Pink bagI make sure my coworkers aren’t anywhere near my office and I type “sex toy party” into a search. I find an 800 number for a place called Fantasy World in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Thank you for callin Fantasy Whiirld. How ken we heehlp yew?

“Uh. Hi. I’m in Chicago and I’m planning a fundraiser for a breast cancer walk. I’m trying to do a party where some of the sales can go to charity. Do you have someone who could do that?”

“Well, our closest representative’s in Indiana. You know, yew could become a sales representative and do the party on yer own.

“… How would I do THAT?”

“We seand you out a kit, you tayke the orders and we send yew the products to distribute. The commission starts at 50 percent”.

“Does the kit cost something?”

“We have a bunch of different packages. Fer yew, I’d suggest our mid-raynge kit. It’s $119, includes shippin and you typically make the muhney back in yer first party”.

“Let me think about it and call you back.”

I hang up the phone and wilt on my desk. It wasn’t supposed to go this way. I didn’t mind when one of my older wiser girlfriends suggested having a sex toy themed fundraiser. But I wasn’t supposed to be the one selling them.

I’m 26 years old. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of sex toys, and really with sex in general. Growing up, my mom completely skipped the birds and bees talk opting for a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. The only time sex came up was when my parents debated which movies I was allowed to watch. “No, not that one, it has s-e-x”, as if I couldn’t spell at 13.

But I’m desperate to raise money. I call Fantasy World and I order the mid-range kit.

The following week, I get a call from my building’s management company. “We have a large box for you in the office. We’re open til 6.”

I hurry home, worried that my delivery has an obvious label or worse, a hole.

When I get there, I find the box is big but under the radar. I scoot it down the hall and up the stairs to my apartment. I jam an exacto blade into the tape to slide the box open. The first thing I see is flesh colored. I try to pull it out but it just keeps on going. Two feet of rubber. With a penis on each end? What is this for? I dig further and find multiple bottles of lube. Various sizes of flexible penises in an array of colors. Some even have faces in their mold, making the tip look like a head with a bob haircut. I find vibrating metal bullets. Vibrating rings. A vibrating lipstick. And a vibrating duck.

I have never held a sex toy before, let alone owned a collection, one that is now the centerpiece of my 300 sq foot studio. This is all too much. I am reduced to tears.

After rummaging through this box, the contents won’t fit back in. And I need them to disappear. I start clearing out kitchen cabinets to fit a credit card machine, chocolate body paint, an army of dildos, a masturbation sleeve and a leather flogger.

I call my friend Heather who is 32, so she knows everything. I ask her for help planning this party and she offers up her home, her creativity and a great recipe for quiche. I invite all the women I know. It’s for a good cause so most RSVP yes. And the ones who can’t make it, just send a check. It’s already working!

The day of the party I pack up my collection and bring it to Heather’s apartment. She puts batteries in a large purple penis and hands it to me. I twist the dial to “on” and the vibration is so startling, I drop it on the floor.

By noon, our lady friends start showing up. They look around and ask me questions I can’t answer. My customers know far more than I do but graciously buy a few items and thank me for having them.

I raise half the money I need in sales and donations. I’m ecstatic. But I can’t stop here. I schedule more at home parties, planning to learn as I go.

At my next party, a woman inquires about some sort of deep throat cream. I check my bags. Green apple lube. Chinese shrink cream. Chocolate after sex mints. No deep throat cream.

The next day I call Fantasy World. It’s not the first time I have called them for sex ed. They are my dirty hotline, always ready with an answer, even though they never say the word penis. Never. In Kentucky, it’s a pecker.

“Thank you for callin’ Fantasy Whiirld. How ken we heehlp yew?

“Hi. I had a party and someone asked for a certain kind of cream. For deep throating? I think it’s to numb your…”

“Oh sure. We don’t have something with that nayme but we have anaLISE and that would work grayt.”

“Oh. Ok. AnaLISE.”

“You should have it in your kiit”

I search through boxes. Nothing.

