Browsing posts from the category Q&A


Nov
1

Does the G-spot exist?

The G-spot gets a lot of attention in the media. From a glance at the headlines or even a flick of the TV remote, one might assume that the G-spot is nothing more than an imaginary pleasure center invented by Cosmo. And many are understandably put off by the way the G-spot is often hyped as the holy grail of female pleasure.

Of course, nothing in particular is the holy grail, since everyone experiences pleasure differently. But the G-spot does exist — and every woman has the potential to feel G-spot stimulation.

Put simply, the G-spot is an area on the roof of the vagina through which the urethral sponge can be stimulated. Some women enjoy the sensation; some have to learn to enjoy it; others don’t care for it at all. G-spot stimulation may or may not lead to orgasm or female ejaculation. But the G-spot is still quite misunderstood because, for its entire existence, we’ve been given conflicting stories about it.

German gynecologist Ernest Grafenberg was the first to write about what is now known as the G-spot, in a 1950 paper entitled “The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm.” This controversial piece posited that the urethra was surrounded by erectile tissue which, when stimulated, swelled and became more sensitive. Grafenberg also noted that some women’s orgasms were accompanied by a release of non-urine fluid from the urethra.

30 years later, a book called The G-Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality came out, and quickly became a best seller. The book detailed the authors’ original research study of 400 women, and concluded that yes, there is an area on the front wall of the vagina that responds to pressure. They called it the Grafenberg Spot.

As the G-spot began to permeate the popular consciousness (thanks in no small part to sex toy shops and curved G-spot toys), scientists felt it was time to study it. Only, they didn’t do a particularly good job. A 2001 opinion piece published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology — which called the G-spot a “gynecological UFO” — received a lot of mainstream press, but the essay merely concluded that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to prove the G-spot was real.

Then came the bombshell study of 2010 that incited alarming headlines. 1,800 women, who were all twins, were studied by scientists at King’s College in London. The study consisted entirely of interviews, including the questionably-phrased query, “Do you believe you have a so-called G-spot, a small area the size of a 20p coin on the front wall of your vagina that is sensitive to deep pressure?”

While 56 percent of the women said “yes” to that particular question (and 40 to 48 percent said it was “not difficult at all” to have a vaginal orgasm), media sources overwhelmingly reported that this study was proof that the G-spot doesn’t exist. Why? Because that’s what the researchers concluded. Finding no pattern in the pairs of twins, they concluded that the G-spot was subjective.

The bias of the researchers wasn’t the only flaw in that study. Scientists specifically excluded lesbian and bisexual women from participating, and failed to ask questions about digital or sex toy penetration — only vaginal intercourse and clitoral stimulation. They didn’t ask about sexual positions, either.

Some sex educators — such as Rebecca Chalker (author of The Clitoral Truth) and Betty Dodson — believe that the urethral sponge is part of the clitoris, and therefore that G-spot orgasms are still clitoral orgasms. A 2006 article from a neurologist named Helen O’Connell, entitled “Anatomy of the Clitoris,” agreed, explaining that the walls of the clitoris wrap around the urethra and are composed of erectile tissue. But, as Tristan Taormino explains,

These works technically refuted the G-spot; however, it was more a matter of semantics. They clearly supported the idea of the urethral sponge made of erectile tissue and a sensitive area on the front wall of the vagina — they just reframed it with different language.

The truth is, while science can certainly help us understand a great many things, it is still pretty far behind when it comes to female pleasure. Right now, what matters more than scientific proof is overwhelming anecdotal proof — and the support of sex educators and sexperts such as Carol QueenSusie BrightViolet Blue, and Annie Sprinkle.

Several sex educators have written entire books on the G-spot, such as Tristan Taormino’s The Secrets of Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation, Violet Blue’s The Smart Girl’s Guide to the G-Spot, Deborah Sundahl’s Female Ejaculation & The G-Spot, and Female Ejaculation: Unleash the Ultimate G-Spot Orgasm by Somraj Pokras and Jeffre Talltrees. Plus, other sex ed books mention and validate the G-spot: The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women, I Love Female OrgasmThe Multi-Orgasmic Woman, and Getting Off, to name just a few.

Tristan Taormino put it best in her new G-spot book:

For all the women who answered yes to that British survey question, the hundreds interviewed for The G-Spot, and the thousands I’ve talked to in my fifteen-year career as a sex educator, the G-spot definitely exists. And although it’s very sensitive, it doesn’t care what its critics say about it.

