Pencil dicks — in this case, pencils with penis-shaped erasers — break the ice. Linda Brewer, the impresario of this occasion, looks like a woman who would be more at home at a church potluck than handing out glow-in-the-dark penises and order forms night after night in small Southern towns and suburbs. She peddles her goods — gadgets, lotions, potions — to women who skip Bible study classes and tell their husbands they are at Tupperware parties instead of sitting around with friends fondling vibrators. And in a way, they are at a Tupperware party: There’s rubber and plastic galore, and Linda assures everyone her products will “lock in romantic freshness.”
The scene of this party is an unassuming brick home. I sit around a coffee table with a dozen women. Most are married, but nonetheless many look as if they are not sure if they have ever had sex. Linda, however, is a woman who knows how to make even the most prudish attendees feel cozy, comfortable and convinced that their salvation lies in products like Chinese Nympho Creme, Sex Fifth Avenue, Fireworks and Coochy.
Linda, now fifty-three, is her own best conversion story. Twenty years ago, living in a small Southern town, she couldn’t utter the word “penis.” She was the owner of an athletic store and the archetypical PTA mom. “Friends thought of me as a goody-two-shoes. I’m the last person in the world anyone ever thought would be selling vibrators.”
Not any more — today Linda enlightens women to the world of multiple orgasms and elusive G-spots. She is a walking sex manual with answers to every imaginable question. “Masturbation?” she says measuredly, pulling dildos and vibrators from one of her several beat-up suitcases, “Women need to learn to pleasure themselves before they can show their partners where it feels good.” Need a little more tightness in the vagina? Follow her out to the car where she pops open her trunk and digs around for a set of Ben-Wa beads or a tube of Tighten-Up Creme. Need restraint? How about a pair of purple furry handcuffs? She’ll search a little harder in her trunk if you want a leopard print pair. Her car is a sexateria on wheels with more joy toys and dream creams than I knew existed.
Six years ago, Linda’s daughter invited her to a pleasure party, and Linda knew she’d found her calling. Her husband, who works for the Department of Defense, said, “You want to do
She soon contacted the company, then known as FUN, and quickly became a FUN lady. And although she lives in a tiny town more focused on Southern Baptist doctrine than sex toy appreciation, Linda hasn’t felt any backlash from her community. Of course, most people don’t know what she does, and she remains fairly low-key about her business. She avoids the grocery store during rush hour to keep from running into her customers. Once she saw a man walking toward her whose wife had attended a party.
“Are you that FUN lady?” he asked loudly.
“Yeah, I am,”Linda said.
“My wife got me some of that Sex Fifth Avenue, and it feels like I’ve got two extra inches where it counts. That stuff really works!”
As it turned out, Linda was only an official FUN lady for a short time before financial problems led to the downfall of the company. When FUN went bankrupt, more than 200 FUN ladies had orders that needed filling. Some of these women approached Duncan James, president of Lawrence Research Group, an umbrella corporation for several businesses (including Xandria, a twenty-four-year-old mail order catalog that sells sensual and romantic aids). With James’ prompting, the Lawrence Research Group bought FUN, renaming it Coming Attraction Parties, Inc. (CAPI).
Why did they buy the company?
“To empower women,” says Laura Ewing Moore, marketing director. “This gives women a chance to be businesswomen on their terms. They can work when they want. They also get the chance to educate women on health, passion and sexual relations. It’s a wonderful combination while earning money.”
Propaganda aside, the formula is working, especially in the South, the top area of sales for the company. One hostess explains, “Part of the reason these parties are so successful is it gives you the security of being around people you know in a safe environment. You get to see things that are thought of as naughty, and you don’t have to go in public to a store to buy all of this neat stuff. You can be naughty and get away with it.”
In her six years in the business, Linda has become a sales professional selling CAPI products to women ranging from body-pierced twenty-somethings to monogomous, middle-aged Sunday School ladies. Nurses are her best customers; school teachers come in a close second.
