2015: Blog Highlights, Favorite Toys, & Future Plans

2015 was a truly amazing year for EROcentric.

I finally decided to take the blog to a more professional level by purchasing my own domain & getting business cards printed. I joined my local Sex Geekdom group. I embarked on my first #SexBloggerVaca, taking a self-organized tour of sex-positive attractions in New York City.  I bonded with members of the #BlogSquad at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit, where I was no longer “the weird sex girl.” I was just Mandi — in all my quiet, socially awkward glory.

I also connected with a ton of really awesome companies. I started reviewing for a few of my lovely affiliates: SheVibe, Tantus, & Peepshow Toys. I wrote additional reviews for Good Clean Love, Traz Rhino, & L’amourose. (On top of continuing reviews for Good Vibrations.)  And I became a new affiliate of both SexyTimeToys & Lovehoney (reviews in the works).

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I was selected as Kinkly‘s Sex Blogger of the Month in January. I was named one of their Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes for the second year running. (This time at #26!) And I contributed to their new book, Sex Hacks: Over 100 Tricks, Shortcuts, and Secrets to Set Your Sex Life on Fire, scheduled to be released on January 19th. I was also chosen as one of Beck’s Top 25 Bloggers of 2015. My post, I am a Sex Blogger & I Reject Pseudonymity, was even selected as one of the Top 3 Posts for Elust #70.

I published a total of 61 posts. My most popular of which were…

  • 2015 most popularMy review for the Traz Rhino Sleek & Genesis penis extenders/masturbation sleeves. Although they weren’t right for my partner & I, I’m incredibly happy to see my review helping so many of my readers.
  • Sensation Play: Blindfolds, Hot Wax, and Feathers, Oh My!  where I describe what “sensation play” is — including temperature play & sensory deprivation — and provide a few ideas for how to incorporate it into your sexual activities.
  • And for the second year running, my review of the We-Vibe Thrill. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if this toy is discontinued or not. And it doesn’t matter that it did not work for my anatomy. People are curious about this little smiling dual vibrator. Perhaps We-Vibe should try again??

Although I only started filling my dedicated sex toy storage last year, a few of the drawers are already nearing maximum capacity. And although I have not personally enjoyed several toys, I haven’t run into very many that I would describe as completely abysmal either. Because of this (and in order to remain positive), I’ll simply stick to naming a few of my favorites from 2015. Keep in mind that these are new to me; they are not necessarily new releases.

2015 favorites

  • We-Vibe Tango: Even despite its poor battery life & propensity to die prematurely, this remains my #1 (non-wand) clitoral vibrator. It’s the perfect size for remaining unobtrusive during partnered sex and the deep, rumbly vibrations are a godsend for a power queen like myself.
  • Jopen Key Comet II: This was the first toy to really make my G-spot sing. The swooping curve & bulbous head (along with the added vibrations) provide intense stimulation that, when rolled side-to-side over my G-spot, overwhelms my body with pleasure. This toy helps bring me to incredibly strong blended orgasms, and I see it remaining a favorite of mine for years to come.
  • Good Clean Love – Almost Naked: Not a toy, but an important sexual tool nonetheless. I described this lubricant as “gloriously squishy” and was super impressed with its magical, gravity-defying staying power. It has quickly surpassed all other water-based lubricants in my arsenal and I doubt that I will ever be without a tube.

What’s in store for 2016?

2016 upcoming reviewsFirst of all, I’m going to work really hard to catch up on my pending reviews, including: the Luxe Mio by Blush Novelties, the Perfect Plug Kit by Tantus, Lovehoney’s Main Squeeze Heavy Double Kegel Balls, and the Rosa Rouge & Prism VII by L’amourose. There’s also a few other self-purchased toys that I have neglected to review in the last year, but still really want to rave about.

I’m going to try again to record my orgasms & sexual activity, which will hopefully lead to a very nerdy infographic post in another year’s time. I would also like to get back to writing more non-review posts, which I took a bit of a break from during 2015. I’m still considering doing videos as well…if I ever find my bravery.

