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It’s called “Oh, ohh, ohhh! Female Pleasure, Desire and Orgasms” and it’s just one of the workshops sex educator Megan Andelloux offers and now her sassy presentation are causing a stir in Connecticut.
Anthony Cannella, a Central Connecticut State University associate professor who criticized Megan’s presentation at the unversity said: “I think it’s a lot of pandering and unnecessary titillation. I don’t think kids need any more encouragement than they already have. It’s sort of irresponsible in my view. It’s really disingenuous to say that it’s mainly education.”
Megan Andelloux is a nationally Certified Sexuality Educator (CSE) through The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, an HIV educator and a Board Certified Sexologist through The American College of Sexologists. For more on Megan, visit www.ohmegan.com.
A sex educator named Megan Andelloux is giving the lecture, which she tells The Hartford Courant is a “study of how people experience the erotic and express themselves as sexual beings with an emphasis on jollies, attitude awareness, sexual skill building and health.”
Andelloux has talked at dozens of schools, including Yale, Wesleyan and the Universities of Connecticut and said she’s never gotten negative comments about her work before, but she’s been receiving e-mails calling her “disgusting” and that she was contributing to immorality, the Courantreports.
Professors at CCSU are also putting their opinions on a university listerv.
Mark McLaughlin, a spokesman for the university, told the Courant he thinks the negative reaction is based on misconceptions that taxpayer money is being used to pay for the lecture. TheRuthe Boyea Women’s Center on campus and is sponsoring the event, which is paid for with private donations.
The spokesman also thinks people are confusing the lecture with an academic course and that it’s about sex rather than sexuality.
“We feel, despite the provocative title, her presentation really does focus on health, sexual consent, and providing a frank and open, factual presentation designed to appeal to college students,” McLaughlin told the Courant.
Sexuality educators set the record straight: “Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections” despite what non-experts report.
Contact: Megan Andelloux
Contact: Aida Manduley
In yet another attempt to shut down access to quality sex education, South-Eastern New England conservative advocates hit the sex panic button in a multi-state, email and phone campaign to colleges all over New England last week.
On February 3rd and 4th , certified sexuality educator and sexologist Megan Andelloux (AASECT, ACS) received word that numerous colleges and university faculty received a document stating that colleges who brought sex educators such as Ms. Andelloux onto their campuses were linked to the increasing rate of transmission of HIV in RI. Furthermore, among other misleading “facts” that were “cited,” the author of this bulletin claimed that Brown University was facing an HIV crisis, which is false.
Citizens Against Trafficking, the face behind the fear-mongering, spammed numerous local institutions from a University of Rhode Island account with its latest malicious missive that targeted specific individuals as well as Brown University. The author of the letter, Margaret Brooks, an Economics Professor at Bridgewater State, suggested that colleges and universities that host sexuality speakers, including those who are professionally accredited, are partly to blame for the four new cases of HIV which have been diagnosed amongst RI college students this year.
Ms. Andelloux states: “My heart goes out to those students who have recently tested positive for HIV. However, there is no evidence of any link between campus presentations on sexual issues and the spike in HIV cases. Rather, I would suggest that this demonstrates a need for more high-quality sex education to college students.“ It is unclear why people at URI or Citizens Against Trafficking, a coalition to combat all forms of human trafficking, is attempting to stop adults from accessing sexual information from qualified, trained educators. What is certain however, is that this Professor of Economics miscalculated her suggestion that a correlation exists between increased HIV rates in Rhode Island and the type of sex education these speakers provided at Brown University: one that emphasized accurate information, risk-reduction, pleasure, and health.
Barrier methods have been shown by the CDC to reduce the transmission of HIV and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Research has shown that when individuals have access to medically-accurate information, are aware of sexual risk reduction methods, and have access to learn about sexual health, the number of infections and transmission of STIs decreases, pain during sex decreases, and condom use increases. The CAT circulated bulletin is blatantly misleading about many issues, and often omits information that is crucial to understanding the full picture of sex education at Brown and in Rhode Island.
Shanna Katz M.Ed, one of the educators listed in the bulletin states, “In today’s world, many people are sexually active without having ever learned about sex itself. Educating adults about how to better communicate with their partner and how to protect themselves physically and emotionally is vital to the health and wellness of our culture. Without this information and skill sets, we are back in the 1950s, with people feeling guilt around sex, and feeling as though their desires are wrong.”
Reid Mihalko states, “In an age where the majority of college-age adults have only experienced federally funded abstinence-only sex education, continue to get their visual cues about sex from mainstream porn, and feel unsafe talking to their parents and school administrators about accurate sexual health information, I am committed to teaching men and women of all ages comprehensive, pragmatic safer sex practices and how to think for themselves when it comes to making the best sex and intimacy choices for them.”
When individuals who do not hold any background in sexuality education speak out in opposition because of their fear or prejudice, society becomes rooted in outdated beliefs and pseudo-science that do injustice to people everywhere. Furthermore, when those individuals personally and publicly attack those devoted to providing sex education with false and misinformed accusations, it not only hurts those who are defamed, but also the community at large.
We ask for an immediate retraction of the vilifying and inaccurate statements made by Ms. Margaret Brooks and Citizens Against Trafficking in their latest newsletter. We also ask that esteemed local universities such as URI and Bridgewater State continue to hold their employees to ethical standards of normal scientific inquiry and require that their facultyhold some modicum of expertise in a field of education before raising the public level of panic over it.
Megan Andelloux is available to answer any questions the press, Margaret Brooks, University of Rhode Island or Citizens Against Trafficking holds. Aida Manduley, the Chair of Brown University’s Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council and Brown University’s is available to discuss the upcoming Sex Week and sexuality workshops held at Brown University.