Jan
5

“Can I become addicted to my vibrator?”

If you worry that using a vibrator can desensitize you or lessen your enjoyment of other sexual activity, do not fear. Vibrator addiction is a myth, just like many other sexual myths borne of cultural stigma (remember when masturbation was thought to cause blindness?).

Misconceptions about sex toys — like that they can replace partners, for instance — are at the root of the myth that people can become addicted to vibrators. Unfortunately, popular culture isn’t helping. While vibrator usage became more mainstream when Sex and the City featured Charlotte enjoying a rabbit vibrator, the episode simultaneously perpetuated the vibrator addiction myth when her friends had to stage an “intervention.”

Part of the issue is the word “addiction.” This word has extremely negative connotations, and most clinical definitions characterize addiction as something harmful and compulsive. There is nothing harmful about using a vibrator. While it is possible for a person to become obsessed with any object or behavior, there is nothing about vibrators in particular that evokes this kind of attachment, just as there was nothing in particular about Beanie Babies that made people collect them like mad!

It may be useful to view vibrator usage as a sexual preference. Humans are quick to fall into sexual patterns; in fact, our bodies grow nerve pathways in response to stimulation. You can become accustomed to the type of stimulation that a vibrator provides, or how quickly it gets you off. You can fall into a routine with your vibrator just as you can fall into a routine with partnered sex (the same foreplay, the same positions, etc). Your body will come to expect certain triggers in order to orgasm, but these triggers can always be re-established by switching up your sexual patterns and finding new ways to experience pleasure.

If you were orgasmic in other ways before trying a vibrator, you will retain that capability after using one. If you have only had orgasms with a vibrator, that’s okay too — it may be that your body requires a certain type of stimulation. Some women simply need strong stimulation for an extended period of time in order to orgasm, and hands and mouths often cannot provide that. Otherwise, you can always experiment with other sexual play that feels good to you; over time, your body will adapt and orgasm may follow.

If you are concerned about becoming accustomed to one type of stimulation, try switching to manual stimulation every once in a while, or buy a new sex toy that offers a unique sensation, like the Sqweel or Eroscillator. If you feel like you’re relying on your vibrator more than you’d like, retire it for a period of time and test some new techniques.

Some women worry that the vibrations from a sex toy could numb or desensitize them over time or permanently. This is untrue. Vibrator use will not damage your tissue or nerves. An extended session with a very powerful toy (like the popular Hitachi Magic Wand) can cause temporary numbness or desensitivity, but this sensation will dissipate after a short rest period. Numbness can also occur if you tend to push down on your genitals with your vibrator. This sort of numbness is akin to your hand or foot falling asleep — which happens when nerve endings become fatigued — and it is harmless. The blood will return to your genitals and all will be well again.

If you find yourself going numb while using a vibrator, try moving the toy around and varying the amount of pressure you use. Or place a towel between yourself and the toy to dull the vibrations. You can also wean yourself off of a very powerful toy by practicing with slightly weaker ones.

Will vibrator usage harm your partnered sex life? Far from it! In fact, at least one study has shown that people who use vibrators report fewer problems with sexual function. Using a vibrator can help you understand your body, which can improve the sex you have with others. Vibrators can also be a great complement to partnered sex. They can be especially helpful to the many women who have difficulty achieving orgasm during intercourse. Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to Female Orgasms has some great suggestions for incorporating vibrators into partnered sex.

In short, vibrators are not at all harmful, neither physically nor emotionally, and they will not stop you from having the wonderful sex you want to have.

  Q&A       
Nov
30

“What are phthalates?”

At She Bop, every sex toy we carry is completely body-safe and phthalate-free. But what on earth are phthalates, and why do we want our sex toys to be free of them?

Besides having a perplexing name (pronounced “thal-ates”), phthalates are a family of chemicals used to soften hard plastics. In the realm of sex toys, they are often the reason that cheap sex toys are squishy, smelly, and… potentially toxic.

Although we may not know it, phthalates are not foreign to us. They are present in a variety of everyday stuff: paints, deodorants, shower curtains, nail polish, vinyl floors, and even food (most likely because they can leach out of food processing machinery and food packaging). However, troubling research on phthalates has cast doubt on whether phthalates are as innocuous as they once seemed.

