On self-service.

For my 26th birthday, I bought myself a vibrator.

And if you were at all made squeamish by this first sentence, I recommend not making the jump. And if you’re at all turned on by this first sentence, please do not make the jump.

Designated Friend and I went to a sex shop on Monday. We sneaked in the back room and watched vibrator tutorials on a tiny TV screen for a while, and then we made our selections. I took much longer, trying to decide between two or three different, uh, models. Finally, I decided on the one that caught my eye upon entering the store, a little something called The Petite Bunny.

I didn’t get the chance to try it out Monday night because Cautionary Husband came down with some sort of bug and wanted me to take care of him. But last night when I got off work, I settled in with a glass of wine, watched some Grey’s Anatomy season one, and let myself get just a little bit turned on. Not by the sight of an exposed spinal cord, mind you, but by all the sexy chemistry between Meredith and Derek. After the episode was over, I switched off the TV and retreated to the bedroom. I was nervous. It was my first date with myself, and I was nervous. I thought for a second about putting on some lingerie but decided it was unnecessary and slipped off my clothes and into the bed.

Before Monday, the extent of my knowledge on vibrators was limited to what I’ve seen on Sex and the City on TBS. Which is to say not very much, and also that vibrators can be useful for putting babies to sleep in a pinch. I was taught my whole life that masturbation is BAD and WRONG and SHAMEFUL, so I’ve always had a strictly clinical approach to my body. The idea of masturbation seemed silly to me. As absurd as having sex with my gynecologist. Who, it should be noted, is a woman.

Therefore, the orgasm to me has always been this mythical thing. Some men have made valiant efforts, but most have failed. Once, when I was a sophomore in college, my boyfriend got me close, but just as I was really starting to lose myself in it and realize what was happening, he stopped because I was making too much noise and his parents were down the hall. I broke up with him not too long after that.

The first big one came from Cautionary Lover. This, of course, has increased my post-affair despair. The orgasms I experienced with him seemed to be an intoxicating combination of illicit passion, years of repressed feelings, a profound emotional intimacy melded perfectly with a profound physical intimacy, his older-man experience, pure and utter acceptance of each other, and unbridled lust. And even then, it took a lot of very focused, very determined work on his part.

Naturally, when I ended it, I mournfully assumed I’d never have an orgasm again.

Somewhere down the line, people began to try to convince me that masturbation could be the solution to my myriad problems. One of which is writing just for myself. I can’t do it. Usually, when I write, I envision my audience, try to determine what will impress him/her/them, and then I do that. But apparently I’m not keen on impressing myself. Whenever I write for myself, it usually comes out as complete nonsense, gibberish that I write in a half-awake state and never want to read through again, so I never get any real revising done. And writing takes lots and lots of revising. Good writing takes tons of revising.

When I told an English major friend about my writing problem, he asked me if I masturbate. I was taken aback at first–No, of course I don’t! I’m a good Christian girl who was taught NEVER to touch herself!–and then I began to understand what he was getting at. Writing for myself is about pleasing myself. Exploring myself. Doing it for myself. Meeting my needs myself. Seeking satisfaction for myself, by myself. Writing isn’t necessarily masturbation, but we must first and foremost work to delight ourselves. If we don’t love what we write, no one will. And who can really write until they’ve explored all the nooks and crannies of themselves? We are our own main subject. And our own main audience.

So I began to throw around the idea of buying a vibrator. I have needs, after all, and my needs seem to be increasing with age. Rumor has it that women reach their sexual peak around 30. If so, the world had better look out, because, my God, here, at the age of 26, I love sex. I never thought there would be a time where I thought so much about sex. About how good it is. About how I want it again. I believe I even said on one occasion that if I knew I would have to go the rest of my life without ever having good sex again, I wouldn’t want to live. After having experienced the real thing, I see that I need it. I need it a lot.

That’s when Designated Friend brought up that she and her husband were looking to spice up their sex life with some TOYZ.  I couldn’t quite stomach the idea of buying my first vibrator alone because SAD. But with DF there to joke and clear the air and research with me, it wouldn’t be so bad. I never thought it’d be possible for me to feel unashamed to speak such sentences aloud as, “Ooooh, I wanna go check out the clitorator!” and “I think I really would like my first vibrator to be called ‘My First Vibe.'” But DF made it possible. We bought our vibrators along with some condoms and 10-for-$1.75 sticks of incense.

So there I was on the bed naked. With an odd mix of trepidation and intrepidity, I began. I started out making the usual sounds I make until I realized that I didn’t need to make any sounds if I didn’t want to. No one was around to hear. No one was needing affirmation except me, but I didn’t need audible affirmation. The affirmation I was seeking was purely in what I was feeling. After a bit, I got sad. I missed Cautionary Lover. He was so good at this. It takes such courage to venture into a lady’s land and try to procure from her the elusive O. It’s tough work, and it requires confidence and skill.  He has both.  I have neither.

I nearly stopped, but I kept at it. I began to doubt that I’m even capable of orgasm. What if what I felt those few times wasn’t actually orgasm? Of course, I knew it was, but it was too fast, too intense, too fleeting for me to be truly sure of what it was. I placed a pillow on top of my chest. I hugged it. I moaned Cautionary Lover’s name. Still nothing.