Last Friday, everyone in the Women’s Center clutched what looked like oversized plastic Easter eggs that were not filled with candy. Their workshop leader warned everyone not to open the packages prematurely; they were Tenga eggs, flexible and doughy masturbatory tools, part of a goodie assortment that also included various lubes.
“This isn’t really the appropriate time to break them out,” their workshop leader said. “Now, to get started, if you have a cell phone, please put it on vibrate and stick it between your legs.”
Last Friday, the Women’s Center was overflowing with people trying not to sit on each other, all of them facing a table crowded with brightly colored sex toys and lube. They squeezed into the Smith/Burdick basement for a workshop by Oh Megan!, or MeganAndelloux, a board certified sexologist and nationally certified sex educator who came wielding tools of the trade to educate on “Supersex”: safe sex that’s hot and fun.
Skyler Volpe ’13, a student coordinator of the Women’s Center, said that Andelloux used to come to Conn through the Feminist Majority group, which has since been absorbed by the Women’s Center. “Her presentations were always well attended and widely talked about, so we wanted to bring her back this year,” she said. “She was glad to come back to Conn!”
“She eliminated all potential awkwardness for the audience from the beginning,” said Rachel Saltzman ‘14. “By telling us about herself and her background from the start, we could think of her as a real person and not as this strange sex speaker.”
Andelloux loosened up the crowd by chatting amiably about what led her to our campus. She worked for Planned Parenthood for nine years, but was “burned out by the bad stuff,” like the onslaught of teen pregnancy and STDs. She now wants to teach young adults that there are ways to make safe sex exciting, no matter your gender or sexual orientation.
“I really enjoyed how diplomatic and sexually unbiased she was,” said Alia Roth ’14. Andelloux took the time to explain that she would differentiate between “penis-owners” and “vagina-owners,” but these terms did not imply gender identity or sexual preference.
Her presentation commenced with a plush vulva puppet she named Veronica, the exploration of which allowed the audience to view a cartoonishly large, fluffy replica of the clitoris, the labia and even the G-spot (Stickers exclaiming “The G-spot does exist!” were included in the goodie collections).
Andelloux bluntly explained that “while deep-dicking sounds lovely,” there are more nerve endings towards the front of the vagina, and fewer the deeper one ventures. Additionally, the clitoris is about six inches long, but can get up to eight when stimulated, and is most sensitive in its upper left quadrant.
Sequentially, Andelloux hefted out an alarmingly large and apparently rare uncircumcised dildo to educate about the penis. She explained that circumcision was not the only method originally employed to suppress children’s sexual desires: the blandness of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and graham crackers were also used. They, as she pointed out, did not work.
Andelloux shared other “fun facts” throughout the presentation, including a few on the penis: length is not as important to vaginal stimulation as girth, the average speed of ejaculation is thirty five miles per hour (though the shots can reach eighty), the scrotum is constantly moving, and (lightly!) pulling down on the sack during foreplay or intercourse, will delay orgasm.
This last one was particularly useful information, because Andelloux then indicated that the average national penis-owner “lasts” about two minutes.
To demonstrate, three volunteers were called to the front of the room and instructed to thrust with invisible partners, persistently.
“You’re doing it wrong!” Andelloux yelled at them as she stood aside, smirking. “You’re not going fast enough! Faster! Ow, you’re hurting me!”
The crowd was atwitter and the volunteers were panting and laughing when she called Time; they had cleared a mere 46 seconds.
Next on the agenda was a discussion of the orgasm, which Andelloux indicated to be very healthy for the body: it lowers stress, helps sleep, can alleviate mild depression, and even allows wounds to heal faster.
She then transitioned into a talk on vibrators, tools originally created as a treatment for hysteria.
“Some people don’t want to use them because they say they want to do it ‘the natural way,’” said Andelloux. “Well, toilets aren’t natural, but they make our lives better.”
Vagina-owners on average take ten to twenty minutes to get off, which means the best way they can achieve orgasm during intercourse is through practice with self-stimulation first. “The G-spot is not like the Staples ‘Easy’ button,” said Andelloux.
The workshop drew to a close after an extensive run-through of sex toys and supplements, from lubes (the water-based kind can increase STI transmission, she cautioned; go with silicon-based instead) to strap-ons (Volpe unabashedly volunteered to wear it as Andelloux demonstrated applying a condom with her mouth) to whips and funky vibrators. A crowd favorite was OhMiBod, a dildo that syncs up with your iPod and vibrates to the beat of the song of your choice.
Andelloux took some questions the audience had written anonymously on note cards. One asked for blowjob and handjob tips. She taught some moves – the ‘bottle-cap’ and the ‘octopus’ among them – but added, “Be confident, and be enthusiastic. You’d be amazed by how far that goes.”
“The center was packed, and people looked genuinely enthusiastic and interested in her presentation,” said Volpe. “It was also really cool to see so many people in the Center. It’s a beautiful space that doesn’t see nearly enough love from the campus community.”
