Ciao From Stephanie Curtis – Adultsmart Sexologist!

I have loved my time working at the Oh Zone stores and helping so many people with their intimate lives.  One of the things I most enjoyed was tapping the keyboards and  hoping to share some useful information with the adultsmart community in my articles and stories.  For now I am off to take on sexology as my full-time profession so the articles will no longer be as frequent and the time I enjoyed meeting everyone face to face in the stores has come to an end.  This here is my final article whilst working in an adult shop.

For all those that have visited me in store, ciao, it has been a pleasure.  For everyone on adultsmart I will still publish the odd article.  But for now, farewell my life, living and love provide you with the best they can!!!!

 

What working at an adult store has taught me:

 

I cannot believe it has been two whole years that I have worked in the Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres! If you had asked me 10 years ago, it certainly wasn’t a job I could have imagined I would be doing yet I am so grateful I took a chance and did something so different. As I prepare to move onto my own work as a Certified Sexologist & Intimacy Coach, I thought I would offer some of the things I will be taking away from this job which will benefit me in so many ways throughout my life

 

Communicating about sex

Talking about anything related to sexuality is such a difficult thing for so many people. We live in such a sex-centric world yet as a culture are challenged by frank, honest discussions around sexuality. Coming into this job, I knew I was a sex positive person yet didn’t realise the challenges I would face opening up to strangers very quickly about such an intimate area of their lives. Working at Oh Zone has given me incredible experience in being able to talk about sex, pleasure and genitals in a very matter of fact way.

 

Making people comfortable talking about sex

Similar to the above, working at Oh Zone has given me great experience in getting others to open up about sex. I have learnt to take note of body language and other cues to say or do the thing that will make the customer feel at ease opening up to me. I have found that finding comfort within myself puts people at ease as well as outwardly naming the elephant in the room (i.e. the discomfort around talking about sex) which breaks the ice for most people.

 

Communicating boundaries

As with anywhere in life, you will always encounter people that try to cross boundaries. There are some people that make assumptions about me based on the fact that I work in an adult store so I have had to get really clear with what is and isn’t ok. I have been explicitly asked what my personal sexual preferences are and have had countless people overshare about their own sex life which to many people doesn’t sound so bad but you wouldn’t ask the woman working at Harvey Norman what she’s into so why should it be any different for me? I get that few people have a space where they can open up to about sex & in the right context an adult store is just that but I cannot stress CONTEXT enough. I am grateful that 99% of people that have crossed some kind of boundary are apologetic when I communicate that it is not appropriate so it really has been a good lesson in communicating clearly and in a way that doesn’t shame the person because they usually just don’t know.  

 

Knowledge of Sex Toys

For those around me, I am now the official go to person for sex toy knowledge! Prior to working here, I was only aware of the very basic products such as vibrators and cock rings, thinking that sex toys were all about having an orgasm. I now know that there exist so many products out there that can be used by all kinds of people from all walks of life. From penis pumps for post-operative prostate surgery recovery to Kegel trainers to prevent vaginal prolapse, products in an adult store are about so much more than pleasure (There’s plenty of that too, don’t worry!!).

 

Awareness of the extent of sexual shame (and penis shame)

I have met countless people coming into the Oh Zone store and if there’s only thing that is extremely noticeable is how much shame we as a culture carry when it comes to sex. This plays out in so many ways, from young guys laughing and making crude jokes to mask their discomfort to people who won’t even make eye contact with me when entering the store. I also hear way too many jokes about penis size and male sex toys which is a whole other story of shaming!!  I have been in a great position to question some of these reactions at times and unburden people of the shame of sex and visiting an adult store. 

 

Happy Oh Zone Customers

For many people, working in an adult store carries with it a myriad of ideas of what it is all about as well as judgements of the sex industry. I have felt really lucky to have an insight into this work as it really is much deeper and fulfilling than an average retail job. The satisfaction you receive from seeing the effects of people opening up to you about such an intimate area of their lives compares with nothing else for me.

The Labiaplasty Epidemic

With so much comparison & judgement of female bodies, it is no wonder that the root of our femininity could not be saved. Women’s vulvas & vaginas have become another part of the body to scrutinize, to the point where young women are undergoing irreversible procedures to change the way they look.

 

For the last couple of years, I have heard mentioned the growing trend in young women of labiaplasty, a cosmetic procedure in which the labia minora (inner lips of the vulva) are surgically reduced. Beyond my initial reaction of sadness & rage, I had an immense curiosity to understand why young women would do such a thing to their bodies. After some research online, I am left with a heavy heart at the reality of women striving for a false idea of “perfection.”

