“What’s that in the shower?” I asked.
I knew what it was in the shower.
“My new loofah?” she responded.
It wasn’t the new loofah.
I was freshening up to get ready for a night out with my girlfriend. I was 20; she, a little older. We shared an electric attraction and deep appreciation for one another. I wiped suds out of my eyes and turned to exit shower, and there it was: a long, purple dildo-esque figure sitting on the edge of the tub. But this was no ordinary dildo. It had what looked like extra knobs and buttons. I started to panic. I was in over my head.
I had seen all the memes, posts, and commentary on social media about how women’s sex toys could do more than a man could, caused less stress, all the pleasure without the headache, etc. I guess I started to internalize that stuff and think negatively about sex toys because of it. My girl and I had a good sex life. At least, I thought we did. Did we? We had never talked about it. I mean, we had a lot of sex. She was pleasing me and I was pretty confident I was pleasing her. So why would she need a sex toy when she could just hit me up?
The embarrassment flooded over me like a heatwave. The purple lightsaber in the bathroom was rattling the doors of my masculinity. I wasn’t sure how to express my confusion, my anxiety — my voice rattled even as I passive-aggressively asked the question to which I already knew the answer. I wasn’t proud of that. I had always considered myself a good communicator — mostly because I had no issue humbling myself and being open to what others had to say. I think it’s what saved me.
My girlfriend sat next to me on the bed and took my hand in hers. She started to talk to me about the female body and women’s pleasure. I turned the toy over in my hands, examining it, as she gave me a mini-tutorial on its shape, purpose, and design. My girl knew that I learned best by reading, so after our date night, she even texted me some articles. Basic ones about female anatomy, similar to this one. And more interesting ones about pleasure, sort of like this one by Sexualbeing.org writer Isabelle Kohn.
The next day I apologized for being insecure and causing a fuss over the toy. We kissed and made up (Maybe we did more than kiss). She even mentioned that she’d like us to try using her toys together during sex — not just when I was away. The rest, as they say, is history. I even have my own little collection of bedroom “helpers” now.
Cut to a few weeks ago during guy-talk with a group of friends and mentees:
“My girl has been getting really kinky lately — wanting to do more with like … toys and stuff. I’m not sure how to feel.” I felt like this was my cue to share my story. It sparked a conversation with some important questions including:
“Don’t I lose man points for not automatically knowing what pleases women sexually?”
“How do I know what sort of intimate experimentation is ‘normal,’ and not too intense?”
“What do I do if I’m not comfortable with something my partner is suggesting we try?”
We came to a consensus that there’s not always only one right answer. But sharing in a judgement-free zone regarding sensitive topics allowed us to at least begin exploring some of these topics. It is hard to teach and learn from one another if people in the group feel like the jokes will outweigh the genuine support. Practicing open communication with your boys can prepare you a little better to communicate more freely with your partner.
We should examine the parts of how we define masculinity that make us hesitant to be vulnerable, or ask questions, or express discomfort. Sometimes the answers to our questions are within us. Other times, talking it through with a partner may be best.
Either way, we all agreed that manhood should never be the reason we feel that we have limited options to address a challenge, and if it is, maybe that brand of manhood isn’t the kind we need.
Image Credits: All images via Sexual + Being x Cassandra Fountaine
H.D. Hunter is an author and activist from Atlanta, GA. His writing targets themes of coming of age, identity, and well-being through the lens of Black American life. Send him your thoughts, feedback, or a funny gif on social media @hd_tsd.