“Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges.” Herman Melville
Seven years ago, I ran crying out of Babeland, a sex positive sex toy store in Seattle, overwhelmed with shame after I attempted to buy a small vibrator. I simply had wanted to—no needed to buy a vibrator so I could get over masturbation shame, something that was instilled in me at a very young age. Fortunately, I was determined and with the encouragement and support of my husband, (and a hearty swallow off his Mai Tai), I marched right back into Babeland and purchased that vibrator as well as a book on sexual healing. Two years later, I returned to Babeland, stayed for over an hour, and purchased $200 worth of pleasure products! Woo hoo!
Fast forward to the present. I’ve recently accepted a job at Eugene’s As You Like It; a Pleasure Shop, where we promote healthy sexual expression through workshops, and an eco-conscious, body-safe product line including vibrators, dildos, lubes, gender expression items, books and more. As a female-owned, sex positive store with its unique focus on earth and body-safe products, As You Like It is a community treasure. In February, I’ll begin teaching a series on rocking sex after 50, and I can’t wait!
Given my history, I could not have seen this one coming even as of a few years ago—yet, as part of the evolution of my background as a sexologist and sex educator, it makes perfect sense. For what we do in As You Like It is to help people normalize the experience of pleasure within the context of their own sexuality. And we do this in an environment that is light, bright, open and safe for everyone.
So what’s the catch? I am so aware that many people can’t separate the light from the dark when it comes to sex and pleasure. Our culture still sees female pleasure as taboo and shame-worthy yet thinks nothing of using sexual images to sell services and products (cars, hamburgers, clothing, etc.), which is completely warped. Many women don’t have any context in which to experience sex as pleasurable due to lack of permission, lack of familiarity with their own pleasure centers, or having a history where sex was about being used for someone else’s pleasure to the exclusion of their own.
In my experience, when people claim agency over their sexuality and pleasure and dispatch shame, empowerment results. In this context, it doesn’t matter what Mother Culture says about sex; it doesn’t matter what religion says about sex; it doesn’t matter what parents, relatives or siblings believe about sex. It all comes down to each person in the privacy of her own heart and mind, deciding what sex is for her and opening to a journey of personal exploration and self-acceptance.
I have chosen a complex playground and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Helping people gain agency over their sex lives and conquering the dark side feels fantastic!