I was the only girl in my household, raised with one older brother and two younger ones. I was a tomboyish, introverted, socially and athletically awkward middle child. My classmates teased me for my red hair, for getting the highest test scores in the class, for my thrift-store and hand-me-down clothing, for my name. I was probably an easy target. My stepdad and I did not exactly get along because I stubbornly wanted to understand the why of everything, rather than just obeying his orders as he very clearly would have preferred. I had such an affinity for animals that I rescued mice from my grandmother’s cats and saved drowning worms from puddles after it rained. Whenever I could, I would climb the tree in the backyard to sit on my favorite branch and read a book.
Books were my refuge from the difficulties in my life. They enabled me to live someone else’s life for a while, to vicariously visit fascinating places and meet kind people and have far more interesting problems than my real ones. Because my family was (and still is) very religious, there were also things I might never have learned about, or at least not until much later, if not for my insatiable love of reading.
One day around age 13 or 14, feeling bored at my grandparents’ house, I stood on a chair and pulled a book down from a high shelf. I don’t recall the title, but it must have held potential, and there was no dust jacket. When I opened the book to a random page, I was confronted with a photo of two naked people demonstrating a sex position. I immediately snapped the book shut, my heart pounding. But after a moment, my curiosity got the better of me and I opened it again. I flipped through it and read the captions. I snuck it home with me.
Another day, at age 14-15, I found a book in our garage. About a month prior, my parents had returned from shopping with two beautiful hardcovers, one for me and one for my older brother. The book I found in the garage that day was my brother’s. It was a book I hadn’t read, so of course I took it into my bedroom and started reading it. I soon discovered the likely reason it had been relegated to the garage: it contained explicit sex scenes. That book was The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel, and I learned what arousal felt like from reading some of those scenes.
I was fascinated by everything about sex, and quickly became the person my friends turned to for information. In my freshman year, I explained to one curious friend what “going down” meant, and that apparently people enjoyed it and did not find it weird or gross. (She thought it sounded weird and gross.) At 16, still fighting with my stepdad and the public school system, I passed my state’s high school equivalency exam and moved 450 miles away to share an apartment with a good friend. I went on a few very awkward dates and kissed a few boys. Before long I started dating my friend’s boyfriend’s roommate, and at 17, I had sex (of a few sorts) with him for the first time. He was also the first person with whom I tried some light bondage play. When that relationship ended, there were a few more boyfriends, with whom I had more sex.
During my 20th year on this planet, despite all my intellectual knowledge and a fair amount of sexual experience, I got pregnant. I chose to abort that pregnancy for a number of reasons, even though I did want to eventually have children. I am so grateful I had the legal right to do so, and that I had access to those services.
It wasn’t until a little after my 21st birthday that I finally figured out how to orgasm. A sexual scene in a book I was reading, one which involved power, turned me on to an unexpected degree. After that, all it took was using my fingers on my clit in a few different ways until I found a good combination of physical and mental stimulation. Hm — yet another thing I owe to reading books.
At 27, I started doing some bondage modeling with the encouragement of my then-fiance. I continued doing that periodically for years, even after I realized at 30 that I was gay and ended my three-year marriage. I dated and had sex (of a few sorts) with women. I worked in insurance. After a couple of years I met a very charismatic woman and, when she needed a new place to live, invited her to move into my apartment with me; she turned out to be abusive in a few ways, and the whole fiasco cost me my job. After extricating myself from the wreckage of that, I decided to return to adult modeling to pay the bills and start taking classes at the local community college.
College has changed me in ways for which I am extremely grateful. Neither of my parents graduated from college. I had never wanted a degree, thinking they were just pieces of paper that didn’t portray a person’s intelligence or skills. I thought it would be like high school.
I never expected to enjoy the hell out of most of it, nor did I expect to have some of my most strongly-held beliefs gradually but completely flipped around by what I learned in my classes and heard from my classmates. I’d grown up in a religious family in a small white town; reading Ayn Rand at 16 had caused me to leave the church, but also led me to identify as an Objectivist, an individualist, and a capitalist. Now that I have a fuller understanding of the world and of American history and society, I identify as an intersectional feminist.
I was sexually assaulted at 33. I’ll write about that separately at some point.
At age 34, I came across a blog post about phthalates. I was incensed. I’d experienced a terrible stinging and burning one day while using a squishy vibrator I’d had awhile, and now I knew what had caused it. How could these manufacturers put this stuff in sex toys, knowing they were going into women’s vaginas? I began talking to all my friends about it, and bought only silicone sex toys from then on. I dated more women.
At 36, I met someone through a social group for lesbians. At the time this person identified as a woman, albeit a very gender nonconforming one. Over the course of five years we dated and eventually lived together, then got engaged. During our sixth year together, ze began seeing a counselor and then came out to me as trans. After a bit of introspection on my own identity, I realized that “queer” was a more accurate term for me than “gay woman.” (That relationship has ended, but I still find that to be true.)
I discovered EdenFantasys and their toy review program in 2012, and enthusiastically dove into learning about and reviewing and collecting lots of sex toys. Then things became very strange there, and I learned a lot about why this was not a company I wanted to be associated with. I created a Google Group to help all the fleeing reviewers stay in touch with each other. Shortly thereafter, I was awarded a scholarship to attend a Tristan Taormino workshop for sex educators in southern California. It was an informative and useful experience, but I was very short on sleep and my social anxiety kept me from connecting with all but a few of the other attendees.
And then I dropped off the face of sex toy writing for a couple of years. I was worn out and depressed and wanted to focus what energy I had on college classes. In 2014, I took a course in magazine writing that changed my life, and I knew that, despite my interest in psychology and teaching and biology and geology and anthropology and and and, THIS — writing, and editing — was where I belonged.
I promptly saddled myself with four journalism courses and a required math course for the spring semester. And I got through it successfully, somehow managing A’s in all of the journalism classes and a passing grade in the math class.
And then my closest friend gave me a gift certificate for my 40th birthday. I used it to buy a couple of new dildos from my SheVibe wishlist. And my obsession returned full force. I read loads and loads of sex blog posts, some for the second or third time, particularly those authored by Epiphora and Dangerous Lilly. And my then-partner said, “Maybe this is your thing. Maybe you should just write about sex and sex toys. You should start your own blog!”
I’m passionate about my beliefs — sometimes to my own detriment. I’m passionate about destigmatizing sexual pleasure of all consensual kinds. I’m passionate about access to safe sex toys and information on the harmful materials that are still far too common. About changing the toy industry paradigm that seems to say a given toy doesn’t need to actually be pleasurable, it just needs to be marketable, since most retailers don’t allow returns and most people don’t talk to their friends about the crappy toys they’ve purchased. When all of a person’s information on a product comes from a highly biased source like marketing, there’s no need for genuine quality. Right?
Wrong. LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX TOYS, baby.
So, welcome to my blog. I hope to become a reliable source of info on sex toys for anyone who has a vulva or has a sex partner with a vulva, and for all others who just want to know more about a given toy. I’ll be writing about other sexual topics, too, when the urge strikes me.
I do hope you’ll enjoy reading my thoughts. I will definitely enjoy sharing them with you.