This week was interesting, to say the least.
I had the pleasure of hosting my friend and sexologist Dr. Megan Stubbs during her stay in Los Angeles from Michigan, and in addition to some late-night vent sessions and introducing her to some wonderful TV (Broad City and Master of None, to name a few), Megan took me under her wing and gave me a glimpse into her world of sex education, sex toys and, well, basically all things sex.
Here’s what I quickly realized–I don’t know shit.
Sure, I know some things, but I definitely didn’t consider myself a novice on the topic of sex until I attended an expo full of people who have devoted most of their lives to the art of sex. For three days we attended the ANME (Adult Novelty Manufacturers Expo) in Burbank, a bi-annual event highlighting all of the latest and greatest sex toys on the market. I had never seen so many dildos, vibrators, butt plugs, or tasted so much lube in my life.
I learned the difference between numerous mainstream toys, I learned that putting a vibrator to the tip of your nose will give you an idea of the sensation you’d feel on your private parts. I met a bunch of different people in the industry who are devoted to creating a safe space for sex education and sparking conversations that are usually tagged as inappropriate. And I learned that words that would usually make people giggle are words we shouldn’t be afraid of saying. COCK, BALLS, CLITORIS, VAGINA, PENIS. OH MY GOD, HOW DARE I.
It was fascinating.
Here I was immersed in this world of something that wasn’t completely foreign to me (just because I haven’t had sex in a while doesn’t mean I forgot everything), and yet I felt completely lost. I’d never been around so many people who talked about sex and pleasure and masturbation in a way that wasn’t vulgar or taboo. It was all very matter-of-fact. That was comforting. I was able to talk about female pleasure, male anatomy and sexual urges without feeling like I was being sinful or unladylike. I was able to be human and discuss, listen and learn about very human topics that just so happened to be centered around sex.
But my biggest revelation when it came to my degree of awareness (or lack thereof) on sexuality came when I attended a taping of the Sex Out Loud podcast at the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood. The show, hosted by Tristan Taormino, featured four sex therapists: Jamila Dawson, Dr. Chris Donaghue, Kate Loree and Dr. Hernando Chaves, and touched on a wide range of topics, including sex positivity, conversion therapy, inclusion among non-majority people, and, most importantly (in my opinion) the unavoidable realization that the sex education offered to us is abysmal.
Sex education isn’t just telling kids that they shouldn’t have sex or that they’ll get diseases, yet, that’s all we’re really given. I remember my one-day sex education class in 8th grade. We got a paper bag that included deodorant, a pad and a condom. They preached abstinence, talked about STIs and everyone just tried not to feel awkward. I did end up taking a Human Sexuality class in college, which was much different, but even then, it was evident that society has conditioned us to feel very uncomfortable talking about the human body and about sex. That is a huge problem.
Not providing safe spaces to have this dialogue, or classes to offer expansive education on the topic, is irresponsible. Plain and simple. People are going to have sex. They should be able to ask questions and know everything they need to know about the topic, not just that they might get crabs or pregnant.
In an effort to do my part, here are five things I learned this week:
1. Sex Toys Are Normal: They may look scary to those who aren’t familiar, but they’re not the enemy. They’re also not the replacement. Toys aren’t meant to replace your partner, they’re meant to enhance your sexual experience, either with another person or solo-dolo. With that said, make sure to do your research and buy from reputable brands! None of that 2-for-1 dildo shit.
2. Fifty Shades of No: It’s no secret that the world of BDSM became mainstream after Fifty Shades of Grey blew up, but please understand that reading the books and watching the movies are not a justifiable guide to kink. There’s an actual technique and skill set that you need to master (pun intended) before beginning your BDSM journey.
3. Sex Toys Don’t Depict Your Sexual Orientation: As Megan told me, “Sex toys are for anatomy, not sexual orientation.” So if a guy wants butt play, relax. That doesn’t make him gay (I shouldn’t even have to write that). Side Note: One of Megan’s sayings that I love is, “Don’t yuck on their yum.” Just because something isn’t for you, doesn’t mean you have to shoot it down. People are different. Don’t be a dick about it.
4. Negotiate With Your Partner: If you guys wanna try something new, consider using this handy-dandy Yes/No/Maybe list by The Pleasure Chest. It could be a fun game night with your partner. Create your personal lists together, find out what matches, and try it out!
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions: As I’ve mentioned, dialogue is extremely important. I know we don’t all have a sexologist friend (I’m so lucky!), but there are resources, whether they’re in the form of books or sex-positive therapists.
This was definitely an eye-opening experience for me, and as someone who is in the love and dating space, sex is just another side of that coin. I was very grateful to be included in all of these discussions and experiences, because I was reminded that as someone who has a voice, it’s my responsibility to be as knowledgeable as possible on anything I choose to write about or speak on.
So with that said, I have a lot of sexy studying to do!
A big thank you to Megan for including me on all of her adventures and being so great and non-judgmental with all of my maybe-ignorant questions LOL.