Linda works extremely hard. Her sales were the second highest in the company last year, and she received the CAPI Award for most enthusiastic salesperson. With commissions, she made six figures last year. Her phone rings all day and late into the night with women begging for the tools of her trade. She even enlists her husband, who takes phone messages and has meals waiting when she returns after a long night on the job. Most of her business comes via word of mouth. Typically, an attendee persuades a reluctant friend to attend a party. By party’s end, the woman was promising to call Linda and book her own party.
“They never fail to call me,” Linda says. “Women are hungry to learn more about sex. That’s what I do. I don’t advocate, I just educate.”
Linda continues to assemble her panopy of sex wares on the coffee table: a blue penis candle with a long wick emerges, followed by body puddings, paints and powders. There’s Hot Stuff, a set of edible massage oils that “make him hot . . . or you”; Passion Mist, whose “flavor and aroma say, ‘taste me’ “; or the favorite novelty: non-refrigerated whipped cream “that will transform your husband into an after-dinner dessert,” in Linda’s words. The women giggle at the thought of banana-flavored blow jobs, but sitting here amidst these total strangers, it occurs to me I may be wrongly assuming that their sex is infrequent and banal — perhaps the tight-lipped woman beside me is really a sly, she-devil in disguise, pleased that she no longer has to make the trip to the fridge for her husband
Linda stands in front of the women, cracking jokes and pulling more bedroom magic from Ziploc bags. She circles the room, dabbing Fireworks, an edible lotion, on wrists.
“Rub it in,” she says.
“Now taste it.”
“Ooh, it tastes like watermelon,” one woman says. “I want some of that.”
Next, Linda introduces the blue penis candle, which she refers to as a “unit.”
“Unit is less clinical than penis,” she explains. “It’s not a name that any woman probably calls her man’s penis, and it cracks people up.”
Like the pencil dicks, the unit gets laugh after laugh from these women, who now resemble a pack of snickering teenagers. Linda gives lessons on how to massage their way into the hearts and beds of any man. Then she tells them how to make the “little man in the boat” sing with happiness.
“What’s that?” a woman in her late forties whispers to a friend.
Linda hears the woman.
“Honey, what’d you say?”
The woman blushes and then says, “I don’t get it. The little man in the boat?”
Linda smiles and snaps into role of educator. “It’s the clitoris, dear.”
The woman’s face glows.
She gets it and drinks a little more wine. She grabs her pencil dick and starts filling out the order form. Another convert.
Linda is now ready to proceed to her presentation’s climax. She dabs peppermint Sex Fifth Avenue on everyone’s
“Okay, now put it on your nipples,” Linda says.
“What?” one woman asks, shocked.
“Go under your shirt and put some on your nipples.”
The women obey, and almost in unison sighs erupt.
The women have had enough teasing foreplay. They are now in a frenzy, ready for Linda’s finale. She slowly unzips the one remaining suitcase filled with battery-operated Jack Rabbits, Jelly Cliterrifics, Satin Sliders, Pink Passions and the most popular of all — the Silver Bullet. The women are on edge — the Bible student sitting beside me has a flushed glow.
With a quick hand, Linda loads batteries into her toys and begins passing them around. She doesn’t think twice; it’s old hat, holding these jiggling and wiggling oversized day-glo rubber shafts. Linda quickly informs her audience of the difference between a vibrator, a product that is power-operated, and a dildo, which is hand-held. A vibrator, she says, is less work and twice the fun.
The women stroke and study the plastic penises. “Can you imagine having one this big?” one woman says to
Like the other women present, I’m embarrassed at the silliness of some of these G-spot probes and can’t really imagine anyone using a device with plastic rabbit ears to reach back-breaking ecstasy. Nor can I imagine the Osaki with its grinning little face rocking the little man in the boat into a tidal wave of wanton pleasure. It all seems a bit complicated and expensive, using so much equipment to feel something that we always hoped would come naturally. Yet there’s little doubt that these quivering gizmos and fruity lotions can be effective, perhaps in ways husbands can’t be.
The women have reached the point of no return. Sold on the promise of aphrodisia and renewed fulfillment, they leave one by one with little bags of bliss and Linda’s phone number. Linda, meanwhile, leaves with her apostles’ credit card numbers and the pleasure of knowing that this evening, a little more electricity will be consumed.
This story first ran on NERVE in 1998.