 

My research led me to find the documentary “A Perfect Vagina,” an exploration on the growing trend of labiaplasty in Britain. Women from all walks of life are interviewed on how they feel about their genitals & the lengths they are willing to go to in order to change them. We see a young 21yo women having her labia cut as if it was a piece of meat, men saying they wouldn’t want to be with a woman if she had “an ugly fanny” and women who have lived a lifetime with chronic shame around what their genitals look like.  

 

One of the main sources of women’s shame around their labia’s is the media. Pornography gives a one-sided view of what a woman’s vulva looks like; pink, minimal and short labia minora, completely hairless & symmetrical. Even medical text books mislead women into thinking this is what every vulva looks like. Nowhere do women see images of anything other than a “neat & tidy” vulva meaning if they possess anything other than this, they take on the belief that they are abnormal.

 

Australian censorship laws around female genitalia also support the scrutiny women have on their bodies, with images showing more than single folded labia minora to under 18 year olds illegal. This means that young women grow up only ever been exposed to a certain kind of vulva even if they read anatomy or sex education text books-they are almost wired to believe that vulvas of different shapes, colours and sizes are wrong.

 

Through my research, I found myself on a website of a clinic that offers labiaplasty surgery & came to witness a heap of images of women who had undergone the procedure. Seeing the before & after photos reminded me of a bunch of beautifully unique flowers having their petals ripped off. Each vulva before the procedure had such an incredible uniqueness that was destroyed and made to look the same as the next. It was devastating!

 

I understand that labiaplasty is indicated and sometimes necessary in cases of labia hypertrophy (Enlarged labia). This is because the size of the labia is leading to chronic urinary tract infections & painful intercourse. A study however showed that 30% of procedures were completed for aesthetical purposes alone which is devastating if you consider the post-operative recovery and inability to reverse the procedure. As well as the after effects, young women as young as 16yo making a decision to change their genitalia for aesthetical purposes is not ok considering the changes that occur in one’s psyche as they age. I look at how much I loathed my body at that age and now I love it 10 years later! In my opinion, labiaplasty should be left for these extreme cases where health is affected not purely for aesthetic purposes. 

 

Vaginal surgery

What I found to be the most tragic thing about the labiaplasty trend is the fact that personally I have an “outie” vulva like the one’s many women were changing and would not change it for the world. I love how it looks and feels, so the thought of traumatising it to fit into the category of “perfect” is awful. Through explorations into embodiment, self-love & my sexuality over the last 5 years, I have complete acceptance for my bodies uniqueness. I understand my vulva doesn’t fit into the photo shopped “norm” of vulvas but love it because of its differences (and so does my partner!!).

 

If someone like me can come to love & appreciate her vulva, then there is hope for every woman. I believe there is absolutely no need for women to resort to a medical procedure to change their bodies when there are so many other ways of finding acceptance for their vulvas just as they are.

Will You Be My Sex Doll?

About Adult Dolls

The Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres surely have some interesting products for sale. From vibrators that twirl, rotate & double penetrate to penis plugs in all shapes, colours & sizes, there’s something in here for everyone. I love to see customers coming in and discovering toys they may never have been exposed to before. Out of all the gadgets & toys in the store, sex dolls would have to be the products that cause the most reaction from customers. Sometimes they cause laughter & disbelief, other times there’s a genuine curiosity & fascination;

“Do people actually buy these?!”

The answer is: Hell yes!! I get customers buying sex dolls for a gag gift at birthday parties & I also sell them to men who are interested in a lifelike masturbating device. The technology with sex dolls is becoming even more advanced, with so many options available to suit all people & all budgets.

 

The history of commercially manufactured sex dolls dates back to 1908, where a Sexologist called Iwan Bloch wrote about dolls available for purchase in Paris that secreted oil to replicate vaginal lubrication. They took 3 months to build and cost a small fortune. I’m not sure what they were made from but I can’t imagine it felt as pleasant as the lifelike materials that are available today. The creation of softer plastics and higher quality materials have led to sex dolls that are eerily similar to an actual human being. Sex dolls have come so far over the last 100 years, with so many options to build your own “dream doll” available online. You can choose the body type, breast size & shape, skin, hair & eye colour, hair design (pubic & head), piercings and tattoos on your custom doll and have it delivered to your door.   

