Photo via Hot Octopuss (Licensed)

Who knew so much could happen on a lunch break?

I’m a door away from my destination when I encounter nearly a dozen young skateboarders seated across the width of the sidewalk. They are casually dismantling skateboards. (Or perhaps assembling them?) Their presence throws me. I was expecting to encounter a long line of women, giggling and eagerly awaiting entry to the Hot Octopuss pop-up boutique in New York City. The U.K. brand is offering women a chance to meet with a sex therapist and test-drive its newest toy—and, if they enjoy it, take it home for free.

In the name of journalism, I decided to answer Hot Octopuss’ call on my lunch break. But now that I am here, my head floods with doubt. Am I in the wrong place? And if so, who on earth am I going to ask for help? Certainly not this gaggle of pubescent boys who are casually taking up space.

Thankfully, finally, I look up and see a discreet storefront with a large O on its frosted glass windowpane. I am where I should be.

Hot Octopuss

I enter a little sanctuary where plastic champagne flutes float freely. Two women with dark eyeliner and British accents welcome me like an old friend, and within minutes it feels as if I’ve popped into a Lower East Side boutique for some post-brunch shopping with my girlfriends—the only difference being that these friends will soon invite me to disrobe and pleasure myself.

But before they do, they invite me to meet Adam Lewis, Hot Octopuss’ founder who is enjoying some champagne outside of the storefront. Adam greets me warmly with kisses on each cheek that, if I’m being honest, last a little too long for comfort. But then he makes it clear that we don’t have to chat now, he’ll be here. We can speak after my “experience.”

To me, that seems a bit more awkward, but I determine quickly that he is harmless, if excited, and I do have some basic questions. So when Adam invites me to step into his “office” and gestures, with a grin, at the bench outside the neighboring bodega, I smile politely and oblige.

We chat briefly and I learn more about the brand and why a man is trying to sell me on women’s pleasure. Adam tells me about the Guybrator, the world’s first male vibrator. He searched high and low for the scientific technology before he brought it to a consumer audience, and now with the Queen Bee, the brand wants to allow women to enjoy the same powerful vibrations and oscillating technology. There’s also some messaging around dispelling the shame around women’s pleasure and I nod in agreement even though I’m not sure I’m on board just yet. This all sounds like standard, over-hyped brand talk. But I tell myself to keep an open mind.

I go back inside and I realize while flutes of champagne have been floating about, I haven’t been offered one. Normally, I’d be shy about this, but then I realize I’m here to get mine dammit and demand a flute of my own. Well, I ask obliquely in my sweetest voice, “Do I get a champagne, too?”

One of the greeters rushes to pour me a fresh one and then invites me into the consulting space. Here, I’m greeted by a licensed sex therapist in a gauzy lace tunic and pink skirt. Her name is Diana.

“So what brings you in today?” she asks, her voice somewhere between a library hush and kindergarten teacher’s soothing tones just before nap time.

“Oh, I just heard, you know, about the pop-up and so I wanted to check it out.” The seat I’m offered is the long reclining type you see in therapist’s offices, but I’m perched on its edge.

Hot Octopuss

Pictured: Not me.

Diana nods, offering a pause so I can say more if I want to. I realize quickly that I don’t know what to say. If pressed to say more at the moment, I would probably blurt out, “Just tell me what to do!” But Diana is unyielding in her patience and we end up having a frank conversation about masturbation and sex toys.

I tell her yes, I’ve used toys, and sure masturbation is a part of my life, though the sensation of a vibrator sometimes feels strange to me. A bit clinical, less sensual.

It is then that Diana shows me the Queen Bee. She allows me to touch the toy, which is quite large. “You can use it as a massage tool, too, if you want, that’s why it’s so big,” she explains. I’m not sure I follow the logic, but I touch the toy at her prompting and the vibrations are powerful. She flips it over and shows me the oscillating plate, which moves up and down as it delivers vibrations. The sensation is strong, and well, interesting, like a traditional vibrator but with an added rhythmic pressure against my fingers.

Hot Octopuss

I soon realize that I’d been looking for something prescriptive. Somewhere between all the middle-school sex fables I heard and Cosmopolitan “blow his mind” articles I read—and despite how sexist I knew about these instructions to be—I had subconsciously swallowed the idea that sex and pleasure are something you figure out by learning the right tricks. I thought Diana would correct me or tell me the “right” way to do it, but when she takes out the Queen Bee and shows it to me, she simply tells me to use it how I see fit.

Diana explains that it’s common for women worry about other people’s comfort or pleasure—but they don’t focus on themselves. She encourages me to try all the settings and check in with myself regularly. “Ask yourself what feels good? If there’s any discomfort, ask yourself what am I feeling? Always check in. And always focus on what’s working and follow that.”

She also reminds me that the clitoris is the only body part that exists solely for pleasure, so why not enjoy it?

The advice is so simple, but I feel like an actual light bulb is illuminated over my head as I leave the consultation room. I’m given a silk, navy blue robe, a Queen Bee, and a “changing room” where I can test drive the device. It’s essentially a small dressing room stall from whatever boutique existed before, but it’s cozy. There’s mood-lighting and some kind of glass jar illuminates the dark stall from the floor, which is covered with a fluffy faux sheepskin. I remember Diana’s words. Check in. That would probably feel nicer on my feet, I think, and I slip out of my sandals. Then, after a slight pause, I strip down to my underwear and put on the silk robe.

Daily Dot

I fumble a bit more before I remember Diana’s advice again. I breathe. I check in. I find what feels good to me. I follow that and then it starts to really feel good.

Several minutes later, I turn on the lights, dress, and emerge from the changing room, my face a bit damp. The girls are eager to know how I liked my experience. I tell them it was good and they are happy—so, so happy that I am happy.

I take in the entrance area again and read what’s written on the wall.

Queen Bee lobby Hot Octopuss Photo via Nayomi Reghay (Licensed)

 

A series of platitudes about orgasms and confidence. But one line stands out to me. “It’s…time we embraced sexuality as core part of well being.” And then another: “It’s not about sex life, it’s about quality of life.”

Normally, all this would awaken my inner cynic. I’d sneer at the appropriated feminism. But something in me suddenly buys in. Maybe it’s the afterglow of playing with my new toy. Maybe it’s having taken time alone to explore my own pleasure. Maybe it’s the champagne. But as I snap a pic one of the girls asks, “Isn’t that great?” and I say with absolute conviction, “Yes. I love it.”

IRL
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