Thu, Feb. 23rd, 2006, 01:56 am

Book 22: Home of the Happy Penis

A friend who would probably wish to remain anonymous pointed me to Book 22 the other day. It's a Christian (read: conservative Evangelical) sex toy shop. At first, I was puzzled why such a specific cultural focus was called for. After all, the stuff they sell is just about all available on Good Vibes at similar prices. But then I realized that, likewise, most of Good Vibes' stock could also be found at SexToySex.com and the like, along with one or two other categories GV has not yet seen fit to stock. People want to feel safe and catered-to, not like they're freaks to be buying what they want. And Book 22 does offer one concrete advantage for the sin-averse: no danger of accidentally seeing any naked people while browsing for sex toys.

"We avoid any objectionable wording or pictures in the line of products we offer" they tell you on their front page, and they labor mightily throughout the site to provide you with reassurance that you're not doing anything sinful by shopping there. Providing, of course, that you're married.  "It is our company's policy that the products we sell be purchased for married couples only." The vocabulary of the site is rather more Ladies Home Journal than Cosmo. "Intimacy" and "romance" are the most common words in the product descriptions. Occasionally they will go so far as "sensuality." Google finds no instances of the word 'sexy' anywhere on the site, though they do sell Happy Penis Massage Cream (available in  Cool Mint, Vanilla Cream, and Pina Colada) and Coochy Shave Creme.

I don't have much to say about their sections devoted to edible massage oils and romance-themed board games, but I will opine where my expertise is a little better.
  • Their condom selection is modest but well-chosen (though they could really use a non-latex offering).
  • I'm less impressed with the lube lineup, with seven out of nine offerings variations on the same brand (I-D).
  • They have an entire section devoted to jelly rings and their variants, which are basically sillicone cock rings, sometimes with an attached small clitoral vibe. I guess this heavy emphasis is because they're intended for use during PIV sex, unlike more conventional toys. Also to be found here are several phallic prostheses for the guy convinced that any discontent his wife is feeling must be because his dick is too small.
  • Apparently the word "aides" is considered less threatening than "vibrators." The reasons for this are obscure to me. Their vibe selection seems reasonable, with an eye to simplicity and avoiding anything remotely phallic.  The Aides section also throws in the kinkiest item Book 22 has for sale--a $6 satin eyemask.
Anything that vibrates in the previous two sections links prominently to The Marriage Bed Dot Com in its description. This proved to be an extensive site of evangelical sex advice, which was even more interesting, and which I shall treat on in my next post

Thu, Feb. 23rd, 2006 04:25 am (UTC)
blueinva

I kinda wondered what Pat Robertson did when he was horny. I figured he just prayed for deliverance.

Thu, Feb. 23rd, 2006 07:36 am (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

Reps.

Fri, Feb. 24th, 2006 02:45 am (UTC)
blueinva

Two thousand pounds? Damn, the bob-sled team needs to sign him up...That little intro read just like something Kim Il-Jung might have on his bio.

Thu, Feb. 23rd, 2006 11:22 am (UTC)
sagittaria

I can't wait for your next post.

Thu, Feb. 23rd, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC)
mycrust

Seriously, these posts are really good. With my own fundie Christian background, I'm annoyed I didn't find this site myself.

I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts about this. A common theme in some fundamentalist Christian writing is that sex is a gift from God to be expressed through marriage. The corollaries of this include the idea that sex in a marriage is about a spiritual relationship with God as well as a sexual relationship between the married couple. I think this explains why some fundamentalist Christians, although often characterized as anti-sex, actually write a lot of material about maintenance of a married sex life: a sexually inactive marriage suggests that there is something wrong with your relationship with God.

Now, in general, I support the idea of people having pleasurable sex, but there's something about this attitude that distresses me a little. It begins to seem like having regular sex is the equivalent of going to church every Sunday, a way to keep your spiritual life healthy.

Of course, the definition of a "healthy" and holy sex life is "successful" penis-vagina intercourse. You pointed this out too, but I think it's very telling that they refer to vibrators as "aides". You're not supposed to think about the fact that they vibrate (something no penis I'm aware of can do, at least not at any useful frequencies), you're supposed to think about the fact that they can get you warmed up for "real" sex.

In general, almost every product they sell can fit easily into a logical structure that positions penis-vagina sex as the goal; everything they sell either enhances the experience or helps you get to it more quickly or more easily. (This toy might seem like an exception, but I hasten to remind you that cunnilingus is only worthwhile as "foreplay"). It's pretty revealing what they don't sell: dildos (non-vibrating ones, I mean; too threatening to the supremacy of the penis), anal toys of any kind (again, a dangerous distraction from the penis-vagina paradigm), harnesses (heaven forbid!), floggers (obviously), etc...

I have mixed feelings about all of this, and I look forward to your thoughts on The Marriage Bed Dot Com. Obviously there are positive things about putting some emphasis on female pleasure, and, really, I have nothing against vanilla, vaginal intercourse. It just all seems like such a dreary, burdensome approach to sex.

Fri, Feb. 24th, 2006 10:05 am (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

Certainly, Book 22 privileges PIV sex. Of course, we have to read between the lines to get at a lot of their attitudes, extrapolating from their choice of products. We'll have much easier going with The Marriage Bed, which is very explicit about these questions.

In a way, by emphasizing the actual sex toys on B22, I'm providing a distorted lens on the site. They have a whole lot more flavored massage oils than vibes. I suspect that a lot of the site owners' agenda (apart from making a buck) is to encourage a severely inhibited population to be more comfortable with sensuality and desire, albeit within extremely circumscribed parameters.

I'd agree that the "God wants you to have good sex" reasoning sounds good at first, but offers uglier aspects on further scrutiny. These issues are much more glaring in the Catholic take on the same questions where we get to watch cellibate priests explaining to women that if they're not coming from coitus, there's something wrong with their marriage. And not even a mention of jelly rings.

Fri, Feb. 24th, 2006 10:44 am (UTC)
mycrust

Although a woman is not obliged to do so, she may immediately after her husband’s ejaculation in the vagina or immediately after his withdrawal upon ejaculation obtain her own complete satisfaction.

So, it's kind of like there's a Catholic "10 Second Rule" regarding female orgasm?

Fri, Feb. 24th, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

So you're suggesting that we replace the old eucharistic joke--"Drink it quick, before it clots!"--with "Eat it quick, before it congeals?"

Thu, Feb. 23rd, 2006 01:40 pm (UTC)
mycrust

Tangentially, I would also like to remark that, as far as I know, the word aide always refers to a person, not an object. Though I can understand them not wanting to call the link to their vibrator collection aids.

Wed, Mar. 1st, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC)
powerfrau

"The Act of Marriage: A Christian Guide to Sexual Love" by Lahaye...a title to go with the shop!