Does everybody know about Oh Joy Sex Toy? Erika Moen launched OJST in 2014 as a weekly web comic providing fun, accessible, easy-breezy adult sex education in the format of reviewing sex toys. At first Moen set out to sample whatever toys she came across on the market or that were sent to her as “promotional copies,” usually in the company of her GGG British-born husband Matthew Nolan. Based in Portland, Oregon, they self-published the first year’s series of comics in book form, and it was enough of a hit to persuade them to make it an annual publishing event. They’re up to Volume 4 now (the Kickstarter campaign is in full swing, which is basically a way to subsidize production by pre-ordering a copy of the book — hardcore fans can also buy signed prints, apparel, and other swag).
Over time they’ve invited guest artists to contribute strips that range from product reviews to more general ruminations on sex, sexual health, and the sex industry, writ large. Just scanning the list of topics in the OJST archive is both impressive and hilarious (curved penis!period sex! brain orgasm science! wax! how to survive your first dungeon party!). The tone is unapologetically sex-positive and un-snarky. Moen and her contributors are cheerleaders for sexual pleasure and exploration, and their enthusiastic and shameless approach goes a long way toward making virtually anything having to do with sex completely normal. Maybe not every household spends as much time and energy discussing butt toys, lube, kink, and sexual hygiene as these folks do. But spend a little time with it, and their effervescence is likely to rub off. And before you know it, you may find yourself checking out the comic sci-fi webcomic Oglaf, and then…look out, world!
Peggy Orenstein has written very well for many years about the issues confronting young women in American culture. An excerpt from her new book, Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, was published in the Sunday New York Times today that directly addresses the question “When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?” While much has been written and discussed about the impact of pornography on how young men learn about and practice sex, not so much has been said about the same subject as it applies to young women.
A passage that stood out for me:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach all 16 components the agency recommends as essential to sex education. Only 23 states mandate sex ed at all; 13 require it to be medically accurate.
Even the most comprehensive classes generally stick with a woman’s internal parts: uteruses, fallopian tubes, ovaries. Those classic diagrams of a woman’s reproductive system, the ones shaped like the head of a steer, blur into a gray Y between the legs, as if the vulva and the labia, let alone the clitoris, don’t exist. And whereas males’ puberty is often characterized in terms of erections, ejaculation and the emergence of a near-unstoppable sex drive, females’ is defined by periods. And the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. When do we explain the miraculous nuances of their anatomy? When do we address exploration, self-knowledge?
No wonder that according to the largest survey on American sexual behavior conducted in decades, published in 2010 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers at Indiana University found only about a third of girls between 14 and 17 reported masturbating regularly and fewer than half have even tried once. When I asked about the subject, girls would tell me, “I have a boyfriend to do that,” though, in addition to placing their pleasure in someone else’s hands, few had ever climaxed with a partner.
Boys, meanwhile, used masturbating on their own as a reason girls should perform oral sex, which was typically not reciprocated. As one of a group of college sophomores informed me, “Guys will say, ‘A hand job is a man job, a blow job is yo’ job.’ ” The other women nodded their heads in agreement.
I love that Orenstein is calling attention to the discrepancy between the sex education that schools offer kids and what porn teaches them. And I love that enlightened sex educators like Carol Queen, who co-founded the women’s sex-toy emporium Good Vibrations in San Francisco, take it as their mission to teach people not just about sex but about pleasure. Her newly published The Sex and Pleasure Book, co-written with Shar Rednour, is a valuable resource for anyone’s sexual health bookshelf alongside Erika Moen’s web comic (collected into two book-length volumes so far) Oh Joy, Sex Toy.
One of the best things about having a self-proclaimed Big Honking Geek for a boyfriend is that he is thoroughly conversant with the wide world of web comics and frequently turns me on to artists whose work is hilarious, outrageous, beautiful, and/or instructional. Latest example: Oh Joy Sex Toy, the blog by Erika Moen who reviews sex toys for a living and writes up her responses in posts that are delightfully graphic in every sense of the word. She recently posted the most thorough, accessible, user-friendly guide to pleasuring a female partner I think I’ve ever seen. Check out “How To Eat Pussy” — like everything on her site, it’s decided NSFW but adult sex education at its finest.
The artist is from Portland, Oregon (wouldn’t you know). Here she is talking about her work and how you can both benefit from it and support her:
The cover story in the Sunday New York Times Magazine this week reports on “the pharmaceutical quest to give women a better sex life.” An excerpt from Daniel Bergner’s new book What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, the article made me sad and annoyed. It tells women who have been married for 15 years and aren’t interested in having sex with their husbands “There May Be a Pill for That.” That’s the refrain of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, which is fervently trying to find a chemical compound that they can market to women that will become the financial bonanza Viagra became in treating erectile dysfunction for men. I’m all for anything that results in people having better sex, but in my experience focusing on mechanics rather than pleasure tends to create anxiety and frustration more than satisfaction. Clearly, keeping a sexual spark alive in any long relationship challenges everybody, and what a grotesque misunderstanding of how intimacy works to think that a magic pill can create desire where no desire exists.
Luckily, there are other smart people out there working in this field. I’ve known about Nicole Daedone and her One Taste centers for a few years. I only just now watched her 2011 TED Talk, which impressed me tremendously and moved me to tears a few times. (TED Talks do that to people, like Barbara Walters interviews and the Readers Write section of The Sun magazine.) She contests the diagnosis that is getting hyped in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of “hypoactive female sexual desire disorder” — she prefers to call it “pleasure deficit disorder.” And she’s devised a simple 15-minute sexuality practice to treat it. She makes a case for the notion that “turned-on women (and those who dare to stroke us) will change the world.”
Pamela Madsen is a prolific blogger, teacher, and pleasure activist whose writings and retreats guide women through the journey to sexual awakening that she herself describes in her book Shameless.
And this week on the website Oh Joy Sex Toy, cartoonist Erika Moen writes a paean to Babeland, the women’s sex-toy emporium, which helped correct the horrible misinformation about sex she learned from her mother and taught her to respect and enjoy her own body.
Those are just a couple of examples of how women have been thinking about, talking about, researching and practicing simple ways of expanding female sexual pleasure. Check them out, let me know what you think, and tell me about other pioneers doing exceptional work in this arena.