The reaction is always the same. People see a flier in their dorm about a free sex toy workshop, and they decide they just have to go. But only if they get a group of friends to go with. But the friends will be attained, because who would miss something called, simply, "Orgasms!"?
A crowd forms in a room. We go up to the table set up for us in the front and unpack the little silver roller suitcase. Inside, the neatly labeled hard plastic pencil cases from our elementary school days contain a world not known to everyone.
"Whoa, do girls really use that?" a guy asks as one of us opens the vibrator box and he catches a glimpse of the Rabbit. He's already shocked, and he's clearly never seen that "Sex and the City" episode.
"Then, what do they need the guy for?" He isn't smiling.
Yup, this is definitely new.
I got this job my sophomore year at NYU because once I heard that this was a thing I could do and get paid for (not real money, but campus cash, with which I could buy Chipotle), I HAD to. It was just one of those things that I knew I'd regret not doing on my deathbed. (Now, if I live to reach grandma status, my grandkids will know I used to explain to people the pros and cons of all the different types of dildos. And I'm more than okay with that!)
The week of training, we were asked to read the widest binder I've ever encountered and learn all about the sexual anatomy of both sexes, proper terms for all members of the LGBT community and all the differences between all the available methods of contraception. We learned how to help out at the HIV testing sites on campus and how to keep people engaged at tablings around the school.
But that was before we learned how to present on the topics that our high school health teachers couldn't. Instead of meekly rolling a condom on a banana before quickly discarding it, we would partner everyone up and hand out dildos and condoms to make sure, say, they knew to squeeze the top part of the condom while rolling it down to prevent too much air from getting in and ripping it. We'd introduce people to dental dams and female condoms (which almost everyone had only vaguely heard about once) and hand out sheets where people would anonymously answer questions about orgasms (to later prove that everyone is different).
The sex toy workshop was my favorite though, because it was far more thorough than anyone ever anticipated. At least, when I went to see the same one freshman year, I hadn't expected it to delve into S&M or anal toys or all the quirky vibrators.
The only rules for presenting the workshop were to not self-disclose and to make sure everyone in the audience felt safe as well as knew how to be safe. With every toy we demonstrated, we provided tips on proper usage and cleaning. And sure, people would crack up when we'd talk about how anal toys without a base could get "lost" up there, but, as we neared the end, even the kids who only a half hour earlier were handcuffing themselves to each other and tossing the Don Juan (a dildo molded after a porn star's penis that comes in a red satin bag, FYI) across the room while squealing would let their guard down and learn something.
I miss going out a few times a semester and telling people that no matter who they were, or what their love life was like, they should always feel liberated and safe when encountering sex in any form, and that we were not here to judge or prevent -- only to help.
I miss the inevitable awkward moments too -- walking into my Japanese Cinema lecture with a tote bag full of dildos because I had a workshop right after, or the time a group of fraternity/sorority kids started cringing at the sight of nipple clamps and I, feeling bad for any secretly embarrassed S&M fans, said "Guys, they're not THAT bad, trust me," making the cringing only worsen as everyone now imagined ME with nipple clamps. (Note: I have yet to try them, but I'm still glad I said something -- I think?).
I no longer work there because the specified sex-related workshops are now gone in favor of a more rounded health education that includes topics such as stress relief, eating and sleeping right, and bystander intervention, which everyone in this city should know more about. I also had to quit in order to intern here at xoJane, a decision I don't in the least regret. (It's crazy how much better I am at multitasking now! Also, everyone is just as charming in person as you'd expect. For real.)
But, just because I no longer wield a suitcase of Babeland's finest doesn't mean I can't still try to help out. So, without further ado, these are the 5 sex toys people seemed to freak out from the most, followed by everything you need to know about them!
For some reason, everyone always thought this one was extra weird (even though the Fleshlight is pretty popular and much more, uh, anatomical). Made of silicone, this stretchy sleeve is textured on the inside and easily slides onto the penis with the help of some water-based lube. (Tip: oil-based lube messes up a lot of stuff when combined with friction. Water-based lube is just generally safer and you won't have to worry about getting holes in your condoms. Eek.) It's also really easy to clean due to the open-end design and is overall a simple, affordable toy that you should certainly NOT feel weird about.
Our double-ended dildo was always the trigger of wide-eyed stares and nervous whispers. I can't argue that it didn't have one hell of a presence, but it never deserved all the judgment! This dildo can be used for double penetration: vaginal and anal penetration for heterosexual pairs or as a perfect toy for lesbian partners. Fun all around! And all you have to do to clean it is rinse it in some warm, soapy water and gently dry. So simple!
We didn't have a pinwheel, but when we got to the S&M segment and introduced these small, circular pads with different prickly textures on them, everyone seemed terrified. Things like the pinwheel hurt way less than they look, and the slight pinch-y feeling can be craaazy tantalizing when paired with a blindfold or handcuffs. So long as you don't apply too much pressure (duh) and hold it at an angle, this stainless steel tool can actually be quite gentle.