When I was 19 I moved to Halifax. Right on Barrington, across from the diner I worked in the kitchen, was and still is Venus Envy. That store changed my life, without question. It was where I bought my first, and second dildo, as well as where I first ever learned that transmasculine people existed in the world by looking over a copy of Body Alchemy by Loren Cameron.
I wanted desperately to work in that store, especially in contrast to the kitchen work I was doing, but also I knew from the first couple of times I found myself browsing and lurking, that I wanted to have the knowledge that the staff in that store had.
I would sit between the book shelves listening to the staff talk to each other and customers about body safe materials, negotiating trying new things, and the way that different lubes will work better or worse for any given body. I would try the tester lubes, excitedly giving them a slick between my fingers, smelling them, and tasting them. I followed their workshop calendar closely and wanted to know everything that there was to know.
Before that I had very little relevant or applicable sex education. I had skipped out on some of the school offerings as they didn’t align with the “no sex before marriage” values set that I had been given by my church and family of origin. The sessions I didn’t miss felt mostly irrelevant, seemingly at the time for those reasons, but with hindsight I can also see it was because they lacked gender nuance and any queer content. When I heard people talk about “sex education” I was pretty sure it must be a live show of some sort, and that I would not be following the straight and narrow path if I was to have anything to do with any of that. (Now though, I would love to be a part of live show sex ed…. another event for another day.)
A couple of years of time between the pious and virginal teen girl, and the newly out gender questioning dyke, had involved a “free love” counter culture where a crew of men continued to age while their disposable arm candy stayed young and naive.
I was so hungry for open, non-judgemental, science informed, pleasure driven, feminist, kinky, queer perspectives, conversations and experiences of sexuality. I never ended up getting a job at Venus Envy, but the path continued from there. I have worked many positions in sexual health and trained in somatic sex education since then and think I probably have at least as much knowledge as those retail workers I envied all those years ago.
But the thing about sex, bodies and pleasure, is that no matter how much information you may hold, the practical application of anything will be entirely unique for every unique body. The things that may be exciting or arousing to you, may not be for me, and vice versa. We come to learn what is good for us through trial and error, through experiments and experiences.
Toys though, can be expensive, non-returnable products to trial and error our ways through. Stores like Venus Envy, Good for Her, and Come as You Are all offer excellent service to guide the purchasing process, but sometimes we may be in the pre-pre-contemplation stages of the exploring, and even just finding the way through the inventory can be daunting.
Enter, the Sex Toy Show & Tell.
This event is for folks to come and share with the group a favourite toy(s). Tell us all about it, have you had it a long time? What is it good at? What are it’s limitations? Maybe you have a toy that you have loved for a long time, and know that it’s coming time to replace it, but aren’t sure with what. Maybe you made something and are really proud of it, and want to see if other people are interested in something like that. Maybe you are a sex educator and want practice talking to strangers about toys and what they are good at. Maybe you just really love meeting new people in the context of sharing in things that bring us joy and pleasure.
I hope to start running these events on the regular (possibly monthly), at which point we will have more specific theme nights (vibes, butt stuff, bondage, impact, insertables, furniture, straps etc) but for this initial event, all implements are welcome. Don’t worry about having something that is “the best”, fanciest, most expensive toy to come and participate. While we generally will always encourage safety, like flared bases for back ends and body safe materials, there is always room for the home made, the old faves, the hardware/kitchen supply goods with re-purpose.
The event is hosted in Topia, which is a social engagement platform where attendees can see and hear each other over video chat, but also have the opportunity to “move throughout the space”, allowing a more organic flow between conversations. It requires a chrome browser, headphones and a webcam. Test running topia before the event is recommended to make sure your technology is compatible.