“My husband always wants to have sex. I never do.”
“I just want to go to sleep.”
“I’m never in the mood.”
“We haven’t had sex in months.”
“He bought a porn movie. It’s disgusting.”
Does this sound like you? Honestly, it sounds like a lot of friends of mine. Let’s face it, women over 50 are revisiting their relationship with sex. Our bodies are changing, our hormones are waning, and many of us have been with the same partner for umpteen years. We need to learn more, to be proactive, to explore what is out there. We need to go where only the brave among us have dared to go before! That is why I dragged my friend to a sex shop.
Yes, you heard me. My sheltered friend spent most of her adult life in Manhattan, and had never been to a sex shop. I was the veteran sex shopper, obviously more worldly, having spent my life in suburban Boston. I had made a few Valentine’s Day pilgrimages, quietly tinkering around the massage oils and chocolate lotions, buying gag gifts for girlfriends. After all, who can pass up penis drinking straws ? But no tinkering around this time. We had a mission. We wanted to see what was out there for 50+ women who might be struggling with sex issues. We skipped over the easy stuff, the lotions and creams and candles. We asked questions. This time around, we got a real education.
If your idea of a sex shop is an unhygienic shop in a dark, downtown alley, with mainly male customers with unwashed hair furtively carrying brown bags, think again. Good Vibrations is smack in the middle of normal. We’re talking Harvard Street, Brookline. Think Baby Gap, movie theatre, Starbucks. The store is clean, light, and airy with plenty of parking. There isn’t a sleazy thing about it, from the decor to the packaging of your purchase.
This particular “Good Vibrations” opened about six years ago, taking over the space occupied by “Grand Opening.” (Don’t you just love the names?) When we walk in, we notice the latest edition of “Our Bodies, Our Selves” for sale at the counter (they must have learned quite a bit since the first edition- it’s about three times as thick as the original one I owned in college.) The saleswoman tells us that customers at the store range in age from 18 to 90, many of whom are regulars. Many women customers are referred to the store by their gynecologists. This is a place where women can not only become educated about sex, but a place where they can find out what will bring them actual enjoyment — if they don’t already know — or what will bring a little ‘interesting’ back into their sex lives.
There are three young saleswomen to help answer our questions and show us around the store. These women know their sex, and they are not afraid to say it like it is. They will leave you alone if you just want to browse, but if you want to learn, all you have to do is ask. Don’t be turned off by the nose rings or funky hair or the fact that they refer to “male bodied people” and “female bodied people”. Each employee goes through 40 hours of training with a staff psychologist, and they know their stuff.
They show us all around the store, which is neatly organized into sections such as “Dildos,” “Vibrators” (they are different, we learn, though our mistake is a common one), “Lubes and Condoms,” “Anal Toys” and “Rings and Things,” “Masturbation sleeves,” and much, much more. We go from one section to another, the saleswomen answering our questions directly and openly, without a hint of embarrassment.
We start at one end of the store with the lubricants, testing the “Blossom” and “Sliquid” all natural ones on the backs of our hands, like one might test makeup at a counter at Bloomingdales, tissues provided. We go on to see the masturbation sleeves (usually, but not exclusively for “male bodied people”) that look like Easter eggs. We are told these can give a person a “gourmet hand job.” One particular flip up/ insert penis contraption was particularly intriguing (it looked like it belonged in an Orgasmatron), but it wasn’t dishwasher safe, so we passed.
We learn about harnesses and position pillows. We get a lesson on (hard for me, but easy for them to say) anal toys. Did you know that the human anus reaches out and grabs things that are inserted and pulls them in? That’s why all these toys have a safety end. We get a full explanation, and we learn that to our surprise, just as many women, as men, are interested in these toys. We learn about harnesses, cock rings, BDSM (if you don’t know what the letters stand for, they will inform you of all the possibilities), and vibrators , a topic in and of itself.
Their assortment of vibrators was something to behold and frankly, we could have spent all day discussing. Of course they have the Rabbit Pearl featured in Sex in the City for $84, but whether you want to spend $12 or $234, there is a vibrator for you. They have jelly rubber, hard plastic, and silicone. They have one that looks like a lipstick and one that looks like a rocket. They have big ones and tall ones, short ones and fat ones. They have pink and teal and jeweled ones. You can even turn on the samples and try them out. Talk about customer service!
In every section of the store, there are suggestions for beginners who are interested in learning more. Never used a vibrator? They have advice for first timers. Want to watch a little porn with your partner but are disgusted by the porn he bought online? This store has a section called “Passion Porn,” for beginners, which is porn with actual plots. They can make suggestions for specific titles, like “An Office Romance” or “The Craving”. They can tell you what the plot is about, they can even tell you the quality of the DVD.
This sex store, in our own backyard, aims to bring the fun back into sex, safely. That makes sense to me, because that is what I blurted out to my young daughter many years ago when she asked me if men and women ever had sex when they did not want to make a baby. When I answered that they did, she asked me why. “It’s fun!” I answered, before I could think of anything more profound.
Next up? I’m going to drag a friend and go to one of their free Happy Hump Day Wednesday afternoon classes. “The Art of Foreplay” or “My First Vibes” class both sound pretty interesting. Anyone care to join me?