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Columbia Spectator Staff

I'm no sexpert. Dr. Drew is a sexpert. The women who wrote Our Bodies, Ourselves are sexperts. I write a sex column for a college newspaper. Despite the research I do-and by research I mean procrastinating at Starbucks while reading The Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex for the entire world to see-there is a lot I still don't know, and might never know, about sex. Witness, Exhibit A: The world of sex toys. Full disclosure: I previously declared my feelings against owning these very toys. Suffice it to say I screwed up my courage and took the plunge. Or at least took one for the column.

One would think, in a city replete with sex toys, where you can't walk down West 4th St without seeing five different kinds of dildos and man-thongs in the windows, going into a sex toy store would be no big deal, right? Wrong. Sex toys are scary. Sex toy stores are intimidating, to say the least.Even the most well-lit, clean-cut, open sex toy store can seem intimidating. Shannon Mullen, former advertising executive turned sexpert, recognized this when she started her popular sex-toy company, Safina. Mullen hosts "Safina Sex-Ed Salons"-women-only parties led by a Safina specialist who brings samples of various sex toys to show the women. They are held in people's living rooms.

In her book, The Best Sex You'll Ever Have, Mullen lays down the four best times to use a vibe: when you're dirty (in the shower), when you're stressed, when you're in need of an "easy-as-pie" orgasm, or best of all, when in bed with your lover.

Sex plus toys is associated with a stigma far worse than plain sex toys. The infamous Sex and the City episode where Samantha busts out her vibrator mid-intercourse certainly doesn't help. Samantha wanted to use her vibrator because her lover was too small for her taste. I may not have had sex plus toys yet, but I do know this: sex plus toys does not equate with small penis. Many women-and some men-cannot orgasm from sexual intercourse alone. A vibrator cans double the pleasure; it does not mean that your sexual skills are lacking in any way.

Last week an older friend of mine accused me of being too young to write a sex column-I'm only twenty, how could I possibly know all the ins and outs of sexual intercourse? She immediately busted out a boxful of sex toys: vibrators, dildos, fleshlights (aka fake vaginas) and harnesses galore. I immediately turned a bright shade of red. Determined to enhance my limited sexual expertise, I decided to buy my first vibrator.

Picture this: one wall covered in various kinds of vibrators, the other in strap-ons, and a series of glittering, silver, harness-covered mannequins in front of you. Then picture describing the nuances of your orgasm to a total stranger-"well no, the pocket-rocket might not work for me because I'm a penetration type of girl" or "ooh, g-spot stimulation sounds good."

Let's just say I learned a lot the day I finally ventured into a sex toy store to buy my first vibrator (ok, fine I bought two-they serve different purposes and I chalked it up to research). But the most important thing I learned was how little I knew. I've always thought I was sexually adventurous. I write the sex column, for god's sake. Yet I never realized how sexually inhibited I was until I went sex toy shopping. There is so much I don't know about my body. There's so much sex left to try

For all the crazy conversations I've had about sex in the last two and a half years, not one has broached the subject of sex toys. There's a stigma surrounding sex toys: if you use them you must dirty or not being getting enough sex, or both. I'd be lying if I said I didn't fall victim to the stigma too: it's only recently that I've moved past it and felt comfortable using a vibrator. We might like to think we'd try anything from scene play to anal sex, but more often than not we're simply denying our inhibitions. Sexual inhibitions are unavoidable: sometimes we can conquer them, other times they merely have to be admitted. In an ideal world, we would all go buy diverse and interesting sex toys. In the real world, that may or may not happen.

I've always contended that you didn't need to be a sexpert to write a sex column. I still contend that you don't need to be a sexpert to write a sex column, nor do you need to be a sexpert to have mind-blowing sex. Having good sex doesn't take an educational or medical degree, nor does it require a wealth of experience. In truth, no one is actually qualified to be a sexpert. Even those who claim to know everything about sex, myself sometimes included, will always have something new to learn. Just when you think you know it all you discover you don't. In fact, something new just came up with me. What happens next is between me and my vibrator.

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