My name is Asha, I am a student from America studying abroad and I intern at Hands Inc. About a week ago, Hands Inc. embarked on a trip to Sh!, a female-focused sex shop, based in Hackney. We took a group of women to Sh! As a part of their Menopause Project. This project includes activities like exercise courses, awareness courses, and support groups, all focused around the menopause. I recently attended an exercise class and saw how the different cardio, balance exercises, and pelvic floor movements really helped get the women moving around and really listening to their body’s. While it is great to see women moving around discovering their physical strengths through the menopause, it is not the only area that it can affect. A few of our service users expressed their interest in going to a sex shop, to learn more about their own sexuality and discuss the ways that menopause has affected them. As a 20 year old, I had never really thought about the menopause in a sexual context. What I have learnt from my time on the Menopause Project is that menopause is a mystical topic that no woman ever talks about until it is too late and they are going through it themselves. I learnt all about periods and sex but never talked about menopause in school or even with my own mother. Our service users have talked about the hot flashes, sleepless nights, cramping, and flushing but sometimes they have a difficult time discussing their low sex drive in front of others. Our trip to Sh!really helped clear up some of the more taboo subjects.
We had all of the women who were interested, meet up at the Shoreditch Town Hall and so we could walk together to Sh!. When I arrived and met some of the women, there was a certain feeling of excitement and curiosity in the air. For a few of the women, this was the first time they had ever gone to a sex shop in their lives. Others said that they would never go into a sex shop alone, without a formal group, because they were either too embarrassed or scared. Everyone was very eager to arrive at Sh!, they were even leading the group! As we arrived in the shop, we saw a few of the vibrators, toys, and lubricants. Naturally, the excitement increased as we were led into a closed curtain room with chairs set up around two tables filled with different toys, diagrams, and even plush three-dimensional vaginas. The class began and we were offered refreshments and snacks, and a nice ice-breaker to get everyone in the mood for the night.
The class itself started off with a nice walk through of the female anatomy using plush vaginas. The women really found these to be helpful because they were so interactive and a wonderful visual tool. Many of the women had questions throughout this section and felt very open in discussing certain aspects of their sexual history with each other and the class leader. I know that I learned a lot about certain areas of pleasure and the anatomical variation amongst women.
Next topic of discussion was about lubricants. The class instructors started off our lubricant journey with a different type of lubrication which only requires one drop. It was an arousal oil that they said you could apply one or two drops to the clitoris to enhance feeling and stimulation. To try it out, we each were given a drop of it on a lolly-stick to place gently on the tip of our tongues. For me, it was an almost instant tingling sensation that tasted oddly familiar, like cinnamon or even ginger. Some of the women needed more than one drop and others felt like they had more than enough with a slight tasting. After the introduction of the arousal oil were all able to pass various types of lubricants around and try them on our hands to see which one worked best for each person. All of the lubricants had a different feel, texture, and even taste to them. Some were more watery while others were slimy and tasted like grapefruit. It was interesting to see how everyone was reacting differently to each type. Not everyone’s personal taste is the same and not all women should be treated similarly, especially when it comes to sex. Some of the women said they learned more about how the different types of lubricant can affect their body, both sexually and in terms of their sexual health. They were all water-based lubricants which made them safe to use internally. We also talked briefly about different books that have helped women get into the mood during this class. The women were able to share their feelings on some of the books along with learning of some new ones.
The following topic struck up a lot of conversation amongst the group. It honed in on vaginal balls, which were personally a new topic of discussion for me. They are weighted strengthening balls which help build up the PC muscles and help with achieving better orgasms. We all learned that these balls can be worn around in your house, during your commute, even when you pick up the kids from school. The entire group had many questions like; when to wear it, how do you wear it, what do they actually do? All of these questions were interesting to hear from so many women who are much more experienced than me in their sexual history. Many of the women in attendance are also part of our exercise class, which touches on the importance and technique of pelvic floor exercises. We all discovered that vaginal balls could also work the same muscles.
One of the most interesting topics for the women was the discussion on vibrators and dildos. We were all able to hold and pass around the different ones with varying speeds and sizes. An insider tip that we learnt was to put the vibrators on the tips of our noses so that we would get a sense of what it would feel like ‘down there!’ This technique was widely practised and turned into an interesting sight to see. As they were trying out the vibrators some of the women liked the high intensity, others liked differently shaped ones or lower intensity. This section really allowed the women to talk about the way this would help their sex drive later on and get into the mood. One of the biggest problems that I have heard about the menopause is the low libido experienced among women. Having the knowledge about the practical uses for vibrators and dildos, allowed me to look at them in a new light. Some of the group talked about how their low libido, often gets them into fights with their significant others. Sh! Was able to really open up different options for the women.
As the class was winding down, the women were getting more anxious to start buying products from the shop. The class leader explained that the final item we were going to talk about was a real best seller. The instructor pulled out a penis stand and a plastic egg. She revealed that the inside of the egg, contained a soft gel egg with a hollowed centre. She then put in a dash of lubricant and started sliding away on the model penis. Everyone’s eyes lit up as they saw this tool in action, there were actual audible gasps throughout the room. Needless to say the ‘hand job’ egg was a best seller that night at Sh!. It would make a great Easter egg present!!
We wrapped up the session with a discussion of the menopause and how it affects each woman’s sexuality. The class leaders also asked for any suggestions on the course that night and ways to make the class better for peri/menopausal women. The group stayed well after close, browsing, buying and asking questions about various products. Sex is already a taboo topic and menopause is a misunderstood life phenomenon. Combining the two and discussing them in the context of Sh! Was a freeing idea that allowed the women to open up a healthy discussion about their sexuality through the menopause.
To Find out more about SH! visit: www.sh-womenstore.com
If you would like to find out more about our Menopause Project get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org