Tags: books, communication, experts, Feminism, kink, sex, sex education, sex toys, sexual health, Sexuality, vaginismus, vibrators, vulvodynia
By now it should be understood that I have an interest in sexuality books, and am always looking to pick up good and/or unique ones when I can. One such book of interest is Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide, by Rachel Venning & Claire Cavanah – founders of Babeland. I first read it about a year ago and got sidetracked before I could post an in-depth review, so let’s not delay any further.
The first thing I have to say about this book is that, it’s a very ~*~pretty~*~ book. It’s filled with rich, full-color photography of sex toys & sex toy accessories. If it were any other topic, (or if you’re a very open person,) it would fit right in on your coffee table in plain sight. Some of the text is written in colored boxes away from the rest of the body of work, to emphasize one point or another. Even if you don’t read the words, you might still like the pictures.
The second thing I have to say about Sex Toys 101 is that, it covers a lot of ground in a relatively small package – it weighs in under 200 pages, so a voracious reader could potentially burn through Sex Toys 101 in a day or two.
The topics follow in some sense of order, although you could start on any chapter & skip the parts you already know. It begins with an overview of sexual anatomy, followed by sex on the brain – ways to communicate & explore your sexuality. Then there are several chapters dedicated to describing different types of sex toys, lubricants, and how to choose & how to use them. These toys are broadly categorized as vibrators, dildoes, and anal toys, but in practice there’s a lot of specialization and overlap. Although Sex Toys 101 is written with primarily a feminine audience in mind, it does include one chapter about toys aimed at men. There are two chapters that talk about BDSM – these chapters contained a lot of information that was “New to me.” The last chapter covers safe sex, although technically with all the safety tips scattered throughout the text, the rest of the book is really about safer sex anyway.
For the most part, I felt welcome to indulge in Sex Toys 101, unlike with other sex books. Often when I’m browsing for new books about sex, I feel left out. “Oh these books aren’t for me. The authors wouldn’t even know what to do with me.” This was especially a concern to me going in, since I knew that the book was going to include quite a bit of discussion on toys designed for vaginal insertion, and that’s not always an option for me.
But Babeland, with its long history in business, has encountered all kinds of clients, and tries especially hard to make sure women feel welcome in its stores. So I figured even if I couldn’t participate in one activity or another, the book would probably have something else to offer.
And indeed, that’s what happened – yes there is some discussion on toys designed for vaginal penetration, and the only graduated dilator kit that makes an appearance is the 3-tier Silk line. But some of these phalluses can do double-duty as vibrators and/or for use in strap-on sex, and/or, I imagine, as another transitional step in the dilating process if you’re not *quite* there yet. And luckily since the scope of the book isn’t limited to discussion of phallic objects, there were other topics and toys that I definitely felt more comfortable with.
That said, one area of discussion did leave me feeling left behind, and that area is the G-spot. I felt the book put a very strong emphasis on finding & stimulating the G-spot in females. According to Sex Toys 101, the G-spot is the in front of the urethral sponge, a “a ring of erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra. It contains glands that when aroused release fluid into the urethra.” (20) Stimulating this area when aroused can be pleasurable, and may lead to female ejaculation. The book includes pictures & descriptions of many sex toys designed to stimulate this spot.
But how would you even find the G-spot if inserting objects vaginally hurts? How do you reach the G-spot if you have vaginismus and/or vulvodynia?
Or what if you find it and it just doesn’t do anything for you?
I’m at a point where I’m often (but not always; never always,) able to handle internal stimulation comfortably, and I’m certain that I’ve found my own G-spot… but I’m not at a point where I enjoy that part of my body. So far when I stimulate the G-spot, it just feels weird & uncomfortable, not pleasurable.
Am I doin’ it wrong, again?
I take some comfort knowing that I am not the only one who is skeptical of the hoopla over the G-spot. It’s as Betty says – “Naturally we felt like we were missing out on something special.” Indeed…
There’s a couple of other potentially questionable areas. When discussing “A short history of vibrators,” the authors do not question whether the women who were treated for “hysteria” were actually comfortable having a strange person bring them to orgasm. Sex Toys 101 contains a lot of swear words (“Asshole,” “Fucking,” etc.) which I personally feel put off by; your mileage may vary. And the book ends abruptly – there’s no epilogue, no testaments from satisfied clients, no list of additional resources. The story just stops at the end of the chapter on safer sex.
It does have an index though, thankfully.
Additionally, the book was published in 2003, so some of the information has become outdated – and new toys have been produced since then. As an example, at the time of publication the only two non-latex, non-lambskin condom options available in the US were the Durex Avanti condoms and the Reality female condom (both polyurethane.) But Durex is phasing out the polyurethane Avanti in favor of polyisoprene Bare (Source: I e-mailed Durex!) and there are other polyisoprene condoms now available, such as Lifestyles Skyn. I can’t say I approve of Durex phasing out the Avantis; I like them. Guess I’ll have to stock up…
One thing to keep in mind, the “101” in the title is right – This book has a broad scope and touches upon many different topics, without delving too far into detail about any of them. For those who are just starting to embark on the road to sexuality – this is a good place to start. You’ll find lots of interesting ideas to think about, and you may find some paths worth exploring alone or with a parnter.
But if you’re active on sexuality messages boards online, the book may not have much new information for you. Or, if you have a strong interest in a one or more specific aspects of sexuality, such as BDSM or anal sex, you might be better off buying another book dedicated to that one topic.
On the other hand, if you’re a sex enthusiast, you might like reading through the book and just adding it to the collection. You may take some comfort seeing some of your favorite toy-buddies in vibrant full color photography. The back cover describes Sex Toys 101 as being “The first fully illustrated, comprehensive guide to the world of sex toys,” and while it’s not alone anymore, it set the bar pretty high for this new generation of sexuality books.