One of my favourite things on my travels has been to check out the State of the American Sexual Nation at various sex shops around the country. My favourite and the most friendly I have come across has to be this one in Northampton, Massachusetts called, Oh My. Here’s me and the woman who runs it, Carol Gesell. She caught my attention when I heard her say to a customer, “I think these are going to be the future.” I crept over to see what she was talking about because it’s always interesting to see what the future of sex might be. It turns out to be this:
They are “Pick and Mix pleasure vibrators,” from www.oohjejoue.com. You get a basic motor and attach it to a variety of tops: the vibrating cock ring in mint green, for instance.
Another thing that’s going to be big for the future is this book: Girl Sex 101 by Alison Moon.
Carol said it was so great because, “If you’re a woman and you come across some genitals you’re not sure what to do with, this can help you out.” She was talking about the transgender thing. Enlarged clitorises and the like on trans men.
The other new thing is the fact that the famous Hitachi wand now finally got more than two settings.
I first came across the Hitachi wand (now known as the “Magic Wand”) at Betty Dodson’s masturbation workshop. It’s the size of a rolling pin and rumbles like a cement mixer. It had two settings and a friend of mine said, “Don’t even try the second setting for 3 years or it will fry your clit.” Carol informed me that it now has lots of different settings for sensitive, um, souls like me. She says she has one customer, a local farmer, who “burns through Magic Wands”. He has a dodgy shoulder. At least that’s what he’s telling her. Carol says that the Wand is also the kind of sex toy that you can leave out “when the grand kids come over” because, well, it looks at though it could be a shoulder massager. Actually, I can joke but the Wand did wonders for a very stiff lower back the other day.
Vibrators have come a long way, Carol said, since her shop opened 13 years ago. Here is the “New Wave” double header which can be used girl/girl or girl/boy for advanced forms of “pegging.” I suggested a story on pegging to the Sunday Times Style editor back in January but she looked nervous and said, “I’m not sure how I’d talk about anal penetration at morning conference with the editor.”
In the old days, Carol would get vibrator deliveries and there’d be oil and grease in the box from all the crap coming out of them. So Carol helped form the “Progressive Pleasure Club” which has a network of super hero sex toy testers stretching from Maine to New Mexico.
At that moment, a young man came to the counter to buy lube. Carol told him, “When I started out, lube was for old people. Young folks used to say, ‘I’m juicy enough!’” The young man smiled. It turned out he was a medical student from New York up to visit his girlfriend in Northampton for the weekend. I told him about my fantastic stay with Joycelyn Elders last year, the former Surgeon General who was fired in 1994 by Clinton for saying masturbation should be talked about in schools. One of her current campaigns is to get medics to have more than 10 hours of teaching in their 5 years of study about human sexuality. The medic said that yes, this was unfortunately still the case. I told him about the Joycelyn Elders Chair of Human Sexuality which started at Minnesota university last year in order to try and change this state of affairs. He said that sounded great. At least future doctors are being brave enough to venture into sex shops for lube rather than buying is sneakily off the net. He said goodbye and Carol bade him farewell, urging him to “have some good sex!” with his purchase.
Carol doesn’t call her shop a “sex shop” she refers to it as a “sensuality shop,” Here is proof with her “Pussy Pillow” accessory. A soft toy vulva which could be instructive for those too nervous about attending Betty Dodson’s masturbation masterclasses.
Oh My’s decor is also unusual for a sex shop. I liked this Meissen porcelain-meets-The Hoist vibe in one corner of the store.
Then I went to the local River Valley Co-Op to buy food for tea for me and my host, Meg and her girlfriend, Jenn.
Here is the tattoo of one of the till workers
This guy was so friendly and helpful I wasn’t sure if he was high or not. He wouldn’t let me pack my bags or anything. It was like being at a spa. And of course, this being a big egg head town (home to Amherst University, Mount Holyoke and Smith) you don’t just have a donkey tattoo on your arm, it has to be a revolutionary donkey tattoo, as he told me, inspired by George Orwell’s 1984. Carol Gessel says she gets a lot of Smith students coming into Oh My. It’s a women-only college. “I like to get them in the first year and groom them,” she said. “If I get a fourth year coming in I give them grief. I say, “where have you been all this time?’”
Her advice to first time dildo and vibrator buyers is not to spend a lot of money. “Until you work out what you like.” This made me think of Betty Dodson’s Sex for One book where she talks about how she ran “dildo carving workshops” in the 1970s using courgettes. This is a good way for those on a small budget to find out if, as per the Karma Sutra, your vagina is deer (small), mare (medium) or elephant (large).