A Fantastically Inclusive Harness With Less than Inclusive Marketing:
The SpareParts Joque is an amazing harness. Fantastic. 10/10. Would definitely buy again. But unfortunately, I can’t say that the marketing surrounding it fills me with as much joy as the harness itself does.
Honestly, I don’t even know if I would have purchased the harness at all if not for reading reviews by LGBTQ+ inclusive sex bloggers, since the marketing surrounding the Joque is extremely cisheteronormative. This is a huge shame, because the Joque is one of the most beneficial sex accessories for LGBTQ+ people.
But, alas…the official marketing campaign for the Joque leaves me with the feeling that most other mainstream marketing campaigns leave me with: that it’s Not For Me because my gender identity and sexual orientation are Not Allowed.
- A note: I was really hesitant to post this blog because like…I’m a really new blogger/reviewer in the sex toy community and I don’t want to burn bridges by being overly critical before I’ve even built any bridges in the first place. But you know what? Fuck it. If I’m not posting my uncensored thoughts and ideas on my own website that I pay to host, what’s the point of having a website at all?
- A second note: I have no idea if it’s acceptable within copyright to take screenshots of websites, so to err on the side of caution I simply…did not include any pictures in this blog post. I did include hyperlinks though, so at least there’s that!
Strap-Ons are For Straights, I Guess:
Because of how immersed I am in my own select pocket of the internet/the world, I usually forget that pegging is a thing a lot of straight couples enjoy. The product page on the SpareParts website for the Joque quickly reminded me that for straight people, pegging is indeed a thing, and an extremely popular one at that.
Usually I only think of strap-on sex in a queer context, but I guess the reality is that there are probably more heterosexual married men out there who want to be pegged by their wives than there are strap-slinging lesbians, just because…well, that’s just how it is. Maybe this isn’t actually the case and the Joque is primarily for queers after all, but the marketing photos for both the SpareParts website as well as even on SheVibe’s website don’t make me feel like LGBTQ+ people are the intended audience.
Not only that, it feels like LGBTQ+ people aren’t even a welcome audience.
The First Failure: A Lack of Lesbian Representation
I’m making this assertion based on the photos that include men on both the SpareParts and SheVibe websites. On those websites, in the pictures that include men, the image clearly conveys “this guy is gonna get pegged and he can’t wait.” I know that not everything has to be for me, but…certainly, lesbians make up a HUGE part of the revenue for this harness, right? It would be nice if more than ONE marketing photo for a company that makes STRAP-ON HARNESSES included a lesbian couple.
Sure, there’s one photo where two women are sitting next to each other on a couch, but…they’re just posing in a sexy way with each other. I guess it makes me feel like…oh, they’re going to both give me the strap, that’s what’s going to happen here.
But I don’t want them to give me the strap. These models are busy, and they have their own things to worry about. The photo doesn’t make me feel like they’re going to use the harness with each other, either because…well, they’re not even LOOKING at each other. Why would they fuck each other when they’re not even looking at each other???
Like, seriously, I looked through the ENTIRE SpareParts website and I only saw ONE photo with lesbian rep. ONE!!!! Out of all their products! Similarly, this photo was the only picture with a person who appeared to be a butch lesbian in it, and if not a butch lesbian, than at least a “person who doesn’t look femme.”
As a butch in a relationship with a butch, this sucks. It shows once again that relationships deemed unappealing for mainstream representation will simply be erased and ignored.
I will give SpareParts credit in the representation department for featuring a lot of models of color, and for designing the Pete underwear specifically to facilitate easier packing for trans men. But the underwear for trans men is just that–underwear. It doesn’t have an O-ring to facilitate strap-on sex, and even though I understand that their primary purpose is for packing, wouldn’t it make sense to design it so it can work for both packing and strap-on sex? Why do trans men have to be effectively neutered instead?
The Tomboi product, which does function as both underwear and a harness, has a name that is primarily associated in pop culture with…well, rambunctious little girls. I’m not a trans guy, but if I were and I was shopping for underwear that could also function as a harness, I would feel bad seeing the Tomboi named what it is because it wouldn’t make me feel empowered, it would make me feel like I was six years old.
I also felt awkward in my own right viewing the main marketing image for this harness, as it was being modeled on a model who (to me) reads very feminine, what with being perfectly shaved and flashing a pierced belly button piercing. The second model in the marketing images for the Tomboi has a more masculine gender presentation, but like, for me personally, the first image I see on the SpareParts website makes me feel very much like “oh this product is not meant to be For Me because I don’t look like this smooth hot model.”
