One woman enters the sex shop nervous, and exits empowered.
Over at The Frisky, the writers been getting all touchy-feely with their emotions for "Love Yourself Week." But what about the more literal and physical side of the phrase "touchy-feely"? You know, the more hands-on approach to self-love. Masturbation, to be blunt. This little act is, uh, an important part of learning to love yourself. Up until yesterday, I have always taken a manual approach to masturbation and my fingers have suited me just fine. But I couldn't help but think I was missing out on something by being sans sex toys. So I decided to be a big girl and set out to buy my very first vibrator.
I have to be honest and say that my decision to go out and buy something to get me off wasn't as split second as it may sound. I've been feeling the urge since the beginning of the summer, especially since I knew I would barely be seeing my boyfriend for the next three months. "Love Yourself Week" was the extra push I needed to get the fires of curiosity hot enough to finally get me to seek out battery-powered satisfaction. Once I made the decision, I began the prep work for my purchase.
I get a little anxious when I am about to go into a new situation. I had this awful vision of myself walking into a sex shop and clumsily man-handling vibrators and sending jiggling dildos flopping to the floor. Or ending up in some shop like the Badd Kitty or Lion's Den that I pass on the highway, where I imagine most of the customers are pit-stained men choosing between "Barely Legal" or "The Axis of Anal" pornos. So I did a little bit of browsing online and decided to make my right of passage purchase at Babeland. I chose a close by New York City location that was praised for having "a friendly, knowledgeable, and mostly female staff." I spent another half hour browsing their web page getting familiar with the carnal gadgets they had to offer so I wouldn't go in totally intimidated.
The following day, I decided to dive in before I could come up with some lame reason why I shouldn't give a sex toy a try. On the walk to Babeland, I spent the whole time practicing the hypothetical conversation I would have with one of the employees, replaying it over and over like a mantra to prevent me from standing there mouth agape and blubbering out half-words.
As usual, I was getting myself worked up about something that would turn out not only be a calm experience, but an empowering one.
Upon entering the store, one of the employees asked if I needed help, but kept her distance when I replied that as a first-timer I wanted to make the rounds first. Circling the open and expansive space, I gave everything curious consideration—porn films, harnesses, blindfolds, and sex games—before landing in the vibrator section. I picked up a neon pink, remote control-sized toy and pressed the button that brought it to life. I tried to turn it off, but instead it switched to another setting. I continued to click, assuming it would cycle through and turn off eventually, but that devious, phallic piece of silicone continued to buzz.
"Oh, great," I thought, "I have only been here five minutes and now I will either have to stroll away red-faced, leave the vibrator still surging on the counter or take a walk of shame to the employee and admit I have no idea on how to make this thing stop." After what felt like an hour of panic, I figured out that I could turn it off by holding the button down. What a bright idea!
The staff members who work at the store left me pulsating with a sense of sexual liberation, feeling that there was no shame in any interest or fetish that I might have locked away. The saleswoman led me around Babeland describing different products, asking me if I liked anal stimulation as casually as an employee at Banana Republic would ask if I want a rewards card. With each object she offered, she gave an informative explanation coupled with an open understanding of the good it can bring into people's lives. Having a bizarre-looking stick described to me as if it were a family photograph or beloved tchotchke transformed the process into something much more normal and inviting.
"If you treat something as your ugly toy, then you will think it is ugly and never want to use it," she explained and I realized how true that was. Before coming into the store, part of me looked at sex toys and fetishes in a negative light, but I was so wrong. What started off as a trip to buy a vibrator turned into a realization that everyone has a different way of pleasing themselves and that knowing what mine is will only make my life better.
As I left the store with my royal purple We Vibe, a couple's vibrator, it was not with a feeling of relief but one of anticipation. Anticipation not only for what was laying dormant in my bag, but for all the new sexual possibilities that had been laying dormant in me because of some vague embarrassment or sense of wrongdoing. Everyone should be able to openly embrace and practice what gets them off—as long as it's safe!—and those who don't know what that is quite yet, I encourage you to explore. I know I plan to.
Written by Anonymous for The Frisky.
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