Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Hi! We’re Anna and Elliott. This is the first installment of our first column, K.I.N.K. (Keeping Intercourse New and Kinky!). We are two people in a relationship, we really like to talk about sex and toys and kink, and now it looks like we’ll be talking about that stuff on the internet. Which sounded really fun in an abstract kind of way, but now that we’ve sat down to write our first column, it’s actually terrifying, so bear with us!
We’re the kind of people who say the word “dildo” on a daily basis and probably regularly overshare about our sex lives to our eye-rolling friends and acquaintances. We’re hoping that this public forum will be a cool space for other people who like to talk about sex, too. We are by no means sexperts, but we think that we have an important and seldom heard perspective. Right about now, if you’re still reading this, you probably have a few questions, but we don’t know what they are so we’ll just do some personal sharing instead:
What is your “important and seldom heard perspective?”
From what we can tell, there aren’t lots of queer sex columns (outside of the Swat Bubble, at least). And we’re both pretty queer.
1a) But how queer are you?
Eh, pretty queer.
1b) But what kind of queer are you?
The awkward kind. But in all seriousness, in the spirit of openness and transparency, here are the deets: Anna is a queer-identified cis woman, and Elliott is a queer-identified trans guy. We’ll talk about how we’ve navigated touchy gender and sexuality topics with friends and family in future articles.
What kind of sex do you like?
All kinds, really. While we’re both pretty satisfied with some vanilla, missionary style sex, we’ll mainly be focusing on kink in this column. We’ll discuss kink in more detail and define what that means in the future.
We’ll be drawing from our own experiences involving kink. While there are some that we haven’t personally experimented in, we hope that this doesn’t limit the discussion, and we will provide a resource and guide for anyone interesting in learning about kink.
Which brings us to our next topic: body safety and toys. With the sex toy industry booming, there are tons of different types of dildos, vibrators, kegel exercisers, prostate massagers, lubricants, etc. available for purchase. Toys can often have a certain taboo associated with them or evoke the image of middle-aged white folks re-exploring their sexuality in a last ditch attempt to rekindle the romance. However, we think sex toys are for everyone and can be a great way to enhance sex and explore new kinks. But which ones are safe to use, and which ones aren’t?
A body-safe toy is one without dangerous chemicals (such as phthalates, which make plastics softer and more flexible, but also cause genital irritation and have been linked to damage of reproductive organs and the liver) and is non-porous (so that it can be easily and thoroughly disinfected and doesn’t retain bodily fluids).
When it comes to sex toys, safe materials include silicone, glass, and stainless steel.
Silicone is non-porous and can be sterilized by being boiled. Toys made with silicone tend to be more expensive than toys made of jelly or rubber, but they are really long lasting and durable. They can’t be used with silicone lube, so use a water-based alternative instead. We recommend Sliquid or Babeland brand water-based lubricant.
Glass toys are also non-porous and can be sterilized by being boiled as well. They can be used with silicone and water-based lubes. We recommend Überlube, but keep in mind that silicone lubes can’t be used with silicone toys and condoms.
Steel is pretty impervious to most damage and can be used with silicone and water-based lubes.
If you’re still a little confused, please refer to Figure 1.
Figure 1: Sex Toy Safety
Sex toys are readily available for purchase on the internet from a variety of companies (we’ve personally used Lelo, primarily a vibrator company, and Babeland, which sells a whole host of products). While the internet is usually easy and anonymous (if that’s a concern), it can also be a wide and confusing place. It can definitely be helpful to see sex toys in person, especially if you’re a first time shopper.
Our favorite in the area is The Sexploratorium. Located on 317 South St. in Philadelphia, it is a great place to start if you’re looking for body-safe toys. They’re a really sex-positive, non cis-/heteronormative shop that curates their collection of toys and supplies to make sure that customers have a safe and comfortable shopping experience. Unlike some sex shops that can only be described as sleazy, the Sexploratorium is dedicated to creating a serious, non-intimidating place for all kinds of shoppers.
We’re personal fans of the place. We’ve been known to visit it upwards of three times in one day, which is definitely excessive, but also Anna is part of the rewards program so we’re at least able to rationalize it. This is a great place to walk around, ask questions, and try out some of the models — not like that, but you’re free to test vibrators out on your nose to get a sense of the intensity. This can be a helpful, hands-on experience that really facilitates a comfortable and informative shopping experience.
It’s exciting to be able to write this sex column! In our next article, we’ll discuss navigating cis and trans relationships.