Most of all, I want to continue to put myself out there and get more involved in the sex-positive community — both locally & globally. I’m starting my own sex & gender book/film club with a few like-minded friends. I would like to find an organization where I could volunteer while I am figuring out how to achieve my more professional goals. I plan on attending some local kink meet-ups & workshops. I really want to try a pole dancing class. And of course, I’m looking forward to attending Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2016 (and perhaps even Kinky Kollege).

Here’s to another year of shamelessly writing about sex! 

My 5 Biggest Sex Toy Mistakes

I talk a lot about the importance of body-safety and general sex toy education here at EROcentric. I only review products made from high-quality materials, I only advertise for & become affiliates with manufacturers/retailers who I trust, and I try my hardest to educate my readers before they purchase a toy that may cause them harm — or at the very least, be completely wrong for their bodies.

Why? Because I’ve personally experienced negative effects from toxic, porous, latex-laden, cheap ass sex toys. And I’ve also spent a small fortune on certain luxury items, assuming that “expensive” must be synonymous with “mind-blowing”… only to be left with a useless paperweight.  

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luvtouchcircleThis was my very first vibrator, before I knew anything about Pipedream and their disgustingly sexist & racist business practices. I chose it because it was small and under $20. To be fair, it held up pretty well. I had it for over a year before the thin, transparent coating (polyurethane?) began to flake & peel off the exterior of the vibe. At this point, I immediately should have thrown it away. Unfortunately, I had no idea that sex toys could be porous and that this flimsy layer was all that had been protecting me from bacteria growth.

Eventually, a black spot formed under the bright pink surface. At first, I thought that the toy was over-heating and burning through the plastic from the inside out. Then I found blogs like Lilly‘s and learned that the black spot was more likely mold. Cue revulsion.

Moral of the Story: Educate yourself about sex toy materials. Do not rely on sex toy manufacturers being honest & trustworthy with their advertising or packaging. Learn how to differentiate between materials and know what the “warning signs” are for toxic and porous toys.

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sheathcircleMy partner & I had been curious about experimenting with size, but we couldn’t find many silicone penis extenders — and to be honest, we weren’t sure that we wanted to spend a fortune on a product that could be completely wrong for us. We settled for this TPE sheath because although it would be porous, I figured that it should at least be phthalate-free.

We only used this toy once — because it was a complete disaster. Within the first few minutes, the strap that is supposed to wrap around the testicles (holding the extension in place) snapped in half. It was only downhill from there. While attempting to have PIV intercourse, I noticed a horrible burning sensation in my vagina. I shrugged it off for a while, telling myself that it was simply from being stretched. But those two sensations are different.

Finally it clicked: I had felt that same burning before, back when my partner & I used latex condoms. Although I have no proof that this toy contained latex (in theory, most TPE should not), I also have no other explanation for the pain…unless I was experiencing mild chemical burn from some other additive.

Moral of the Story: Be proactive for your own health and listen to your body. If you have allergies, find out what ingredients are in your sex toys & lubricants and aim for only hypoallergenic materials. If you notice a negative reaction, talk to your doctor, seek out similar experiences online, try to narrow down the issue so that it can be avoided in the future. Remember: YOU are not the problem.

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I understand that silicone is expensive and more time-consuming for manufacturers to use. And I understand that companies who traditionally sell very cheap sex toys worry that their customers will not spend big bucks on higher quality (especially when they continue to misinform & mislead those customers). I could almost give them a pass on cutting corners with the interior of their silicone toys. After all, it should never come into contact with the body.

But when something is advertised as “pure silicone” or “100% silicone”… I expect it to be silicone all the way down to the core; not full of foam, curious plastic chunks, or (most disturbing of all) rags.

A photo posted by Mandi (@erocentric) on

There’s also one other problem with this particular anal toy: the base is ridiculously small & extremely flexible. I consider myself very lucky that I never had to go to the emergency room to get this probe removed from my body. Knowing what I know now, I do not consider this toy safe for anal play and it upsets me that it was even created.