Said Peter Herron ’14, “Andelloux knew exactly what she was doing. I would thoroughly recommend that girls learn from the vast wisdom this amazing woman has to offer. I definitely learned a thing or two myself.” •
1. Why is there such a disconnect between the “health” side of sex and the “pleasure” side of sex?
Talking about sexuality in America can be challenging for many folks. The medical “health” world tends to shy away from discussing sex toys, orgasms and sexual pleasure for fear of promoting “smut” or losing their professional nature. The “Pleasure” focused world is often bored discussing or reading about sexual health due to years of sex education that is fear based (you’ll catch a disease! You’ll be labeled a whore!) Due to the lack of early onset holistic sexuality education these two worlds don’t know how to work together and how much they support one another. Times are starting to change however. Sex toys companies, film producers and pleasure activists are starting to work with the medical field, consulting professionals to ensure health, safety and pleasure. The medical world is starting to conduct studies that recognize the importance of pleasure and it’s effects on our health. Sex Educators are gaining more access to discuss pleasure issues in school systems, which is crucial to help alleviate fear about the body, sensation and thoughts.
2. How can a couple that has been mostly sexually inhibited break out of their rut and try new things without being embarrassed or self-conscious?
Breaking out of a rut is challenging! It can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and feel downright weird because it’s a new experience. Sometimes people forget that those sensations are normal reactions to experiencing a new activity. I like to compare it to the first time a person learns how to hold a pencil. It’s uncomfortable and awkward. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just NEW. So keep that in mind. You may find after a few tries that you really enjoy this new behavior or fantasy. You may also find that you won’t. But you’ll never know if you don’t try. So scootch yourself. Take a class on sexuality (many are held at sex toy shops, colleges or community centers). Purchase a book or watch a video on sexual fantasies and see what is arousing for other people. Think about what turns other people on and ask yourself, could this be a turn on for me? Then turn to your partner, tell them what you just saw or read about and say, “I just learned about ________. What do you think about that?” That gives you the opportunity to introduce a topic without disclosing too much information about how you feel. You are merely asking them for their thoughts on a topic. It’s a great way to start a conversation, especially about a behavior you might want to try out.
3. How should a couple go about experiencing with sex toys? Will they really make a difference in the relationship?
Sex toys can be a healthy component to enhancing a sexual relationship with yourself or a partner. The first study examining American’s sex toy use was conducted last year and found that almost half of the American population reports using sexual aids at some point in their life (52% of women and 45% of men) but you shouldn’t expect it to fundamentally change your relationship. Sex toys can make in difference in how you experience pleasure, foster communication, create a special bond between you and your partner, and assist in sexual expression if there are physical limitations. If you choose to experiment with sex toys, I would recommend starting small. Don’t necessarily go with what your best friend or magazines recommend, but rather discuss, what are we looking to get out of buying a sex toy? Is it to explore a fantasy? To cause (or intensify) orgasms? To stimulate a part of the body that may be difficult to reach? Then, start to narrow down your search. There are so many different types of sex toys out there; lubrication, vibrators, blindfolds, butt plugs, strap-ons, cock rings, etc. And each person is going to experience an item differently. So communicate with your partner about the experience and laugh. Sex can be awkward, weird and downright funny-it’s playtime for adults! Approach it that way: a fun expression of your creative sexual side.
4. You suggest that women celebrate menstruation! Why in the world would they want to do that? Explain your thoughts here, please and thank you!
How one feels about menstruation is correlated to their comfort or discomfort around sex, body image and sensations experienced. Menstruation is a taboo in our society. Labeled as “feminine hygiene” this phrase contributes to the fear that the vagina is dirty. In fact, if cared for properly, the vagina is the cleanest part of the body. No douches, sprays or chemicals need to take residence here, as they will only increase the chances of infections occurring. Menstruation is a natural, healthy function. To surround it in shame, dread or not publicly discussed contributes to individuals feeling disgusted or wishing for their periods to be over. For some people, their periods can be very painful, but they are not always that way! My suggestion to celebrate menstruation is an attempt to get people talking about it in a natural, normalizing way. Sexuality educators work hard every day to help make people feel more comfortable in their bodies and feeling comfortable about periods is another way to help people experience that.
5. What are your top sure-fire ways to keep things hot in the bedroom?
Communicate. Masturbate. Touch each other throughout the day (not just when you want to have sex). Laugh. Embrace the awkwardness. Try out new things. But most of all, have fun. Sex is playtime for adults!
Sex is stressful. I applaud women who have mastered the art of one-handed bra removal, that certain seductive take-me-now gaze, and who have never once faltered while tearing open a condom wrapper in the heat of the moment. For the rest of us, the girls who don’t really know what to say and the girls who wonder “am I really doing this right?” it’s almost enough to make us swear off sex all together, almost.
Sex provides a laundry-list of anxieties: is my birth control working; is the third date too soon; thong or boy-short? Even having sex with yourself is nerve-wracking between wondering if time would be better spent finishing your term paper and making sure your roommate actually went to her 4:30 class. Then there are the toys—so many different kinds of toys that any sex shop or web-store is bound to make you feel like you’re stuck somewhere in the Wizard of Oz and just cannot find your way back home. Well, tap your fabulous, sequined stilettos together and consider this your yellow brick road. Here’s Her Campus’s guide to sex toys.
With so many options to choose from, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially if you are new to the world of sex toys like Chelsea*, a Hofstra University Sophomore. After discussing it with her boyfriend, she decided to take the plunge.
“We decided to go to Spencer’s Gifts and see what kind of sex toys they had there. When I walked to the back of the store where they keep the sex toys, I was suddenly overwhelmed. There we so many to choose from,” she said. “I was a tad confused on which one I should choose, considering I wasn’t even sure if I was ready to embark on the sex toy journey. At the same time I was kind of intrigued by the whole thing, they really had everything for any kind of pleasure you wanted to experience.”
