It's pretty universally recognized that sexual satisfaction is a major part of relational satisfaction, but this is an area that's largely overlooked when considering wedding gifts! In part, that's understandable. We typically are private (or at least more reserved) about this area of our lives and because it's so personal, it can be challenging to choose the right gift for someone else. Nevertheless, a gift focussed on intimacy and pleasure can be a wonderful surprise for a couple getting married!
Beth Hankes, owner of the Burlington-based adult pleasure store Earth and Salt, sat down with Vermont Weddings to discuss some of the biggest misconceptions about sex toys and why gifting a sex toy or sex-themed gift may be the best wedding gift we could give!
This blog post is sponsored by Earth and Salt. We're excited to partner with and share this Vermont business!
Not Your Average Adult Pleasure Store: Earth and Salt is a Mission-Driven Store You Can Feel Good About
Earth and Salt's mission is to see all people free to live in their pleasure. "I was very intentional about the wording of that," says Beth. "I want to be a resource for everyone who is looking to experience more pleasure in their lives, whether physically, emotionally, and/or interpersonally. And I want to be sure that I'm serving their individual vision of their pleasure, as it is different for all of us, and it changes through the course of our lives. The space to be who we are, as we are, right now, is so crucial, and that is what I want my store to be for folks." I love that the shop is broad in its definition of pleasure and inclusive of the ways individuals may seek that.
Social justice is also a cornerstone of Beth's business model. "I intentionally find toy and accessory companies that are owned by women, BIPOC folks, trans and nonbinary folks, as investing in these businesses both gives money to these communities of people, and advances innovation by and for these folks in the sex toy and accessory space. I also aim to offer a wide range of educational resources (books, blog posts, workshops) on numerous intersectional topics, presented by educators from a diverse set of backgrounds. This allows me to support their work and give them a wider audience, and to again, provide that space for people to find community and be seen for who they are."
In short, Earth and Salt's mission and offerings go well beyond any tired notions of a sex store, and supporting this business is supporting important social justice work. (Which is also something to feel good about!)
Busting The Biggest Myth About Sex Toys
Beth says the biggest misconception about sex toys is that they're taboo or rare. In fact, sex toys are normal and common! "So many different people use them for numerous reasons," explains Beth. "They are not replacements, but enhancements to what folks are already doing."
How to Choose a Sex Toy
When you're looking to purchase a toy, there are three things to consider: thee function, shape, and material.
First, consider the function of the toy - what is it designed to do, and where? Does that sound awesome to you or not?
Then, consider the shape. Does the shape work with your or your partner's body? Does the base of the toy allow you to hold it easily?
Thirdly, consider the material. Beth explains, "Sex toys are unregulated in the US, and not all toy makers use body-safe materials." She recommends silicone, stainless steel, glass, and ABS plastic.
While some folks are uncomfortable shopping for these items in person, a progressive adult store like Earth and Salt can be very helpful. The staff at Earth and Salt are knowledgeable about the products and trained in talking to folks about these products and sex. Beth adds, "it's really difficult to judge the size, weight, and noise level of a lot of toys without seeing and touching them in person."
How To Broach the Topic of Sex Toys with Your Partner
While we've already busted the myth that sex toys are weird or unusual, it's understandable that if this is new to your relationship, bringing it up may feel a bit scary and vulnerable.
One approach is to set a meeting to discuss the topic so both parties can prepare. This doesn't have to be formal, but agree on a specific time and topic ahead of time, rather than ambushing your partner. This allows each party time to process emotions and prepare questions.
Frame the conversation about your personal needs, desires, and interests instead of any perceived lack in the sex you're having, or in your partner's performance.
Also, propose it as an experiment. Beth suggests the idea of a "willingness window", a concept from author Emily Nagoski. Propose that you try out the toy together for only 5 or 10 minutes, and then decide if you want to continue using it or not in that session. This way neither party feels locked into something.
If you decide to try something, talk about it again after. Give each partner time to reflect if you liked it and if you're willing to try it again. This kind of open communication is key to a healthy sex life (and marriage!).
Let's Talk Gifts! How Do you Gift a Sex Toy to a Friend Getting Married?
Maybe you're looking to purchase a unique gift for a friend and want something that they'll really enjoy. (We're willing to bet the right sex toy is more enjoyable than even the most beautiful set of silverware - ha!) If you're thinking about gifting a sex toy to a friend getting married, Beth has some tips to keep in mind.
First, "you'll want to choose a toy that could be enjoyed by a wide range of people, so look for something that is relatively simple in its design, that has a number of speeds, and can be used just about anywhere on the body." She recommends a bullet vibrator or a finger vibrator.
If you want to gift something sex-related but not a specific toy, Beth recommends massage oil or massage candles, a silky blindfold, a feather teaser, a book, or (Beth's favorite option) a sex wedge. Also, gift cards are a lovely option as they encourage couples to explore the possibilities for themselves!
Finally, ask an expert like the team at Earth and Salt! "They will know what the best sellers have been in the store, which are better bets for gifting than choosing a toy at random, says Beth."
If you're worried about your friend opening the gift publicly (say at a bridal shower), add a bright tag that says something like "open in private" or "a sexy little something" to tip them off. Or just ship the gift directly to the couple so they can open it in private. (You could bring a card to the shower explaining the gift has been sent separately.)
Educational Parties at Earth and Salt for Bachelorette Parties, Birthday Parties, and More
Ready to take your knowledge to the next level? Earth & Salt offers private parties, which include a 30 minute educational workshop and the chance to shop the store with your crew. This would be such a fun addition to any Burlington-area bachelorette party or bachelor party (or for any occasion, really!).
"It is so fun and so rare to get to learn about sex as a friend group," says Beth. "And it can be both a fun and meaningful way to spend time together."
Thank you, Beth! We're so excited to promote this amazing Vermont brand and business. Earth and Salt was part of our 2022 Vermont Weddings Gift Guide, a collection of gift ideas from Vermont makers. To learn more about Earth and Salt, visit their website or shop in store in Burlington.
Photographer: Isora Lithgow Creations