Some Web businesses sell, rent, and exchange customer information. (Toys in Babeland doesn't.) If you want to protect yourself, look for that assurance, and make sure you're dealing with a real business—one that has a phone number, address, and contact information. Our merchandise comes in a plain brown wrapper that says only TIB. But it's probably better not to order from work. If someone checked your Internet history or used spyware, our real name would come up.
—Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah
What about erotic literature?
Until about 20 years ago, there wasn't the kind of female erotica that we have now. The first editor in the Herotica series, Susie Bright, says that in the beginning, getting writers to submit stories was like pulling teeth. It's not like that anymore. I receive huge numbers of submissions every year, from both professional and amateur writers. The books I edit sell really well.
I think women read erotica to get in a sexy mood, but they don't get so excited that they masturbate. Erotic literature isn't like male porn. What I pick are stories—there are characters, purpose. The sex isn't the point. I think that's what women want, the context. I hate to admit it, but I guess we want the love.
—Marcy Sheiner, editor of the Herotica (Plume; Down There Press) and Best Women's Erotica series (Cleiss)
Is there a typical erotic-lit fantasy?
In my experience, there are two. One is the multiple partner scenario, in a variety of configurations—especially introducing a stranger into the mix. The whole idea of bringing someone new and anonymous into your lovemaking, and the urgency of an encounter like that, is really appealing. The other involves dominance and submission.
—Violet Blue, editor of Taboo and the erotic literature series Sweet Life (both Cleis)
Is it true that women are now selling sex aids the way they used to sell Tupperware?
At least 10,000 Passion Parties are held each month in private homes. We sell toys and lingerie, but the products that encourage foreplay are the most popular. These include edible lotion, apple-cinnamon-flavored body powder, and white-chocolate-flavored body pudding. You don't say, "I haven't been satisfied." You say, "How about trying some chocolate pudding?" You communicate in a way that won't hurt his fragile ego.
I'm 60, and when I started at this company, I didn't have any idea that these types of products existed. Women are amazed to find out what's available. Right now we do most of our business in California, but we're growing in Wisconsin and parts of the Midwest, and we're very strong across the Bible Belt. I think all women want the same thing—love and romance.
—Pat Davis, president of Passion Parties
With so much information and so many products on the market, are there areas of sexuality that we still don't know about?
There's a lot about the chemistry, physiology, and neurology of female sexual response that we still don't understand very well. It's kind of shocking. All our attention has focused on women who manifest too little libido, but I've identified a condition I call persistent sexual arousal syndrome: A woman experiences constant arousal without conscious feelings of desire, which can go on for days, weeks, even months, despite orgasms. We don't know what causes this, and isolated women who've complained about it to doctors have been made fun of or told, "You think that's a problem?" Doctors don't realize that these ongoing sensations are distracting and intrusive.
We also haven't paid much attention to the fact that "normal" women's sexual responses differ enormously. Some can have an orgasm simply through fantasy, no touch involved. Others require half an hour of vibratory stimulation, and even then they say their orgasm is muted. We don't know what to attribute these differences to, and until we have an approach that involves physicians, sex therapists, psychologists, and anthropologists who explore cultural differences in sexual expectation, we won't.
—Sandra Leiblum, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sexual and Relationship Health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, and coauthor of Getting the Sex You Want (Crown)
What's the best time to raise delicate sexual issues with a new partner?
If it's something like "I have herpes," you tell the person even before you become intimate. When you're alone together, and in a nonsexual moment—though preferably not when you're driving—you say something like "I enjoy being with you, and I have the feeling that this has the makings of a relationship. But before we go any further, there's something I need to tell you, although I'm scared it might affect the way you feel about me." But let's face it, a lot of partners hear herpes and they're out the door.
If what you want to talk about is that you most enjoy sex swinging from the chandelier, wait until you've made love a few times. Then you don't say, "I want this because it always works for me." You say, "I have a fantasy that might be fun. Why don't we try it?"
—Sue Johanson, RN
Next: Is it possible to be happy without sex?