 

There can sometimes be harsh judgements associated with certain sex toys, with products for men, such as sex dolls, probably the most stigmatised. In an article published in The Journal of Positive Sexuality

“Sex dolls-Creepy or Healthy”

(Knox & Huff, 2017), it is noted that many people stigmatize those that buy sex dolls & see the men who use them as unable to attract a sexual partner. I find the male sex toy stigma to be such a double standard as women do not get judged for having a plethora of sex toys tucked away in their bedside table the way men do. I like to point this out to men & women who express judgement for those who have male sex toys as it quickly gets them to question their opinions (and more often than not they usually end up buying one for themselves or their partners shortly after!!). Sex dolls can be a great masturbating toy for those seeking a life like experience so no need to be ashamed.

 

I have had multiple discussions with people & read valid concerns from those who work in the field of human sexuality about the effects sex dolls have on human relationships. There exists a reasonable fear that the use of sex dolls will ultimately shut men off from real human connections, especially those who are shy or have difficulties with interpersonal relationships to begin with. There are also concerns of further objectification & exploitation of women through the availability and use of sex dolls. It is no wonder the line between reality and fantasy is becoming blurry as there are so many products that are unbelievably lifelike. The birth rates in Japan are the lowest they have been since the 1970’s, with the use of sex dolls and love robots said to be one of the biggest causes for this decline.

 

I think that it is important for those using sex dolls to understand that a sex doll is a masturbating device & not a substitute for human connection. With such a widespread addiction to technology, I can see how the use of sex dolls can cause alienation & isolation for certain people so feel they need to be used with awareness. I am not saying that men who use a sex doll must also be having sex with an actual human being or must be limiting the use of their sex doll. I just feel it is important for men using them to not get so far into fantasy that they forget to have connections with others. Because at the end of the day, regardless of how advanced sex doll technology becomes, nothing could ever replace the love & compassion that a human being can offer. 

 

Human Like Doll
Robotic Sex Doll

Sex dolls can be a fun and pleasurable masturbation device that gives a more life-like experience compared to other masturbators.   Before you buy why not check out the sex doll buyers guide.

Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution!

Liberated Sex Revolution

I came across a post on Facebook last week detailing a woman’s reactions after watching the newly released Netflix documentary

“Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution.”

I was intrigued to see for myself what all the fuss was about and was blown away by what was shown. If you are in denial of the need for better sex education for young people then I highly recommend you watch this one! (Warning: This article contains spoiler alerts)

 

This documentary shows the experiences of American college aged men and women as they go away for spring break, with their feelings and behaviours when it comes to their sexuality explored. Spring break in the U.S is a coming of age ritual for many young men & women, with the holiday symbolising freedom from the responsibilities of college.

 

One Nighters
Hook-Up Sex

The first interviews we see are from a group of young men partaking in spring break celebrations. What I found tragic with these men were the beliefs they have around women & sex. Having sex with multiple young women was a way of these men finding validation from their peers, with the

“notch on the belt”

attitude extremely prevalent. Men were seen as “better men” according to how many women they slept with. Emotion and love was completely absent in the sexual interactions and even the mention of it was laughed at. One experience showed a man meeting a young women walking past his hotel room. Within a few minutes they were alone in his room having sex. He did not remember her name straight after the experience and had no intention of meeting her again. What was noticeable in these men was that they didn’t even know that there was a different way of being with women. Having these kinds of experiences was scarily the norm.

 

When the interviewer dug a little deeper speaking with some of these men in smaller groups, what we saw were confused young guys who felt enormous amounts of pressure to have sex despite their desires to do so. Men spoke of the shame of being a virgin when all their friends had lost their virginity & how they were teased because of it. Having sex was seen as a necessary part of being a man, with this sometimes leading to some regretful and unpleasant experiences for all involved.

 

Moving on to the women on spring break, we initially saw a very different perspective than with the men. The young women interviewed at appeared at first intelligent, articulate and very aware of the toxic culture they had grown up in. They realised that they had to go against some very strong messages that tell them to be a certain way in order to avoid falling into the trap of the social “norms.” It then moves on to a different scene on a spring break beach party, where we saw young women buying into the idea of emotionless and empty sexual encounters. There was a very prevalent attitude that many women were abiding to and that was one of sexuality being the only part of themselves that made them worthy. Appearing sexy was the most important thing in these young women’s lives and for them to feel of any value in the world, they needed men to validate this in them.