If you’re like Chelsea and don’t know where to start, here are three of the most popular toys according to a Her Campus survey of college women:
Vibrator A vibrator is a toy designed to stimulate your precious lady parts by vibrating against them, either internally or externally. They come in many different styles, from small, discreet bullet shaped toys to larger phallic models, which are sometimes referred to as dildos, though not all dildos vibrate. They also come in other varieties, like vibrating underwear, for an extra saucy dinner-date.
Strap On A strap on is harness designed to hold a dildo or vibrating dildo in order to facilitate penetration. It can be used by any sex or gender, just like vibrators or anal plugs, which is why it’s super popular.
Anal Plug Anal plugs are sex toys designed to fit snugly into your sexy bottom. Some women say they help them orgasm, for others, it’s just a turn-on.
Erasing your doubts.
Did you know 57% of college aged guys and girls surveyed in an exclusive Her Campus poll said that they’ve used sex toys? Out of those who haven’t, 80% said that they know someone who has. That adds up to most of us, yet walking into a sex shop can still make anyone bashful. This is why lots of us have the tendency to blindly pick out a toy like it’s a used vinyl record in the discount bin, and run. Just like when you’re record shopping, cool album art and a snappy band name don’t mean the songs are any good.
Whether you’re a virgin who’s never seen a sex toy, already have an enormous collection hidden in your underwear drawer, or someone who’d consider their sex life pretty vanilla (hey, vanilla is a good flavor too!), it’s still important to know what you want. There are three crucial elements to any sex toy purchase: use, look, and material. If you’ve considered these three things, then that’s half the battle.
“I have to say,” says Chelsea, “I never thought I would be using sex toys with myself, or with my significant other, but I am for sure a fan now. Ever since that one day, I have gone back and bought several more toys to test out.”
Like Chelsea, once you’ve broken free from the shackles of shyness, and can proudly proclaim that you do in fact want to buy a sex toy (or at least shop for one online in the confines of your bedroom), you must ask yourself one simple question: what exactly do I want to do with this thing?
“You want to think about if you want to be using it as an external toy or an internal toy,” says Megan Andelloux, certified Sexologist and Sexuality Educator. “Vibration tends to work best externally, even though some people like to use it internally.”
If you want a toy specifically for internal use, you need to decide which kind of stimulation you want—G-Spot or anal stimulation.
The G-Spot, located on the inside of the front vaginal wall, is a mystery to many women, so it’s no wonder that 40% of readers surveyed prefer toys for external stimulation. Let it be a mystery no more; purchasing a toy with a curvature will help you reach that sweet spot that’s easy to miss with your hands.
If you’re looking for anal stimulation, you have to be a little more careful.
“If [the toy is] used for anal it has to have a flange,” she says.
A flange is the flared ending on toys designed to be used anally which prevents them from getting lost inside of you.
In the same way that rock hard abs and deep blue eyes made you fall for that Campus Cutie, the right looks can lead you to the perfect sex toy.
“It’s important to keep in mind what turns you on, what type of stimulation you want, what looks appealing to you,” says Andelloux. “Does it look like something you want to play with? Some people really like abstract art-type sex toys, whereas other people feel more comfortable with animal themes like The Rabbit.”
So what turns you on? Do you like neon colors or prefer things to be a bit more anatomically correct? 28% of readers said they like their toys to be fun and colorful, while a whopping 48% agreed that toys should be discreet.
If you’re looking for something ultra-cute to impress your beaux, Andelloux recommends the Pyrex Mint Plug by Crystal Delights. “[It’s] bling for your butt. How could someone not want to play with a sparkly butt?”
For someone who’s a bit more demure she also recommends the Fingo by Screaming-O, a small bullet type vibrator used for external stimulation. “It’s small so it doesn’t scare people,” she says. “It’s fabulous to use during oral sex and it’s less than $20.”
A sex toy is like your favorite t-shirt. You want it to look good on you and be versatile, but most of all, you want it to be comfortable. This is why material matters. Would you settle for a cheap poly-blend when you could have 100% cotton? Of course not.
“You want to think about the type of materials,” says Andelloux, “hard and firm will carry more vibration, or do you want it to be soft and feel more lifelike?”
It’s also imperative to make sure that the material is safe. Plastic toys or toys that contain jelly may contain Phalates, which are linked to cancer, reproductive failure, and intersex conditions, and can leak out of poorly made toys.
“If the sex toy salesman recommends you use a condom over [the toy], that’s a sign it has Phalates,” Andelloux explains.
If your toy might have Phalates, it’s best to use a condom or skip it all together. There are plenty of other options that are effective, inexpensive, and safe.
Do what feels right.
With sex toys, it’s important to remember that it’s all about what makes you feel good. While most of our minds default to the small, discreet vibrator we saw in that infamous episode of “Sex and the City” when we think about it, that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. There are many different kinds of sex toys for every woman’s unique needs. Your best friend might love to use a strap-on or fool around with anal-beads, but you might like things slightly more traditional.
When surveyed, an overwhelming number of Her Campus readers admitted to strictly using vibrators, and one even divulged us in her secret—she uses an electric tooth brush, but if that’s too vanilla for your tastes, there are some options that are a little more risqué. Not all toys are created for the bedroom—some allow us to get our freak on when we are walking to class or dancing in the club.
Club Vibe by OhMiBod is a small vibrator that slips into a special pair of panties. “You wear it to a club,” Andelloux says, “and it vibrates to the base of the music the DJ is playing.”
Luna Ball, a small plastic ball designed to tone Kegel muscles, is another sex toy that you can wear out like your favorite pair of blue jeans.
“You can wear them around campus all day long, and they provide a fun party in your pants while toning your Kegel muscles to give you stronger orgasms,” says Adelloux, “They are not designed to give you orgasms, but they are designed to make you feel fun like you have a special secret inside.”