Moral of the Story: Again, don’t always trust what companies tell you on their advertising or packaging. Do research into a company’s reputation online — especially with sex bloggers. And for the love of butts everywhere, if a toy doesn’t have a large, sturdy base…don’t risk it.

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evolvedcircle-2Generally, I think that Evolved creates some decent cheap silicone products. However, my experience is an important lesson in warranties, replacements, and consumer options when products malfunction.

Immediately after purchasing this bullet vibe from my local Cirilla’s, I inserted the small watch batteries that were included and turned it on. It buzzed for a few seconds… but then shorted out completely. I never even got to use it.

At the time, I didn’t know what to do with my broken little sex toy. I knew that you couldn’t return these items to the store and honestly, I was too embarrassed to start contacting the company online to find out what my options were and how to get a replacement. (That’s right, folks. I was not always the brazen sexual creature that you see today.) In the end, I simply ate the $20 that I wasted on this toy and tossed it in the trash.

Moral of the Story: Find out what type of warranty manufacturers have for their products. In this case, Evolved does allow you to send back faulty or defective items — with or without a receipt & original packaging. Don’t let sexual shame get in the way of your right to pleasure! The people in this industry talk about sex toys and sexuality every day. You will not seem weird, perverted, or hypersexual simply because you purchased a sex toy and you want it to work.

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lilycircleObviously, this is the odd man out — but I wanted to prove that just because a toy is body-safe and “luxurious,” that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good or that it will do anything for your particular body or sexual anatomy.

The Lily was my first serious, body-safe sex toy purchase. I spent months drooling over its form, learning about Lelo and their high-quality products. I based my purchase largely off of one glowing review, without knowing what else worked for that person or if my body was similar. I tracked (what I thought was) the best deal and ended up spending approximately $90. When my beautiful Lily arrived, my clitoris was entirely unamused. The vibrations were so weak that I wondered if it was defective. (You can read my full review here, but know that the more toys I get introduced to the more I regret this particular purchase.)

The letdown was huge and it definitely deterred me from purchasing other expensive, body-safe sex toys for a long time. I felt like there must be something wrong with my body for needing so much more power. In fact, one of the next toys I purchased was the Hitachi because I kept reading that it was the most powerful toy out there — and I was convinced that was what I needed. (Turns out: Yes, the Hitachi Magic Wand is absolutely wonderful, but I can also orgasm from less powerful vibrations.)

Moral of the Story: Even if you’re purchasing a toy that is body-safe & produced by a trustworthy manufacturer, it helps to know your body. Of course, this is more difficult if you’re just beginning to experiment with sex toys; even us “experts” mistakingly assume that a toy will produce fireworks only to find that it barely even sparkles. Still, it helps to read as many reviews as you can find. Try to discover a toy reviewer who shares a similar body type or sexual response as you. Are you easy to orgasm? Is your clitoris buried by your labia? Will your anatomy even work with that rabbit vibrator? More often than not, one size does not fit all.


One of the biggest sex toy shopping seasons is upon us! Check out my Introduction to Sex Toy Safety5 Tips for Getting Quality Sex Toys for Lessmy Toybox (for a list of reviews), and the current Sales & Deals of my wonderful affiliates. Enjoy your purchases; Don’t make the same silly mistakes that I did. 

Confession: I Had Painful Sex…And I Didn’t Say a Word

It’s been a quiet month here at EROcentric. My review schedule remains outdated & untouched and I haven’t had the motivation or the emotional fortitude to admit what’s been going on with my sex life — to myself, my partner, or to my readers. But the more I tried to push down my emotions, the more they needed to find validation within actual words.

The truth is… My partner and I have had sex exactly once in the last month and my number of masturbation sessions is not much higher.littlebackstoryIt started as my last menstrual cycle came to an end. I could feel that something wasn’t quite right with my body, and before long I noticed the telltale signs of a yeast infection. I purchased the dreaded Monistat (I’m never quite sure what feels more uncomfortable: a yeast infection or the treatment for one), stocked the fridge with yogurt, and started drinking enough water to have me running to the restroom every hour. Compared to yeast infections of my past, this one actually surrendered without much of a fight.

