By Dominique Norman
I’ve considered myself a sex positive person since I first had the birds and the bees chat with my mom. When she explained how things worked to me, my very confident response was, “I knew it”. However, I moved through adolescence like many young people, especially young women, looking to my peers for answers on the “how to’s”. I remember waiting anxiously for my introduction to sex ed in fifth grade, only for it to never happen. My small town became plagued by abstinence-only education, which was as effective as using birds and bees as an analogy for sex — I mean who are the birds and who are the bees? I recall my sex ed class only showing us pictures of STI ridden penises, using scare tactics like those of the Mean Girls health class scene where the gym teacher gravely states, “you will get pregnant and DIE." I noticed they never showed us a vulva in sex ed, ever. I know exactly what elephantiasis of the balls looks like (thank goodness amirite) but until I joined V-Day in college with other sex positive folks ready to end gender-based violence and perform their rendition of the Vagina Monologues, I couldn’t tell you where anything was located in my own nether regions, or even that the vagina was the internal organ, not the external bits. I had a lot of catching up to do.
Like many folks, most of my sexual encounters involved a lot of guesswork. I remember the first time I kissed with tongue. I thought it’d be SO advanced if I bit my boyfriend’s lip and he would think I was the best kisser in the seventh grade. I bit so hard I practically made him bleed. I didn’t kiss with tongue again for at least a year, it was obviously too dangerous and I was clearly a loose canon. Everyone I talked to about “firsts” gave the generic “you’ll know what to do” advice, as if that was helpful in any way. I really wanted to know where they were getting their information. How the hell did they know what to do? Did it come to them in a dream? Did I have to pray to the teenage hormone gods to bestow upon me the magical gifts to finally be ready? No one had the answers.
Even in my twenties, I found myself asking the same questions, except now it was about sex toys. We’re in the advanced stages of sexual pleasure now, folks. Except here’s the catch — I’ve never used a sex toy before. I was immersed in these spaces where they were being raved about, and now sex positivity is all the rage in my feminist circles. However, here I am: 24 years old and a sex toy virgin.
To be quite honest, sex toys intimidated me a little bit. I didn’t know where to start, or the goal of each one. I had so many questions like what’s the difference between vibrators and dildos, how do I know which one I want, which one fits my personality, is there a beginner one, will this affect sex between my partner and I, and most importantly, who do I ask these questions without feeling embarrassed about my inexperience?
This is where Dame showed up and rescued me. We chatted at NUANCE, the day-long sex positive conference they put together in July. I told them (more like whispered quietly), “I’ve never used a sex toy...but I want to try. Could I try one and write about it?” They suggested Fin as my starter sex toy, and were very supportive in providing the product for the research. So it shows up in the most discreet package, and when I open it, not so discreet anymore. I felt so empowered to be on this journey, and that Dame was encouraging me to take this step in my sexual exploration.
When I used it initially, it was like masturbating for the first time all over again. I didn’t know if I should watch porn or not, how long to do it, or even what felt good. I kept wondering if I was doing it right and thinking “do sex toys come with a handbook?” Like where is the guide for first time vibrator users?
I imagine it would be something like this:
Step 1: Place the vibrator on the pleasurable body part of choice. Clitoris is always a classic. I don’t know what step comes next, and that’s where I’m stuck.
But with some exploration, I figured out that that’s the point. Everyone masturbates differently, just like everyone has sex differently. There’s no handbook for a reason, because there is no right way to do it. You just do what feels good. I found that with every use I got more and more familiar with the Fin and more familiar with my body. It really was like masturbating for the first time, and I had to take the time to figure out what works for me, which was fun in and of itself. I didn’t need a handbook, I needed time to play around! I mean, they don’t call it a toy for nothing.
My first sex toy experience was like a walk down memory lane for me. I remembered how I felt with many of my firsts, and each time wondering if I was doing it right and wishing so desperately that there was some tell-all guide that could walk me through it step by step. I wanted to be self assured and confident walking into my first time, whether that be my first kiss, first kiss with tongue, or the first time using a sex toy. What I realized through this experience is that I learn so much more (and it’s way more fun) when I experiment for myself.