I was sitting on the couch one night, totally wiped after yet another dragged-out bedtime — “more stories,” “more water,” “still hungry,” “too hot,” “too cold,” you get the idea — when my husband asked if I’d noticed our kid’s beautifully made, rainbow-winged, sparkly pegasus unicorn toy was, in fact, a stallion pegasus unicorn.
I stared at him blankly, confused. Huh? He explained: “If you flip the unicorn upside down, you see what is absolutely, unmistakably a dick.” A horse dick. Also balls. A full, explicit set of genitals. On my child’s alicorn. (Did you know alicorn is the technical term for a winged unicorn? I didn’t until I had a preschool-age daughter.) At which point all my determination to be chill and straightforward about the human body evaporated, and I slightly freaked out about the fact I’d bought my then-4-year-old daughter a toy with a huge schlong.
What had I done?! How was I going to explain this to my kid… or my mother? Why would somebody put a dick on a mythical animal?
I came to find out that I’m not the first parent to notice dicks on their kids’ animal figurines. In 2017, a dad went viral after spotting one on his 2-year-old’s plastic horse, made by a company called Battat. Another dad had seen them on plastic animals made by another company, Terra.
I’m also not the first parent to be surprised by the equipment on this specific alicorn, which is produced by the company Schleich; it’s part of their “Bayala” range dedicated to fantasy creatures. The Amazon description does admittedly brag that it’s “crafted with precision and authentic detail.” Most of the reviews on the Schleich.com product page are raves, but one parent was also a little blindsided: “Did not know this was a stallion/anatomically,” begins the review. “I bought this in a toy store and there was no warning this was a stallion/male and no warning was anatomically correct.” Is it even anatomically correct? I’m not Googling horse dicks on my work computer (or my personal computer, for that matter), but — as a friend pointed out when I shared this story — given that unicorns are not real, can anything about them be “anatomically correct”?
Here’s the product listing, by the way: “In the mountains of Rainbow Island, there lives a winged rainbow unicorn with its little one. The two of them fly over the colourful island to the end of the rainbow and their wings light up magnificently in all colours. Come along and let’s watch them!” Extremely vague. In UK English, for some reason. Maybe this is on me for assuming that unicorn mares (Would we say mares? Let’s go with it.) are the primary caregivers. Maybe the mental load is shared in Unicornland!
But this one, which I found on Amazon, is very specifically described as a stallion. Unfortunately I was unable to confirm whether or not it had a dick by my deadline.
How damn many kid’s toys are circulating out there with full-on dicks, anyway? This was all very shocking for me, a millennial who grew up with the plastic blankness of Barbie and Ken. So I found myself near FAO Schwarz in Rockefeller Center and popped inside to do some research, which is how I found myself standing in a toy store, flipping toys upside down one by one to check their junk, trying to determine how many of these toys had dicks, and also whether the mares (?) had vaginas. Not that I know the first thing about what a horse’s vagina looks like (nor do I want to, for that matter). I can report this bull has an absolutely massive set of testicles, though.
I’m not one to stop at my own curiosity — should I be worried or should I just take this as another teachable moment? — and I am a journalist after all, so I called up a couple of experts, both of whom immediately cracked up when I explained the situation. As it turns out, the answer to my questions are, respectively: It’s fine and absolutely.
“Ok, that’s hilarious,” said Amy Lang, a sexuality and parent educator who runs Birds & Bees & Kids. “It’s a teachable moment, right?” She suggested I might want to just point out what I’d seen, “and then see what she does with it.” Because ultimately, there’s nothing to be freaked out about here. “At the end of the day, it’s just science! It’s biology!” she reminded me.
The important thing is establishing yourself as a non-judgmental open authority. “We really can’t be afraid of this anymore. The information a parent gives their child is not going to hurt them,” she said. What is going to hurt them is not giving them that information. “What’s going to hurt them is when they’re online, when they’re dealing with older kids who have information from porn.” Unicorn dicks, in other words, can be your friend.
I also spoke to Bonnie J. Rough, author of Beyond Birds And Bees, which drew heavily on her experiences living with her two kids in Amsterdam, where the approach to sex ed is vastly different than in America and much more open. She said, if anything, I might want to add to the collection of anatomically accurate animals: “The name of the game is normalization.” People have bodies, animals have bodies, and they’re not a mystery or a secret or something to be scared of.
Rough said that, based on her experience with her kids, being frank and open and chill now would set me up for a great relationship with my child when she’s a teenager. “By then, the conversations are fun and funny and interesting and appropriately complex,” she said, adding, “It’s really fun for me.”
As for why this is even a thing, the simplest explanation is probably the best: The company specializes in extremely detailed, perfectly rendered animal figurines (You can see individual feathers on the wings of the alicorn.) and that commitment apparently extends all the way to the undercarriage. Their “Rhodesian Ridgeback,” for instance, visibly has nipples. When I reached out to the company for comment, the response I got was completely unflappable and indeed unflapped: “schleich® stands for realistic animal figurines that are as true to life as possible. For all our product lines, we therefore attach particular importance to modelling the animals to look the same as they do in nature. This also applies to our fantasy figurines, because their appearance is based on real animals.” Basically: Animals obviously ought to look like animals — why wouldn’t they?
The company is also — and this is important — based in Germany. (Rough almost immediately said: “The first thing I think of is: Well, it’s probably a European brand.”)
It’s also probably worth remembering that kids used to spend a lot more time around horses, back when they were a standard mode of transportation. Probably even sheltered Victorian girls knew what a horse’s dick looked like, because they were part of the background noise of everyday life. It was basically the exhaust pipe of its day.
The punchline, after all this, is that it doesn’t seem like my kid has ever noticed her alicorn’s other horn. If she had, to be honest, she probably wouldn’t have batted an eye. The whole thing ended up being a good preparation for the many, many conversations I will be having over the next few years. It doesn’t necessarily have to be weird, especially if you, the parent, don’t make it weird. Leave your baggage at the door. Be prepared to face life’s trickiest questions in the most random, WTF ways possible.
And also know there’s apparently a lot of toys out there with dicks, so you’ve been warned.
Kelly Faircloth is the executive editor at Scary Mommy, where she commissions freelance pieces. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, pitch her here! She’d love to hear from you.
Previously, Kelly worked at Jezebel.com, where she was a senior editor and also wrote about royal gossip and romance novels, along with body image and history. She grew up in Georgia between a river and a railroad, and she has a lot of questions about the world-building in Paw Patrol.