When I finally allowed myself to masturbate again, the results were lackluster at best & mildly uncomfortable at worst. The lubricant stung, thrusting felt abrasive, and arousal was nonexistent. At this point, I hadn’t had sex for about 2 weeks — and it suddenly went from something that I was longing for to something that I needed to simply push out of my mind.

I should point out that two weeks without sex has not been exceptionally rare for me over the last few years. I’ve been fairly open about my struggle with low libido & my efforts to determine what it means for my own sexuality while also forming a plan of action with my “high libido” partner. It’s been the topic of many tearful conversations, but we’ve finally been seeing some real progress… until this particular set back.

I could tell that the lack of physical intimacy was beginning to wear on my partner, even though our emotional intimacy was still high. I just couldn’t find the words to talk with him about this. All I knew was that my body wasn’t cooperating and my mind had shut itself off from any sexual thoughts. Anything more than cuddles felt like a request that I simply couldn’t handle, and the guilt & shame was too overwhelming to let him in. All he knew was that I had stopped expressing love in a way that is very meaningful to him.tippingpointFinally, after 3 weeks of no sex and a growing distance between the two of us, I was desperate. Desperate for a connection. Desperate to feel normal again. I tried to initiate foreplay and get into the mood, but I felt detached from my body…and as intercourse followed, the pain set in.

As someone who advocates for sex positivity, consent education, and open sexual communication, you’d think that I would have spoken up — but I didn’t. I hid my pain in the darkness, clenched my fists, and waited it out. And once it was over, I cried.

Yes, I cried because the burning pain of a thousand suns was trapped within my vagina. But I also cried because after so long without sex, I felt like I had ruined everything. I cried because I felt guilty that I didn’t communicate, and therefore put my partner in a very awkward situation. I cried because I didn’t know what was wrong with my body or my sex drive. …I cried because my shame suddenly became a river that I was drowning in.repeatoffenderThis entire situation has made me realize that this isn’t the first time I’ve made the mistake of not speaking up. In fact, it’s something that I now recognize I need to work on.

During one of my first D/s scenes with my current partner, I felt uncomfortable and emotionally shut down instead of using my safeword. I fell asleep feeling bitter & angry that he didn’t read my mind, while he was confused and assumed that he had done something to lose me completely.

I’ll also commonly grit my teeth & bear the last few thrusts of intercourse in the doggy style position, even though my partner is painfully bumping against my cervix. I don’t want to speak up, because I know he’s close and I’d hate to ruin his orgasm. I do this continually, even though I know he’d rather me speak up because he hates the idea of me being in pain.

It’s not “no” that I have trouble with; It’s “stop.” My pride gets in the way. I have an impossibly hard time asking for help or asserting my needs. I want to prove that I can take anything. I don’t want to appear weak. But it causes much more trouble than being honest with myself & my partner.wherenowHonestly, I’m nervous to have sex again. I’m afraid of the pain still being present. And even though my partner & I have since discussed what happened in much more detail, I’m still scared that sex will be awkward as a result of my communication failure.

The entire mess is contributing to a lack of libido that is more intensely depressing & debilitating than any dry spell I’ve ever experienced before. Although I have ideas on how to move forward, I don’t feel confidant that I’m actually moving in the right direction. I find myself fearing that not only has my libido dropped, but my arousal & enjoyment of sex has as well.

I have to keep reminding myself of the good in this situation: that the crying actually forced me to open up again & it cleared the air between us in the bedroom. That I have recognized an area where I need to focus energy & we’re now facing this problem as a team instead of separate & alone. I also have to remember that being “sex positive” isn’t about having great sex — and it doesn’t mean that I’ll never make mistakes. Sometimes sex is bad, but that doesn’t mean that it always will be. And it doesn’t have to mean that I’ve done irreparable harm to my relationship either.

