Up to that point, masturbation consisted of watching the sexy scenes in An Officer and a Gentleman.
I was the typical Catholic schoolgirl: straight-laced, buttoned up, and in a nutshell, a complete prude. Raised by extremely traditional parents (my mom is of the mind that "premarital relations" is a sin) and molested by a neighbor as a young girl, I had a very negative view of sex.
To make matters worse, when I hit puberty, a rare hormonal condition took hold, causing excessive hair growth on my belly, legs and face. I covered up from head to toe, clad in turtlenecks and long pants, preventing anyone from catching a glimpse of an unwanted stray hair.
So when I met my ex, we were definitely on the slow track. At 26, I was still a virgin, with lofty plans to remain that way until I wore a wedding gown (see mom reference above). About a month into our courtship, as we were getting cozy on the couch, he began lightly playing with my shirt trying to tickle my tummy. I freaked out.
The stomach has always been a trouble-zone for me: the scars, little hairs and countless other imperfections. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my body, so sex wasn't even on my radar. After all, you have to get naked to have intercourse.
Jay was amazingly patient with me despite his incredible yearning for relations that were at least mildly erotic, intercourse or not. But, rather than walk away or push me into acts of exposure and intimacy I wasn't ready for, Jay took on the role of tour guide.
For our first Valentine's Day, he bought me a tantra book, a very sexy but classy negligee, and my first vibrator, along with an instructional video to help me "celebrate my orgasms." As part of the package, he took me on a field trip to the Love Boutique, a classy female-owned and operated sex shop in Los Angeles. It wasn't a raunchy or risqué North Hollywood dive, but rather a tasteful store emphasizing sensuality, love and body acceptance.
While we were examining a melting wax candle (which conveniently doubled as massage oil) Love Boutique owner Judy Levy took notice. A 60-something Jewish grandmother and former schoolteacher, Judy has helped countless couples achieve sexual bliss.
Confident, secure and in love with her own body, Judy exuded sex; after all, she ran an erotica business. But, she was also surprisingly normal. I was intrigued and inspired. I wanted to learn her secrets, and she was happy to share.
After recognizing my inhibitions, Judy recommended approachable paraphernalia like Kama Sutra kits, massage oils, candles, books and harmless lubricants. It was overwhelming but also strangely exciting.
Then she challenged me to experience the Love Boutique's home parties. So with a close girlfriend in tow for moral support, I went to my first love soiree. As we approached the door, my heart pumping and butterflies swirling in my stomach, I wondered what kind of people have sex parties.
I was pleasantly surprised. The feeling of acceptance began at the door. The premise: Sex was something to celebrate — a very normal part of our lives — and yet the vast majority of people, especially women, don't fully realize our potential in that arena.
Somehow, shining a light on sex took away the shame. A love consultant answered our questions, showed us tools to help us reach our G-spots, and offered lubricants and sensitivity lotions to amp up the pleasure to inconceivable levels. I was hooked.
Up to that point, masturbation consisted of watching the heated scenes in An Officer and a Gentleman, and clutching a pillow between my legs as Richard Gere pawed Debra Winger. Like most women, I spent my time and energy investigating the latest beauty secrets and learning how to achieve sleeker abs, largely ignoring one of the most important aspects of health, happiness and longevity: SEX.
I was clueless about how to take advantage of my body, to pleasure myself, as well as my partner. It was like taking pictures without knowing how to turn on the camera, not to mention access the countless cool features invisible to the naked eye.
All told, these educational sessions provided me with a decent operator's manual for my body. Shortly after my first few "parties," I felt myself becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I even started leaving the lights on during our forays at intimacy, and later intercourse.
It wasn't long before I started investigating the latest sex toys, selecting classy porn, and carting Jay to the local strip club. My ex's gift helped unleash the Sex Goddess in me. (OK, not really a goddess, but at least an enthusiastic participant, and that's something I've taken with me into every relationship since.)
I learned that not only is sex beautiful, but my body is too, no matter how flawed I sometimes feel. So, while I'm still that same Catholic schoolgirl inside, now I opt for fishnet thigh-highs.