Women's Health sent one of their reporters—and closet prude—to get an erotic education. She happily shares her spine-tingling discoveries:
Decorated in optimistic tones of pink and yellow, the Seattle branch of the sex-shop chain Babeland brings to mind a stylish girl's kitchen, where she cooks up not food but hot orgasms. I'm here to take the store's "sex educator" employee training, and I'm feeling resistant. The truth is, I've never set foot in a sex shop.
My supervisor for the two-day training is Babeland's sex-education coordinator, Audrey McManus. She's a veritable sunflower of a woman, but facing me, she clouds over.
"You write about sex, and you've never been in a sex shop? Isn't that, like, part of your job?"
"Look, Audrey," I say. "I know where my clitoris is, and with all due respect, I can probably find yours as well."
I indicate a lacquer tray with a couple of boomerang-shaped vibrators designed to stimulate the G-spot. They're pretty and colorful, but I'm almost sure I don't have a G-spot, and I don't care. I pick up a Rabbit. (The Rabbit, in case you missed the famous Sex and the City episode, is a vibrator with a rotating head for penetration and wiggling attachments for clitoral stimulation.) "I mean, if you taught this thing how to operate a cash register, it could work here."
Audrey blinks at me. She doesn't think I'm cute or funny. She picks up a toy large enough to bludgeon a school of hammerhead sharks and, like a dirty schoolmarm, smacks it against her hand. "Now, let's get started with a little anatomy lesson."
I'm corralled into a tiny office with some Georgia O'Keeffe stuff on the walls, some Asian erotic whatnot. "That's a 16th-century Japanese woodblock print depicting female ejaculation," Audrey explains. I'm relieved all I see is a walrus lying in bed brushing his teeth. Audrey pins up a diagram of a vagina. I'm expecting "Here's where you pee out of, here's where you do it," but this has so many lines and zones it looks more like a map of the Chesapeake Bay. I dutifully point out the clitoris and the G-spot. She starts talking about how I said I don't have one. "I think you probably do," she says. She points out the urethra—the tube in front of the vaginal opening where urine exits the body. "This entire passageway is wrapped with erectile tissue," she says. "People make the mistake of looking for only the G-spot—when it's not just a spot but part of a whole sensitive area. And sometimes that area—the lower part of the front wall of the vagina—needs to be stroked before you can even find the G-spot."
Audrey pauses. "Are you blushing?"
"Of course not," I say. "I did not know that."
I get a brief smile, for humility, I guess. "Now we're moving on to lube," Audrey says.
I am about to tell Audrey that I am afraid that even touching lube will bring on early menopause. And that so far, I don't have any, uh, problems, when—splat—I've been slimed. "Rub your fingers together," Audrey says. The entire Babeland staff has gathered around, each eager to show me a favorite brand of lube. Status likes Maximus. "It's nice and thick," he says. Audrey is partial to Sliquid Silk, a water-based lube. "Doesn't that feel like your own natural wetness? Taste it," she says.
Still reeling from hearing the phrase "own natural wetness" spoken out loud, I manage a polite "No, thank you."
"It's not a request. Some customer will want to know the right lube for oral sex and you have to—"
I taste it. It tastes, as promised, like nothing.
"Sliquid is one of our most popular scent-free and creamy lubes," I say in my best infomercialese.
Audrey's smile turns up a few watts. "That's good," she says. "But you're still not ready to work the floor."
Next, I dutifully undergo a lecture on 25 brands of condoms. My vibrator lesson is shorter than you might think—turns out I really do understand the clitoris. But then something weird happens.
I pick up a Hitachi Magic Wand. Audrey gasps. She can tell from my tender handling of it that we have a past.
"Why didn't you just tell me?" Audrey says.
I confess that I was too embarrassed to admit I used to own a vibrator.
Audrey laughs. "So, how did you like that Hitachi Magic Wand?"
I sigh. "It's like a Lincoln Town Car—it picks you up and takes you where you want to go, and all you need to do is look out the window and watch the scenery get better and better."
Audrey is so proud of my little breakthrough that after a day and a half of training, she finally lets me work in the store. My first customer is a dude who tells me he's afraid that if his girlfriend gets off with a vibrator she won't want to have intercourse with him anymore. I assure him that there's absolutely zero chance of that happening—that what people like about sex is contact and closeness, and perhaps he would like to buy a vibrating ring that they can use together? A middle-aged guy comes in complaining that his condoms hurt his wife, and we find a better-fitting brand. Then we start talking, and I tell him what Audrey told me, about the G-spot being more than just a tiny spot. He is delighted. Then a married couple comes in. They're totally hot for each other, but a medication she's taking is giving her dryness issues. I remember the lube combination—Sliquid Silk with a silicone-based lube, either Eros or Pink—that's best for serious dryness. They run out of the store smiling, with their hands all over each other's butts.
"Oh my God," I say after they've gone. "You guys, like, actually help people live happier lives! You give people the tools to make sex better." Before this moment, I honestly believed that sex didn't qualify as good if it needed "enhancements."
On my last day, Audrey makes a YouTube video of me talking about a vibrator called the Laya Spot. In simple, straightforward tones I describe how it works, how its pulsating motion provides great stimulation.
"Wow," Audrey says. "I can't believe you made it through without making a joke."
"I know. Aren't you proud of me?"
Audrey shrugs and says, "You know what would really make me proud?"
She hands me a giant bottle of lube. I want to say no, but if I've learned nothing else this week it's that lube is where it's at. Reluctantly, I agree to try it.
When I call Audrey a few days later to tell her that, ahem, the lube fulfilled its promise, she says, "I'm so proud of you! You have to tell everyone! I'm going to put you on speaker phone!" Are you kidding me!? I can hear the staff calling out questions about which brand I liked, had my orgasm been better, if I had found my G-spot. I can't bring myself to answer. "Hello? Hello? I can't hear you!" I shout, and end the call.
Maybe I'll head to the bedroom to see if I can find my G-spot before it sneaks off to file negligence charges.
Shy No More Want to be bolder between the sheets? Take this expert advice on getting over common bedroom inhibitions.
Hangup No. 1 Worrying about personal hygiene Men are hardwired to be turned on by your natural smell and taste, says Joy Davidson, Ph.D., a sex therapist in New York City and the author of Fearless Sex. If you still feel funky, make showering with your guy part of the foreplay.
Hangup No. 2 Asking for what you want in bed To take the pressure off, "try to talk about it when you're not in bed," says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of Prime: Adventures and Advice About Love, Sex, and the Sensual Years and the relationship expert for perfectmatch.com. Once you're between the sheets, "turn requests into erotic expressions, not instructions," Davidson says. "Saying 'Oh, baby, do that slower' isn't an order, it's sexy."
Hangup No. 3 Doing it with the lights on There's nothing sexier than a woman who lets her guard down in bed. "He loves when he can see and feel your body, and the biggest turnoff for him is your acting embarrassed," Schwartz says. "So create an environment where you can enjoy yourself--candles, lingerie, whatever you need to relax and feel beautiful." Trust us, he's not worrying about anything other than the parts that give him pleasure. Neither should you!
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