Last Friday night, I sat curled on the couch in my college girlfriend’s living room, sipping wine and looking at a giant, pulsating, neon-purple dildo. The tip was rotating in quite unnatural fashion, and the wings of a little butterfly perched atop the base vibrated so quickly they were nearly invisible.
The woman standing in front of the room held the dildo much as you would a spatula or a hairbrush, swinging it around, punctuating her sentences with it. She continued her description of the apparatus (somehow making four-letter words sound more scientific than pornographic) without seeming the least bit distracted by its constant buzzing. But, then again, this was her job—to host ‘Passion Parties,’ the X-rated version of the Tupperware party. Here, you don’t buy a lidded casserole dish. You buy vibrating underwear and chocolate-flavored lube.
I glanced around at the rapt group of girls who sat in a horseshoe around the host. The one wearing the pink ‘Bachelorette’ sash was open-mouthed; the girl next to her was nodding at the dildo approvingly. Behind me, someone giggled, and still another asked if the toy came in pink. The evening continued like this, the host nonchalantly pulling strange objects from her bag, the rest of us gaping and giggling at them like a bunch of prepubescent kids at their first sex-ed class.
As the evening progressed, though, girls started to open up. “I’ve tried that,” one said. “Oh yeah, the cord on that one is a little annoying,” said another. “My husband was totally freaked out by that one,” said someone else. I slowly realized that I was one of the only attendees—maybe one out of 15—that had never used anything that could be even remotely classified as a sex toy. In fact, the only electronic devices I’ve ever brought into bed are my Kindle and a booklight. So much for being an evolved, modern female in charge of her sexuality. When compared to my friends, I was a cavewoman.
The next morning, our group trekked to a tiny third-floor studio for a pole-dancing class. A disco ball hung from the ceiling and hot-pink light bulbs gave the place a mysterious, red-light-district feel. We gamely changed into the costumes that were provided—complete with knee-high white vinyl platform boots and booty-shorts—and watched in awe as our instructor swung dizzying circles around one of the poles. She gyrated in front of us, hung upside down from her ankles, slithered across the floor. We all were impressed, if not a little scared of her.
And then it was our turn. She told us to rely on our momentum, instead of upper-body strength, to bravely launch ourselves around the pole with one arm, to catch hold of the pole with our opposite leg, and then gracefully circle downwards to the floor. My friend, who was dressed as a sexy pirate, caught on immediately. Another friend, wearing a cute pink halter top, looked almost angelic as she swung to the ground, hair flying out behind her.
“Lefty, your turn,” the instructor said to me. I grabbed hold of it with my left hand, stuck out my right arm with a flourish, and lurched forward. I clumsily smacked back into the pole, and my right foot never left the ground. I didn’t even rotate once. It was a failure of epic proportions.
Then we learned a chair dance routine. Maybe this was where I’d shine, I thought. And I was pretty good, especially at the hair-swinging part. So, great, I thought as we left the studio. I can do a chair dance. But our plastic IKEA kitchen chairs back home are decidedly unsexy. Our antique wooden chairs belonged to my mom, so it would be weird to straddle them. And our acrylic Philippe Stark Louis Ghost dining chairs would get scratched if I ever perched a platform heel on them. Plus, if I ever blasted ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and gyrated on any one of our chairs, J. would probably laugh. We’re strong and happy—as a couple, we just work—but we’re just not all that X-rated.
Still, I felt weirdly powerful after the weekend ended. Funny how one little Passion Party and a pole-dancing class can do that to you. I left Boston feeling like Emily 2.0, a strong woman who may or may not have purchased something at a Passion Party, who stomped around for two hours in knee-high white vinyl stripper boots, and—though she may not have managed to swing around the pole gracefully—learned to seriously get her swagger on. And every marriage can use a bit more of that.
Have any of you ever branched out into things like sex toys or pole dancing to keep things interesting with your groom? Please tell me I’m not the only one finding themselves in uncharted waters with this stuff.