Friday, 3 February 2017

Sex Toys and Sex Positivity

Why do sex toys matter when it comes to one's own sex positivity? In our respective journeys into feminism and sexual awareness, both Minerva and I have found adult products instrumental in exploring what works for us. They've taught us more about our bodies and how they work, and they've opened our minds to exploring sensation.

But I get why it might not work for you. Personally, I was once horrified at the thought of adding intimate accessories to my life. I'd internalised a kind of stigma about sex toys; that they were all tacky and gross, shaped like penises or otherwise just plain unpleasant-looking. I'd also sublimated a healthy dollop of shame about my sexuality, and sex in general (thanks, conservative South Africa!). The idea of actually owning things meant for that purpose -- things that might be found! -- was shameful and unsettling. In my younger years, I tried to separate myself from my body as much as possible, under the assumption that sexuality and sexual pleasure was morally wrong. The entire purpose of sex toys is centred in physicality and enjoyment, and this made me profoundly uncomfortable. All that stuff was just wrong. The first time I went into an Adult World (to buy opera-length fishnet gloves for a Gothtastic friend), I was physically shaking. I went in a few more times with later partners for a bit of a giggle, but could never brave the dvd sections or look at the flesh-coloured accessories for too long. The very air made me feel dirty.

No wonder. Adult World is disgusting.

Minerva began branching into toys before I did. We came from approximately similar positions in terms of our initial prejudices about sexuality, so it was interesting to see her explore. The experience of your peers really does influence your own, and when she recommended an online retailer, I was surprised at the lack of disgust the site engendered in me. What can I say -- she has good taste.

The final push was my partner at the time gently encouraging me to invest in something for myself. For once, I actually considered it. I'd often had discussions with that particular partner about my frequent inability to climax, and how frustrating it was. Eventually, I decided to buy a set of kegel balls, which didn't seem so scary. I mean, kegel exercisers are for health reasons, right? They're practically mandatory for a person who often forgets to do them manually.

After that, investing in vibrators didn't induce the fear and shame it once had. It also helped that my personal growth as a feminist had progressed to the point where the pursuit of pleasure seemed less of a shameful secret and increasingly more a point of honour; a giant middle finger to the repressive patriarchal messages I'd somehow absorbed growing up. Slowly, the awareness of the purpose of a body filtered into my understanding. You have one body, and it's designed to do certain things, and therefore those things should not be shameful (unless they bring non-consensual harm onto others). You have one body, and it's your truest living space, and therefore you should do what you want to do with it and in it. You have one body. It shouldn't be compared to anyone else's, or hold you back from doing something you want to do out of self-consciousness.

Everyone only has the body they're born in, to work with and modify and decorate as they see fit, but hopefully with the intention of making it more comfortable to live inside. This is why I began to see sex positivity as important -- consensual sexuality is an intersectional, feminist, all-inclusive right. And, of course, I would not have developed the way that I have without the guiding influence of critically-minded friends.

I am still learning, and the journey ahead will no doubt just be as exciting as what has already come to pass.

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