Did you know that the first definition of sex (really, “sexual intercourse”) in the Merriam-Webster includes the word “heterosexual” in it? Archie and I discovered that when we were teaching Expand Your Erotic Imagination at A-Camp. People actually booed and laughed when we read it aloud; it seemed so restrictive, so reductive. We wanted to create our own definition of sex that pushed back on that — what does sex mean to us?
Erika Moen and her husband and co-author, Matthew Nolan, attempt to answer the question and many more for folks at all points in their sexual journeys in Drawn to Sex: The Basics, which is a compilation of several Oh Joy Sex Toy comics that speak to some of the foundational principals of getting it on. They are currently at the tail end of a Kickstarter to fund its publication and sent over a copy for me to read. It’s really hard to sell me on anthologizing something that’s available on the internet already, but as soon as I cracked open this 160-page delight, I was all about it.
Oh Joy Sex Toy makes sexy subjects hyper-approachable with round lines, open-faced curiosity, and the depiction of all sorts of bodies and genders. Amputees, folks in wheelchairs, trans folks, brown folks, fat folks: everyone gets it on in these pages, and everyone looks super hot doing it. Oh Joy Sex Toy has always been about inclusive education and information, insisting that all bodies are sexy and that each individual should be able to make their own decisions about what feels good. But if you’re new to sexual literacy — which in our broken sexual culture, a lot of us are — wading through years of online archives that include intro material like how to have manual sex but also dildos that look like dragon junk can be intimidating. (It also assumes that whoever needs the info has access to the internet, privacy, and the courage to google “how do I have sex?”) The Basics collects work on consent, what sex is, and how to have it — in print, where it can be shared, passed out, referenced, or strategically left for someone to stumble upon.
And the very best thing about it? It emphasizes pleasure, a massive thing missing in sex education. Outside the queer perspective, I don’t often hear about how sex should feel good. At so many points in the book, Moen asks the reader why they want to have sex — is it to appease someone who is pressuring them? If so, you don’t have do that! And does this hurt? Well it shouldn’t! Sex should feel good in your emotions and your body! The illustrations make it a joy — and a turn-on — to read; I dare you to read this without immediately running out your door to try everything with the babely humans in your life.
Moen, who identifies as queer, is making easily accessible, queer sex education available to everyone. We asked Moen what her philosophy on sex education was, and she had a lot to say:
My approach to sex education and sex positivity is that everybody’s relationship to sex is completely unique to them and they deserve to have access to education that teaches them a wide variety of options so they can make decisions that will be healthy for them as an individual. Matt and I both try to be clear that all the sexual activities we cover in ur comics are opt-in, not mandatory (even if they’re considered to be common or expected), and that the reader is valid and whole as a person regardless of what sex things they do or don’t try out. We have our own biases and prejudices (because who doesn’t), but we do our best to evaluate our subjects with an open mind and question what the source is if there’s any discomfort we’re feeling. It comes down to, “Is this consensual? Is this being performed among informed adults? Is this reasonably safe?” and as long as the answers are “yes”, “yes”, and “yes”, then… well, even if it ain’t our thing, we’re glad somebody else is enjoying it and it will probably make an interesting comic!
Speaking of that last bit, when asked if she was interested in pairing up with trans folks and folks of varying ability statuses for her next book, Moen was all about making sure a diverse set of voices gets published on Oh Joy Sex Toy: “we very actively are seeking out cartoonists to make comics for our site that address the issues and perspectives that Matt and I have not or are not qualified to cover, so if anybody is reading this and you’re like “THERE SHOULD BE A COMIC ABOUT [X] SUBJECT” or whatever, please check out our submissions page! We pay and you retain the full rights of your work.” And for the rest of us who aren’t about to draw up some sexy-times explainers, purchasing the book helps fund the website to pay even more writers and artists, so we’re contributing to the pool of illustrated fuckin’ knowledge just by putting our eyeballs on it. Head on over to Kickstarter to pre-order that book and support Oh Joy Sex Toy.