The New York Times recently ran a piece called The Sex Toys in the Attic.
It’s a fairly mundane story about disposing of things in advance that might embarrass those who clean up after one’s death. Mundane except for the fact that the author specifically mentions “sex paraphernalia.”
Aside from the stilted language—are we talking about debris left behind after an orgy?—the author makes a (single) decent point: when you go through mom’s or grandad’s stuff, you may encounter things that make you blush, cheer, or both.
Fair enough. Do we need a whole article on this? Not really. But pan back just a bit, and there are a bunch of related issues that could have made the article richer: taking sex toys through airport security. Explaining your sex toys to your curious 10-year-old. Hosting a Tupperware-style sex toy party at your house. Asking a doc if you might be allergic to your favorite sex toy. Dealing with neighbors who want your support in banishing the sex toy store that just moved into the mall.
So there’s enough to think about for at least half an article.
The really interesting part of the Times article, though, was the reader comments. The dismay, the vitriol, the offense taken! Dozens of comments angrily assert that the article heralds the end of serious journalism as we know it (an opinion exposing someone as behind the times twice—once about sex, the other about journalism). Furthermore, since it’s about sex, it’s of course TMI for some readers sipping their morning coffee. And the sexuality of dad or grandma—WAAAY TMI.
So why the fuss over the 21st century version of the eggbeater, toaster-oven, or record-player?
We already know that talking about mom’s and dad’s sexuality is taboo. Better to talk about their false teeth, hearing aid, or bowel habits. These don’t require any stretching of the mind the way an image of mom’s orgasm does.
Sex toys take the taboo one step further, because they’re typically about masturbation. Or about deliberately reaching outside the bounds of “normal” or “natural” sex. And that’s where Americans come to a screeching halt—acknowledging that we masturbate. Or that we pursue pleasure with neither leering nor apology.
So sex toys + parents = gross.
Rounding out the picture, here are some other sexual activities on the honor roll of thou shalt not admit nor discuss:
“I’d like a finger in my butt”
“Go ahead, pinch my nipples harder”
“Right when I come, maybe you could slap me”
“Let’s imagine me going down on your ex-husband”
“You could pretend to force me to do this”
“I hate when you tease me—please do it more”
Plenty of Americans say such things. But many, many Americans want to, and don’t. They can’t, it’s too…too…honestly sexual. My patients hope that their partner will stumble onto these things, or come up with the idea on their own. That would make it a win-win—they’d get what they want sexually without having to acknowledge their desire.
That’s the real problem here: that while most of us can admit that we crave money, chocolate, fame, a bigger house, a smaller waistline, or less back pain, too few of us can admit what we crave sexually. Especially if it’s our own hand, or a Hitachi Magic Wand, or both.
I encourage people to consider changing that. Their partners will almost certainly be pleased. And then the REAL pillow talk can start.