Sexually Speaking: Exploring Sex toys

Published in The Concordian 33.11 on November 10 2015

“Feel it,” she said, taking it out of the packaging. “Isn’t it so lifelike?”

I felt it.

“Feels like a penis,” I said.

It wasn’t a penis, though. It was a dildo, handed to me by Karine Beaumont, an employee at Boutique Érotique Romance.

When exploring the world of sex toys, it is best to start slow and less intense. Photo taken from flickr by Christina Xu.

One of several in Montreal, the store sells everything from costumes to lubricants, fetish gear, porn, books, ropes, condoms, chocolates, games and, yes—a panoply of toys. Lifelike penises. Not-at-all-lifelike penises. Vibrating cock rings. Vibrating vibrators. Strap-on harnesses. Kegel-exercise balls. Anal beads. Anal plugs. Everything.

“We do good business,” said Eliane Fraser, another employee at Boutique Érotique. “We sell a lot.”

Why? Is nobody satisfied by their partner? Is everybody doing sex wrong? Is everybody masturbating wrong? That can’t be right.

“It’s something different,” said Dr. Laurie Betito, psychologist and sex therapist. “It gives a bit of a leg up, if you will.” Betito has been hosting CJAD’s sex-and-relationships show, Passion, since 1999. “It’s used to enhance sexuality.”

The variety of toys provides a variety of enhancements. For couples, Fraser and Beaumont pointed out the popularity of vibrating cock rings—for mutual pleasure, they said. Most solo toys can be used by couples too—they said the very lifelike penis was often used with strap-ons.

“But don’t just show up with 10-inch dildo and say ‘hey, let’s do this,’” Betito said. “As an enhancer it’s great, but first you have to talk about it.”

Talking is hard sometimes. Not just because it might be awkward to ask for a little something extra—but if sex is bad, nobody wants to insult their partner. And if sex is good but you want it to be great, your partner might think you feel the sex is bad but that you just like using euphemisms.

Beaumont said that when people are too shy to criticize, “they’ll just turn to sex toys because they know how to please themselves.”

What if someone doesn’t know how? “You have to learn about yourself before going with a partner,” Fraser said. “We can show you so many things that will help you discover [yourself].”

Fraser and Beaumont say most people are poorly educated about toys—some women come in asking for speculums because 50 Shades of Grey featured one as a toy. Beaumont talked about their client who was wheelchair-bound, had never had a sexual partner, and couldn’t masturbate. Their manager helped him find a toy that simulated masturbation, giving him a release he would never otherwise have.

That being said, amazing self-pleasure is a double-sided dildo. Err, double-edged sword. “When you get very [accustomed] to one certain way of having an orgasm and then you can’t get that same sensation with a partner … you have to practice other ways to get your body accustomed,” said Betito.

There are other potential drawbacks too, according to Betito. “I always say start off small, with a small vibrator, a clitoral stimulator and work your way up. It’s the same for butt plugs, anal toys. Explore slowly.”

That’s where sex shops come in handy. Beaumont and Fraser don’t call themselves salespeople for a reason. “We’re like counselors,” they said. Online stores won’t tell you to use toys with flared bases for anal play. Online stores won’t tell you silicone-based lubricant will ruin your new $80 vibrator.

“Plus, it’s a great way to explore your own body and what it can do for you,” said Betito. “It’s always a good thing when you know your body.”

So, ask. In the end, Beaumont said it best: “It’s better to be a little uncomfortable at the cash than to go the hospital with something stuck in your bum.”