Taking sleaze out of sex

2008-01-05 00:00

Pietermaritzburg, and South African, sisters are doing it for themselves. And in the process they are sweeping aside tupperware parties for evenings where the plastic on show is of a far more pleasurable, if a little less practical, variety.

Sex toy parties, or lingerie evenings as they are sometimes coyly referred to, are pushing sexuality and erotic pleasure out of the realm of dingy, backstreet shops with blackened windows into suburban homes where women can pick their pleasure over a glass of wine and in the company of friends before heading home to continue the party with their purchases.

“Normal woman living normal lives want to enhance their sexual pleasure, and we help them achieve that”, says Cathy Kruger who owns Romantic Adventures, a company that organises these parties. Based in New Germany, Kruger employs six agents who travel as far as Underberg and down the south coast with two suitcases full of sex toys and saucy lingerie for parties.

Each party has a host, who invites her friends and colleagues, and at the end of the evening the host receives free products worth five percent of the party’s sales. For those who are too shy to order the Loveclone 2 — “it feels as good as real” — in front of nosy Mandy from accounts who was also invited to the party, after a general demonstration the agent sets up shop in a separate room where guests can make their purchases one at a time.

And if you thought “hardware”, as Kruger refers to her toys, begins and ends with the super-sized, intimidating vibrators that so often have a starring role in low-grade porn, one party and you’ll see otherwise. The shelves of the Romantic Adventures store room are packed with toys in different shapes and sizes, and the best-selling item is not a traditional vibrator at all, but a buzzing, bullet-shaped toy called the clitterati. Another is the shape and size of a tube of lipstick, while yet another is a string of beads whose simplicity belies its secret pleasures.

Across shapes and sizes, the products are selling. Recently, one of Kruger’s agents, Wendy Bow, sold over R15 000 worth of toys and lingerie at one party, and in the last few weeks, the agents have been rushing to fill the Christmas stockings of women around KwaZulu-Natal.

Emma, who has hosted one party and has been a guest at several others, has bought so many toys that she now keeps them in a special “pleasure box” under her bed.

“Sex is supposed to be fun, and sex toys are part of that for me. It doesn’t mean that I’m sleazy. My husband and I have a great time trying out my purchases, and the fun we have together has taken our intimacy to a new level.

“It also means that when he is away on business I can have a little fun on my own.”

Jules is another woman running similar parties in the midlands, and she says her aim is “to take the sleaziness out of sexual creativity”.

“Women feel intimidated by sex shops, which cater mostly for men. So I bring stock to them in a relaxed environment.”

Jules says her clients are from every culture, religion, race, age group and economic class.

She says that by a shift in mindset, from rejecting sex toys as “wrong” or corrupting to accepting them as part of a healthy lifestyle, young women can come to know their bodies, married woman can bring something fun into their relationship, and elderly women, many of whom are widows, can realise that “you are never too old to satisfy your sexual needs”.

The same is true of Kruger’s clients, who range from engaged woman throwing kitchen teas to soccer moms looking for a little spice. Recently, she was asked to hold a party in a church hall, and the party was a success, if a little toned down.

“We aren’t trying to replace men or female partners with our products. After all, a vibrator won’t lean over and whisper sweet nothings into your ear after you orgasm. Most women tell us they use our products with their partners, and the husbands love it,” Kruger says.

And for the single ladies? Both Kruger and Jules agree that using a sex toy is the safest sex there is, and Jules says whipping your vibrator out from your bedside drawer is a far safer option than random, unprotected sex.

“Vibrators can help take the edge off a date,” says Jules. And, she says, it is a valuable tool in helping young women to discover their bodies and avoid juvenile sex, which could lead to unwanted pregnancy.

“Women need to take control of their bodies and learn what pleasures them, and sex toys are helping them achieve that,” she said.

Although sex toy parties are becoming increasingly popular, it is not just about trying out new products.

Pietermaritzburg freelance journalist and businesswoman Lindsay McDonogh recently launched her website, www.ohzone.co.za, which she hopes will “empower women to become agents in their own sex life”.

“Women are taught to be non-sexual beings, but the website shows, in a non-threatening way, that everyone is entitled to great sex.”

And part of the journey to great sex, she says, is education, beginning with a firm understanding that everyone’s sexuality is unique. So, what may seem tame for one women may leave another breathless and begging for more — it’s up to you to discover where you fall.

To do this, McDonogh has put together a series of articles touching on revving up one’s sex life, the importance of knowing your own body, where lubrication fits in and how to know whether the sex toys you are using are safe.

And, of course, to put all the new-found sexual knowledge to practice, the website also has an online shop selling a variety of sex toys, lubricants and books.

So why the battery-operated boom now? After all, electrically powered vibrators have been around since the 1880s when, according to Wikipedia, Kenneth Skinner invented them to treat “female hysteria” or “congestion of the vagina”.

McDonogh says that South African women missed out on previous sex toy revolutions partly because extreme conservatism during apartheid meant that even if people managed to import them, they were still thought of as subversive and hidden as a sleazy secret.

Kruger says this history is one reason for the popularity of the parties — there is no sleaze attached, and women can be as discreet or open with their purchases as they choose. Either way, women are now making firm friends with Roger Rabbit, Danny the Dolphin and the Bumble Bee.

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