So, what can you expect from EROcentric in the coming weeks? Unfortunately, I’m not sure. Will my body start cooperating, allowing me to finish reviewing the wonderful products that have so far gone untouched? Will this hiccup in my sexuality allow me to write a couple of non-review articles that I’ve been excited about but haven’t found time for?

At this point, all I can promise is that I am still here & I’m not giving up on this journey.

Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2015

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Bright and early on the morning of August 12th, my partner, myself, and a lovely friend of ours loaded up our tiny road-tripping hatchback and set off on the 9+ hour drive to Alexandria, VA for Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. You may recall that in my list of goals for 2015, I expressed a desire to attend my first sexuality conference — and with the shared travel expenses & the amazing
generosity of Tantus and njoy‘s blogger scholarship, that goal suddenly became much more attainable.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 101718 AM_phixr_phixrI didn’t know what to expect from my first conference. And to be honest…there was a part of me that was panicking, fearful of being an outcast among a group of super accomplished bloggers & sex educators. I’m a dangerous combination of introvert & perfectionist by nature, with social anxiety that kicks in during new and/or crowded situations. What if I couldn’t handle the pressure to be “on” all the time? Or what if nobody understood my special brand of weirdness? 

As it turns out, I had no reason to worry; I have never felt so completely understood and, as a result, so comfortable in my own skin. Woodhull went out of their way to make us feel welcome, Tantus was amazing enough to sponsor a special Blogger’s Lounge that served as a calming oasis (and a place to squish their fabulous new dildos), JoEllen Notte (aka the Redhead Bedhead) made an encouraging video to remind everyone about the importance of self care, and there was an abundance of hugs all around. It honestly felt like I was part of a magical little sex-positive family.

Buck AngelI cried while Crista Anne shared her experience with depression that so closely matched my own. I rallied behind Lilly when she declared, “As a group, we are loud. We make shit happen. We don’t shut up.” I felt unease at the intersection of sexual consent & dementia, examined my own language for both offensiveness and trans* inclusivity, and found acceptance of my lingering sexual shame thanks to the unique way that Charlie Glickman approaches the subject. I got hands-on experience in zine-making thanks to the very talented Pleasure Pie and learned about the super impressive lube research that Sarah Mueller of Smitten Kitten has been conducting.

But most importantly, I made connections with amazing individuals that all share a common passion for sexual freedom & education. I got to meet many inspirational people in person for the first time, including Metis Black & Peyton from Tantus, Sandra & Thor from SheVibe, and the original “sex geek” Reid Mihalko. I danced with the ever-beautiful Nina Hartley and got a little teary as I thanked Buck Angel for helping me learn to love my vulva.

And then…there was the “blog squad.”

Me, Artemisia, Epiphora, Lena, Bex, Reenie, & Penny

Photo credit: Penny of www.pennysdirtythoughts.com

Dizzy was the reason that I was brave enough to venture out of my room the first day, and meeting her in person felt so natural and easy that the first few hours in the blogger’s lounge flew by. Honestly, I think that I was better at keeping up a conversation with her than I am with some people I’ve known for years, and that proved to be a good indicator for how the rest of the weekend would go.

Lena was a complete riot. I thought I was going to die when she presented a member of the Woodhull Board of Directors with a tiny dildo as a consolation for missing their floor. (It only got better when a very confused businessman that was sharing the elevator with us asked, “…What do you intend to do with that?”) She is one of those rare, super-authentic individuals that, in turn, makes you feel more free to be yourself.

Lilly, with her infamous reputation for being “100% bite,” was actually one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She’s passionate, she holds nothing back, and we desperately need more people like her in the world. I loved every moment of ranting with her about the absence of accurate electro-safety information and first-toy horrors. I never did tell her this, but…she’s my biggest blogging role model. Hers was one of the very first sex blogs I started reading, long before her focus was on toy safety. My other favorites have all disappeared over the years, but she has continued to grow and create change.

