Erika Moen, cuckolding, and the casualties of “Oh Joy Sex Toy”
[Content warning: references to sexual violence/abuse]
On April 4, Erika Moen’s ongoing 18+ webcomic series Oh Joy Sex Toy published a piece explaining the practice of cuckolding. Many people did not like this comic. It was widely mocked and ridiculed for its absurd claims, its tone-deaf narrative, and its extremely cringey writing and illustration. It also garnered a more serious, critical response from those who pointed out that the kink is deeply rooted in racism — specifically, an eroticized version of the “black man steals white woman” trope. Moen and her husband Matthew Nolan, who co-writes and edits the comics, claim that this is not intrinsic to the kink, and that “folks exploring cuckolding come in all different types, sizes, genders, and sexualities.” (I guess “type” is meant to signify race? Whatever.)
Moen and Nolan’s argument is highly debatable, but I’m not focusing on that particular element here — I know very little about it, and others have provided more authoritative opinions.
What I want to dig into is something deeply unsettling that permeates all of Oh Joy Sex Toy, from the sex toy reviews to the discussions about sexual health to the Kink 101.
It’s hard to put a name to it, but this is the best way I can sum it up:
In Erika Moen’s world, sex does not exist.
Instead, kinks exist. Play exists. Toys and fun and pleasure. Shaded in pink, and free from worry.
Sure, sometimes things are “awkward,” or the characters make frowny faces, or they mention STIs. But other than that, welcome to a land of true sexual fantasy: clean and bright, with no hint of ugliness. There is no pain, no fear, no anguish; no betrayal, anger, or regret; no blood, tears, or excrement.
And, of course, there is no rape. No trauma. No emotional abuse or manipulation. Rather, there is lots, and lots, and lots of talk about consent. Consent makes things fun and happy and cute. There is never a mention of what happens in the absence of it.
This would all be fine if it were for the purposes of fantasy alone. A lot of porn is like that, especially of the drawn or animated or written variety. Its appeal lies primarily in its fantasy. We like it because it’s not real. It can exist outside of space and time, outside of pain or loss or fear. It is whatever our minds want it to be. We are in control.
But Moen’s comics are practical guides. They are meant to be applied to the real world. And that’s the problem: the two are not compatible.
In our world — the real world — there is not just kink and fun and play. There is sex. And sex is complicated. It is not always fun, and it is not always good, and we are not always in control of it. When sex is used to deliberately harm — through rape, abuse, and exploitation — it is terrifying and destructive and deeply wounding.
Our world also has real bodies, not cartoons. Bodies, too, are complicated. Sometimes they hurt or become ill or look ugly. Sometimes we hate or fear them; sometimes we don’t want to touch or look at them. Especially when it comes to our genitals.
But nobody in Moen’s world hates their body. Hell, their bodies might as well not exist, except for their junk, which is rarely drawn with any great deal of realism; half the time it has googly eyes.
Another thing you won’t find in Oh Joy Sex Toy: any talk of oppression. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, ableism, colonialism, the horrors of capitalism — it’s all irrelevant. Moen even goes to noticeable pains to be diverse in her depictions of sex-havers (with the very conspicuous absence of disabled people), so we know she’s at least aware of oppression. Leaving it unmentioned is a deliberate setup, a conscious decision not to “complicate” things.
Which brings us back to the now-infamous cuckolding comic. Cuckolding, Moen and Nolan claim, is “based around trust, control, fear, humiliation, voyeurism, and showmanship.” But it’s also — as the comic itself explains — based around the cuckold’s thrill at seeing his wife get “taken away” from him and subdued by a superior “alpha” male.
Joe, our friendly fictional cuck, calls it a “masochistic pleasure,” which begs the question: where’s the masochism? Sure, his wife insults his dick, but that’s not the only source of erotic humiliation. It’s only masochistic if we assume his wife is his property, and what happens to her is reflected on him. A cuckold enjoys the degradation and shame of letting another man steal his woman (note the lack of agency on her part) — and, by proxy, seeing her be degraded as well.
His wife assures us that she “feels empowered” because she gets to bang two different guys. But she’s not the focus of the comic — Joe, the cuck, is. And being a cuck, the narrator tells us, is “tough” and “takes a lot of bravery and strength.” Somehow we are meant to view this kink as a noble struggle through adversity, when it’s something he presumably signed up to do of his own accord and could stop at any time. Those internet trolls must be hurting his feelings or something.
Cuckolding is not an innocent, context-free kink. It is founded on racism and misogyny, on colonialist ideals of sex and relationships. The entire premise depends on it. And Moen and Nolan are clearly on the defensive here. Their assertion that cuckolding is a diverse kink seems positioned to deflect any negativity. We can’t let anybody criticize the most holy of holies — a kink. We’re in Moen-land, and in Moen-land, every desire is precious, and everything about sex is okay.
And it’s not just okay, it’s right. It’s good, and virtuous, by way of simply existing. You should like it. You should be excited and turned on and happy. Look, everyone’s having fun! Don’t you want to have fun? Hey, lighten up. What’s wrong with you? Why are you so frigid? Why are you kinkshaming? It’s tough to have a sexual fetish! It takes a lot of bravery and strength to have a weird way to get off! Oh, do you not want to hear about it? Does it bring up trauma or negative emotions for you? Does it just gross you out for some reason? Maybe you should try being a little more open. A little more sex-positive.
In Moen’s world, there are no boundaries. Anyone can say anything. Moen and Nolan’s cartoon avatars can gleefully watch strangers having sex or masturbating. Everything is fun, and nobody ever gets hurt, because sex is like a low-contact sport or a board game. Moen and Nolan, the self-appointed experts on any topic involving genitalia and reproductive organs, are here to teach you everything you need to know.
But maybe your knowledge goes deeper, to someplace that can’t be made cute and pink and cartoonish. Maybe you have experienced the indescribable torture of rape and abuse. Maybe you’re a person of color, constantly made into a sexual object, simultaneously hated and exoticized. Maybe you have a disability that prevents you from enjoying or even engaging in sexual activity. Maybe you’re trans and have an infinitely complex and conflicted relationship with sexuality and your body. Or perhaps a combination of these, or something else entirely — anything that Oh Joy Sex Toy must shy away from, for being too dark, too difficult, too ugly.
That’s on you. Put it aside. Let happy white Erika and happy white Matthew guide you through their saccharine, sterile world, and don’t complain.
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