When I saw Janet Wildlife setting up her table at the Gargoyle Bar & Grille, I flashed back to the days when I sold Tupperware. It was Monday night and the restaurant was closed, but a small group of mostly normal, middle-class-looking people had gathered to hear Wildlife’s spiel, and as she spread out her equipment I knew exactly how she felt–she wanted to be sure everything was visible; she wanted to arrange the items in a sequence that would keep her patter moving along.

Just about everything Wildlife had was made of plastic or rubber or latex or silicone–basically the same kinds of materials Tupperware is made of–and she gave instructions on how to use everything and how to clean and care for it–just like I did with Tupperware.

And everyone got a party favor. I got a blue condom, and my friend Scott got a green one. At Tupperware we gave out blue toothbrush holders and green lettuce corers.

But this was no Tupperware party. “There’s so many men here,” Wildlife said, surveying the room. Then she explained that tonight she would be demonstrating gadgets that enable people to have sex longer. And faster. And harder. And that she was a midwest sales rep for a sex toy company. A local sex store called Taboo Tabou was sponsoring her presentation.

To begin, Wildlife talked about the hands, which she called “the orignial sex toy.”

“File your nails with an emery board,” she advised. And get stuff like tar out from under the nails. She reminded the group that many people have small cuts on the hands, which could sting during sex, and she recommended wearing as many as three or even more layers of surgical gloves, to prevent scrapes to one’s partner–and to keep things sanitary. If a pair gets dirty, she said–demonstrating artfully–just peel it off and you’ve got another.

Next Wildlife talked about the different flavors of lubricant–such as strawberry and bubble gum–and adamantly pointed out the importance of using water-based, not petroleum-based, lubricants. (Petroleum-based lubricants like Vaseline disintegrate latex and encourage bacterial growth in the mucous membranes, she said.)

Then it was on to the sex toys. Sex toys, Wildlife explained can include such seemingly innocent objects as fresh towels and ostrich feathers. They should be spread out before sex on velvet and stored in beautiful bags or pouches, so as not to pick up lint.

She held up many different dildos and items she called “butt plugs,” including a double dildo for use by two people at one. “Always go smaller than what you think you need,” she advised. Wildlife said dildos now come in hues beyond “causasian” such as purple, which she thought was progressive and uplifting–and in various textures, from smooth to nubby. Some people like some textures and some like others, she explained.

Two things to watch for: bases and handles. Wildlife told her audience that handles are needed for proper insertion, and bases prevent sex toys from being swallowed up and lost inside body cavities.

Responding to a question about cleaning dildoes and butt plugs, Wildlife said that condoms are the way to go. Take it off and it’s ready for the next use. But she said soap and water–even the dishwasher–would do a good job. If condoms are too big for a particular device, Wildlife adviced using a surgical glove or plastic wrap.

“I’m a gadget person,” Wildlife disclosed as she began to move into the vibrators. She described small, battery-operated models and larger plug-ins with all kinds of attachments. She described one that not only vibrated but also expanded like a balloon. She said a good idea was to vibrate massage oil into the skin (but not into mucous membranes).

Wildlife recommended the use of dildos and vibrators in tandem. “I like sensory overload,” she said.

Then she held up what she called “the queen of all vibrators”–the Hitachi Magic Wand, it was called. Though I never heard of it, it’s supposedly been around for 20 years. Wildlife said to use a surgical glove on it.

As she went along, Wildlife fitted several of the gadgets into harnesses and strapped them onto herself, so people could get the idea. Then she asked for volunteers. Totally clothed, of course.

One by one, men and women came up and sprawled out on the table. Or sat up in a pretend bathtub; or laid back on Wildlife’s body; or went belly down across her lap. This way she could demonstrate various comfortable and effective gadget-oriented positions. One of the positions reminded me of how we used to sit on the old Flying Turns at Riverview. Another reminded me of the party game Twister.

“Having furniture at home with the right proportions is important–especially when you get older and get bad backs and knees,” Wildlife said. She recommended the use of foam rubber blocks that can be stacked to just the right height. She said that for some people the toilet seat is the right height.

“Let’s get the silliness out here,” said Wildlife, “so when you get home you’ll know the most conducive positions.”

One woman wanted to know if you could electrocute yourself with a plug-in vibrator. Wildlife said only if you used it in the tub. A lot of people shared sex tips. One woman said unbuttoned 501 Levis make a good dildo harness. When Wildlife showed something called a dental dam–a mouth covering of latex for people who don’t want direct contact during oral sex–the same woman recommended a commercial laboratory where one can purchase huge, economical, industrial-size rolls of the same material. Then she grumbled about the short life of the batteries needed for small vibrators.

One man, a long-haired guy in a black leather jacket, brought up an enormous homemade vibrator. He enthusiastically held it up for everyone to see and described how he made it. I think I heard him mention the word “rheostat.” “It’s worth its weight in gold,” he said of the vibrator; he joked that his girlfriends wanted to borrow it, but he was afraid he’d never get it back.

Toward the end Wildlife got into “basic bondage.” She recommended using only light pressure, and avoiding pain. She held up things like little “nipple clamps” and leather cuffs. She warned vehemently against silk scarves for tying people up–because silk can get too tight. “Be careful when you’re experimenting, so you don’t injure anyone,” she said.

Wildlife was a little lukewarm about what she called “esoteric” sex toys. Like vibrating eggs. And strings of beads that could be inserted into orifices and pulled out. She also had a little maroon-colored pad that reminded me of a flat sponge for washing Teflon or a shoe insert to kill odor and prevent bunions. She called it a “magic carpet” and said it was good for a particular kind of stimulation somewhere, but I didn’t catch it exactly.

At the workshop’s end, Janet Wildlife conceded two things: One, the sex toy industry is underdeveloped because there aren’t enough people to support it. Two, when push comes to shove the best sex toys are communication and imagination.

“Remember, there’s lots of partners and lots of toys. If something doesn’t work for you, please don’t get frustrated.”

This advice reminded me of what I used to tell my Tupperward cutomers: there’s a bowl out there for every leftover.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Joe A. Arce–Rockhound.