Was the Dr. Manhattan Sex Toy Insulting the Right to Self-pleasure?
The infamous big blue dildo shows a tremendous lack of respect―for many things.
Even if you weren’t an avid viewer of HBO’s Watchmen TV series, you’ve no doubt heard of that scene.
You know the one: where a character pulls out a ridiculously massive and deep-blue-colored dildo.
It’s certainly been all over social media, eliciting comments ranging from snickering to behind the hand giggles to various degrees of outrage.
To which―surprise―we’re going to add our own comment. The inclusion of this sex toy was profoundly insulting in that it makes light of a serious subject: the right to enjoy sexual self-pleasure.
In episode three, Laurie Blake (played by Jean Smart), previously the costumed hero Silk Spectre, pulls out that big blue dildo, clearly meant to represent her ex-lover, the supremely powerful and equally bright blue Dr. Manhattan.
According to the show’s Peteypedia, its Wikipedia-style database, the Dr. Manhattan sex toy is actually an “Electromagnetic Lithium Powered Excalibur.” According to its detailed blueprints, the device contains a lot more than your run-of-the-mill vibrator.
Measuring 13 by 4 inches, it has “lithium transducers”―whatever those are―and houses its power supply in the equally bright blue pseudo-testicles. Some have speculated that the Excalibur actually generates a low-level electric shock, mirroring the superhuman Dr. Manhattan’s “licking a flashlight battery” touch that was mentioned in the original graphic novel.
The big blue dildo
Squint your eyes and it could, sort of, be argued that featuring the big blue dildo was an act of female empowerment: showing Laurie Blake using it demystifies masturbation and gives the character a moment of vulnerability in longing for her long-departed superhero lover.
But this flies out the window when you learn more about how it came to be in the show. Speaking to Slate, Watchmen’s supervising producer/writer Lila Byock revealed that it was hardly a serious consideration and more something the production laughed at.
As I recall, basically we had first hit on the idea of the briefcase. We knew that [Laurie] had this briefcase that she was carrying around with her that contained some kind of secret, something that was important, that was meaningful to her. So we were sort of pitching on what’s in the briefcase, and I pitched that she’s got a giant blue dildo in the briefcase as a joke to make everybody laugh. And Damon [Lindelof] called my bluff. From then on it was just like, ‘Well, of course we’re doing that.’
And there it is: a joke. Not something carefully thought out to give a character a moment of sincere pleasure, but something, and someone, to be laughed at.
In the same interview, Byock tries to justify the scene. She adds about the device’s dimension:
Well, as you know, Dr. Manhattan can change size and so we knew we wanted it to be large, and we kind of imagined that this might be the size that Dr. Manhattan assumes during lovemaking.
However, the scene could have been done in a way that shows the character’s longing for her departed lover without resorting to this massive blue monster of a sex toy, one that has subsequently been all over the media and was even the focus of this Slate interview.
How? Well, why not show Laurie using a less comically exaggerated piece of sex tech to please herself. Then, at some time during the scene and perhaps with some deep sobs of loss for Dr. Manhattan, show her literally licking a flashlight battery.
But no, instead we have blueprints, interviews, and lots of laughter about this ridiculous big blue dildo―and worse, we are making fun of the woman using it.
Nothing ever wrong with self-pleasure
Everyone―men, women, everyone―has the right to sexually pleasure themselves however they see fit, including the use of whatever sex tech devices or toys they find pleasurable.
It’s bad enough that the Watchmen TV show uses sex tech as a ham-handed device, the addition of all this over-the-top background and detail even worse, but then to make fun of masturbation itself is aggravatingly immature.
Masturbation is not something to cruelly make fun of; it should in no way, shape, or form be a joke at someone else’s expense. It’s a healthy form of sexual pleasure and needs to be shown that way, not as a tossed-in adolescent attention grab―least of all by a big-budget TV show on a major network.
So, instead of giving HBO’s Watchmen any more attention, we suggest picking up the original, and far superior, graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons.
Then, if you’d like to―and there really isn’t any better reason than that―enjoy your favorite piece of sex tech and have some wonderful orgasms.
Because, as Alan Moore himself put it:
Sexually progressive cultures gave us literature, philosophy, civilization and the rest, while sexually restrictive cultures gave us the Dark Ages and the Holocaust.