5 Highlights From The Sexual Health Expo, Because This Is What The Future Of Sex Looks Like

An array of sex-positive, pro-pleasure talks, demonstrations and exhibitions went down at the Sexual Health Expo this past weekend, providing a welcome distraction from the House's misguided decision to defund Planned Parenthood on Friday. Held in an unassuming hotel in midtown Manhattan, SHE was a partwarming reminder that there are medical professionals, educators, entrepreneurs, and consumers out there who aren't clueless about nor vehemently opposed to women's sexual and reproductive health — and in fact celebrate it fiercely and openly in their day to day lives.

From the moment I walked in and picked up my lube-filled goody bag until I left with a laundry list of toys to buy, books to read, and sexologists to interview, I was filled with the warm and fuzzies you get from being around folks who aren't fundamentally sexually repressed — or, at the very least, who are striving not to be. In true sex-positive fashion, the speakers and exhibitors weren't aggressively pushing some unattainable sexual lifestyle mere mortals can't live up to, nor were they suggesting you should leave enough space between yourself and your partner(s) for the holy spirit lest you risk burning in hell. On the contrary, this unique, upscale convention celebrated the right to safely choose your own sexual adventure, whatever that may be.

Here are five highlights from my stimulating visit to the Sexual Health Expo:

1. Dr. Zhana Vrangalova's Casual Sex Tips

A leading researcher and educator in the field of casual sex and human sexuality, Dr. Zhana Vrangalova founded The Casual Sex Project, a hub for sharing stories about all kinds of intimacy outside LTRs. Her work has been published and cited widely both in academic journals and pop culture publications, so it was a thrill to see her speak in person on the subject she knows best.

Vrangalova's "Hooking Up Healthy" talk covered enough material for multiple books (she's working on one now), but the way she addressed handling your emotional response to hooking up was both relatable and practical. Commenting that sex is basically "your brain on drugs," she suggested that everyone monitor themselves to learn where they fall on the attachment spectrum as well as the casual sex spectrum, since our individual physiological and emotional responses to sex does differ.

For those who find that emotions hinder their ability to hookup as freely as they'd like, her first tip was to employ a relationship checklist as a litmus test when you start to catch feelings. If the person you're hooking up with doesn't fit your parameters for a serious relationship, then you can use logic to temper your attachment to said person and keep it casual. Vrangalova's second tip was to be aware that staring into someone's eyes, cuddling, spending the night, and telling too many personal stories all lead to the release of bonding hormones, which can make casual sex more complicated and painful to engage in for some.

2. Chakrubs

Chakrubs is a company that seamlessly integrates sexuality and spirituality through pleasure products made of 100 percent pure, organic crystal. As their mission statement explains, the company's goal is "to bring a sense of sacredness to your playtime." Depending on your personal beliefs about the connection between crystals and energetic healing, Chakrubs' beautifully crafted pieces can either stand alone as orgasmic objets d'art or powerful tools for growth, personal exploration, and sex magic.

Earlier this year, I published an interview with Chakrubs founder Vanessa Cuccia, so was excited to finally meet her in the flesh and get my hands on the stunning wares she had to sell.

3. Testing The BlewIt

BlewIt is a brand spanking new masturbation aid that helps men last longer in the bedroom by replicating the sensation (and suction) of a vagina. The company's ergonomic and stylish product is so new that it's not even available for purchase online quite yet, but I managed to get a demonstration from the founder and his partner while traversing the booths at SHE. Although my anatomical makeup won't allow me to use this bad boy properly, even putting a finger inside the device was enough to get an idea for how much it feels like real deal lady parts, complete with the pull of pelvic floor muscles. (And major props for their cheeky motto: "not all performance training happens at the gym.")

4. Dr. Megan Fleming's Relationship Tips

Dr. Megan Fleming is a licensed sex therapist and marriage counselor who has appeared on a variety of TV and radio shows, educating the public on the intimate links between sex, relationships, and personal fulfillment. Fleming's talk, "Great Life, Great Sex" focused on how the dynamics of a partnership impact a couple's sex life, and her standout advice was how to balance compromise and exploration.

Repeating the age old quote, "do you want to be right or in a relationship?," Fleming reminded the audience that meeting in the middle is king, even in sexual situations. Then, using the example of anal sex, Fleming noted that if you're even the slightest bit curious, light stimulation or digital play is worth a shot before you close the door completely on the experience "just because." That's not to say you do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, she explained, but both parties stretching themselves in some way leads to improved communication and connection, even if, in the end, you decide a certain experience just isn't for you.

5. Getting Shocked By The Hello Touch X

One of my final stops of the day was at the booth run by Jimmy Jane, a company known for their sleek, sex tech innovations. I was offered a chance to try the Hello Touch X, an electrostimulation device worn on two fingers and powered by a wrist pack. The lovely exhibitor running the booth first showed me the 10 power levels and six pulse modes that could be achieved by the Hello Touch X before she lubed up the inside of my forearm and went to town. Yes, I've endured eight hour tattoo sessions before, but nothing quite prepared me for the maximum intensity of this bad boy. No matter how much stimulation and vibration your body requires, this device will give you way more than you bargained for. Although I personally don't need my electrostimulation to go to 11, I'm glad I took Dr. Fleming's advice and gave it a go anyways. You'll never know unless you try.

Want more of Bustle's sex and relationships coverage? Check out our video on sex positions for small penises below:

Bustle on YouTube

Images: Kristen Sollee (3); ReidAboutSex/Twitter; Slutist/Instagram; SexHealthExpo/Twitter