Last year, I took one of my most momentous steps into adulthood. It wasn’t buying a car, or getting engaged – no, it was far more important. I bought my first vibrator.
It was not an easy road to the intertwined bliss that my vibrator and I now share, and the story of my purchase has even been immortalised in film (okay, so it was a student film, but a film nonetheless). Interestingly, it was a journey I took alone. While they are not prudish or conservative in the least, I functioned as the pioneer in my group of friends.
Ever since I learned what they were – vibrators, sex toys, marital aids, whatever the name – they’ve been a symbol of adulthood for me. I couldn’t tell you when I first learned about sex toys, but I knew that at some point in your grown-up life, you presumably bought them (unless, of course, some kind of dildo-stork delivered them to your door at a predestined time). As the years passed, my hope of avian delivery faded, and so did my hopes that I would eventually hit the point where my friends and I would start talking about sex toys, let alone get our hands on our own.
I was always younger than my friends, but I was never prudish, and when the hushed conversations about sex started up I was always involved. I suppose I expected the sex toy boundary to be crossed at some point after I left high school, but it wasn’t. Adulthood came with my eighteenth birthday, and still nothing. Another couple of years passe and apart from one awkward conversation at a house party, my friends and I still hadn’t breached the walls of the sex toy fortress.
It was around this time that I began going onto websites that sold these kinds of toys (shout out to Lovehoney, a site where you can get a student discount – I’m not sponsored, I just think you should get on that), filling up a cart and then getting too nervous to click ‘confirm order.’ I was afraid for two reasons – for one, I still live with my parents. They’d never checked my packages before, but it would be just my luck that they checked when their sweet, innocent daughter had bought something like this. Secondly, I was truly worried about the reaction I might get from my friends. I wanted to share this with them, just like I’d share anything else with them, like they would share intimate stories about their lives with me. I was concerned that this was a wild leap into something too taboo for us at this stage of our lives. So I always exited the cart without making a purchase, kept my thoughts to myself and stayed quiet on the familiar side of not-quite-adulthood.
This was until a point I got to last year. A point where I said ‘fuck it’ (pardon the pun) and became the proud owner of a vibrator.
Well, I say proud. It wasn’t that simple. It’s still not that simple.
I remember when I told my mates that I’d finally ordered a sex toy. They seemed both shocked and intrigued, almost disgusted – not openly, nor intentionally, but disgusted nonetheless. We didn’t talk about it at length, despite having long conversations about things far more scandalous and taboo. When we did talk about it, there was some intrigue. It was as if there were questions bubbling under the surface. Questions they wanted to ask – which I was willing to answer – but there was something stopping them and to a certain extent, there still is.
Eventually, my vibrator arrived in a subtle brown box (they had said there was discreet shipping, but I quietly expected it to arrive in a massive phallic, buzzing package) and I opened it sneakily in my room. I truly felt more like an adult that day than I ever had before, and I stowed the vibrator away in my sock drawer in an isolated rite of passage that I honestly wanted to share with someone. I tried to share it with my friends, letting them know that it had arrived and that it was an enlightening experience to say the least – but again, something stopped us from having any in-depth conversations. I’d sat through years of hearing my friends tell me about their romantic and sexual escapades and now that I was having one, it wasn’t important enough to listen to because it was battery-powered?
There’s something important to clarify here. I’m not resentful about the way my friends reacted. I love my friends dearly and they are not at all prudes, in fact they are more open about this than most would be. Not to mention the fact that we’ve all gotten a lot better about talking about the taboo subject that is the elusive vibrator. Mostly, I want to highlight the fact that it’s the worst-kept secret in the world that people own sex toys. Single and partnered people of all genders own sex toys, and yet to talk about it is still taboo for no good reason at all. Is it because it’s seen as shameful to need these devices to get off? Is it because they’re typically associated with women and so it has to do with misogyny? Is it some kind of idea that they’re too taboo for innocent eyes to read about, let alone use? I don’t know – but what I do know is the fact that none of these reasons are good enough, and they’re all about one thing at their core: shame.
There’s so much shame for me personally around this topic. So much shame that I considered not writing or submitting this more times than I can count, and even then, thought about submitting it anonymously. I then tried to write this about the aforementioned time my vibrator-buying experience was made into a student film, as well as my struggles with my libido on antidepressants, before realising that there were bigger issues at play here. Why couldn’t I write a piece that was just about the fact that I owned a vibrator because I wanted one with no ulterior motivation? I’ll give you the answer to that one for free – I was ashamed. And if I was feeling shame, then maybe others felt shame too. And if they did, then I didn’t want them to. So here we are.
If you take nothing else from this piece, then take this one thing – if you’re thinking about buying a sex toy, or even just talking about them, then take the plunge. It’s good for your health, good for the soul and good for…I don’t know, something else, probably. I’m no doctor. I’m just one person with one story and one life that I’m trying to live without shame – with my vibrator.
(But if you’re really only taking one thing from this article, make it the part about the student discount. Seriously.)
Words by Victoria Knight
Illustration by Sarah Rouxel