The Man Who Came to Dinner

Carol Queen

I run by it almost every day. The storefront at 1210 Valencia, that is. And no matter how lost I am in the minutia of my own existence I always look up to catch the unique brand of smiles on the customers slipping out the door. They're mostly women, or couples, young and old, and they have big grins on their faces, or shy red cheeks, or wanton anticipatory leers. They all have little paper bags in their hands and, unlike me sweating my way toward a date with a jug of neon-green Gatorade, they're all on their way home -- to fuck.

Good Vibrations is a Bay Area institution: the original, female-owned, personal pleasure purveyor -- or a clean, well-lighted place for kicks. But as a single man, currently without a clitoris to stimulate (mine or a friend's), I've had little excuse to go inside. What actually goes on behind those white-papered windows? I've been dying to know.

So as thematically unlikely as it seemed (edible underwear does not a balanced meal make) I decided I just had to get myself in there for dinner. After a full year of plotting, the opportunity finally presented itself in the form of Good Vibrations' "continuing education" night. Carol Queen, Good Vibes' director of education, invited me along for the ride.

Each month the full Good Vibes staff come together ... I mean, join together, for an evening of conversation, education, and my good old friend, dinner. "It's mainly a way to keep the employees in touch with each other," Carol explained over the phone, "and to arm them with more information than they'd ever need on a particular sexuality topic."

As I searched endlessly on Valencia for that mythical Mission parking spot, my imagination wandered ahead to the impending event. It's times like this that paranoia sets in. "I'm going to be the only man," I thought. "Forty women talking about their vaginas. And me."

Why do I get myself into this shit?

The space finally appeared. I parked, and made my now-reluctant approach. "Do you work with us?" a young man outside the door asked.

"I'm sitting in tonight," I replied, hoping I wouldn't be asked for the secret password. Labia? Libido? Lubricant?

Inside I found a spacious showroom filled with toys. Signs hung high along the walls denoting various specialties: Edible; Anal; Non-Silicone Dildos; Harnesses. OK. I looked down.

Nervously surveying the crowd I quickly spotted a man, then another, and another. Phew. In fact nearly half of the 50 or so attendees appeared to be vaginally challenged, just like me. I relaxed. Somewhat.

Casually trying to blend in, I wandered over to the video section, my eyes instantly zeroing in on a film titled Viva la Vulva.

"Barry?" I heard over my shoulder.

"Uh, yes," I swung around like a 12-year-old caught with his father's Playboy.

"Hi. Carol. Nice to meet you."

"Right. Hi. Thanks for having me."

Carol gave me a quick tour around the store, introducing me to many of the Good Vibes staffers. In addition to retail clerks from both the San Francisco and Berkeley stores, the crowd included many employees from Good Vibrations' considerable mail-order business and its South of Market headquarters.

I also met Robert Morgan Lawrence, Carol's partner -- and partner in crime for the night. Both Robert and Carol are doctors of sexology, and together they would be lecturing on the night's selected topic: female genitalia.

All righty.

While several people worked on the collective meal in a makeshift kitchen set up behind the counter, I stopped by the appetizer table to sample the black bean mango salsa. "All the dishes we're serving tonight," said Carol, "came from this cookbook." From one of the many bookshelves she pulled a volume titled Inter Courses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. "Each dish has one or more main ingredients which were historically believed to be an aphrodisiac. But I may have to make an announcement that the group should refrain from getting all turned on until after the lecture."

A line formed around behind the counter as everyone loaded up his plate with homemade artichoke, feta, and thyme pizza and rosemary risotto, plus fresh salad and breads. Then we all found seats in the folding chairs set up for the event as Carol and Robert got ready to address the group.

Robert started by inviting questions on the topic, which definitely got the conversation flowing.

Question: My friend worked hard to achieve female ejaculation. Now she can't get it to stop.

Question: Besides clitoral and vaginal, is there a third kind of orgasm?

Question: Why is it hard to pee after sex?

Question: My friend couldn't have orgasms. Then she tried anal sex and had three. What's up?

For each question, Robert and Carol delivered a very educated, straightforward, and often hilarious answer. In responding to the last inquiry, Robert noted, "We have this idea that the clitoris is the seat of all power throughout the world."

"And those of us who have seen South Park know that's true," Carol quipped.

The bottom line, Carol explained, "is that everyone is different. Even we still hear about things we've never heard about and we're like, "Really? Wow.'"

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