safe was important “so that we could feel confident in our products, knowing that they won’t cause problems for our customers. We wanted folks purchasing from us to have peace of mind that our products were made of the highest quality” and they specifically did not want to use materials such as TPR or cyberskin, which many packers and strokers are made out of, as those are not always body-safe and the silicone “will not harbor bacteria, and is also very easy to clean/sterilize”.
- And finally, Doc Johnson makes a product called the “Helping Head” (also commonly known as the “Bro Sleeve” and “Lil Buddy”) that, while not specifically made with trans guys in mind, presumably, it was specifically designed for people who are under 2″ long. This product has been widely accepted by FtMs/folks who have taken Testosterone as a product that works well for us. You can easily find reviews on this product written by FtMs (Early2Bed, Hey Epiphora, and Helpful Trans Info), which I mention to demonstrate how readily this product has been accepted as a product for trans guys.. It is made of TPE. This product was available on February 16, 2013 or sooner.
Now, this product was not made with trans guys in mind, so I’ll discount the Bro Sleeve. Although a lot of trans guys use and like it, this was not made specifically for that population.
According to Formidable Femme’s post “Advocating for Body-Safe Sex Toys is Health Justice“, “Without knowledge of the materials that are going on or inside of our bodies, we are unable to make informed, educated decisions about the toys and lubricants we use. We are unable to live healthy lives if we fear infections from toxic toys that contain phthalates and other unsafe materials, or worse, if we don’t know that those sex toy materials are toxic in the first place.”
While I appreciate that this product exists, and think that it’s amazing that a toy for trans men is receiving so much mainstream media attention, I do have some major issues with how products such as this are marketed. We as consumers deserve to have honest information in regards to the toy’s material and what that means for our safety. We should hold companies to a high standard and demand that they are upfront about their products as well as make their ad copy free of assumptions about who we are and how we have sex. And they should also strive to make sure that any claim they make is free of incorrect information to the best of their ability – if they cannot prove their claim, they should not write it.
Change is happening as we collectively start to hold companies to our expectations and are upfront about how they have let us down. And we deserve that change.