Vaginas, Vibrators, and Valentine’s Day

love thyself

by Vanessa Friedman

This is the best. I’m in love.

I sent that text to Caitlin and Alex the night of February 14, 2007. It was my freshman year at NYU and I was cuddled in my dorm room bed with a brand new purchase: the Rabbit vibrator. My roommate was, through the grace of the goddess, out of town. I was alone, just me and my pink silicone toy. It was magical.

My best friends knew what my text was about immediately, because they had been with me when I made the purchase mere hours earlier. They, too, had bought their own first vibrators atBabeland that evening, all three of us delighting in the friendly atmosphere and modern aesthetic of the women-owned sex shop in Soho. Before that we had gone to see a student performance of the Vagina Monologues and bought cupcakes decorated to look like labias. We were not combatting being young, single women on Hallmark’s Most Important Romantic Holiday of the Year. We were celebrating it.

I was 18. Before college, I had only understood Valentine’s Day to be a romantic holiday—either you had a boyfriend and got to do “couples” stuff on the day, or you were single and sad about it. Those were the narratives I knew about the Hallmark holiday. The year before I had found myself in the backseat of my car with my very recent ex-boyfriend, making out with him in the school parking lot and letting him take my shirt off even though he had unceremoniously dumped me just a few weeks earlier. And he wasn’t even a very good kisser. And I even brought him chocolate. I was very much a people pleaser, is what I mean.

One year later, it felt nice to stop focusing on pleasing others.

Alex, Caitlin and I had decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with “vaginas and vibrators” because we were all single, none of us had ever owned a vibrator, and we were all a little bit shy about the word “vagina.”

“I definitely want the pink Rabbit,” I said to Caitlin and Alex as we walked into Babeland, fresh from our viewing of the Vagina Monologues. “Of course you do,” Caitlin said, teasing me for loving all pink everything. Alex wanted the Rabbit too, “but definitely not the pink one.” Caitlin wasn’t originally sure she even wanted to buy a vibrator, but she was there to support us and by the time we left the store she had decided on a small slim blue toy. We walked back to our dorm quickly, giddy and embarrassed and excited and shy and happy.

The Rabbit. Made famous (for me) by Sex and The City. Crafted to hit all the right spots both inside and out. Ubiquitous. I had coveted it for so long. And now it was mine.I used the toy for hours that night, making myself come over and over and over again. And then I texted Alex and Caitlin about it, thrilled to share my experience with them and excited to hear about theirs.

Being able to text my friends about our sex toy experiences was almost as divine as the orgasms themselves. I’d been masturbating for years at that point, but before Alex and Caitlin, I had never felt comfortable talking about it with anyone. I had barely felt comfortable talking about having a vagina, let alone doing anything sexual with it! I am not a shy person. But somewhere along the way, I had learned that vaginas were supposed to be gross and that women were not supposed to masturbate.

It’s hard to remember having that mindset, now that I’m a 27 year old queer woman with internet access, a remarkably sex positive group of friends, and a penchant for GIRLS and Broad City. And yes, age plays a role. I’m more of a grown up now than I was at age 18 because, well, people grow up. I’m not sure if access to the internet has normalized the idea of women masturbating, if queer communities are more open to discussing women pleasuring themselves independently, or if as we get older it becomes easier to talk about the stuff that makes you blush as a teen.

All I know is that after years of masturbating secretly and very privately, wondering why it was a common trope to reference guys “jacking off” multiple times a day but no one in my hometown ever even acknowledged that a girl might want to do that too, buying myself a sex toy and then talking to my friends about using it felt like the most illicit, sexy, scandalous way one could spend a Valentine’s Day. It was a celebration of friend love and self love and self reliance and girl power, and it turned me on and got me off and excited me and satisfied me and left me wanting more, more, more.

I strongly recommend it.