Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: The Goose, the Gander and Sex Toys

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” or so goes the proverb in English.  It’s origin derives from the work of John Lyly, who in his Euphues and His England, written in 1579, wrote “as deepe drinketh the Goose as the Gander.”  

Now you might not know that Euphues is a Greek name, consisting of eu- “well, good” and phuo “make to bloom, create life.” From the latter of these we get the notorious English f-word that in origin, innocently simply meant “make to bloom.” Needless to say it has taken on a much more derogatory force, but one that befits the second half of this blog. And you also might not know that it is from Lyly’s very character and his better-known work, Euphues: An Anatomy of Wit, that we get the English word euphuism, a highly rhetorical style of English prose in which I myself have been known to indulge. All of this was popular of course, when John Lyly was at his apex, i.e. in the Elizabethan age.  

Which is why you’ve probably never heard of John Lyly or his character Euphues or even the more common (comparatively speaking) rhetorical style of euphuism. Because there was that other writer of the Elizabethan age who eclipsed Lyly’s apex to such an extent that Lyly never became a household word, though he might have been, had Shakespeare been born at some other time in history. But, alas, they were contemporaries, and unlike the Beatles and the Stones, who carved out parallel legacies, Lyly is never brought up in the same breath as Shakespeare. It’s more like Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan. People know Barkley now as primarily a sports analyst. But, in his day, he was a John Lyly to Michael Jordan’s Shakespeare.

Yet what about the sex toys bit? Well, actually that’s the point of this blog. In a recent article with the replete, even officious title, “Startup that makes sex toys for women sues New York transit system for banning its ads” (sic), the author, Sara Ashley O’Brien addresses the topic of certain advertisements submitted by a women’s sexual-health company known as “Dame Products.” This company was seeking that its allegedly tasteful ads be showcased in New York’s Transit System’s advertising venue. Their focus is on sex toys designed specifically for women. Their slogan was to be, like Sara O’Brien’s title mentioned above, clear as clear could be: “Toys, for sex.” But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) declined the advertisement on the basis of it being sexually oriented. Indeed, the title alone certainly suggests as much.

The female sex toy company, however, is now suing the MTA, calling the rejection a violation of freedom of speech. They note that the MTA has allowed a men’s health company to sell erectile dysfunction medication that uses a cactus as its symbol. I will say nothing here how that metaphor might, from a woman’s point of view, seem a bit too sharp and, without doubt, uncomfortable.

In its defense, the MTA has noted that on the FAQ page they state clearly that ads for sex toys for either gender are not allowed, whereas medication is. So, in Lylyesque fashion, Dame Products is making the good for the goose, good for the gander argument, but I imagine they will lose, as you really can’t argue with a FAQ page.

I just want to leave you with this thought: how in the world does a question about sex toys make its way onto a FAQ page? Seriously, how is that a frequently asked question? Yet it must be frequently asked to make the FAQ page. Who wouldda thunk it?

Long live the memory, however faint it might be, of Shakespeare’s second fiddle, at least in so far as he is preserved in his goose and gander gender equality statement. Oh, and I almost forgot, do mind the cactuses.

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