Whether you are looking for something discreet, loud, for the bedroom, or for the world outside, sex toys can add an element of surprise to spice up your relationship, or provide the excitement of a steamy hook-up when you’re flying solo. Once you pick out a sex toy that fits your needs, there is only one more rule—have fun.
Megan Andelloux sits in row three of the Pawtucket City Council Chambers, awaiting a verdict. Beautifully poised in a navy blue, tailored vintage dress, her red hair lovely and tidy, her hands in her lap, her pumps set squarely on the floor, she looks like a young real estate professional requesting a zoning variance.
In my mind, she transforms into the heroine of her own comic book series. Her pumps become stacked spike-heeled boots, her demure fifties dress evaporates into a corset blazing with the colors of the American flag. Her red hair let loose and wild, she leaps from her chair, a rolled up copy of the Bill of Rights in one hand, a vibrator in the other.
This is about sex, she admonishes the cowering panel. You know it is! My center will open! People will come! Men and women will have, finally, a safe place to talk about orgasms and erectile dysfunction, safe lubricants and spanking. And it will be in downtown Pawtucket!
But tonight is not the night for super heroine triumphs. Tonight is just another night for battling the grinding bureaucratic machine that Andelloux, thirty-three, encountered last fall when she attempted to open her nonprofit Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health in Pawtucket’s Grant Building. It turns out that educational organizations may not do business in this building, and so the city’s zoning office shut her down. Her appeal of that decision, tonight, will be denied. This is not about sex, the panel will assert. This is about zoning.
She will not transform into an erotic, pen-and-ink protagonist. She’ll nod, knowingly, at the denial she suspected was coming her way. She’ll sit through the rest of the evening’s decisions, then powwow with her lawyer Michael Horan in the cold, clattery hallway outside the Chambers. They’ll plan her next attack, not with sex toys, but with paperwork. She’ll tell local press that she’ll continue to assert her right to do business in Pawtucket. She’ll assure friends that she’s not ready to give up. Not by a long shot. It’s not comic book behavior, but it’s a fight all right.
“Two things,” Andelloux says, tucked into the circa-1960s black vinyl sectional sofa in her CSPH offices, the 500-square-foot Ground Zero of her battle. The center is for counseling and classes, as well as distribution of literature ranging from safe sex to pleasure-related practices between (she constantly emphasizes) consenting adults. No sex takes place here and nothing is for sale. It’s Planned Parenthood with a little Lady Gaga thrown in; shame gets checked at the threshold while candor and humor make any question reasonable, any aspect of sex fair game. Andelloux says she loves the space because it’s an interior storefront. Patrons of any of the Grant Building’s tenants, from Flying Shuttles Studio and Blackstone Chess Academy to graphic design studios and Kafe Lila, enter through a central outer doorway to find individual businesses lining an interior gallery. From Andelloux’s point of view, this brightly lit, friendly vestibule provides privacy for anyone who might feel uncomfortable entering an organization dealing with sex, from the street. “Plus,” she says, “the building has its own cat. How homey is that?”
Andelloux embraces homey. She’s painted the center’s walls a cheery yellow and robin’s egg blue, colors more at home in a farmhouse kitchen than an office, and hung ephemera that reveal her collector’s mentality as well as her saucy take on sex. A vintage magazine ad for Lysol douches on one wall plays ironically against an oversized, pillow-like vulva puppet she uses for teaching, on a shelf below. On a nearby coffee table, four chunky pieces of stainless steel sit on a mirrored pedestal cake plate. They resemble oversize punctuation marks (they’re G-spot and prostate toys). She settles in to talk about the center with the warmth of a girlfriend dishing last night’s “Project Runway” over coffee.
She considers those “two things” — the two mistakes that brought her into the spotlight of the city of Pawtucket and onto the wrong side of narrowly interpreted zoning. She purses her lips, sighs. “I shouldn’t have testified about sex workers’ rights,” she says. “That got a lot of people angry. And I probably shouldn’t have put the word ‘pleasure’ in the title of the Center.”
She may be right. After signing a lease for her fledgling nonprofit in May, Andelloux, a proponent of sex workers’ rights, decided to testify at a June State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on eliminating Rhode Island’s statewide law allowing indoor prostitution. “I was terrified to testify,” she says. “But I felt some advocates were confusing trafficking with sex work, so I went.” Andelloux signed up to speak, lost her nerve and scratched off her name. “Then this woman stood up and said, ‘We need to stop sex…no…we need to stop sex trafficking.’ I thought this is a complete fear of sexuality. So I put my name back on. I thought, even if my voice shakes, I can go up.”
So up she went, but was dumbfounded when Donna M. Hughes, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island well known for her activism on sex trafficking issues (and a proponent of eliminating indoor prostitution), took her to task afterward in a series of public forums. First, on June 24, Hughes described (but did not name) Andelloux in a Providence Journal editorial as a “tattooed woman calling herself a ‘sexologist and sex educator.’” Hughes also wrote that Andelloux was “a reporter for a prostitutes’ magazine called $pread,” adding, “I couldn’t make this stuff up!”
The next day, Andelloux penned her own letter to the Journal. “Let me introduce myself,” she wrote. “I’m the nationally certified sex-educator and derogatorily labeled ‘tattooed lady’ mentioned by Donna Hughes in her June 24 opinion piece.
“Putting quotation marks around my profession was insulting,” Andelloux continued, “and yes, I am a contributor to the sex-workers magazine $pread. Is it so shocking that sex workers can read?”
