Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 688–703 | Cite as

The Dildo as a Transformative Political Tool: Feminist and Queer Perspectives

  • Arpita DasEmail author


Censorship in patriarchal cultures runs deep in pushing dialogues and discussions on sexuality and sexual desires underground. The forbidden nature of these conversations is tighter around women and girls. With the inadequacy of affirmative and safe spaces to talk about sexual desire and pleasure, accessibility and availability of sex toys including dildos becomes significantly difficult, more so for women and other marginalized communities. Discussions about the dildo are further mired in debates between and among feminist and queer ideologies. In this paper, I look at how the dildo could be viewed simultaneously as a tool of oppression as well as of liberation and attempt to address the question: who does the dildo oppress and who does it liberate? I explore the multiple perspectives around the dildo within feminist thought and queer theory with special attention to points of convergence and divergence between them. While some predominant feminist perspectives understand the dildo as a symbol of the phallocentric order, there are others which view it as a tool for transformative politics. Queer theory also views the dildo as a device that can alter and shift traditional hierarchical relationships and be liberating not only for women but also for several marginalized identities including people with disabilities and people living with HIV. Unwrapping some of the ways in which the dildo is perceived, understood and experienced, I suggest that the dildo needs to be interpreted in complex and multi-layered ways.


Dildo Queer theory Feminist theory Sexuality Gender Women 



The author would like to thank Dr. Hadley Z Renkin for his extensive inputs and encouragement in the initial stages of this paper, Alankaar Sharma for giving pertinent feedback especially on questions of (dis)privileges related to identity positions, and the anonymous reviewers for their words of motivation and useful feedback. Any errors are author’s own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New DelhiIndia

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