By Alana Hackman
The college experience is something you hear about before you get the chance to step foot on campus. Whether it’s beer talk with dad or sorority rushing advice with mom, we all get a little taste of the dining hall food and frat parties from the people closest to us before our own orientation day, but they usually skim over one major detail: sex. Blame it on your nearing 20s or the newfound freedom of living hours away from your parents, but sex is definitely a part of the college experience. Whether you participate in it or not, with sex comes sex toys.
Cal Poly Humboldt’s Peer Health Educators (PHE Humboldt) are here to promote sexual and mental health on campus. The program is funded through the Student Health Center and works to provide student-to-student education surrounding sexual and mental health. The peer educators apply their and others’ experiences to create interactive health promotions such as workshops or guest speakers. The program also focuses on sexual wellness within yourself as well as with partners. The educators encourage the use of sex toys and even have some silicone dildos on display in their office located in the Recreation and Wellness Center in room 127.
The current Peer Health Educators are Sierra Cosper, Selena Aguilera, and Emily Black. All have been with PHE for over two years now. Cosper explained how they feel there is still a stigma around sex toys and sex education as they experienced it first hand as a peer health educator. Cosper also noted that discussion about sex toys and the use of sex toys sometimes intimidates those who identify as male and is more taboo in their daily discussions compared to women.
“Sometimes when I talk to them [men] about the job I’m doing they’ve said ‘oh why would I come in here to know anything,’” said Cosper. “ There’s this idea with men and sex toys that they can’t be better than their penis.”
Black also added they have a tendency to leave out the part about sex toys when explaining their job role to new people they have met to avoid assumptions. She also mentioned how she lacked exposure to toys and sexual wellness before coming to CPH and participating in PHE events.
The group recommended the local storefront Good Relations in Eureka for those interested in dipping their toes into the world of sex toys for a wide selection of toys in discrete packaging as well as informative and helpful staff.
“If you’re too embarrassed to go, you gotta remember they’re choosing to work there, they want people to come,” said Aguilera.
“And then come,” joked Cosper.
“They want you to be as healthy and comfortable about it as possible,” said Aguilera.
The group also advised beginners to use toys by themselves before introducing them to a partner as it can cause some miscommunication sometimes. Although, all agreed using toys doesn’t have to be solitary and using them with others is an experience as well.
“It puts a lot of pressure on relationships sometimes, like ‘I’m not good enough’ feelings cause you’re using this toy, but they’re actually just really fun,” said Cosper. “You can’t expect your partner to get you off every time also.”
“It’s supposed to enhance your experience not take anything away from it,” added Aguilera.
Black, Cosper, and Aguilera also encourage proper care of sex toys to avoid sexually transmitted diseases or infections. They recommended a lot of toys are able to be boiled but toys usually come with care instructions on how to clean and properly care for them, also mentioning to steer clear of toys made of porous material and the use of silicone lubes on silicone toys to avoid degradation over time.
“Something people forget to do sometimes is clean communal toys, which are more popular in queer communities,” said Cosper. “The communal strap-on, you should be using condoms on it between each person. Same with vibrators to avoid any risks of spreading.”
The PHE educators all agreed they encourage more open discussions about sex toys to break the fears and taboos surrounding them, which is exactly what they’re doing within their roles on campus.
Black encourages students to participate in their tabling events to enter a safe space for open conversations about sexual health and wellness.
“Everyone gets embarrassed, but liking what you like is sexy,” said Aguilera. “Not being afraid to show what you like is nothing to be ashamed about, you know.”
Join the Peer Health Educators at their annual Sexland event on April 23, a sex-positive, kink-based, informative event including sex toy giveaways and much more.