Over at the Daily Beast, Allison Yarrow has written a fascinating story about the emerging niche industry of sex toys marketed to religious folks. By way of introducing this seemingly contradictory world, she explores the offerings of a number of order-sites, including Book 22 for Christians, Kosher Sex Toys for Jews and Al Asira for Muslims, all of which curate their inventories to the unique needs and moral sensitivities of their respective consumer bases. And Yarrow finds that, contrary to the perception that the devout may suffer from furtive or otherwise poor sex lives, pious people are just as interested as sinners are in doing it well. The problem, however, is that many of them initially don’t know where to start.
Because of a lack of proper sex education, Ribner [a rabbi and sex therapist] said, religious couples often suffer from misguided advice. “One couple was told that if the woman does not like sex, she should take two Tylenol and finish as quickly as possible,” he said. In his work with Kosher Sex Toys, he has advised on topics ranging from the science of erectile dysfunction to the morality of spanking a partner.
The managers of these “marital aide” stores (some dislike the term “sex shop”) see themselves as both educators and bedroom missionaries of a sort, assisting god-fearing couples in their maintenance of the all-important marriage bond. Their tools are the same as those employed by secular stores like Babeland; it’s just that the standard vibrators and massage oils are repackaged without any of the traditional titillating descriptions or pornographic imagery. Moreover, the websites themselves tend to focus on the spiritual transcendence of sex as opposed to its more earthly pleasures.
To an outsider, visiting the religious sites feels a bit like listening to the bleeped-out version of an explicit hip-hop song: the substance is the same, it’s just missing the X-rated details … And while they don’t flaunt their holiness, they’ll occasionally rely on religious messaging to sell themselves, or perhaps put potential customers at ease. Book 22, for example, promises to “enhance the intimate life of all God’s children.”
While the proximity of “intimate life” with “children” (God’s or otherwise) doesn’t do much for me personally, I am definitely glad that these sites exist. Good sex is clearly important for a healthy romantic relationship, and if religious types (especially orgasm-desiring women) need a holier box around their vibrator in order to make it palatable, I say praise the lord.