Lunabelle's amazing dildo suitcaseIn contrast, I didn’t know a whole lot about Lunabelle before the summit, but I quickly learned that it’s impossible not to adore her in all her sex ninja glory. She may have even done the impossible and turned me on to the fantasy genre with her epic suitcase full of bright & colorful dildos (which we, of course, dug into like it was Christmas in August). As sex toy reviewers, we’ve seen a lot, but this collection had all of our jaws on the floor.

Reenie was a fucking champ. As many of us were freaking out and wanting to hide, she was walking through the hotel waving around dragon cocks and inviting people to win dildos. I know she was nervous about starting conversations with so many people, but she really did make it look effortless. And when she did quiet down…I enjoyed waiting for her to pop back into the conversation in adorable & hilarious ways, like with her first dick pic.

Epiphora hosted an epic sex blogger pajama party on the last night of the summit, where we surprisingly discovered that we are post-puberty Hanson soulmates and she introduced us all to the now extinct Mr. Man. This, of course, inspired an impromptu DIY dildo brainstorming session — because some of us (like myself) are very intrigued, and the disappearance of a legitimately innovative sex toy simply isn’t fair, dammit. But seriously, Piph’s just as awesome & snarky as you all had hoped.

Bex, Nina, & Me

Photo credit: Artemisia of www.afemmecock.com

And then there’s Bex. Without her, there’s no way I would have been brave enough to dance with Nina Hartley — and none of us would have managed to make dinner happen that first night. She is a force to be reckoned with and has one of the brightest (and most seductive) smiles I’ve ever seen. Her use of the term “vagina feelings” is totally contagious and, at the risk of sounding creepy, I may have watched one of her video reviews during con-drop because it’s impossible to be sad with that glorious east coast accent.

Penny was just as sweet as I imagined she’d be. When I first found myself in a loud room full of bloggers and was feeling overwhelmed, she was the first one to come over & strike up a conversation. I’m pretty sure that she’s my kindred spirit when it comes to cats & books — except I’m not nearly cool enough to pull off this dress. Oh! And if you haven’t already checked out her Etsy shop, get on that. How else are you going to cover your coffee table in dildo coasters?

If the weekend was a roleplaying adventure, Artemisia was the glittery hero among us as she successfully defeated the Rockbox monster by spilling its battery-guts all over the hotel floor. And if that wasn’t enough… By the end of the weekend, she was able to regale us with the epic tale of obtaining not one, but two njoy Elevens (one for her; one for Bex) before sharpie tattooing perfect sex toy silhouettes on Penny’s bum. She’s totally the chosen one.

I love discovering new bloggers, and Mary & Harry were no exception. In fact, I found them to be some of the most inspiring individuals at Woodhull. Listening to the stories about how their relationship has grown over time was simply amazing and it made my heart smile, knowing that it is possible for love to embrace major change.

swag_phixrIf I have one tiny bit of sadness from the summit, it’s that I wish I would have had more time to talk to Crista. She was the one person that I couldn’t stop myself from running straight up to for hugs, and I absolutely loved hearing about her “outlaw dildo peddler” days. She is a huge inspiration of mine and one of the most warm-hearted individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I didn’t get to talk to Caitlin or Beck much either, but I still feel honored to have met both of them. Caitlin’s fashion sense is simply to die for. I’m convinced that there’s never a moment when they don’t look absolutely stunning. And although I only got a moment’s time with Beck, I was so happy that she was able to attend the Summit after working so hard to get there.

I honestly could not have asked for a better group of people to spend my weekend with, shenanigans & all. It was such a uniquely freeing experience and it inspired me to not only become a better blogger & sex educator, but a better person in general. I realize now more than ever just how lucky I am to be a part of this online community.


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I want to thank njoy & (my affiliate) Tantus again for granting me one of the blogger scholarships. If you’re in the market for stainless steel or premium silicone toys, please consider ordering some of their beautiful products. 

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I’d also like to thank Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance for all of the amazing things they are doing to make the world a better, more sex-positive place. If you’d like to find out how to donate to their cause, simply click on the banner above.

