Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Are you in the market for a sex toy but bewildered by the abundance of options? Be wildered no more! The Sexual Health Counselors will be giving a workshop on Tuesday evening on some basic kinds of toys, what they do, how to pick one out, and how to use them safely. There will be a raffle too, so you could go home with a brand new toy of your own. The Daily Gazette talked with SHC Sasha Raskin ’09 to get a preview of the event.
Daily Gazette: What’s the overall goal of the workshop?
Sasha Raskin: It’s meant to be educational, to let people know what’s out there, how it can be used, and how to pick a toy for yourself if you want one.
DG: So no demonstrations?
SR: Not physical, no. There will be toys there though so people can see what they’re like. It’s pretty much impossible to do a workshop without toys; they make way more sense when you can see them in person.
DG: Are you of the school of thought that everyone’s life would benefit from more toys?
SR: No, but I think a lot of peoples’ lives would, much more than they think. Toys can provide something that a lot of bodies can’t: different kinds of stimulation, for example. And it’s definitely worth trying [sex toys] out, because a lot of people need the added stimulation. And they’re toys: they’re meant to be fun. And fun is good.
DG: What kinds of toys will you be talking about at the workshop? And what sort of shopping tips are you providing?
SR: A very wide range: vibrators, dildos, buttplugs and anal beads, harnesses, cockrings, and prostate stimulators. Shopping tips have a lot to do with “everyone’s different, know what’s toxic, and smaller is usually better”.
DG: That last bit sounds like something people might get confused about a lot.
SR: Yeah, there’s this notion in society that bigger is always better, especially with things involving sex, but more often than not it actually isn’t true. The reason I’m doing the workshop is because I worked at a feminist sex toy shop [The Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis] for four months this past summer and semester, and that was the most common issue that came up.
DG: What about the shop makes it “feminist”?
SR: That it’s really about education and being sex positive, and a resource instead of a place that’s mostly just exploitative of women’s bodies. We talked to everyone who came in, just about, and answered questions. However long it took; if it took an hour then we talked for an hour.
DG: What role do you think sex toys, or learning about them and using them, play in redefining social ideas about sex?
SR: I think it’s important in creating a sex-positive world. In a very broad sense, realizing that sex can be fun and more about learning about our own bodies instead of fearing them is important. Toys can really help with that because they can encourage exploration and learning. Also, it goes a long way in tearing down the idea that missionary sex is the only sex, because really that doesn’t work for a lot of people, especially women. And if we’re going to be talking about sex as pleasure, we should try to make it pleasurable and make it okay to do what feels good instead of stigmatizing it.
DG: So, I heard you asked SBC for $1200 to buy raffle prizes. How’d that go?
SR: Well, it wasn’t just for raffle prizes; it was for the “models” and raffle prizes. It actually went really well. They’re strapped for cash so they couldnt give me all of it, but for the most part they were very positive about the workshop and the need to have toys there. So I ended up with just under $400, and the Smitten Kitten gave me a great discount so I could still stick with my vision for the workshop.
DG: Can I ask what the raffle prizes are?
SR: The prizes include dildos, vibrators, cock rings, and butt plugs. Obviously the models aren’t being raffled because you want your toys to be clean, but SHCs will be using them for future workshops, hopefully.
DG: Is the workshop a brand new event?
SR: I haven’t been to one before, but I’m not the authoritative source on that. There have been other workshops that talked about toys — Tristan Taoramino’s Anal Sex 101, for example, during Sager Symposium in 2006.
DG: What sort of person is your ideal workshop attendee? Or, who will benefit the most from showing up ready to be educated?
SR: Anyone with an open mind, really. I hope to see a wide range of people with different levels of experience, different bodies, different genders, everything. I don’t know about a specific “ideal attendee”.
DG: Last question: do you have a favorite among the toys you’ll be demonstrating? Or one that you’d recommend most enthusiastically? And why?
SR: That’s hard….I think the Laya Spot is a great toy. It’s a little, external vibe that can either lay on the vulva or cup the balls — which a lot of people love! — and it has a wide range of speeds and even some pulses, and it’s cute and tiny — very versatile.
DG: [looks it up online] Oh, it’s totally cute!
SR: Yep! Unfortunately, expensive. And that’s a huge problem with toys that are actually body-safe. I’ll be talking about this at the workshop too. A lot of cheap toy materials are actually toxic, and totally unregulated because they’re sold as “novelties”.
DG: So you get what you pay for, in a sense.
SR: Sometimes. You have to know. The toys I’ll have range price-wise too.
The workshop will take place on Tuesday at 8:30 in the Kitao Gallery.