The contents of my bedside table (2021) is a documentation of my personal collection of sex toys, reflecting on the dichotomy between their aesthetic traits and intended use.

According to Sienne Ngai (2005), cute objects are often “soft, round, and deeply associated with the infantile and feminine” (p. 814) - just like the neon pink bunny vibrator pictured above. Petite, soft and smooth, it aesthetically conveys patriarchal ideals of feminine beauty.

Cute qualities can therefore play into the circulation of potentially harmful ideologies. If cuteness is an ideology of beauty and femininity, then commodification and marketing of this aesthetic might problematically perpetuate these essentialist ideals of femininity. Also, where does this leave room for the masculine, the tough and the butch?

Through use of sex toys and fetish clothing, we can adopt varying degrees of cuteness to provoke specific responses. Affection, submissiveness, dominance, playful aggression and so on. People may be drawn to cute pink and purple dildos in a desire to be dominant, or a leather collar to express toughness.

An extreme mimicry of cuteness can therefore be subversive by challenging patriarchal ideas of femininity and disrupting binaries of gender and sexuality. Facing unfamiliar depictions of cuteness, like a plastic dildo on a flatbed scanner, we reexamine the object and questions why it makes us feel a certain way.

Ngai, Sianne. “The Cuteness of the Avant‐Garde.” Critical Inquiry 31.4 (2005): 811–847. CrossRef. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.