It is well-known that phthalates have a tendency to “off-gas” — escape from the plastic in the form of a gas. They also seep out in an oily film, which can be absorbed through skin, mouths, and mucous membranes.

In particular, researchers are worried about what phthalates could do to children. Canada, Europe, and the U.S. have all enacted bans on children’s toys that contain certain levels of phthalates (for example, Congress banned the sale of children’s toys and baby products that contain more than 0.1% of certain phthalates). The tendency of phthalates to off-gas is particularly scary, since children put toys in their mouths.

Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of government regulation within the sex toy industry (ever notice that ominous phrase, “for novelty use only,” on sex toy packaging?), so companies are free to use whichever materials they please. For some companies, this means using phthalates to cut production costs. Greenpeace Netherlands conducted a study in 2006 in which they tested eight sex toys and found that seven of them contained phthalates, in concentrations ranging from 24 to 51 percent of the toys’ composition. Compared to the 0.1% ban enacted by Congress, this is more than a little disturbing.

In a similar study conducted in 2000, a German chemist named Hans Ulrich Krieg identified ten dangerous chemicals gassing out of European sex toys, including phthalates. He found some toys that had phthalate concentrations as high as 243,000 parts per million. Krieg said, “I have been doing this analysis of consumer goods for more than 10 years, and I’ve never seen such high results.”

Can phthalates in sex toys cause health issues?

The jury is still out on whether phthalates in sex toys pose a risk to our health, but studies have shown that very large doses of phthalates may cause liver damage, kidney damage, hormonal disruption, reproductive organ damage, and liver cancer. More than one study has linked high levels of phthalate exposure in the womb and through breast milk to male reproductive issues. Minute levels of some phthalates have been linked to sperm damage in men; this has caused speculation about whether phthalates are to blame for a huge drop in male fertility over the past few decades.

Other studies are less frightening: one report from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency indicates that there are no major health risks if a person uses sex toys containing phthalates for an hour or less per day. Pregnant or nursing individuals, however, are advised against “heavy usage.”

Anecdotal evidence tells us more than most studies do. If you’ve ever experienced a burning, itching, or an uncomfortable sensation after using a sex toy, it may very well be due to the phthalate content.

And there are other reasons to avoid phthalates in sex toys. These toys are always porous, which means they tend to trap bacteria on the surface of the toy. They can never be fully sterilized, and over time, they will break down.

We simply don’t know what the long-term effects of continued exposure to sex toys containing phthalates may be. Considering that sex toys come into direct contact with mucous membranes, through which substances can be absorbed, there is reason to be concerned — especially when it comes to butt plugs and other toys that are meant to be worn for extended periods of time.

How do I know if a sex toy contains phthalates?

The biggest telltale sign of phthalates is smell: if a sex toy smells strongly like a new shower curtain, it probably contains phthalates. Sometimes the smell is so intense that it can linger on your fingers after you’ve held the toy. Often, the smell cannot be washed out, or it takes a vat of bleach to do so.

Worse signs can crop up later on. Sometimes a greasy sweat will appear on the surface of the toy. Over time, the toy may decompose into a sort of goo, and can melt into other toys that it touches.

Of course, if you are shopping for a sex toy, none of these signs can be observed unless you are able to handle the toy before buying it. While you can definitely handle the toys if you come visit She Bop, we have already done the research for you: absolutely none of the toys we carry contain phthalates. Anything you purchase either in person at She Bop or from our online store will be body-safe and phthalate-free.

What can I do if I think one of my sex toys contains phthalates?

You should cover the toy in a condom each time you use it. Always clean the toy with antibacterial soap. After use, store the toy out of sunlight and away from other sex toys and plastics. If the surface of your toy becomes dull, the material may be breaking down, and you should probably throw the toy out.

If you’re on the hunt to replace an old toy, look for toys made of 100% silicone — pure silicone toys are soft, non-porous, and completely body-safe. Replacing a rabbit? Try the Rabbit Habit, which is made of phthalate-free elastomer, or the Ina, which is covered in silky pure silicone. If you’re pinching pennies, opt for a hard plastic vibrator made of ABS plastic (not PVC). And remember, every toy in our catalog is phthalate-free, so shop with confidence.

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She Bop is a women-owned sex toy boutique specializing in body safe products and education. Our mission is to promote healthy and safe sexuality by offering quality products and educational workshops in a fun and comfortable environment. She Bop welcomes people of all genders and sexual orientations.
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