The heroine, suddenly, had a nemesis. “As an alum of URI (’97),” Andelloux wrote, “I would have expected faculty to develop a reputation for science and truth. Instead, it seems that Ms. Hughes would rather resort to right-wing scare tactics. Perhaps if ‘the Professor’ really cared about women, she wouldn’t attack us for the way that we look.”
Things got nastier. In a September 23 issue of Citizens Against Trafficking, an online newsletter published by Hughes and Melanie Shapiro, a student at Roger Williams University School of Law, an unsigned article titled “Sex Radicals’ Vision for Rhode Island” said:
“But the advocates for prostitution are still active in Rhode Island. In fact, a new center to campaign for sexual rights is trying to open in Pawtucket. The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health calls itself the ‘Dormitory for Armatory.’ The proprietor, Megan Andelloux, is a member of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which is a subsidiary of COYOTE, the group that originally sued for decriminalization of prostitution in the 1970s. It too advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution. To date, the city of Pawtucket has prevented the center from opening, saying it violates their zoning ordinances.
“The sex radicals are entitled to free speech, but citizens of Rhode Island are entitled to resist their advocacy of prostitution and violence. The proprietor of the proposed center is a prostitute (she calls herself a ‘foot fetish model’) and a dominatrix. She is also on the ‘faculty’ of the Kink Academy in Boston, which holds ‘classes’ to demonstrate sexual sadism, masochism and torture. The classes often include live models. (The images are too obscene to include here.) One of the students at the Academy claims she became a ‘sex slave’ to one of the instructors and was ordered to prepare to be a prostitute. Andelloux claims to be a speaker on college campuses where she demonstrates whipping and has the students try on sex gear.”
Is this a fair portrait of Andelloux, or someone else’s comic book rendering?
Andelloux went to Mitchell College, a two-year institution in New London, Connecticut, for kids needing a creative approach. She quickly realized that “sucking at math” was not part of a career in marine biology. Meanwhile, she happened to take a quiz on facts about sex, reading that 80 percent of Americans failed it. She got one question wrong. A human sexuality course she took fit her passions. She changed majors and planned a dinner out with her parents to give them the news.
“Right before my mother put the hamburger in her mouth,” Andelloux recalls, “I said, ‘I’m going to be a sex educator.’ ” She cracks up at the memory. “My mother said, ‘Megan, girls can’t do that.’ My father shook his head. But I told them that’s what I decided I was going to do.”
Andelloux got herself into URI from Mitchell, graduating in 1997 with a major in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Human Sexuality. She moved to northern New Jersey and worked for Planned Parenthood as a sex educator. Developing a reputation as a “spitfire,” in her words, Andelloux got herself in occasional trouble for a little too much candor. “I had a mouth on me,” she says. Once, after finishing a Planned Parenthood presentation at a high school, Andelloux was approached by a student. “She told me she’d been having sex with her partner with no birth control. She was freaked out. We had this long conversation and then I told her I’d send her some condoms. I told her I’d address the package as [though] for a school project.” But when the girl’s moth-er opened the package, freaked out herself, and called Planned Parenthood, Andelloux was in trouble. “Oh yeah. I got in trouble. I kept my job, but I was in trouble.”
Andelloux continued to butt heads with Planned Parenthood, so she leapt at the chance in 2001 to work at Miko, a well-known sex-toy shop in Providence, where she ran educational workshops full-time and worked the sales floor. When Miko closed in 2008, Andelloux reached her crossroads. “People kept telling me I should open a new store,” she says, “but I knew I didn’t have business sense. I know how to teach, how to make people feel comfortable, and I know how to talk about difficult concepts. [But] I knew my name, at this point, was too risque even for liberal organizations, so I started doing my own workshops.” One day last spring, as Andelloux was hanging posters for The Vagina Monologues, a passerby recognized her from Miko, and told her about a great place in Pawtucket that was looking for tenants.
On September 14, twelve days before the scheduled grand opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, Donna Hughes sent an email from her Blackberry to the nine members of Pawtucket’s City Council:
A center for “sexual rights” and “sexual pleasure” is opening in Pawtucket.
Twenty-six hours later, Andelloux got a call from the Pawtucket Police Department. Her opening needed permits, Major Bruce Moreau told her, and there were concerns based on activities advertised on her website (including burlesque dancing and a raffle of sex toys) that required special permitting. He shared the contents of Hughes’ email with her. Andelloux picked up her husband, Derek, a family medicine resident at Brown, and the couple walked up the squat, broad steps of Pawtucket City Hall into a confusing gauntlet of special event permits that led, ultimately, to having to describe the Center’s primary purpose to secure overall zoning approval — something Andelloux had never been informed by her landlords that she needed to obtain. She rushed through meetings in hallways and offices; she called city councilors to explain her mission.
Mostly, though, Andelloux worried that the words “sexual” and “pleasure,” pitched by an adversary directly to a council representing a famously Catholic city, might ignite further opposition beyond the inertia her paperwork seemed to be generating. She settled on stating the Center’s primary purpose as “education.” What she didn’t realize is that within the minutiae of the Pawtucket zoning codes lies the fact that a special use permit obtained by the developers of the Grant Building does not support educational facilities like schools. Andelloux never said she ran a school.
But it was that sole word, education, that prompted zoning official Ronald Travers to rule against the Center, and gave the Zoning Board reason to uphold his verdict.
Andelloux was caught in a knot of nomenclature, as binding as a corset, but nowhere near as fun. She prepared a new motion with Horan, this one to request a special use permit for her space, much like a yoga studio in downtown Pawtucket had obtained. They returned to the council chambers in late January, filing their motion and hastening to point out that she will engage in education, but on a scale that is consistent with the overall mixed use espoused by the city’s downtown plan. No one argued. No one challenged. Only one member asked one thing:
“So, you won’t be selling any sexual paraphernalia?”
