Review: The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Sex Toys

I was delighted to find The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Sex Toys in my mailbox from Cleis Press. This slim volume, edited by Violet Blue, promised to be a quick and fun read, and toys are quickly becoming an important part of the sex postive activist’s arsenal as more advocates focus on the importance of toy safety and finding sexual pleasure through technology. But does this book deliver on quality information?

Yes, more or less. Blue provides a range of information on toy options as well as safety information, communication advice, and ideas for newbies. This guide is firmly aimed at the beginner straight couple, though. Folks who live in urban areas and are comfortable talking about sex out loud can get any of the toy-specific information for free from their friendly local sex shop employee, or with a little research from reputable blogs. The communication advice is solid, but nothing particularly unique. This book would be best for folks who want to “spice it up” with a partner and prefer to get all the information in one place, in written form, where they can read it in private.

Though it’s not indicated in the title or any introductory clarification, this book is specifically for straight couples. Some of the advice could apply to queer folks, but that’s not the audience. The language pretty much ignores trans people in terms of pronoun use, and there’s no helpful information about toys trans people might especially enjoy or about how some people consider “toys” part of their body (for example, in a section on dildos Blue notes that you can give a “mock blowjob”).

Finally, I would have appreciated a little more information about specific toy recommendations for specific physical concerns or about what different people may prefer. A lot of the language is general, and while there are caveats such as “most people like,” the book could use even more information about specific sensation preferences and how they relate to toys. For example, folks who prefer very powerful, concentrated stimulation often enjoy the hitachi, but those who are looking for deep but less intensely focused buzz might prefer one of the higher end models that do a more “rumbly” pattern, like the Lelo.

Overall, a good resource for the target market, but regular readers of this blog who are already well versed in sexuality topics may want to give this one a pass.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.

Can Kinky Play and Fantasies Be a Healthy Place to Play Out Identity-Based Fears?

Earlier this year, I attended a workshop on extreme play and playing with fear. The audience was entirely queer, and when we were were asked to list some fantasy scenarios in the realm of the class, participants eventually moved beyond more general fantasies such as rape, torture, and playing with phobias and into fantasies involving homophobia, transphobia, bashing, and rape scenes with a specific queer-shaming component.

Perhaps this is surprising in a room full of mostly healthy, sex-positive, self-actualized queers, but I actually find it to be a fairly predictable direction for fantasies to go. When relieved of the need to be okay with something actually happening, it seems fairly normal for fantasies to tend towards the taboo, and perhaps especially towards the directly personal taboo. After all, those of us who are marginalized in some way spend much of our days dealing with people being jerks about our identities or simply exercising privilege, explaining our identities to others, setting boundaries, commiserating with similarly-identified friends, etc. For many of us, one or more identities are constantly on our minds, whether that’s our preference or not, and we spend a lot of time policing what’s okay with reference to our identities. We may also spend a lot of time being policed by those in and out of our identity group–“are you just going to let that slide?” “You need to spend more time on activism!” “Before you have sex, be sure to negotiate language around your body, or they’ll walk right over you.”

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