The Ken doll from Mattel mostly as a reputation of being the kind of hyper-masculine equivalent to Barbie. He is supposed to be Barbie's boyfriend, and that is largely how he is used to play when children get their hands on him. So, what is Ken were gay? This is not a hypothetical or a simple thought experiment, it is something that actually happened when a particular Ken doll was released in 1993.
Going all the way back to 1993 and releasing a male doll that was obviously gay seems like quite a risky choice to make. However, Mattel was backed into a corner as other male dolls had stated to take away a lot of the market that they used to be able to count on. Their standard Ken doll just wasn't cutting it when matched up with the likes of G.I. Joe and his friends. As such, Mattel made the decision to release a version of Ken that was lets say a little more fabulous than before.
The Ken doll released fit into so many of the stereotypes of a gay man. Those stereotypes were particularly strong in the early 1990s, and that meant that this doll stood out even more at the time as clearly being a gay man.
One might think that the public at the time would have been repulsed by the idea of purchasing their children a doll that they saw as gay. That is not how it worked out though. The children loved this doll, gay individuals saw it as easier to relate to, and the public bought it up in record numbers. This particular doll was the best selling version of Ken that Mattel would ever produce.
Mattel was really embarrassed by the connection between their doll and the idea of him being gay. It didn't even seem to matter to them that he was a huge success and crowd favorite, they just wanted to pull him from the shelves as quickly as possible. That is unfortunate, because his popularity was definitely very well documented.
Though the toy maker refuses to release official numbers, the general belief is that the gay Ken doll may have actually sold more than even any of the female Barbie dolls that have ever existed. If so, there seems to be little reason why Mattel should be so skittish about this particular doll. They obviously struck a chord with the public.