No. No. Andelloux said, shaking her head.
Meanwhile, she rejected ongoing counsel from well-wishers to leave Pawtucket for more liberal and accepting (not to mention properly zoned) locations. She paid rent on her unoccupied space. She paid heat. She paid legal fees. She turned away paying clients. And waited for one more fight. The next step was going to be court.
Then, finally, it’s decision time again. Andelloux perches in her chair, her bright pink dress shifting under her nervously clenched hands. Her husband pats her knee from time to time. The zoning board rolls through decision announcements like a boss spins a Rolodex; it’s easy to lose track. Then Andelloux’s name pops through the bureaucratic fog. And, in a series of comments as mild and conciliatory as her previous hearing had been spiky and adversarial, the men who control her zoning destiny say yes.
Yes, they say, to Megan Andelloux, and several lean forward to their microphones to say, for the record, that they regret that things got off to a bad start. They mouth words of support, absolving their municipality of anything other than administrative vigor. They regret the tangle. They grant her permit. It’s almost, if you imagine an erotic comic book, like a bit of sex play. Yes? Yes? No, No… Yes!
It was just that easy?
Megan Andelloux nods and smiles.
She looks unthreatening enough, perched on the edge of a table in a large classroom at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut. Andelloux is indeed speaking on a college campus and receiving $500 for the two hours she’ll spend with 100 young men and women packing this room on a chilly fall evening. She has, indeed, allowed her feet to be looked at, photographed, and massaged by paying clients as a foot fetish model — although this never has involved genital exposure or contact, much less touching above her knee, she says. Yes, she has been paid to create educational videos for “Kink Academy,” a website that celebrates every aspect of consensual sex. And right now, yes, she’s tugging a strap-on harness up over her clothing to demonstrate for her audience what she describes as one of her favorite lube tricks.
“This one is great,” she says as she yanks the harness, complete with large synthetic phallus, into place around her hips. She grabs a plunger-bottle of lubricant; it looks like a hand soap dispenser that sits near a powder room sink. She tucks it into the harness — where a gun would sit in a holster.
“Okay!” she calls out, her rigging complete. Her voice reminds me of a home ec teacher’s — both perky and bossy. If it weren’t for the subject matter, she could just as easily be demonstrating how to sew a wrap-around skirt.
“So when you’re having sex with a strap-on, and your partner is getting really hot, here’s an amazing finish,” she says, and gives the bottle a couple of swift plunges that release spurts of viscous liquid. The audience knows exactly what this simulates and loves it. The kids cheer. Andelloux opens her eyes wide, nodding at their response. “See? See? Isn’t that cool?”
In these two hours, Andelloux’s workshop will range from this kind of taboo-busting demonstration to ardent discussion of safe ingredients in lubricants and sex toys (“If that dildo has a smell, it’s made overseas with dangerous synthetics. Don’t buy it.”) She’ll take dozens of questions penned on index cards, some of them endearingly naïve. She’ll give advice that is bumper-sticker outrageous, but gets to serious healthy practice. “Don’t put anything smaller than six inches up your butt,” she orders, reminding her audience that the anatomy of this part of the body is not equipped to expel items. “Once something gets lost up there,” she continues, “the only way you’re gonna get it out is at the emergency room.” As the kids hoot, she eyes them. “And trust me, you don’t want to be that patient.” Her mix of medical terminology and slang, sometimes folksy, sometimes colorfully current, makes her advice easy to embrace. It’s a remarkable marriage of tone and content. If Rachael Ray and the Marquis de Sade had a lovechild, it’d be Megan Andelloux.
After she finishes up by — yes — taking volunteers for a fully clothed spanking demonstration that raises the roof, students surround her and linger for nearly an hour, asking questions and inspecting the few vibrators and lubricants for sale. The fun and safety of sex takes her on the road like this nearly weekly, speaking to groups large and small, running sex toy parties for private clients, doing events at sex toy shops, attending and presenting at conferences. She creates “Tearin’ It Off,” a weekly podcast with WBRU at Brown University, and writes numerous columns for online sexual and feminist health and advocacy sites. She will appear, unpaid, in an annual production of The Vagina Monologues in Providence. For a sexologist, this cobbled-together assortment of education and entertainment keeps rent money coming in, and for Andelloux it is also, she admits, a bit of a calling.
“My parents were 1950s WASPs,” she says, describing her traditional upbringing in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. “I was totally raised in that environment.” The youngest of three kids (but fourteen and eighteen years younger than her sister and brother, respectively), Andelloux watered her activist seed with an issue embraced by many girls: animal rights. She became a vegetarian at fifteen.
A year later, Andelloux developed a quirky obsession. “I had a thing for memorizing sex facts,” she says, “you know, statistics. When people masturbate, average breast sizes…I would spout these off to my friends during supper.” Still passionate about animals (and specifically about orcas), Andelloux planned to study marine biology at the University of Rhode Island. Then she was date-raped. “I had a series of sexual assaults take place in the summer before my senior year, including the very first date I ever went on,” she says. “I was seventeen. I’d gotten good grades up to that point. After that summer, my grades plummeted, I had nightmares, I reverted to wearing baggy clothes, and I hung out with the ‘bad girls.’ My grades were nowhere good enough to get into URI.”
Dildos, vibrators and strap-ons in every shade of pink titillated students while the distinct hum of plastic on tabletop mixed with the explosive giggles of the audience. At the front of the room was a spread of promiscuous products ranging from penis pumps to some kinky gizmos most people in the room didn’t know existed.