 

As the documentary continued, scene after scene of objectification & disrespectful mistreatment of women followed. We saw women’s breasts and genitals being groped by strangers as they walked past and heard accounts from countless women saying that this was to be expected as they went about spring break-in fact it happened in countless other environments for these women throughout their lives.

 

I would be lying if I said that the behaviour I witnessed completely surprised me because I grew up in the “hookup culture” and some of these behaviours were eerily familiar (Though it certainly has gotten worst from what I saw). What really shocked & devastated me was the huge extent of these behaviours and how normal detached sexual encounters, sexual abuse, rape and severe mistreatment of young women is for so many young people. A young women was raped whilst unconscious by 3 young men and there were hundreds of people standing around not doing a thing about it!!

 

This documentary highlighted the toxicity that occurs when young people are not taught about healthy sexuality and relationships. Pornography is one of the main ways that young people learn about sex and without an awareness of the context of this imagery, can lead to the normalization of harmful sexual behaviors. Although this documentary was filmed in the U.S, I believe it speaks loudly to what is going on in Australia too. Many things need to be done differently worldwide if we’re to see any lasting changes to the ways young men and women relate with one another.

 

Love From Stephanie – Oh Zone Consultant

Freedom In Relationships!

Loving Relationships

Would you believe me if I told you that you can be in a relationship and have your absolute freedom?

I know that it may sound too good to be true for many of you. I have to admit that even I am coming to terms with the fact that the two can coexist.

What exactly do I mean when I speak of freedom? I’m not talking about that kind of free love, do whatever you want, fuck whoever you want kind of attitude that sees destructive behaviors normalized and people hurt. When I say freedom, I mean living life on your own terms and working towards those things that are really important to you whilst being loving and respectful towards your partner.

I completely empathise with those who cannot fathom the possibility of freedom in relationship. I feel at times somewhat of a conflict between living as a sovereign being who is whole and complete on her own and being in a loving relationship. Figuring out how the two can coexist can be a struggle. It seems that I become stuck in old patterns of thought at times as I attempt to make way for a new reality where absolute freedom goes hand in hand with the connection with my partner. “Do I really deserve to have both?” I often ask myself.

What I have come to know throughout my life up until recently is that freedom & relationship do not go together. Being in an intimate relationship in the past has meant sacrifice and giving up on those things I deeply desire. My only reference of what relationship meant growing up and in my previous relationship was one where constant compromise was seemingly necessary in order to “sustain” the relationship. There exists an idea of compromise and sacrifice when it comes to our intimate relationships, that to be in a loving relationship means we must relinquish certain things in our life for the other person.

I really want to clarify the ideas of “compromise” and “making sacrifices” in relationship as I believe them to be destructive when taken the wrong way. I don’t believe that we can go around in our life & in any of our relationships doing whatever the hell we want with little regard for others. Showing compassion and respect to others is vital if we’re to develop and sustain any relationships. With that in mind I don’t feel that we need to compromise on the big things that really matter to us. Our values and morals must be followed if we are to live in integrity. Our own unique path in life should not be neglected or compromised because we choose to spend it with another person.

Freeing Relationships
Free Relationships

Being in a relationship with a man over the last year who encourages me to live my life as I desire has caused me to re-evaluate my idea of freedom in a relationship. I am lovingly supported to follow my own path which can often conflict with my old belief that singledom is the only time when I can live my absolute truth.

My recent celibacy journey has deeply changed the person I have come to know as me. This means that right now I am attempting to get to know who I am and what I want from my life. Self-inquiry like this is challenging at times but I know it to be crucial for growth and expansion in all areas of my life. My previous patterns of thought would have me believe that I need to be single at this time to figure all of this out for myself, when in fact I am actually called to do this whilst being in relationship with another.

If I thought deep inner work was hard when I was single, being in a relationship trying to figure out “who the hell I am” is next level!! Having my freedom has meant taking a whole heap of space for myself and not being as available to my partner emotionally or physically.

 

Freedom can look so different for every individual. Freedom can mean having a non-monogamous relationship, being celibate, choosing to spend a week away on your own or simply choosing to do your own thing in life while your partner does theirs’s.

Freedom in relationship is only possible if you’re are willing and able to communicate your needs and desires clearly. I highly recommend having the conversations that may feel uncomfortable as opposed to supressing what you need until you reach breaking point.

Where in your relationship are you sacrificing your freedom for another? How can you open yourself up to the reality that freedom and a beautiful relationship coexist? How can you come to believe that you never have to compromise on the big things in life in order to be with another person?