If you’d like to read more highlights from the Sexual Freedom Summit, check out the tweets from #SFS15 or read what my fellow bloggers had to say about the experience…

Sex Blogger Travels: NYC

As some of you may have noticed from my #SexBloggerVaca posts on Twitter & Instagram, I had the amazing opportunity to visit New York City this summer. My brilliant partner got accepted into a summer institute at NYU, which of course meant 6 long, strange weeks during which I talked to the cats like they were people. But it also led to a very convenient & thrifty week full of big-city adventures together.

Being a sex geek, I had a slightly different list of must-see attractions than most. I scoured the internet for sex toy stores, weird museums, and erotic date ideas. I discovered a few places that were absolutely out of our price range, some that simply weren’t having any events during the week that I was in town, and (most heart-breaking of all) a handful of amazing places that have gone out of business in the last few years.

We jam-packed our days together, riding the subway all over town. I got to squish Vixskin, drool over Fucking Sculptures, & feel the heft of the njoy Eleven. I somewhat unexpectedly discovered the appeal of packers after encountering the pure realness of one. And I squeed to anyone who would listen about how amazing Tantus is, because there they were — in real brick & mortar shops!

For a girl straight out of the sexually repressed Midwest, it was like a dreamworld; like I jumped straight into the internet with all of my favorite manufacturers, retailers, & other sex-positive individuals. For anyone who is planning a sexy trip to NYC — or simply feeling isolated and desperate for a reminder that shame-free communities do exist…Here are my 2 cents on the whole experience.


pc textPleasure ChestI had just arrived in NYC and I was excited to jump straight into my own custom-tailored, sex obsessed itinerary. “I’m not going to have to put anything in my mouth, am I?” my partner nervously asked as we made our way to the Pleasure Chest‘s advanced blowjob workshop, cleverly titled Head of the Class.

This would be my first visit to a sex-positive toy store & my first real-life glimpse of adult sex education. To be honest, I wanted to see if I thought I could be on the other side of this experience some day: standing in front of a group of people, teaching them how to have great sex. I know it’s silly, but I was fearful of suddenly realizing that I am on the wrong path.

If anything, this experience only reinforced my dreams of becoming a sex educator. Despite the room being full of strangers, the facilitator expertly fostered feelings of relaxation, openness, and sex-positivity. Plus, I learned a few things along the way! I would suggest that anyone who lives (or visits) near a Pleasure Chest store to take advantage of this amazing resource. Workshops are free — and we even received a 15% in-store coupon for any purchase after the class!

The following morning I’m standing in Bluestockings bookstore, flipping through zines about consent, menstruation, & herbal abortions while chatting with my partner’s classmate about my upcoming trip to Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. Again, I’m struck by the atmosphere of the place. It’s soft & welcoming, but yet still considered “radical.”

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a huge bookworm. I’ll happily waste hours in any old bookstore, but nothing makes me happier than cozy little shops that cater to my specific interests of sex & gender studies. Bluestockings is an open-minded, intellectual oasis.

I leave with a couple of issues of Bitch, homemade zines, & a huge smile on my face — only slightly regretting the fact that I passed up the felt nipples.

museumofsexEven before my partner got accepted into his academic program, I started daydreaming about the Museum of Sex. Okay okay. Let’s be honest… I was mostly thinking about floundering around in their boob bounce house — exactly like this.

Maybe it’s because we lost track of time & arrived within the last hour, or maybe it’s because I live right by the Kinsey Institute, but I was a little disappointed. First of all, at $17.50/person, admission is a little steep for how small it is and for how text-heavy some of the exhibits were. Secondly, I felt like most of their audience was drawn there by a juvenile “tee hee” reaction to sex, which I found a little distracting at times.

Still, they had a pretty great exhibit on the history of porn. (I’m a sucker for black & white vintage images of BDSM.) There was an interactive exhibit that made the art student in me smile. And I did get approximately 15 seconds with the inflatable titties before they closed. In the end, I think riding the dildo bike was the most exciting.

purplepassiontextDV8When someone asks what my favorite part about NYC was, I have a decision to make: be honest and say, “This awesome little kink shop we went to!” or substitute a more acceptable answer (usually involving delicious Czech food).