Megan Andelloux, a certified sexuality educator, licensed sexologist, foot fetish model and physical love guru, stood at the front of the room, plush vulva puppet in hand.
“There are some ground rules to this presentation,” she said. “Please put all cell phones on vibrate and place them between your legs. You can touch everything on the table, but please don’t put anything in your mouth.”
After this coital canon was set, she opened up questions to the audience. Students then secretly scribbled his or her most pressing inquiries on index cards to be answered throughout the program.
As a part of Condom Awareness Week 2009, the sex toy workshop which set out to promote fun, safe sex, was sponsored by the Class of 2011 Class Council and the Emerson Alliance of Gays, Lesbians and Everyone, a student organization which promotes the acceptance of queer culture throughout the Emerson community. At least 40 students gathered in the Bill Bordy April 13 to discuss singular sensations and alternate pleasures.
But this event was not about engaging in risky business. Rather, the topics discussed were about enjoying how much fun sex can be-even alone.
Andelloux said she promotes masturbation as a form of Sexually Transmitted Infection prevention. In response to those who dis dildos and other toys, she used a simple analogy.
“Toilets aren’t natural, but they make our lives better,” she said. “Masturbation is good for the mind and body. It’s the safest sex you are going to get.”
While the sexologist went down her list of sex toys and coital gadgets, she also provided advice from a combination of medical and pleasure studies, as well as her own experiences.
“My deal is that I bridge the world between the medical community and the pleasurable community,” she said. “I marry the two together that usually turn their backs on each other.”
As far as favorites go, Andelloux said to each his or her own. Her plaything of preference, however, she said looks like a sneaker but feels like partner play.
“The Galan is not about aesthetics, it’s about how it functions. It’s even quiet in the shower,” she said.
But the demonstration wasn’t just a sales pitch. Andelloux explained the ins and outs of the sex toy industry providing examples of what materials to steer clear of in stores.
“Don’t let your toys screw you,” she said. “I like happy vaginas.”
There are two main products to avoid: Anal Ease, a numbing cream for anal play and vaginal tightening cream-both of which may cause damage to one’s private parts. If a store sells these products it is a tell tale sign to try another shop.
Prude and promiscuous Emersonians alike said they enjoyed the workshop for both its shock and educational value.
Freshman Pat Lambert was asked to model one of the strap-on dildos during one of the demonstrations. He said he loved to be a part of the workshop and was planning on buying some of the toys after the show.
“This woman was riveting. I have learned more here in one hour than I have in any of my classes at Emerson,” the political communication major said. “You never knew how open everyone was. It was like having a group orgy via talking. Or how cool your body is. I didn’t know my body could do this.”
Deborah Engler, coordinator for wellness education at the Center for Health and Wellness said she would talk about condoms all day if it meant students would practice safer sex. The workshop, she said would help students see the educational and fun aspects of masturbation and sex.
“The workshop is about how there are a million and one ways to pleasure yourself without a partner and how it’s the safest way,” she said. “It’s about being safe and experimental at the same time.”
By the end of the night, Andelloux asked the audience what were three things learned from the workshop. The cumulative response: Before you buy lube, taste it, exercise your vagina every day and pee before and after you play.
Heavens above, sex and love: Q & A with sexologist
As a part of Condom Awareness Week 2009, Sexologist Megan Andelloux spurted her knowledge to a group of eager-eyed Emersonians on topics most would blush to bring up. The following are some of the questions asked anonymously during Monday, April 13th’s sex toy workshop in the Bill Bordy Theater.
What is the best way to give a hand job?
“Approach it as a genital massage. All those things that they didn’t want to be called in high school-that’s what they want to be called now. Bring them up to a certain point and then bring them back down. Whatever body part you are touching, you are there to tease and to tantalize him.”
Is it normal for a vagina to close up before sex?
“If someone is nervous for whatever reason, their vagina goes into lock-down mode-nothing’s coming in here without a fight. This usually happens more at the gynecologist’s office than before sex play. But it won’t become a steel trap door, it’s just going to get more difficult to put things in there. But there are physical indicators as to whether the vagina is ready for physical penetration. The inner lips will open up-open for business or closed for business.”
I’m gay and haven’t had good sex yet. What should I do?
“Stop reading magazines, because they are designed to make you feel bad about the types of sex that you’re having. Good sex should be fun. Sex is play-time for adults. It’s not that you need to have orgasms every time or about keeping up with the Jones’s. These are the things we hear a lot, but sex should be playful-you should be laughing. Awkward things happen during sex and you have to embrace it because it makes amazing stories a few weeks down the road.”
How many times a day can you orgasm without hurting yourself?
“As long as we aren’t hearing any physical damage like popping things or chafing, I say go for it. It has been proven that orgasms decrease mild depression, it gets rid of headaches, gets rid of menstral cramps so fuck Midol, just cum. But my favorite thing about orgasms is that if you have a cut on your body, they help speed the healing process up.”
What do you do when you and your partner are having bad sex?
“If you aren’t having good sex talk about it in a non-serious format like at the supermarket. There are lots of fun distractions-the freezer aisle is perfect for when you are breaking out in hives, you can easily pop your head in the freezer to stop looking at your partner and pretend you are looking at how the fishsticks are on sale. Everyone around you is bored-they aren’t listening, but if they are, you are giving them a good excuse to be at the supermarket.”
Is it normal to have a burning sensation when you pee for one to three days after sex?
“Nope. This is not normal. You should really go see a physician to find out what’s going on down there.”