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Sex and the supermarket: Woolworths giving off bad vibrations

Woolworths have announced they will no longer stock the Vibrating Bullet ‘clitoral stimulator’. Are supermarkets an ‘appropriate’ place to sell sex toys? AAP/Dave Hunt

In a favourite scene from the sitcom Roseanne, family patriarch Dan sat down his new-to-masturbation son DJ. “The funny thing about this,” says Dan during the heart-to-heart, “is that even though it’s okay and everybody does it, there’s nothing wrong with it, nobody ever ever talks about it”.

Dan then put his finger to his lips.

It may have all taken place in the early 90s and we might like to believe that we’re comparatively cooler, calmer and substantially more sexually savvy today than we once were.

We’d, of course, be completely and utterly wrong.

While masturbation may have undergone a substantial image overhaul since those halcyon Victorian days where everything from vigorous exercise, electric shocks and Cornflakes were prescribed to treat it, truth be told, we’ve not even inched forward enough to have a frank conversation about it.

Apples for good health, exercise for good health. Orgasms? Sssh [finger to the lips]. We can’t talk about any of that.

While the ubiquitousness of porn might provide a decent sign that a fair few of us enjoy the odd tug and diddle, apparently we’d prefer to believe everyone’s just perusing for the articles.

And, thanks to those holy rollers, our supermarket shelves will forever remain unsullied by the accoutrement of self-stimulation.

So let us lay out our double standards all nice and clear. So cigarettes and booze are all perfectly sensible items for supermarkets to peddle, but a clitoral stimulator isn’t?

So products that lead to lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver are good and products that lead to orgasms are bad?

Sure, that make sense. And presumably the lubricants are okay because they can serve double duty to unstick a pesky zip? And the condoms are good and dandy because they make the sturdiest balloon animals?

As someone who’s spent the past few months working on a book about masturbation I’ve delighted in many a quality tome on the topic. My favourites are the self-help Christian volumes. With titles like How to Win Your Battles with Satan and They Shall Expel Demons. Without them I’d still be harbouring the most outlandish of masturbatory misunderstandings.

Did you know for example, that masturbation provides a portal for the devil? That in all that STI-free rollicking good fun, we’re actually making love to satan? Exactly. If only I’d watched that Linda Blair Exorcist documentary.

The Exorcist (1973) [Viewer discretion advised]

I appreciate that masturbation is a topic some people feel squeamish about. Equally so that words like orgasm and clitoral and vibration in any context other than mobile phones give some people the heebie jeebies

But since when do supermarkets stop selling products simply because a little cultural discomfort exists around them? As any sitcom will testify, if you have testicles you’ll inevitably freak out in the feminine hygiene aisle. And yet to the best of my knowledge Woolies still sells tampons.

But, the wowsers’ campaign to kill pleasure - as is their remit - was successful and Woolworths cleared the shelves of all that vibrates. Of course. God forbid a shopping expedition might lead to Lil’ Ezekiel asking, “mummy, mummy, what’s that?” in turn leading to a parent actually having to parent.

Fortunately, there is light - and an orgasm - at the end of the aisle. Sex therapist Dr Ruth once deliciously described the cucumber as the “edible green dildo”. Carrots, zucchinis and bananas can also be found in the same section.

Mosey on past that recently cleared shelf to the dental hygiene showcase. Amy (Mayim Bialik) in The Big Bang Theory named hers Gerard. Electric toothbrushes are cheaper than the Durex offering, and my extensive empirical observations lead me to believe they offer quite the decent buzz for the price.

And need I gesticulate with a smirk towards the mascara wands, candle sticks and cabanossi? God bless the smallgoods section.

[Gasp!] People masturbate with things other than Durex Vibrating Bullets? I know, I was shocked too.

Imagine for a moment we dare think of sexual pleasure as a good thing. An outlandish suggestion, sure, but bear with me.

Imagine if we taught boys and girls how to effectively self-stimulate in the same way we teach about good health and good hygiene. Imagine if we dared empower girls enough to think that they deserve orgams and that they can in fact be had over and over again without nary a penis in sight.

No, stupid, stupid suggestion. Intercourse - preferably without those pesky condoms getting in the way - is the best way to satisfy sexual urges. Booze, ciggies, intercourse and prayer.

Because I sure know I’d never have stumbled across masturbation myself had a Durex box not led me astray to the clitoral promised land.

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