One of the big perks of being a sex writer is that PR companies are thirsty as hell to send you free samples in the hope that you’ll write about their products. That means I’m not exactly rich, but I’m wealthy in product.
When I lived at home for a time in 2018, I would get box after box of product. We have a whole area in the garage that was stacks on stacks of vibrators, dildos, anal plugs, and more. What a time to be alive in rural Illinois, eh?
I first considered giving my mom a sex toy when I was doing some research on toys that would work for people with disabilities. She has severe arthritis and holding things is very difficult for her. I was sent a brief on the Minna Limon, a very small and squishy sex toy which vibration intensity increases the more you squeeze it. This felt like the perfect thing for my mom.
I’ll pause here and say that my family is pretty sex-positive overall. But there were definitely some mixed messages growing up from my mom. Sex was OK, but only if you really love the person. Don’t have sex with a guy too soon, or he won’t want to date you. But I also heard: “Masturbation,” although she never called that, “is normal.” “Sex is fun.” and “Sex is super important in healthy relationships.”
My dad is pretty positive about sex, too. We don’t talk about personal sex stuff, per se (and I am GOOD with that), but he’s openly proud of what I do as a sexual health writer, tells everyone he meets to buy my book (which is raunchy AF), and often sends me lists like “Amazon’s top erotica books of 2020” to “inspire my writing.” It’s pretty dang cute, I’m not going to lie.
I never heard the word “clitoris” growing up, nor was I told about sex toys. I don’t attribute that to my mother being ashamed of sex, but rather the unfortunate remnants of lessons handed down by her militant Catholic mother. I’m pretty sure my mom just didn’t even know what a clitoris was. In fact, I’ve had to do a lot of the educating around sex when it comes to my mom.
I’m not saying you need to give your parents sex toys, but openly acknowledging that we’re all sexual human beings benefits society.
I distinctly remember finding a big purple, scary, plastic, phallic sex toy in my parents’ room at one point, and while I don’t feel awkward about it, I now feel sad that she felt the need to hide it. And back then, there were so few quality, body-safe materials out there that she was using something cheap—and possibly unsafe. (Truth be told, I don’t have an opinion on the purple penis part; everyone likes what they like!)
So when I gave my mom the Minna Lemon, she was seriously over-the-moon. She understood the mechanics of the toy pretty quickly. The plugging-it-in and charging-it was another story. It almost drove me to the brink of insanity: What didn’t she understand about literally plugging into the wall, sitting it on the stand, and charging it? Every single time it would die, she’d need me to come in and reteach her how to plug it in. And let me tell you: It was dying a lot.
Yep, clearly she was having a ton of orgasms, and that made me glad for her. She often overshares about her “amazing sex life” with my dad—which I could do without—but, unlike most people, I’m a trained sex educator and I’m happy they are about 267 years old and still have a thriving sex life. Good for them, you know?
After that, my mom was always interested in everything I got. “What did you get today?” “Oh, wow! What’s that one do!?” She was very curious about it. It took a while for me to figure out what was really going on: She wanted some of my free vibrators.
The next toy was a long wand because my mom’s chief complaint with the Minna was that it was a difficult reach. This was fair. It is like a little lemon and for someone with chronic pain, reaching down can be difficult. This toy required plugging it in and then sticking a slim little connector into a tiny hole on the toy. This basically melted her brain. I had to call for reinforcements. (Hi, dad!) Unfortunately, neither of my parents got any better at understanding simple electronics. The last time I was home, I had to explain to my mom AGAIN how to use the Minna. Like, girl, you’ve had this toy for three years.
The problems that sex educators face can be weird, but at least my work is having an impact on the elderly. Overall, I’m really happy my parents have toys and that they’re having fun together (and apart, according to my mother—again, not information I needed). Maybe if people were less uptight about sex with their parents (and parents were open about sex with their kids), we kiddos wouldn’t all wind up tearing our hair because they can’t figure out how to plug in the damn thing.
If we could have more honest parent-child discussions about sexuality, maybe the awkwardness around it would start to dissipate. Sex being “bad” or weird is not because it is inherently bad or weird—it’s because human beings decided it was this way. I’m not saying you need to talk about your sex life in detail or give your parents sex toys, but mutually and openly acknowledging that you’re all sexual human beings could benefit all of society. It would make people feel a lot better about their sexual selves if their parents discuss sex as a natural part of being a person.
Now that I live in London, my mother now just opens my PR packages that come to her house and helps herself to whatever she wants. And you know what, I’m not even mad. She deserves it.