I call back. “I’m supposed to have a cream called AnaLISE and I don’t think I have it”.

“It’s a little whaht tube in a red box.”

I dig through the packages and find the red box. I feel stupid and embarrassed all over again.

It’s not Analise. It’s Anal Ease. I don’t understand sex or English.

“That stuff is grayt. It’s even good fer burns. We tayke off the laybel and we keeeap it around the house.

“So, is this something people can put down their throat?

“Sure. Anything you can use back there, is sayfe enough to put in yer mouth.”

Experiment 1: Anal Ease

I’m excited to email my customer and let her know I found a numbing cream but first, I need to verify that it works. I squeeze a dollop of it on my finger and place it on the back of my tongue. I swallow it, spreading it around the back of my throat. And I wait. In less than a minute, I try to swallow and I can’t. I can’t feel my throat. I can’t breathe. My heart is racing. I run around in circles, gasping. Trying to swallow.

After a few uncomfortable minutes like this, my throat comes back to life. I survived! It works! I did it! So I decide to do more product research.

Experiment 2: Anal beads

I don’t understand the concept. I mean, I get it. But it seems like a lot of trouble. Putting beads up your ass and pulling them out in some specific way, all while during some sex act. I didn’t have a sex act to try this during or at least one that I wanted to bring jewelry to. So I would need to go it alone. Anal Ease or the natural route? I mean, what’s more wet than water? I take them into the shower and slowly coax them up there. The beads are hard rubber, graduated from pea size to super ball. I only get up to 3 out of 10, which I think it technically failing.

I decide I’m done with this activity and I tug on the beads. Oh my god. What if they’re stuck? I don’t have a plan. Do I need a plan? I let go of them for a moment. They just hang there. I wag them like a tail. I DON’T understand anal beads. For my review, I say, it’s like pooping backwards. And taking them out, is like righting the wrong. It’s a relief. I can now recommend choosing the sturdy easy-to-clean rubber set over the cheap plastic ones on a string.

After a few parties and side orders, I end up with more than enough money for the breast cancer walk but have come to like this side business and I still have extra inventory. Unfortunately, my friends are now fully stocked and I need to find new customers. But where?

I work across from Whole Foods where it’s easy to spend $20 on lunch alone. Rich people must shop there. I decide to put up a sign about sex toy parties on the big community board and wait for rich people to call to schedule parties. But you know who else shops at Whole Foods? Couples. Looking for a third.

I take down my sign.

One day, on a walk, I stumble onto a local sex toy store I have never seen before called Honeysuckle. I meet Steve who owns the store with his wife Leann. He tells me, “We’re going to start doing events soon. You should come!”

Without missing a beat, I tell him, “I do events!” And just like that, a new partnership is born.

Leann and Steve are laid back hippies. They have two sons. They joke that in the same way religious families have kids who grow up to be hell raisers, their two sons will most likely grow up to be priests. They give real advice, like that anal ease is not recommended because you should never try to numb your body’s pain or discomfort. And they use the word penis.

After going through their “sex educator training”, they start sending me out to night club events, store promotions and bachelorette parties.

My favorite sales are always to first time buyers. I tell them, “You might not want to jump right into the rabbit. How about this vibrating bullet? Or better yet, buy them both because they’re like a flat and a heel- totally different but essential. You’ll love them. You might give up dating.”

Women don’t just ask me about products. They have questions about sex and even about their bodies. I can’t offer science-based answers but I can listen without judgment and I find that THIS is the most important thing.

After three years and a Saturday night where I have to lug my rolling bag up four flights of stairs to a bachelorette party, I decide my time is worth more than the supplemental income and novelty of the business.

Sometimes I think about selling again. I got really good at it. I can say cock ring without even lowering my voice. But I don’t really need it anymore- I’ve already walked away with an unexpected confidence in something that used to terrify me.

And now I welcome and seek out new challenges. Because I know all I need to succeed, is the right lube.

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