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The first thing I see when I walk into Good Vibrations – the first thing that anyone probably sees, can’t avoid seeing – is the complex display of leather strap-on gear adorning the left wall of the store, each item accompanied by a label bearing a name like “Texas Two-Step” and “British Bulldog.” Below that is the stuff you’re supposed to be strapping yourself into, dildos of varying length and color and texture. There are “starter” dildos, dainty little fallices, smooth and refined, meant to introduce and insinuate and convince, and the mammoth-sized ones, thick and rough-feeling and definitely naughty, for the professionals.
I’m here with my friend Dania, who’s returning a couple of porns she and her boyfriend rented last night. And though I’ve been here before – it’s one of the stops on the tour of “must-see-only-in-San-Francisco-places” I like to take out-of-town visitors – I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten, you know, comfortable here. I walk in each time tentatively and sheepishly, afraid to look anyone in the eye, afraid to touch anything or linger too long in the S&M area or hover amongst the rabbit-shaped vibrators or root around the anal sex literature section. I’m not sure why – I mean, this is, like, THE sex-positive venue in the city, aimed at educating and entertaining and so absolutely not about making you feel evil for all those bisexual menage a trois bondage scenarios you’ve been fantasing about. Everyone who works here, they’re here to help and they know their shit. Like “The trouble with cyberskin is that it’s too porous and there’s really no way to sterilize it…” or “You might want to try this butt plug on your boyfriend if he’s a little afraid of the penetration factor…” These are the wafts of very helpful guidance I’ve overheard being doled out, and I listen precariously, hungry for the information but, I admit, a little afraid of it, too.
Being in this store with Dania, though, it’s a little like being led onto the playground by one of the popular kids no one in their right mind would mess with. She knows what she’s doing in this store, did not blink an eye renting and returning those videos, is not blinking isveçbahis an eye now, as she bends herself double at the waist and fondles the dildo display. And this feels like a kind of permission, like some silent okayness has passed between us and I am no longer the skittish anonymous tourist but a perfectly reasonable, healthy, sane, citified sexual being. Someone in this store knows me now, knows that I am here, and doesn’t give a shit whether I’m pouring over masturbation techniques or pressing each and every “on” button of the vibrator selection.
But it’s not as if some latent carnal creature comes roaring out. No, I settle down a bit that’s all, pick up a book called “Ebony Love,” then shift gears and read the instructions on the “Make Your Own Dildo” kit, look around, get the scene, smile to myself as I listen to the lesbian couple consulting the saleswoman about the “Western Wrangler” dangling from the wall…and realize how sexually uninitiated I feel in here. How vanilla my sex life looks in the shadow of this smorgasbord of accoutrements. Even if it’s not. I mean, even if I consider the fact that I’ve had a threesome with two different couples, even if I tag on my brief liason with a woman three years ago, even if I count the two times I’ve had anal sex, even if I throw in my generous and regular masturbation sessions…why still, after all this, do I feel clueless about so many things involving sex?
Maybe I should blame my mother. I’m sure a lot of people would blame their mothers for something like this. I think women my mother’s age probably weren’t programmed to think about sex in the way Good Vibes encourages, in the let’s-get-down-and-dirty-with-the-dildo-shaped-like-a-tree-trunk kind of way, and so it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t start me off very well when she gave me that book on caterpillars turning into butterflies when I was 10, didn’t calculate the harm in that, didn’t realize I was maybe a little too young to start dealing in metaphors – even as the nascent writer of nature poetry that I was – and besides, the book was just so fucking ridiculous, didn’t she see that, those wussy colored-pencil drawings trying isveçbahis giriş to do the legwork that the words wouldn’t dare to. Better, Mom, to have thrust me into “Our Bodies, Our Selves,” or at least something with photographs so that the tepidness of a statement like “A girl flowers into a young woman” would at least get some visual representation. I was definitely not flowering at 10, and certainly didn’t want to after reading that book on caterpillars. God, who would, those drawings and that verbiage made it seem like leprosy, like some moat-like fate, since once you were there you were stuck and inaccessible and no one could save you, you were a woman now and that’s what happened when that caterpillar that was you finished doing its shape-shifting.
Hey Mom, why couldn’t you have aired a screening of, say, “Behind the Green Door,” or taken me to Planned Parenthood or down Hollywood Boulevard late one night, something hard and real and obvious like that, something that might have made at least an interesting lasting impression, not this ludicrousness of an insect molting, no not that, because now, here I am, pretty much a full-blown adult capable of being entered by most of the devices on these Good Vibrations shelves, capable of all kinds of fantasy and fucking, and I am Dorothy all over again, virginal and squeamish in the face of this fascinating, multisensory, technicolored sex Oz, trying to imagine the force of a whip against my bare ass, trying to picture a scenario where liquid latex might be involved, and all I can think about are those anemic, sexless, prepubescent colored pencil caterpillars.
Or wait a minute, maybe I should blame my ever-so-faint squirming on the fact that I am not having sex right now, and so a visit here, to this store, at this juncture, is unavoidably more like foreplay and less like a penetrative act and so of course I am humbled, struck dumb, feet angled slightly towards the exit door should things get too tough. Were I here, primed and partnered, I might venture into these aisles with a purpose, with a particular and meaningful investigation of sex toys and fantasy paraphrenalia suitable for bedroom isveçbahis yeni giriş antics where I, with another body lying beside mine, could consider what to do with a tube of chocolate-flavored lubricant, where I might attempt an acrobatic feat with the double-barrelled dildo. I’d love that, would love to be coming here unburdened by the sociological mind-fuck I’m in right now, would love to maybe grab a feel of my phantom boyfriend’s cock while we scan the video jackets for suitable entertainment, or – why not – flirt casually with the salesgirl as she talks to us about foot worship. I’d enjoy this visit for more than the voyeuristic timidity it currently brings, this holy-crap-is-that-humanly-possible attitude. Yeah, you bet I’d be a fucking hero by now, and I mean a fucking hero, a woman-master-slave-dom-sub-rimming-fisting-cocksucking-vinyl-fetish-clit pierced-multi-orgasmic kind of hero, and I’d know what to do with the “Seahorse” and the “Pearl” and the “Chameleon,” would have a place to put them, would understand the shifting contours of my cunt during straight sex and the X-rated kind and how humanly possible things really are if someone is there to hold your legs open wide enough.
“Hey, D, look at this!” I am walking across the store with a book of vagina photographs and find Dania fingering the handcuffs. We stand there flipping through pages of pussy, and occasionally there’s a twitter from one of us about the shape and length and hirsuteness of one of the model cunts, and I am amazed at the variety, amazed at the complexity of the things that could go on down there, that do go on down there, amazed at the possibilities and permutations, and I wonder for the first time if sex is like snowflakes, how each time is unique and unreplicatable, and totally unlike anything else that preceded it or will come after it, and how good that is, how real and honest and sensible and perfect in its unfinishedness, since it’s destined, it turns out, for something else after it’s reached the zenith of its shape. And how good and real and honest and sensible and yes, unfinished, I am, and destined for something else beyond my current shape, and okay, I admit it, maybe you were right on the money, Mom, perhaps, yes, even a caterpillar, perhaps a perpetual caterpillar, turning and turning and turning, and becoming something all the time, in a way that I am not supposed to notice.
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