That’s when I got real. I opened my eyes and looked at myself properly. I’d never examined myself in a state of arousal; that’s always been someone else’s job. But now it was mine, and I was going to give it due diligence. And I did. And did. And did. And, lo, the orgasm was soon upon me, and I was contracting involuntarily and experiencing pleasure the likes of which I haven’t felt in nearly a year. Oh my God! I thought. It’s real! It’s real! I’ve done it! It’s real!

And then I immediately began sobbing. The ugly, face contorting, open-mouth kind of sobbing that you do only when you’re absolutely sure that no one can see or hear you. I sobbed loudly. I sobbed because the orgasm connected me to my emotions in a way I’ve never experienced before.  I sobbed because I missed Cautionary Lover simultaneously more and less, more because, God, I missed how he made love to me, and less because I know now that he is NOT the sole keyholder to that powerful feeling. I took the key back. It’s mine now. I sobbed because I waited 26 years to do this. I sobbed because I could’ve felt this feeling long ago,  been certain of its existence, helped other lovers when venturing to take me down that path to sexual bliss. I sobbed because I was angry with whomever taught me it was A Bad Thing. It’s not A Bad Thing. It’s a beautiful thing. A necessary thing. A thing I should’ve done long, long ago.

I took a bath, and even an hour later, my heart rate was still exceedingly high. Even after my bath, as I sat down to write about my experience, I was still lightheaded.  There was no man for me to cling to, no one to calm my breathing, to stroke my hair and shush me and hold me as I unwound from such intense pleasure. There was only me. I have only me. Me to start, me to end. Me to take to the bathtub and relax, me to lie in bed writing. To myself, coherently, for what must’ve been the first time.



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15 responses to “On self-service.

  1. jen

    Congratulations!! The first time by yourself is definitely an eye-opening experience! I honestly believe that if more girls were told about this there’d be less teenage pregnancies!!

    It’s made for some poignant writing! xx

  2. juliennejiggs

    I agree with Jen (re: teen pregnancies) on this one! And congrats to you!

  3. carl

    that might be the coolest post you’ve ever written.

  4. Congratulations. You’re one step closer to understanding that you are enough. And you are enough.

  5. This was such an awesome post. Congratulations times a million.

  6. Anonymous

    I can’t have an orgasm without using a vibrator.

    When it became apparent to my more sexually experienced husband that I couldn’t have an orgasm through regular means, he insisted that we pick out a vibrator together. I resisted for a long time because I thought it seemed dirty and kinky, but I finally relented one day, and that day changed my life.

    I believe that anything is permissible in bed between husband and wife, so you wield that vibrator confidently if you have the opportunity to use it with CH. In fact, I really recommend it!

  7. It took me a long time to figure out what I liked. Too many partners have left me unsatisfied, though the Rabbit never does (it’s my fav and totally worth the $100 it costs!). The last man I was with, the one I fell so madly in love with was absolutely amazing and could give me multiples. MULTIPLES. *sigh* It’s no wonder I still long for him…

  8. This made me feel kind of sad. You’re very good at evoking emotion.

  9. congratulations! what a well written post.

  10. Carla

    I’m proud. Beautifully written and beautifully felt. I almost cheered at the “climax.”

  11. CautionaryQuestioner


    You don’t have to answer this here, but I think you do owe it to yourself to answer this question:

    If things hadn’t have fallen apart with CL (e.g. if he had left his wife for you), would you have left CH?

    Answering this question honestly might help you decide if reuniting with CH is really possible.

    Perhaps you’ve already thought about this. The psychologist in me just had to ask.



  12. humanbeingblog

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

    I bought my first vibe at age 36, although I was a frequent and skilled masturbator by that point. I was so ashamed to go into the sex store. Now, I have a collection of these toys and others, and I use them frequently without guilt or shame.

    Sex is part of being human. Pleasure is your birthright.

  13. acautionaryblog


    Ugh. I kind of hate this question, though it is a good one. It just kind of drives me crazy. I’ve worked hard to get to a place where I don’t dwell on the “what if”s. Because what’s the point of that?

    CL’s decision to stay with his wife showed, I think, his true feelings for me. And CH’s decision to stay with me once I told him about the affair showed his true feelings for me. And both of these men’s decisions and the feelings they reveal affect my feelings regarding each man and each respective relationship, and the consequential decisions I may make.

    If things were different, things may be different. Or not, I don’t know. But things aren’t different. Things will never be that way. Things are this way.

    Much love,

  14. Anonymous

    Have you read this poem? It’s one of my favorites. It has a more melancholy tone than your story (which, by the way, is beautifully written… I’m amazed at your honesty, and the honesty gives your voice a fantastic quality… love it), but I thought you might enjoy it.


  15. another morning

    There’s an eroticism to reading as well as to writing. The suspense and tension, careful hints noted and subsequent anticipation leading toward the “climax” referred to above by another commenter.

    Perhaps it is when the writing is most masturbatory and sexually self-serving, when the writer is feeling most pleasured, that the reader too can reach the fullest aesthetic orgasm.

    I love the unity, the structure, the intentionality of your writing.

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