… or Self-exploration and Education on Buying and Using Sex Toys
By Meredith Hartsel
A few years ago, I bought my first sex toy when my friend and I attended a sex toy party at a mutual acquaintance’s house. It was one of those cheesy, stereotypical events where guests play funny games and win prizes like penis erasers and whistles, and everyone sits around in front of a young woman touting jelly rabbits, funky-flavored lubes, books on how to “tickle his pickle,” and cheap, somewhat trashy lingerie that is “sure to get him going.” It was also an interesting affair due to the fact that the majority of guests were queer women, yet the language was heteronormative and to be honest, a bit trite. All of the toys and other various products at the party were extremely overpriced for their quality, and, as young college students, we didn’t have a lot of expendable cash, nor were we yet all that comfortable with the idea of purchasing sex toys. My friend and I made an agreement to go to Spencer’s in the mall the next day where they had similar toys for less than half the price.
We each bought a different kind of vibrator and were enthralled, saying to our friends, “Isn’t this funny? We bought sex toys, isn’t that cool?” It was still taboo and I remember hiding the purchase from my roommate when I got home, tucking it away in a dark corner at the top of my closet. I only used the toy a few times that year, mostly because I lived in a dorm and shared a room, but also partly because I was embarrassed and worried about what she would think of me if she knew that I had it (I’m pretty sure she never had a clue).
Though it only cost ten dollars, and it was, in all honesty pretty shitty, my first neon purple vibrator helped teach me a lot about myself, masturbation, pleasure and my own sexuality and body. It opened me up to learning about sex toys, gaining more knowledge about quality toys and safety. It also helped me realize more women use them than people tend to think, and that toys are for all genders and orientations.
Over the next couple of years, I became more educated about sex toys through research, talking with friends and a whole lot of self-exploration. I now own more than a few toys and I’m very comfortable talking about them with anyone who will listen or wants to know more. I talk about sex toys on nearly a daily basis, whether with friends, educators, people I’m educating, colleagues, or even my mom. Yet, I am still constantly learning new things and changing/adapting my views and opinions on toys and sex positivity in general. Through my own work teaching sex positivity, I hope to make the subject of sex toys and sexuality less of a taboo.
Within the queer community, particularly as a woman who identifies in the middle sexualities, there are a lot of stereotypes placed on my identity and my sexuality. Bisexuals are often labeled and stereotyped as promiscuous and slutty, and our sexualities are fetishized and often under stricter scrutiny than those of others. It can be difficult to combat these stereotypes while also remaining adamantly sex-positive. It’s extremely important to focus on sexual empowerment in the bisexual community and to use sexual liberation as a form of self-care.
I use sex toys to promote sex positivity and empowerment within my communities, using them as a form of self-love expression for queer woman. I believe that it is important for everyone, but queer women in particular, to feel empowered to embrace our sexualities, to accept ourselves as whole people and to believe that our sexualities do not exist for the pleasure or prejudice of others.
I have taken quite the journey since buying my first sex toy in Spencer’s with my friend to being at a point now of educating friends and peers on the subject of sex toys and of writing for a company that sells toys and promotes feminist, sex-positive exploration of one’s own sexuality. It may not be an easy journey for everyone to take, and becoming comfortable with discussing these topics may not be a simple feat, but I whole-heartedly believe that everyone can reach their own sex toy epiphany. As bi women, we can rise above the stereotypes and labels placed on us; we can embrace and love who we are and not be afraid of sharing that with the world.
Here are some resources for finding quality toys and information to help you get started or to expand your toolbox if you’re a seasoned sex toy expert.
- Njoytoys is a high-quality line of stainless steel toys designed for sexual exploration and pleasure, personal or shared. (njoytoys.com)
- Lelo is a fairly well-known Swedish sex toy manufacturer with various lines of toys, all designed for intense pleasure. (lelo.com)
- Picobong is Lelo’s fairly new sister company. Though they have a smaller selection than the Lelo line, Picobong products aim to take a younger, edgier approach to talking about sex toys, including a gender-inclusive toy. (picobong.com)
- OhMiBod is a line of toys that you can connect to your mp3 device and will vibrate to the rhythm of the music you are listening to. An interesting and intense experience for music lovers, or anyone looking for something new and different. (ohmibod.com)
- Smitten Kitten is a blog and sex toy shop that provides information on toys as well as selling a variety of quality, body-safe toys. (smittenkittenonline.com)
- Unbound is a sex toy subscription service that sends members a box every three months with the latest sex toys, lubes and more. They also include an online magazine with articles discussing various topics, erotica stories and more. (unboundbox.com)
*All of the toys from the sources provided are body-safe. Bodysafe toys are not only safe to be used on/in the body, but they are free of any toxic/dangerous chemicals or nonporous materials (stainless steel, medical grade silicone, glass, etc.) so they are easy to clean and won’t absorb and hold bacteria as long as they are cared for properly.
It is also important to be educated on toy safety – to make sure you are using your toys correctly and safely – and to know about toxic toys. Dangerous Lilly is a fantastic sex toy review blogger who has done quite a bit of research on toxic toys and has compiled it into one post on her blog (dangerouslilly.com/toxictoys). This is just one source on toxic toys, so it is important to do some research before purchasing a toy from many companies, but it’s a great place to start.
Meredith is a 22-year-old queer, poly, bisexual, feminist activist currently residing in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is a recent graduate of James Madison University where she received her B.S. in social justice. She does work in various fields including reproductive justice, LGBTQIQAP+ issues, mental health advocacy, body and sex positivity, and more.
Toy Tip from Shalashaska: Pay special attention to silicone toys. Never use silicone lubricants with them because the silicone can be warped and ruined by prolonged contact with other silicone products. You don’t want to ruin a toy you spent good money on, so keep silicone toys in their own separate bags. Play safely!