The truth is, Purple Passion/DV8 wins — no contest. It was my first visit to a kink/fetish store, and their selection of impact toys & educational books had me wishing that money was no object. Leather goodies are a weakness of mine, but what impressed me the most was the amazing customer service.

Immediately upon entering, we were greeted by Keith: a gentleman whose photo could be used under the kinky dictionary definition of “leatherman” & who was so genuine in his warmth and helpfulness that I was completely smitten. He showed us his favorite new items, shared some of his personal experiences, and expressed our own belief: that BDSM is about connection above all else.

We ended up spending a small fortune on rope & leather items hand-crafted by local artisans — all of impeccable quality at affordable prices. (I actually regret that we didn’t spend more; my dreams are filled with a certain leather-padded cane.) Basically, if you are kinky & find yourself in New York, you simply have to check out their selection. If you’re a member of your local BDSM club, you’ll even save 10%!

eve's gardenEve’s Garden has an impressive history. Founded in 1974, it is the world’s first “sex boutique for women,” created with empowerment & sex-positivity in mind. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, our experience was lackluster at best and mildly uncomfortable at worst. The shop itself is located in a high-rise office building, which (in theory) makes your shopping adventure more discreet from street level bystanders — leading to a more relaxed experience. The problem is: My partner & I are ridiculously awkward in new situations.

Once we reached the 12th floor, we were faced with a plain wooden door with a gold placard stating our destination. This is where our social anxiety kicked in: “Do we knock? Is it locked? Is this place so fancy that it’s by appointment only?” On top of that, once we did gather our nerves and walk in, the selection was unimpressive and limited. Sure, there were body-safe sex toys of high-quality…but there wasn’t anything special or unique about the place. We left empty-handed.

shagtext

Shag is one of New York’s best kept sex secrets. Despite days of internet-scouring for notable attractions, the place never reached my radar. The way that I finally discovered it was by seeing an advertisement in Purple Passion for the Sex Ed a Go Go event that they help sponsor. (Sadly, I discovered it the day after the event. Cue much pouting.)

Shag is a unique shop, specializing not only in sex toys but also jewelry, artwork, and beauty supplies. Although we didn’t find anything to bring home with us, we did take the time to admire their selection of crafty, erotic nesting dolls and — if we had the necessary funds — we would have purchased a stunning set of bronze doorknobs, molded from the vulvas of real women.babeland textBABELANDThe moment I walked into Babeland, I loved it. It had a “homey” feeling that was unlike the other sex toy stores that we visited. It was beautifully organized, but not fancy. The employees were super excited to show me items (like the new Minna kGoal) but didn’t impose upon our experience as a couple.

One of my best discoveries was that Babeland offers the most fantastic array of scented & flavored items. We left with two bottles of lubricant (pomegranate vanilla & dulce de leche) — which I’m super excited to try during oral sex and report back to you all! And we vowed to make an online purchase for a couple of their body massage bars. (Didn’t want to risk getting our luggage all oily on the flight home.)

On our way out, we struck up a conversation with our cashier about the Midwest’s extreme lack of sex-positive shops and promptly found ourselves being buried under an avalanche of swag & coupon codes. Seriously, I cannot stress how nice these people were! I’m so glad that I got to experience this company’s atmosphere & generosity in person.

nitehawkNot specifically an erotic theatre, Nitehawk Cinema is a bit of an added bonus to this list. We were lucky enough to catch one of the midnight screenings in their Nitehawk Naughties: Scandinavian Erotic Cinema from the 1960s and 1970s series.  The film we saw was titled Without A Stitch and to be honest, we were never quite sure if it was trying to be serious or facetious. There were several moments when the audience was erupting in laughter, regardless of the original intent.

With a delicious set-up of truffle popcorn, homemade lime jerky, and beautiful naked ladies exploring new & humorous sexual escapades, it was a perfect date night for perverts like us. I only wish that there was a similar theatre closer to home.