Guy gear

(Sex toys and all they bring with them, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Today, a leek (for St. David’s Day, March 1st), but yesterday (the intercalary day February 29th) a leap.

The mail arrives and wow! (you exclaim) there’s a Leap Day flash sale at the Guy Gear Store, just for today! You have visions of well-designed equipment for hunting, fishing, and camping; cool bikes; hot athletic shoes;  t-shirts for teams, bands, and plain ol’ aggression; tools Craftsman never dreamed of; electronics to rule the world of the future; and all that good guy stuff.

And then you examine the ad in detail:

(#1) Quick! Identify the three sale items in the ad; the model’s shapely buttocks are not actually on offer

Probaby not your father’s idea of guy gear.

Answers to the leap quiz, from left to right:

a Firefly Contour Plug — a silicone butt plug / prostate stimulator that glows in the dark; it comes in three sizes

the Renegade PSI Pump — “a sophisticated penis pump with built-in pressure gauge for precise pumping session”

an aluminum cock ring, size large (the Guy Gear Store doesn’t tell you this, but it can also serve as a modernist napkin ring)

(Personal notes: I have good things to say about some anal probes (cousins of the Firefly above) and many cock rings (adjustable leather ones on myself, and other types, like the metal number above, to admire on other guys), but I’m deeply dubious about penis pumps, which are advertised as treatments for small penis size and erectile dysfunction.)

As for cock rings, we get this store illustration of what they can do in practice:


Then two things: another bash at categories and labels, in the domain of sex toys (where I ventured back in 2013); and a lot about the uses of gear (and its complex associations with masculinity).

The domain of sex toys. From my 2/18/13 posting “Commercial categories: gay sex toys”, about the (quite extensive) section of the TLA Video on-line catalogue devoted to gay (male) sex toys:

There turns out to be a pretty rich category structure here, involving a number of categories that (not surprisingly) have no ordinary-language labels. A category structure devised for the users of these items, by their designers, manufacturers, and sellers.

We see much the same thing on the Guy Gear Store site, though the category structure there isn’t as complex as on the TLA Video site. They initially list five categories:

anal toys, cock & ball, lubes, fantasy & fetish (nipple clamps, wrist cuffs, collars, ball gags, crops, and more), undergear (most of it highly pouch-focused)

and then add four more:

masturbators, dildos, accessories (the Toy Cleaner product, for instance), penis enhancement

As at TLA Video, the categories include a number that are familiar to the users / customers, though not necessarily under the labels Guy Gear uses: ANAL-TOYS and UNDERWEAR (labeled undergear), for example. Others are categories of commerce, with names created by the makers and sellers: masturbators and penis enhancement, for instance.

gear. The short version of the story from NOAD (which tries to put the currently most frequent usages first in its entries):

noun gear:  1 (often gears) one of a set of toothed wheels that work together to alter the relation between the speed of a driving mechanism (such as the engine of a vehicle or the crank of a bicycle) and the speed of the driven parts (the wheels). … 2 [a] [usually with modifier] equipment that is used for a particular purpose. [b] informal clothing, especially of a specified kind: designer gear. [c] informal a person’s personal possessions and clothes. [d] Nautical a ship’s rigging.

It won’t be entirely obvious from this entry — in part, because of the way the NOAD definitions are framed — but in fact the various referents of gear are, for the most part, strongly associated culturally with the activities and interests of men, so that the word gear in many of its uses evokes masculine associations as well. I’ll call these associations, for the referents and for the word, brosociations; gear is, generally, strongly brosociated.

As a result, the choice of gear, rather than some alternative item (equipment, clothing, belongings) can be used to index masculinity; to supply masculine connotations where they would otherwise be absent (with reference to skin-care products, for example); and to reinforce and intensify explicit masculine associations (in gay-related contexts, in particular, as in the Guy Gear Store).

This turns out to be a much bigger topic than I had anticipated, so my comments here are just exploratory.

But to start the discussion, I ‘ll point out that NOAD‘s sense 1, with mechanical gears, puts us solidly in a context that in our culture is traditionally the province of men: mechnical apparatus of all kinds. And that its sense 2d takes us into another, the world of ships and sailors. In fact, its sense 2a takes us into still another, since the actual uses of gear here involve not just any kind of equipment, but specifically tools, again conventionally in a male territory.

