Book review: Sex Toys 101

09/03/2009 at 8:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Interesting posts, weekend of 7/5

07/05/2009 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posts that I found to be particularly interesting over the course of the last week and my thoughts on them:

On hand-holding as pain relief for the ladies – This one may be of particular interest to those living in the circle of vulvar pain. This is an older post but I just found it, so it’s New To Me. Rugbyfan (I didn’t see her e-mail or blog link,) talks about her experience a gynecologist for a consultation. She tried to talk to the doctor about ways to manage the pain of smear tests and instead of brainstorming some options the doctor said, “Would you like me to ask a nurse to hold your hand while I take the smear?”


Now, I’ve had someone hold my hand for visits with my vulvovaginal specialist, but all that does is provide moral support. Hand-holding just keeps me from getting up off the table and/or kicking the doctor in the face. It doesn’t make the tests & proddings any less painful, which is my goal (except for maybe if the doctor is trying to ascertain your pain thresholds as part of figuring out which treatment would be best.) For routine exams though, my gynecologist would have no reason to test my thresholds, as she is unprepared to treat vulvodynia. So why not try to make things a little easier? Why not offer to use a smaller speculum, try a little lidocaine ahead of time, maybe a muscle relaxant, a painkiller, something that actually might do something?

Rugbyfan says,

I know the medical profession has a very poor track record when it comes to pain management, but it’s hard to think of a situation involving significant pain to any other part of the body being dealt with in this manner (“I’m just going to drill into your tooth – no need for anaesthetic, the nurse will hold your hand.” “I’m just going to pop a few stitches into your split lip without anaesthetic or a numbing spray – now don’t worry, the nurse will hold your hand.”)

Rugbyfan goes on to say that there’s a major difference between “Uncomfortable” and “agonizing.” This much even I know from first hand experience. Pap smear tests should not be agonizing and they should not be followed with post-exam burning for days after. I’m so aggravated that there are still doctors & facilities that do not realize this!

Part of me wonders if they doctors & nurses are still willingly refusing to acknowledge that some of their female patients feel severe pain because that acknowledgment means, they are going to have to acknowledge & confront the fact that for years, they were willfully subjecting their patients to horrible pain and stigma. Having to confront this means enduring a “My god, what have we done” moment.

The comments on this one are good too.

Then we have something that’s been making the rounds on several blogs – Vibrator use common, linked to sexual health. Differnet blogs are linking to alternate sources & commentary.

Now, this is particularly interesting to me because, I grew up always knowing that vibrator use was acceptable. I never questioned this. I have never once experienced any stigma about using a vibrator. How to choose and/or use a vibrator is a common topic on womens’ sexual health forums. Once in awhile vibes & sex toys will sneak into tv shows like Sex & the City – when the movie is a comedy, this is just about the only place where they’re derided at all.

Apparently I’m extremely lucky not to have had to deal with negative views of vibrators. It wasn’t always like that – according to the NYT article, the Journal of Popular Culture in 1974 called vibrators “Masturbatory machines” reserved for “Sexually dysfunctional females.” Well I may be sexually dysfunctional alright, but at least I’m in good company. A great big giant chunk of the rest of the female population uses vibrators too – 53%! That’s an even bigger stat than that commonly cited & questioned 43% number re: sexual dysfunction in general.

One quote from the ScienceDaily site says,

“The study about women’s vibrator use affirms what many doctors and therapists have known for decades — that vibrator use is common, it’s linked to positive sexual function such as desire and ease of orgasm, and it’s rarely associated with any side effects,” said Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion.

So, you probably already know this, but just in case you need a reminder: using a vibrator is not something that means there is something wrong with you. It doesn’t have much to do with FSD.

I probably owe a lot of my personal security with vibrators and other sex toys to GoodVibes, Babeland, et al – stores & people who made it okay to experiment with vibrators.

Finally, a short post from the GoodVibes blog – Medical Pornography? Porn has been banned in Ukrane – unless it’s for “Medical purposes.”

Veeery interesting. How does that even work? Welp my vulvovaginal specialist did recommend that I strive to be aroused during the dilator process so … does that count as a prescription for me? Would I be exempt from this law? Can I get a doctor’s note for that? Or would even I, an occassional consumer of (so far) mostly cartoony images, be jailed?

Entries and comments feeds.