There are different kinds of orgasms. This is the idea behind the Queen Bee, a hairbrush-shaped vibrator just released by Hot Octopuss, a company that has, until now, made exclusively male sex toys (including their most famous, the "Guybrator"). The Queen Bee's patented buzzing unit, located on the oval "brush" part, oscillates up and down on your clitoris, unlike your traditional vibrator, which buzzes side to side and much less dramatically. To celebrate the launch, Hot Octopuss hosted a two-day pop-up in New York City where women could meet with an "orgasm stylist"—otherwise known as a sex therapist, but they're being cute—and customize their orgasms based on her masturbation tips.
I arrived at the conspicuous boutique in the Lower East Side covered in sweat and dirt. (Like, actual soil. Not sure how.) A posh-but-alt British woman handed me a glass of prosecco and invited me to sit as we waited for the previous client to finish masturbating down the hallway behind the dark curtain. I wondered what "orgasm stylist" meant. Can orgasms wear hats? Would I be made to vajazzle? I'd never thought of orgasms as customizable or controllable based on type of stimulation. Was she going to teach me how to engineer a dope, super-powerful orgasm, so I can have one every time? I always thought it was just luck, and, occasionally—and I mean so, so occasionally, please don't get carried away—the right guy.
A few moments later, I was escorted to my consultation with Diane Barone, my orgasm stylist for the hour, behind another curtain. Unlike an average session with a sex therapist, which may deal with fetishes and threesome logistics and emotional well-being, Barone-as-stylist focused exclusively on my orgasm. She asked if I had any questions about my orgasms, and I froze. What questions did I have? All I could think about was where road kill goes. Where do they put it? Is there a bucket somewhere?
I told her I often have trouble orgasming with partners, and even though I know this is normal, I asked, Is this normal? (I imagine 95 percent of the work of sex therapists is answering that question, and unless the dysfunction is requiring a jar of peanut butter to be in the bed, the answer is always "yes.") I can get lost in my head during sex and even masturbation, meditating on such thoughts as If I got butt implants and told people it was just from squats, would they believe me? and I hope my parents never die. This has been a problem for me since… forever, and Barone assured me she deals with women all the time who can't get there as often as they'd like—or at all. "Do you cure them?" I asked, hopeful. She, of course, took objection with the language of curing, but the look in her eyes offered a resounding, "Yes." So I would be cured!
One tip Barone gave me—considerably different from the inane "blow on his shaft to drive him wild" genre of advice—was to imagine physically putting my worries, insecurities, and concerns into an actual box. Sometimes, the effort to annihilate all anxieties is so consuming that relaxing becomes even harder, she said, so it helps to simply tell yourself you'll deal with them later. After all, you're not going to solve, "When will I die?" right now, so why don't you just put that question in an imaginary mind box, masturbate, and open the box later?
Watch: Caitlin Moran on Sex, Drugs, and Hypnotherapy
After our orgasm consultation, Barone gave me the Queen Bee to take into a private booth—a "changing room," they called it—and undress entirely or put on a silken purple robe. The room had a full-length mirror and a small chair, with the option to leave the lights on or off. I closed the door, slipped out of my clothes and into the robe. They said I could take as long as I needed, and I was assured that most women who left the changing room over the past two days of the pop-up had been very satisfied, so apparently, it hadn't been a problem for women to masturbate in a small, closet-like space. Unless they were lying. Which happens!
As Lorde's "Royals" played, I paced in mini circles, resisting the urge to reload Instagram and see what the influencers were up to. Sometimes, the task of relaxing enough to orgasm is daunting to me. (The only time I've ever felt seen was when Abbi on Broad City had to put "masturbate" on her to-do list.) I turned off my phone and sat down on the cushioned stool and mimicked the motions of breathing, mentally packing away my worries into boxes and putting those boxes away. I turned on the Queen Bee—which rumbles very, very loudly, FYI—and put it on my clitoris. The higher-amplitude oscillations of the device did feel different than other vibrators; I didn't have to move it around the way I normally do—holding it in one place was doing the trick. It felt phenomenal.
I started thinking about how the vibrator promises a "more powerful orgasm," and then I wondered how much time had passed, and whether they were going to come in and make me leave at some point. I approached orgasm several times, but my brain kept sabotaging me. As an anxious and depressed person, I know this frustration well. I tried packing my thoughts away in boxes—the dominant one now was, Can you have spaghetti for three meals in one day and still be legally considered OK?—but my brain would not be silenced. After another ten minutes of getting close, I packed up my vibrator, thanked the well-coifed British ladies, and walked out into the city streets, my vagina all agitated. I had spaghetti for dinner.
Later that night in the privacy of my own room, I gave the Queen Bee another try. (As we've learned as a nation, I can't orgasm in public.) Aside from the loud rumbling noise, the device worked dreamily, though I can't say that my orgasm felt any different. I would not call it "made-over." But what did get made-over is my feelings about my brain, which I now vow to treat with (at least a little more) compassion, even if it cock-blocks me with irrational fears and obsessions. Enjoyable sex and masturbation is about relaxation, and that takes practice.