Passing the tubes of oils, lotions and lubricants from person to person, I was reminded of those Tupperware parties we women of a certain age attended. (Are those still happening?) But instead of learning how to “burp” food containers, we were encouraged to sample each emolument.
“On your hands please,” joked Jeannine*, a Certified Sexual Health Consultant. “You can try other places later. Which reminds me,” she added. “Anything you want to buy can be done individually in private,” she said, pointing to the adjacent room where orders would be placed.
“If you remember nothing else from today,” Jeannine continued, “let it be this one word: Lubrication. That is the secret to having a wonderful, healthy vagina.”
Never before had I heard “lubrication” and “vagina” uttered in the same sentence in a public lecture. But then again, never before had I participated in a sex toy party. Why is this 70-year-old widow learning about slicking her “wonderful, healthy vagina?” Credit – or blame – for this gathering goes directly to Lilith Magazine. Arielle Silver-Willner’s article Democratizing Pleasure in the Frum Bedroom was the topic of discussion at a recent South Florida Lilith salon. None of the dozen members of our group is strictly religiously observant, but instead we zeroed in on one sentence from the piece: “Products such as dilators and dildos can prevent vaginal atrophy, which is common in women who haven’t been sexually active in a long time.”
Since most of us are over sixty and single, we had arranged this sex toy party to learn how to avoid genital degeneration. At least, that’s what we told ourselves.
Locating a sex toy purveyor turned out to be easier than expected. One salon participant had discovered that a synagogue member dabbled in this unexpected sideline when calling her to schedule a delivery of Rosh Hashanah honey. Reaching the member’s voice mail, she heard: “If you’re calling for a party to demonstrate sexual pleasure enhancement, please leave a message.” Thinking she had the wrong number, the caller hung up, re-dialed, and heard the same recording again. Forget the honey, she thought. This lady’s New Year is already off to a sweet start.
The synagogue-sex-toy seller couldn’t make the next Lilith salon date, so she suggested we reach out to her colleague, Jeannine. Evidently, there are more undercover sources for adult toys than we may realize!
Jeannine began by distributing a product catalog and business card. After reiterating the dangers of vaginal dryness in older women, she produced various lotions and oils for our consideration.
We sampled creams that not only felt good, but sounded delicious–French Vanilla, Ripe Blackberry, Hot Buttered Rum began lubricating my taste buds. Most of the products were water-soluble and could be used in the shower. The lubricants were also good for what Jeannine called “marathon sex,” and wouldn’t need to be reapplied.” (If only, I sighed.)
Pushing aside the tubes and jars, Jeannine continued, “We need to talk about orgasms.” She explained that there are three types of orgasms: clitoral, which we were most familiar with; g-spot, which can be found “two inches in and one inch back”; and anal, a word that automatically clenches my tush.
Sex toys for each type of orgasm were produced, including some “dual action” devices, which hit more than one spot. We were encouraged to experience the warming or air-blowing features of each device–one vibrated so energetically it skidded off the table. Jeannine showed us a dildo that could suction to the floor. Lowering her body over it, she quipped, “Squats will never be the same.”
My personal favorite was a vibrator worn in the underpants and activated with a hand-held, remote-control clicker. I could imagine wearing such a device at the grocery store or bank. Long waits at the Department of Motor Vehicles would be transformed into delightful delays.
Thinking about such enjoyment, I realized that the word “pleasure” undergirded the entire presentation. We had supposedly gathered to revitalize our aging vaginas, but we also wanted to experience more physical pleasure. And why not? As the Lilith article stresses, “Pleasure is a ‘divine gift’ and most interpretations of Judaism recognize the value of it for its own sake.” Sexual satisfaction for both partners in a marriage is lauded in the Talmud. Employing a unique understanding of biology, the rabbis even believed beautiful children resulted from sexual enjoyment. What’s more, those ancient male rabbis wanted women to want it. As Maggie Anton notes in her book, Fifty Shades of Talmud, “The greater a woman’s desire for her husband when they are intimate, the greater their children.”
Not all religions recognize or relish such physical enjoyment. When I told a Catholic friend about this gathering, she said, “My Catholic women’s groups would never do such a thing,” laughing at the mere thought of it. “You Jewish women are really something.”
And I guess she’s right. By the end of the session, we were nonchalantly discussing the merits of vibrators as if they were Tupperware containers. One woman confessed that she wouldn’t be making any purchases today because her own device works just fine. Those of us with grown daughters even considered purchasing gift certificates so they could select their own products. Why not encourage them to enjoy life to its fullest?
About half of the attendees ended up meeting privately with Jeannine, but I was too busy taking notes for this essay. Now I wish I had secured one of those clicker-operated vibrators. My driver’s license expires soon.
*Not her real name.
Nancy Kalikow Maxwell is an award-winning writer and author of six books. Her latest book, Typically Jewish, was published by the Jewish Publication Society and her website is www.kaliwellinc.com.