I went to a sex toy party and I learned some things

For the latest episode of On the Rag, notorious prude Alex Casey enlisted the help of sex toy expert and pleasure therapist Teddy Curle. 

It sounds a bit like ingredients for an avant-garde stir-fry recipe. Cauliflower. Kūmara. A jar of Vegemite. But what it actually is, sex toy expert Teddy Curle tells me, is a list of things that frequently get stuck up people’s butts in New Zealand, and why we need to normalise talking about butt stuff so people can make safer choices. This is just one example of the very normal chit-chat you have when you are hosting a sex toy party – even more so when there are only two of you in attendance.

I have heaps of friends, I promise, they were just all busy that month. 

Sex toy parties are basically like your old-fashioned Tupperware parties, where an expert takes a group of curious, often tipsy, people on a comfortable, safe tour through their product range of pleasure. In the space of an hour, Teddy made sure that I was introduced to everything – butt plugs, vibrators, dildos, strap-ons, kegel balls, dental dams, cock rings, harnesses and something that looked a lot like a very intimate part of Hellboy’s nether-regions. 

Aside from being extremely giggly and fun, these parties serve an important purpose. The number of people buying sex toys in New Zealand has exploded thanks to online shopping, but the industry remains unregulated. Buying from international sites like Amazon and AliExpress means that cheap, toxic toys can easily end up in the wrong place. And by that I mean inside you. Teddy once put a bunch of cheap toys in a jar and was horrified to see them melt to form a horrible dildo hydra. 

After I had processed that, among the many other confronting images Teddy had put in front of me, we sat down to talk about what New Zealand can do to open up a bit more about sex. 

Okay, so is everyone using sex toys without me or what?

I think around 70% of people have used a sex toy at least once. It’s becoming much more culturally acceptable for people to have toys. It has historically been considered more of a thing for women, but male toys are definitely taking off. Things like the Fleshlight, masturbation sleeves, that sort of thing. I think that’s perfectly fine and healthy, so why not?

Much to think about

New Zealanders are also quite funny about sex. I mean, I definitely have wanted to leave the room on multiple occasions this afternoon. Why is that? 

We do have a slightly weird culture in that we are actually having a lot more sex than we are willing to talk about. Our attitudes towards having sex, being adventurous, and having lots of partners, are actually pretty progressive, but we don’t talk about it with anybody. What I find at my toy parties is that often people are finding out their best friend is doing all sorts of crazy things, but they’ve never spoken about it together. So it’s a very unique thing, where we do have this quite conservative culture but actually, deep down, we’re all freaks.

Where do you think that conservatism has come from? 

I would say it’s a colonial influence, to be perfectly honest. It’s the Britishness. We also don’t really have many voices in New Zealand that are advocates for sex positivity. We haven’t had as many radicals or revolutionaries as you might get in other countries and we don’t have our own version of Sex and The City. As terrible as some parts of Sex and The City were, it definitely normalised sexuality and women having sexuality and wanting sex. 

I feel like women in particular struggle to talk about pleasure, like somehow enjoying sex feels indulgent or guilty, you know what I mean? 

Think about what we currently get in our sex education – it’s all about reproduction. It’s not about pleasure, which [is] why we run into so many issues with consent. If we aren’t doing good, comprehensive sex education and talking about the purposes of sex that exist outside of having a child or not having a child, then people are unaware that pleasure is even part of sex for women. There are so many people who are surprised to find out that women can orgasm.

Much more to think about

If you’ve been told right from birth that men want sex and women don’t, you are probably not going to be internalising the message that you can experience pleasure and that it’s a good thing. I’ve met so many women have so many more mental blocks to experiencing pleasure than men do. There’s a whole mental element not only accepting of their own pleasure, but of their own bodies and what that pleasure means as well. 

But basically, in this day and age, it’s 2019. We should all be having as many orgasms as we want to or don’t want to have. 

So what else can people like me do if they want to be more chill about sexy stuff? 

Just start talking about it. Go to a shop. Take your friend. Send a link. Start talking about it. I’m in a lot of anonymous Facebook groups where people ask sex questions and I’m telling you, the desire to speak about it is there. It’s just dropping the idea that nobody wants you to talk about it. We all do want to talk about it, we’re just worried other people don’t want to.

On the Rag is made with the support of NZ On Air

Watch episode one of On the Rag: ‘Periods’ here

Watch episode two of On the Rag: ‘Body hair’ here

Watch episode three of On the Rag: ‘Being Online’ here

Watch episode four of On the Rag: ‘Ageing’ here

Watch episode five of On the Rag: ‘Abortion’ here

Watch episode six of On the Rag: ‘Sex Positivity’ here

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