One recent Sunday, my friend and I met for a drink before heading to the Soho outpost of Babelend, an upscale sex shop, to take a class called Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex. At $35 a ticket, the two-hour workshop wasn’t cheap, but the promise of “a range of tips and techniques covering oral sex, anal sex, the G-spot, female ejaculation, and sex toys” seemed worth the investment. At the very least, I figured that expanding my sexual repertoire would inspire me in the bedroom, and leave my boyfriend feeling grateful to have such a proactive mate.
As we took our seats on folding chairs in the back of the store, which was closed for the occasion, I sensed the timidity of our ten classmates. Were they as worried as I was about the amount of class participation expected? Within minutes, however, the charismatic sexologists in charge eradicated our cumulative discomfort. An Asian lady in jean shorts, a t-shirt and Birkenstocks introduced herself before running through the night’s syllabus. Her co-host, a chubby flame-haired young woman in bright yellow pants and a nautical top was equally self-confident and inviting. This was a sex positive environment.
With the help of “Lucy,” a giant stuffed vulva shaped puppet, our teachers demonstrated various methods of stimulating female genitalia. Then, one of the women nonchalantly strapped on a dildo so they could tackle the how-to’s of handjobs and blowjobs. Lollipops were provided for licking and sucking practice before the sex position demo series, which involved some hilarious maneuvering by the dildo-clad teacher obviously unaccustomed to external genitalia.
Overall, nothing all that revolutionary was discussed. What was striking, instead, was the empowering way in which our knowledgeable teachers addressed the material without a hint of intimidation or shame. This is what Sex-Ed should look like, I thought. To deny that sex and pleasure go together is to deny our humanity.
I returned from Moregasm class armed with a special lychee- and lime- scented candle made out of wax that melts into massage oil, feeling predictably randy.
“Tell me what you learned,” my boyfriend said.
Coy, “I think I’d rather show you.”
But seductive is tough to pull of when you pause routinely to think over lesson points. Especially once you start laughing.
When my boyfriend asked what was so damn funny, I explained: “I want to try harmonica—a technique that involves moving my lips up and down your shaft while humming—but I can’t think of a song to hum on your dick other than Happy Birthday.”
“Give that one a go,” he shrugged.
So I did.
But while my birthday harmonica wasn’t unappreciated, it didn’t turn us on so much as it cracked us up. There’s something unequivocally sexy about laughing with your partner in bed, but this wasn’t the post-Moregasem class scenario I’d envisioned.
Is a staged moment ever as sexy as planned? Or does the very act of staging strip a scene of its sex appeal?
A few days later, I was sitting at my desk, which faces a window through which the hotel across the street is visible. I adore this set-up, mostly because it guarantees a building full of strangers to observe as they go about their routines, and I go about distracting myself from work. I’ve witnessed a lot of gesturing to mirrors, frantic pacing while brushing teeth, and reckless snacking from bed. What I hadn’t seen until this day was a lithe brunette standing on a windowsill completely naked, transitioning seamlessly from one position to the next.
I swear I’m not a creep who snaps photos of the people she beds without their permission and pastes them into a Conquests Scrapbook alongside notes on relative performance. But the sight of a beautiful woman’s bare ass pressed against a window kicked my libido into gear. I had to immortalize the moment.
So I took photos—a lot of photos—and some video clips, without knowing whether doing so was entirely lawful. A reputable-enough looking website assured me it’s legal to capture someone without their consent—unless said person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Is it reasonable to expect privacy inside your hotel room? Probably. But not if you’re prancing around in the buff between curtain and window glass, right?
When my chestnut haired friend hopped down from her makeshift pedestal and closed the curtain, I was sad to see her go. I peeked at her window throughout the day, and squandered time asking questions my fleeting companion couldn’t answer: Are you a yoga instructor with a specialty in naked meditation? An up-and-coming actress preparing for a role? A student loan saddled college grad preparing to pleasure her sugar daddy?
But I’m no stranger to nudity. As a freelancer who specializes in immersive journalism, I’ve gotten naked on more than one occasion in the name of my craft, and I’ve seen plenty of porn. So why was I so captivated?
When my boyfriend walked through the door, I jumped at the chance to share the story and to reveal the photos I’d taken on the sly. Vicariously, I became aroused all over again.
It occurred to me then that it was never the nudity that was so thrilling, but the unexpectedness of everything. However benign, the scenario surprised me. Then I surprised myself by seizing the moment to take photographs. And I surprised my boyfriend by recounting it all.
Spontaneity is rare, and impossible to replicate. Today, I’m grateful to the attractive nude stranger who inadvertently taught me that the most powerful erotic tickle is one you can’t curate, no matter how many classes you take.