he first time he asked me if I had any toys, the answer was no. I was married for seven years and Mormon for six. I’m not sure which is worse.
You’re not supposed to masturbate when you’re a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I assume this is roughly the experience of seeing-eye dogs when they are being trained to avoid chocolate. Smell this delicious thing in order to make sure you avoid ever experiencing it. Venerate rather than enjoy your body. (Am I the only one who thinks venerate sounds like the precursor to an STD?)
I was raised Hindu, you know. My people are the proud parents of the Kama Sutra and The Sexiest Outfit Ever: the sari. I grew up watching gorgeous Indian women shake their asses in Bollywood movies, a cascade of sequins, colors, and exposed skin.
But lineage can crumple in the face of fear. When you are 20 and pregnant and scared, it feels like the safest thing in the world to say “I do” while letting a boy slip a ring on your finger. When you are a new mom of 21 and still scared, it feels comforting to hang up the silk saris and slip into the white religious garments of the Mormon temple, the clearly defined role they imply. The color of innocence.
The garments are a shirt with cap sleeve and knee-length shorts, to be worn underneath your clothing at all times. Someone once suggested I wear a T-shirt underneath a sari. I believe the underlying thinking was: if I died of heatstroke in the 100-degree weather of my cousin’s wedding, at least my corpse would be cremated modestly.
Mormons don’t cremate; Hindus do.
Eight years and three children later, you wake up to find your body enveloped by garments the color of Christ’s robe, on the mattress your husband bought, in the house he chose, in the town he picked, and you realize you have paid for this security with chunks of yourself. Then, the concept of safety feels like a fashion trend from a decade you’d rather forget — like bell-bottom jeans or butterfly hair clips.
The marriage has run its natural course, dissolved like Alka Seltzer in water, with only a slight lingering aftertaste. You want the pieces of you back.
I own three toys now: a small vibrator called “touch of velvet,” an enormous pink rabbit with vibrating and rotating options, a black silicone dildo with a suction cup bottom, . The suction cup doesn’t work well on the floor (too low to the ground) but I place it against the tan leather headboard of my bed and ride.
I told him I wasn’t a screamer, but I’ve been taking responsibility for the shortcomings of others for too long; no one has made me scream in seven years.
The next man will find me harder and harder to contain.I have three kids, too, and I am careful not to wake them as I learn my new toys.
My son is two and nonverbal. He has been shaking his head “no” for months, but just began nodding for “yes.” It is a series of awkward, uncertain jerks that take purposed concentration on his part. His developmental therapist calls this “motor planning.” I call it “too close to home.”
At least it is the “yes” my son struggles with. My own mouth needs to learn “no.”
I’ve slept with a polyamorous swinger who lives around the corner from my house four times, mostly because he is nice, and because of my lack of familiarity with the word “no.” (For seven years: “Whenever your husband asks for sex, the answer is always yes.”) In seven months I went from being a married, devout Mormon to having drinks in a hotel bar with a swinger on a Saturday afternoon. A lot can change in 210 days, praise the Lord.
The swinger explains his relationship web to me, who is dating who, who is sleeping with who, who had children with who, and I think it is very cool and awesome in concept, except I cannot contain the raging medical hypochondria I have taken home like a goody bag from navigating my son’s health problems.
Instead of individual people, all I see is potential for disease. My brain has warped into a worst-case scenario Web MD, drawing this conclusion from everything: and then you might die.
It tends to put a damper on the sex. I have two close friends who are doctors who gave me the STD talk I never needed, as I was married off at age twenty. The medical terms thump around in my head, like a herd of unruly elephants. Impossible to ignore. HSV2. Bacterial vaginosis. HIV/ AIDS. Gonorrhea.
People tell me I am supposed to prepare for the coronavirus, but I have already allocated all of my medical hypochondria to avoiding STDs. Instead of stocking up on Ibuprofen and prescription medications, I have stocked up on sex toys and condoms and garlic. To ward off men? Vampires?
There is less risk involved with the toys. I think I like the big pink one the best, but, unlike washers and dryers, these things don’t come with instruction manuals. My almost-ex-husband bought me a new washing machine and dryer before we split. Not that any reasonable person would read those manuals.
I press buttons and hope for the best. This is how I discovered the “sanitation” cycle runs for three hours. My relationship with the rabbit is about the same. Okay, that was a bit aggressive. A little less next time? I find the toy easier to talk to than men because it has little faces etched into it, one at the rabbit part complete with ears, and another at the head.
They smile without judgement, adept at both giving pleasure and holding space.
I thought women might feel more comfortable than the toys and men, and slept with a woman the other night — my first time doing so. This settled any doubts that I might be a lesbian. The best way I can describe it: I went skiing for the first time last March. Even though I stayed on the bunny slope, it was fun. I enjoyed it. I’d like to do it again someday and get better.
But every time I fell, my hips, ankles, and knees all splayed inward at the wrong angles and said: we were not built for this. Her skin was soft, what I imagine to be the texture of angel feathers. Her hair fell across me, lightly fragrant. She said, “thank you” when she came.
But my body wanted a penis.
More specifically, my body wanted the penis of a particular man who lives across the country. Now that I have started breaking rules, I cannot seem to stop, and I have broken the golden rule every girlfriend has impressed upon me: Do Not Catch Feelings for the Rebound Guy.
I send him selfies in strappy lingerie. He drops some expletives and uses the name of the Lord in vain (a compliment, I think?). He asks me what I plan on doing with all of that?
I give him some dumb answer that implies that I’ve been sleeping around, when, in reality, I have been hiding under the covers since before it was socially responsible, hoping no one knocks at my front door.
I give him this answer because I’ve had one White Claw, and one is enough when you haven’t had any tea, coffee, or alcohol for six years. Before I entered this world of spiked seltzers and sex toys, back when I first considered leaving the church, I called my former bishop with my doubts and he told me, the safest place to weather a storm is inside the boat. But what if the concept of safety lacks allure? What if I want to feel every moment of the storm, feel water tumble from the sky onto my skin, the wind to tug and tangle my hair?
magine you are a sexually repressed woman and have spent your adult life covering your body with religious garments, avoiding eye contact with men, and gritting your teeth
through lousy sex. Imagine that you are released from that temple, that you are entering a new kind of temple, one where your body is celebrated instead of censored.
One with color and lace and handcuffs and blindfolds and vibrators called “touch of velvet.” Imagine you fold away the white trepidation that has muted you for so long and you must now cultivate a new wardrobe, one of varied experience.
You can bet your ass you reach for the sexiest, skimpiest strings and admire your own body in the mirror before penetrating yourself against the headboard of your bed.
The answer I wanted to say when he asked what I plan on doing with all of that?
Baby, it’s just for me.