Why our culture has such a hard time talking about sex


Talking about sex in a public forum isn’t always easy. People haven’t been raised to talk about sex openly and without shame or embarrassment. Most of that begins in our childhood years, in my opinion.

Jimmy Jane "Fuck Design" vibrator

Our societal norms often tells us we need to protect kids from sex, because sex and sexuality will ruin their innocence. So parents generally don’t talk about sex in a realistic way with their children until puberty, or often not at all.

The sex talk is also generally shrouded in embarrassment, because both children and parents feel uncomfortable. Parents often feel uncomfortable because they were raised in the same environment, where talking about sex honestly and without shame is rare. If we are all raised with that feeling associated with sex, it can easily turn into sex negativity.

That’s why I was extremely happy to read this post from Joy Imboden Overstreet. She is the mother of Ethan Imboden, who is the engineer behind the JimmyJane sex toy brand. The toys are some of the highest quality on the market, in my humble seller of sex toys opinion, and they are well designed specifically to give pleasure to human bodies.

Joy talks about her experience processing her feelings about her son’s line of work and the evolution of her perception of sex and sex toys. Her initial reaction when her son told her he wanted to design vibrators was one that is probably similar to what many people imagine when they think of sex toys and shops that cater to your sexual needs.

My mind whirled with images of bleached-blond porn stars in black bustiers, dark ‘Adult Only’ storefronts in the sleaziest part of town, a leering Hugh Hefner surrounded by his bunnies. I couldn’t reconcile my sweet, funny son with those images. Where had I gone wrong?”

And then comes the heartwarming part. Ethan explained to her his vision of his company and his realization that most of the sex toys on the market were poorly designed. Joy’s son worked as an engineer for years and wanted to switch to designing products that made a positive impact on peoples’ lives. He told his mom,

We all have sex, and we should all have access to beautiful products to support it. I’m tired of designing commodities that soon end in the landfill; I want to create something that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

For more on Ethan’s adventure into sex toy land, click here.

Joy was reminded that her son is a determined person and decided to help him out financially and in the general day-to-day of the business. Through this process, she gained a new view of how sex toys can benefit someone’s life.

At Ethan’s offices, like on “Sex in the City,” discussions of sex and sexuality are as ordinary as weather speculation. Even the very establishment Atlantic Monthly profiled Ethan and his work. I’m proud of him. Still, when asked what my son designs, I’d feel more comfortable if I could reply, ‘Affordable devices that create potable water from desert sand.’

I can relate with her feeling uncomfortable breaching the topic with people, especially strangers who might ask what her son Ethan does for a living.

In my experience working at Self Serve, I find people don’t want to talk about sex, unless it’s explicitly clear they won’t be judged and that it’s “allowed,” such as in an educational, sex-positive sex shop.

Spaces that allow open discussion of sexuality are generally very popular, as “Sex and the City” and countless other examples have shown. We love to talk about sex, but in my experience, we don’t feel like we have permission. Often times sex toys can ignite conversations about how to more fu lly experience pleasure.

From Joy,

Meanwhile, on my 65th birthday, an unmarked package arrived in the mail. Inside was a familiar white box. I opened it to find a gold-plated vibrator engraved “Mom” within a heart, and beneath that the inscription, “Behold the golden years.”

In that moment, with a mixture of pride, hilarity and delight, I could only marvel that my son had managed to shock me again.

Learning how to talk about sexuality in a positive way helps people feel comfortable and has potential to give them lots of pleasure. As evidence, check out the comments on the piece in the New York Times Motherload blog.

Sex is not bad and feeling pleasure is healthy. Of course there are instances where someone can have an unhealthy relationship with sex or are feeling insecure about their sexuality. But in its essence, pleasure is healthy for humans.

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