I identify as a non-binary butch, and within the context of my own gender presentation and identity, I myself feel really awkward and out of place looking at the product/marketing photos that SpareParts has on their website for their products.
I’m not a beautiful feminine babe with perfectly styled hair and expertly applied makeup. I’m a nasty little dyke who wears my harness on top of my boxer briefs because my own personal gender identity can’t cope with my butt cheeks being out to the wind during sex.
The official product photos of the Joque that I like the most are the ones on the WetForHer listing, since they’re simple, clear, no-nonsense images that give a good representation of what to expect and simply…what the harness looks like from all angles.
But even though these photos provde a more neutral representation of the harness, it’s still just one website. And, of course, for trans masculine and non-binary people, having to shop at a site called “WetForHer” adds another layer of gender misery. It’s a no-win situation.
Troubles for Trans Women:
Continuing on the subject of gender identity, the Joque and other SpareParts harnesses CAN be used by people with penises. Of course, you wouldn’t know it based on the official marketing campaigns and product copy for their harness offerings.
In a post rounding up strap-on harnesses for trans women, Autostraddle recommends two SpareParts harnesses, the Deuce and the Tomboi, but points out that the marketing for the Deuce is saturated in pointing out “IT’S FOR MEN!!!” at every possible moment.
The Autostraddle author is clearly in pain at recommending the Deuce for trans women given its marketing copy, saying, “We know that we’re not recommending this harness to men. I was actually kinda shocked that people in the sex toy industry had made that marketing choice, as everyone I have ever talked to in the biz is pretty well aware of the difference between gender and the bits between our legs.”
Sex toy blogger Kelvin Sparks also points out that the Joque harness specifically can be used by people with penises, stating in this post, “While wearing a strap-on cock is something primarily associated with people with vulvae, people with any type of body or genital configuration can wear and use a strap-on. This includes people with their own penises, be they trans women, non-binary people, cis men, or post-bottom surgery trans men.”
It’s a shame that SpareParts’s marketing materials don’t reflect the reality that Sparks so succinctly points out.
Get With The Program: Trans Women Use Strap-Ons, Too:
Strap-on harnesses are commonly utilized by trans women, and strap-ons are even specifically written about in the zine “Fucking Trans Women” by Mira Bellwether. In that zine, originally published in 2010, Bellwether even expresses her wish for a strap-on harness with two O-rings to comfortably accommodate her penis and an open back design to allow for anal stimulation.
It’s a shame that while her exact wish came true with the Deuce, the marketing copy explicitly excludes trans women from enjoying this harness by emphasizing “Men! MEN! It’s for men!!!!” with literally every sentence.
The Deuce is, in theory, a great option for some trans women, but again—everything about the official marketing materials says “this is not for you.”
Do you want to lose money, SpareParts? Because this is how you lose money. When you invoke dysphoria and alienation in a group who would otherwise be highly interested in your product, you LOSE MONEY.
Continuing on the subject of representation in marketing, most of what I learned about the Joque harness (and what motivated my partner and I decided to purchase it) came from reading reviews by other sex bloggers.
One thing that is frequently praised about the Joque is that it’s really size inclusive. As blogger the Lorax of Sex explains in detail, the Joque is available in two sizes. Size A fits waists from 20” to 50”, and size B fits waists from 35” to 65”–but again, you’d never know it from looking at the product marketing photos, since the Joque is only modeled on thin bodies.
The photo that sold me on the Joque wasn’t an official picture from any of the websites it’s sold on. What sold me was the header image from HeyEpiphora’s review of the Joque. Epiphora’s photo is a bright, clear picture that gives the viewer a really solid, realistic idea of what to expect with the Joque. Plus, the models in her photograph look a lot closer to my body type than the ones in the official product marketing photos.
Fat People are Hot and Fat People Have Sex:
The majority of people wearing strap-on harnesses aren’t going to have trim, athletic model bodies. If you’re going to show me a straight couple who’s into pegging, whatever. I guess. But would it hurt to at least show a more diverse, realistic representation? One of the greatest strengths of the Joque harness is the wide range of sizes it accommodates, but you would never know that based on its official photographs.
This isn’t an invitation for crude fetishization of fat bodies. It’s an invitation to just model a strap-on harness on a greater range of bodies than just conventionally thin, conventionally attractive models. The performers at Crash Pad are RIGHT THERE and would be a great place to start.
I know that sex sells and hot sexy conventionally attractive bodies are what sells, but please. When people see themselves reflected in the model wearing a harness, they will feel more confident about purchasing it. Isn’t that what you want? More people purchasing your products?