Senses in greater detail. A (fairly drastic) boiling-down of the relevant material in OED2’s entry for the noun gear:

I. Equipment
1. a. collective singular… Apparel, attire, dress, vestments [from a1350 on]
2. Armour, arms, warlike accoutrements [from c1275 on]
3. a. Accoutrements of a riding horse, or his rider [from a1400-50]

II. Apparatus
5. a. Apparatus generally; appliances, implements, tackle, tools [from a1400 on]
b. The organs of generation. Now only slang. [1st OED2 cite 1675] [GDoS has slang gear for the female genitals from the 14th century on, then for the male genitals from the 16th on]
6. Machinery
a. A combination of wheels, levers, … [1st cite 1523]
8. Nautical. Rigging in general; ‘the rigging of any particular spar or sail’ [1st cite 1669]

III. Stuff
9. a. Goods, movable property, household necessaries and utensils [from c1380]

The earliest cites are in solidly male territory, warfare. And much of the rest of it involves extensions to other culturally masculine domains (even to the male sexual bodyparts); in particular, gear for ‘apparatus’ has become strongly associated with tools: men use gear ‘tools’, while women mostly use equipment or supplies (or, in the kitchen, utensils). (These are tendencies, not rules.)

Two notable exceptions. First exception: gear ‘stuff’, which seems to be largely free of gender associations. (My 16-year-old grand-daughter reports that this usage is normal for her, as in the dialogue “What’s in the bag? Oh, that’s my gear” (‘my stuff, my belongings’). Otherwise, she might use my gear to refer to her drawing supplies — she’s serious about her artwork — the way her mother and other photographers use gear to refer to their cameras and other equipment of their craft. But probably not in any other context.)

Second exception: gear ‘clothing’, which turns out to be pretty complex. A clothing seller offering gear is, first of all, offering casualwear, and probably special-purpose apparel: activewear or sportswear (including workout clothes). So we get things like the Guy Gear men’s clothing and sportswear shop in Sylmar CA:

(#3) Offering team wear, t-shirts for bands, streetwise t-shirts, flannel clothing, jeans, athletic shoes, etc.

And we get the site (roughly comparable to REI, Patagonia, and North Face — outdoor retail stores) selling adventure gear for skiing, climbing, and camping; bags and backpacks; and clothing for these activities (both men’s gear and women’s gear).

And of course the UnderGear / Undergear marketing company (often posted about on this blog), offering premium men’s underwear, primarily for gay men to use, for whatever purpose suits them.

(So there’s a hint in all of this of clothing as tools.)

The word gear as providing masculinity. If you want to promote a product that normally would lack masculine associations as an item for men, you can tap brosocial gear. As here:

(#4) Guy Gear toiletries for men

The ad copy, very heavy on the toiletries as grooming tools:

issimo guy gear tri wash hair, face and body wash and issimo guy gear face art shave emulsion are formulated for the gentleman who needs to simplify his daily routine. Cleanse face, hair and body with one effective formula formulated for all skin types and follow with issimo guy gear face art, a clear shave emulsion whose main purpose, in addition to keeping the facial hair (or body hair) visible during a shave, does NOT draw out beneficial oils from the skin. issimo guy gear face art provides proper lubrication for the blade, and conditions the skin all in one swoop.

The word gear as jacking up already explicit masculinity. In gay contexts, where we’re already awash in men with men, but edgily, because any mansex or male-male desire smells like femininity to some people. So gay men are inclined to pile on as many brosociations as we can get. Hence (gay) Guy Gear.

Alternatives to gear. A summary adapted from the NOAD thesaurus for the word, keyed to three subsenses in the NOAD entry. This can then serve as material for further investigation of the connotative consequences of choosing gear.

[sense 2a] EQUIPMENT equipment, apparatus, paraphernalia, articles, appliances, impedimenta; tools, utensils, implements, gadgets; stuff, things; kit, rig, tackle, odds and ends, bits and pieces, trappings, appurtenances, accoutrements, regalia; archaic equipage.

[sense 2b] CLOTHES clothing, garments, outfits, attire, garb, dress, wear; informal togs, duds, getup, threads; formal apparel

[sense 2c] BELONGINGS belongings, possessions, effects, personal effects, property, paraphernalia, odds and ends, bits and pieces, bags, baggage, luggage;  Law chattels; informal things, stuff.

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