At 7 p.m. this past Saturday, there were things in the Vassar Rose Parlor not entirely rosy or parlorish. Sex toys sat on top of the old, antique furniture. Vassar students walked around the dimly lit room, some just looking, some bidding on the different items: dildos, collars, bed restraints, butt beads, vibrators, harnesses, homemade lipstick and soap, a cock ring, a cane, and a sleeve.
Vassar’s Squirm magazine, a literary and artistic magazine that explores unconventional perspectives on sex, was auctioning off these sex toys to raise money for their next issue. Morgan Williams ‘17, Squirm’s president, suggests the importance of their mission, “It [the magazine] showcases how Vassar students express sexuality and it’s free and available to everyone so people are able to have access to sexuality in a way that isn’t considered shameful.”
But there was no auctioneer at a podium calling out prices for this dildo or that vibrator to a crowd of eager, kinky students. No, instead there was a sheet of paper in front of each sex toy that a student could quietly and discreetly bid on.
The auction was set up so that all the sex toys and antique furniture were arranged in a large semi-circle around the Rose Parlor entrance that students could easily follow. As if in church, there wasn’t much talking. There were only occasional giggles, whispers, or questions. Indeed, how nonconformist it was to house a sex toy auction in such a prim and proper place as the Vassar Rose Parlor. An overall sense of privacy and rebelliousness filled the room.
There were never more than 15 people in the Parlor at once. Some people went solo, some in groups, some in couples, with the male to female ratio slightly more tilted towards the women’s side.
At the first table was an impressive collection of dildos. The color choices were brown, marble, hot pink and beige. The size choices were ouch, oh yeah and ooh-la-la. Looking back, a first-time Vassar attendee giggled, “The dildos were like huge! I don’t know how…how people use that.” The “state of erectness” ranged from squishy to hard to steel. Some dildos were eerily realistic, with veins running along the shaft and spongy testicles hanging at the bottom. Every dildo was 100 percent silicone, making the quality top notch. For some dildos, the original price was worth nearly 100 dollars. Students saying, “Wow, that’s expensive” was not at all uncommon to hear at the dildo table.
Moving along, you start to see BDSM toys. It was an unusual sight seeing bed restraints, collars, and a cane lying on the light blue sofa that so many Vassar students use as a place to study during the week. The bed restraints were made especially for Vassar beds by Vassar alum Gene Mercury, founder of Mercury BDSM Design. Resting on one of the couch’s armrests was a wooden cane, not at all the size of a cane used for walking. Rather, it was thin and about the length of an arm. The harnesses were made of leather, some stiff, some pliable. Not unexpectedly, many students altogether avoided this part of the auction. Expectedly, however, many students were intrigued by it.
If you ask Morgan Williams, what she thinks of “50 Shades of Grey,” she’ll roll her eyes and say, “That book is about an abusive relationship.” She’ll talk about the trap people fall into when seeing this book as an example of what BDSM is. In reality, Williams suggested, BDSM is about partners mutually exploring their sexuality in a healthy way. At the auction, many students weren’t turned off by the idea of restraint, for the bidding sheet wasn’t devoid of offers.
The “Doc Johnson’s XTend It Kit,” was the star of the penis enhancement toys, offering three different extension options to increase pleasure through a thicker and longer length, with a touch nearly identical to a real penis (or so the box said). Other toys at the auction included 100 percent stainless steel balls and a vibrating Double C Ring. As to how to use these items, you’d have to read the box instructions.
For women, the “Flickering Tongue” was an uncommon toy available at the auction. With thee intense speeds of vibration and an easy push button control, its purpose is to—well, the toy’s title should give you an idea.
There were also homemade items at the auction. Williams made different lipsticks and soaps. For the lipstick, she used Shea butter, beeswax, essential oil, caster oil, and mica. All of these things combined created three different colored lipsticks—all with minty scents. The soaps were called Lavender Chocolate Massage Bars. The name embodied the smell, a surprising odor of sweetness and nature in one. In fact, these body bars melt on your skin and turn into lotion.
It’s important to note, however, that none of the sex toys at the auction had been used. On top of being donated by established companies, Squirm took an extra precaution and screened all the sex toys to make sure they were safe. Morgan Williams said, “My former co-president, who is taking this semester off, and I, skyped and we went through everything in the box and looked at the materials that everything was made with.”
All the products were high-end alternatives to the synthetic and plastic materials, often toxic, commonly used in mass-produced gear. For this reason, the original prices were very high. But, as doctors say when it comes to safe sex practices, better safe than sorry.
Squirm was also careful with what items they auctioned off. Williams said, “We had a couple things we were debating—what sort of image that we wanted to be portraying.” For example, they decided not to auction off a donated porn DVD because they weren’t able to know how it was made or the contracts involved in its production. Williams giggled, “Also, we had a sex doll of Sasha Grey and we were like ‘that’s a little weird…’” So they didn’t auction it off.
And to add the final touch, condoms were strewn around the sex toys on top of the furniture like sparkles litter a birthday bash table. This sexy, provocative scene in Vassar’s Rose Parlor was so unusual and openly sexual that you couldn’t help but realize that regarding sex, the world is progressing, perspectives are changing, and kinky is in. Williams said, “I think sex is taken very seriously and it doesn’t have to be a serious thing. It can be fun.”