Three years ago (June, 2013) I told my parents I was going to a music festival in Denmark to teach people how to make dildos from 3D printers.
'Well,we're fine with it darling, as long as you're happy and safe.... but I don't think we'll put it in the Christmas newsletter'
This is a very British reaction. But not the one people expect when they ask at dinner parties:
"Wow! But what do your parents think?!"
At that time, yes, I omitted some details. For example, the printer behind me was specifically laying out the foundations of a Hello Kitty Vibrator. But they got the crux of my fascination in the industry :
"Why don't we talk about this like any other billion-dollar industry that has a positive impact on people's health and wellbeing?"
In hindsight however, that quip ".. but we won't put it in the Christmas Newsletter", was alarm bells signalling the real problem around meaningful conversations to do with sex. It's not that 'people' don't get it, it's that 'THE OTHERS' don't get it..
The concept of "the others" appears in many guises from many minds - clients I talk to on Skype, journalists I talk to for interviews, doctors I meet at conferences, teachers putting together sex ed programs. It sounds like this :
"Well, I'm fine with it of course, I mean I really GET it, you know, we all have sex and it's ludicrous no one talks about it.... but it's the others I'm worried about.. the other teachers, and the parents, not everyone is as open-minded as you and me"
"I mean, I'm happy to talk about sex.. but the other nurses, and the patients, especially the older ones, they would get really uncomfortable"
"It's funny because I totally get where you're coming from, but you must find it hard being in this business seeing as it's SUCH a taboo.. you know, what do other people say?"
THE OTHERS DO NOT EXIST.
EVERYONE IS PRETTY MUCH COOL WITH THIS.
Is that a bit of an exaggeration? Are there not conservative types who think the sex toy industry and talking normally about the sex will set the world on fire?
Of course there are! But keep in mind those kooks are a minority, and every industry has an extremely opposed minority. The point I keep stumbling over, and subsequently ranting about, is that we over-estimate in our minds how 'not-cool' other people are about sex stuff.
In the end, most people at some point in their lives think about sex, usually question why it's attached to shame and awkwardness, and would quite like more options to resolve that.
One solution to resolving this? Have more open, frank and meaningful conversations about sexuality in society. It beats talking about the weather any day.
I help men after prostate cancer treatment recover and adapt to sexual function changes. I am a PhD researcher and sexual recovery consultant based in Melbourne, Australia,