What I Want SpareParts to Do Differently:
The Joque is a fantastic strap-on harness that accommodates a wide range of body types, and I would love to see SpareParts create some new marketing images that showcase this. It would be great to see the Joque worn by models in different sizes so as to fully depict the range of sizes that the Joque accommodates.
I’d like to see models of different gender presentations wearing the Joque instead of it only being modeled by thin, attractive, feminine women. The Joque is a harness that can be used by trans men, trans women, and non-binary people, not just cis women. It would be great to represent this reality in the marketing imagery.
It would also be amazing to see the Joque modeled by people who are visibly disabled–after all, a big reason I purchased the Joque in the first place is because my wrist problems were starting to get so bad that I wasn’t able to use my hands to facilitate sex anymore.
I feel bad writing a review slamming the marketing for the Joque, because it really is an incredible strap-on harness. Seriously, it’s amazing, I love it, it cured my previous aversion to strap-on harnesses/strap-on sex, it’s everything I could ask for in a harness. But if it weren’t for the hard work of bloggers who make a purposeful effort to review products and portray them from an inclusive perspective, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to purchase the Joque.
When everything about a product’s official marketing excludes you, it’s hard to imagine yourself using that product.
I’m going to say it again because I can’t emphasize it enough: the Joque is fucking awesome. If you’re doubting whether or not you should get it, don’t let the packaging or the marketing materials sway you–it’s a really good product.
As for SpareParts though, if you guys read this post I hope that I don’t come across as too mean or whiny or shitty, I just hope that you can see that you have a huge queer community out there who loves your product…and would also like to see people who look like them modeling your product.
But, until then, sex bloggers will stay out there doing all the heavy lifting and hard work required to push for genuine representation.
I am once again thankful as FUCK for all the blogs that have come before me!!!
Disclaimer: I purchased my SpareParts Joque with my own money and no money/sponsorships/whatever influenced me writing this opinion piece. I’ve just got opinions!
Aaah, I’m so glad you published this post. If I’m being completely honest, I’m far more interested in reading an in-depth dive into a company’s shitty marketing choices than a polished product review. I love how much research you’ve done for this piece, and I totally agree with you about literally everything you said here. And it’s totally possible to love a product AND find the way that it’s marketed alienating – I too am frequently grateful for sex bloggers who have shown me that it’s possible to ‘queerify’ the narrative around certain toys (and even sex acts). The line “When everything about a product’s official marketing excludes you, it’s hard to imagine yourself using that product.” really stuck out to me while reading – you’re completely fucking right.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment, I’m really glad that you connected with it and that other people feel the same way I do about marketing inclusion stuff!
I love this post! I wish more sex toy companies in general would pay attention to their marketing and how they can make it more inclusive; I feel like this post applies not only to Joque but to a broad range of products. (And don’t worry about burning bridges as a new blogger! This stuff is important to say. ♥)
Thank you so much!
Unfortunately, this problem applies to a TON of products, augh. I’ve got a couple more posts drafted complaining about gendered marketing issues I have with a couple other companies actually, so I’ll be saying more about this soon!
As a non-binary person, I am extremely grateful you posted this! I have my own hangups with straps and whatnot, and while I have (sigh) become used to marketing being largely femme/skinny/white, it doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I do absolutely look for reviews like this! And I think pointing out marketing issues is vital, because they *can* be corrected. It’s really not that hard. Costly? Perhaps. But in the long run it would be a very good investment because the return would be higher when people don’t have to scour the internet for opinions before considering buying it because they’d know looking at it that it’s meant for them.
The one marketing issue I would bring up specifically that QueerEarthling addressed in a similar post was Rianne S’s extremely gendered website in relation to not only the Heart vibe (which is terrible to add insult to injury) but period, and also has issues with poor characterization of women in general… it’s important to mention! It really helps people with making judgements, regardless.
All of that to essentially say: Good work!
Thank you!! I’m really glad you were able to connect with my post (although ultimately not so glad that so many people feel the same alienation and frustration that I do)!
My personal somewhat-educated opinion is that it really wouldn’t even BE that costly to update marketing materials for a lot of these websites. Taking new pictures is costly, yeah, but things like changing the phrasing of the copy are so easy to do and would be such a meaningful gesture for so many people.
I read the post by Queer Earthling you mentioned and WOW, the Rianne S website is EXTREMELY BAD, holy shit. Like…god, even for cis straight women that marketing sucks!