Click to see articles:
- StorErotica.com, March 2012
- Salon.com, March 2012
- Boston.com’s The Next Great Generation, February 2012
- Providence Pheonix, January 2012
- Jezebel, January 2012
- Providence Monthly, January 2012
- WebMD The Magazine, December 2011
- digBoston, September 2011
- Rhode Island Monthly, April 2010
- Rhode Island ACLU Newsletter, November 2009
- Good Vibrations Magazine, October 2009
- Providence Journal, October 2009
StorErotica.com: Leaf takes “Center Stage” by Ryan Davis
TORONTO, Canada, March 8, 2012 –“Smart & Sexy” is what Megan Andelloux, founder and director of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH), had to say when she saw the new leaf vibe collection from BMS Factory. Located in Pawtucket Rhode Island, the CSPH opened up in February 2010 with the mission to provide a safe, physical place to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Ms. Andelloux, also known as Oh Megan!, is a nationally certified sexual educator through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, and a board certified Sexologist through the American
Each week the staff at CSPH reviews an outstanding sexual aid in a blog called Center Stage. Recently the vitality from the leaf collection debuted front and center. “Megan is very excited to start taking them to workshops with her and educating college students about this safe and eco-friendly option for sexual exploration” says Jayne Greenburg, an intern at the center. In the CSPH review, the vitality scored points for its latex-free, hypo-allergenic, phthalate free, and 100% seamless silicone body, because it, “allows for a silky glide across skin, making this sexual aid ideal for sensual play of other erogenous zones”. The seamless silicone body also means that the vitality, (along with the entire leaf collection) is completely waterproof, “which not only makes for an easy clean-up, but also that this toy can be the perfect companion for play in the shower”. Megan and her staff at the center also love the rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, (no disposable batteries mean less landfill), and stated “finally an eco-friendly sex toy company puts their name on their charges”. leaf also boasts a natural canvas travel tote and packaging made from recycled materials. The entire leaf collection features 6 stylish and powerful vibes; life, fresh, touch, spirit, bloom and of course the vitality. All powered by the patented PowerBullet™ technology from BMS Factory. With fresh designs, eco-friendly and discreet packing, leaf is gaining attention from the sex toy industry and sexual wellness educators at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, who feel that “Yes, leaf toys you are the winner”. To see the full CSPH review please visit www.csph.org and make sure to check out Megan Andelloux on Facebook and Twitter. For more information on the leaf collection, please visit www.leafvibes.com. About BMS Factory BMS Factory emerges as the newest celebrity representing successful Canadian business. With a factory in China and numerous distributors around the world, BMS has been producing high quality products for adults which contain technology from the “PowerBullet™” brand. PowerBullet™ is a trusted brand that guarantees the customer power and quality in all products with its logo.
Salon.com: Baby Talk by Rachel Kramer Bussel
“I want to be a good boy for my mommy,” said the man. He was in his 40s, and he was naked in bed with me. I guess this wasn’t your typical second date.
It wasn’t the first time the “m” word had been mentioned in our dirty talk, either. But when it came up on the phone, I could just laugh it off or pretend I hadn’t heard him. Not this time. Now, it was real. He wanted me to pretend to be his mommy — his naughty, flirtatious, sexy mommy. Even for a professional sex writer like me, with 19 years of adventures behind her, “age play” was out there.
A subset of the catch-all term BDSM, age play is defined by the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health as “sexual role-playing where one partner pretends to be older and in control while the other pretends to be much younger.” This could mean fantasizing about being siblings, or teacher and student. According to “The Toybag Guide to Age Play” by Lee Harrington, the most popular form is parent-child. People like it for all sorts of reasons: to be silly, the taboo factor, to give up control, to explore an inner identity, to enjoy “never having to grow up.” I’d heard of it, but it definitely didn’t sound like my thing.
To read the article in full, click here.
“We had a puberty class in middle school — I want to say eighth grade — and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is so awesome! We get to see people have sex!’” said Megan Andelloux, sitting in her Rhode Island office, cat in lap. “I was wondering to myself what teachers were going to do it on the desk, thinking we were going to analyze it. I remember it wasn’t a titillation thing when I was thinking of them having sex, but more of a feeling of ‘How can I figure this out?’”
As you might guess, puberty class wasn’t quite as graphic as Andelloux had anticipated, but her wonder and enthusiasm for sex education endured. Today, Andelloux is a board-certified sexologist and educator, as well as a founder of the Pawtucket, R.I.-based Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, and just one of her many missions is to bring honest, fun sex education to college campuses with the Study Sex College Tour.
“A professor said to me that there was no way that college students could learn about sexuality in a respectful manner, that there was no need for this type of education, and I was like, ‘Really?’” Andelloux said. “The thing about me is — and I don’t know how people that don’t like me haven’t figured this out yet — that the more you tell me no, the more I do it.”
Andelloux took that professor’s words as a challenge. Soon, she’d crafted a number of workshops that focus on everything from male anatomy to advocacy to fornication and launched the Study Sex College Tour in 2010. So far, dozens of schools have booked the event, including Brandeis, Boston University, Emerson, Boston College, and Harvard, to name just a few. With how quickly the venture took off, it’s clear Andelloux has found a niche worth filling.
When you think about Sex Ed, you might get flashbacks to high school, when an apathetic teacher flicked off the lights and showed The Miracle of Life or droned over slides showing different STIs. Of course, you may have never experienced any significant amount of sex education at all; for all the important stuff, you probably just Googled. And Google is all well and good, but what makes the Study Sex College Tour so great is that Andelloux is a real, live person.
When I saw the Study Sex College Tour a couple of years ago at Clark University, I was floored by the experience. At 21 years old, it was the first time ever that a non-peer adult had been in the same room with me talking about sexual pleasure. I had listened to many a cautionary tale, suggestions about how to keep my “reputation,” and pleas to remember that sex is overrated, but I had never heard an adult talking about sex in terms of having fun before. Andelloux brings a number of different workshops to the schools she visits, but they all include extensive discussions of pleasure — of sex as something that can be had for its own sake, safely and enjoyably. This talk is the talk that young adults rarely get and sorely need.
“People are like, ‘You can’t talk about fantasies,’ or, ‘You can’t talk about sex work,’ but I think those are the things we really need to be talking about,” Andelloux said. “If we, the organizations [of professional sex educators], are saying that we can’t talk about it, that means that if we’re that deeply uncomfortable, the public must be freaking out. If that’s the case, we need to be presenting preventative measures for keeping everyone safe, mentally, emotionally, and physically.”
It may feel a little bit awkward at first to hear an adult in a position of authority using slang for sex acts in a serious manner, because sometimes it seems as if young adults — Andelloux refuses to call college students “kids,” as many opponents of her work do, because they simply aren’t — are expected to act as if they don’t know as much as they do. Outside of our peer groups, we’re used to being vague and playing dumb (“What is this ‘oral sex’ you speak of?”) with fellow adults, when, really, our parents and other mentors should be treating us as the grown-ups we are.
Andelloux is bubbly and approachable. She laughs and encourages you to laugh with her. She asks that you taste the lube she’s passing around and try out all the vibrators on the back of your hands. She asks that you ask questions without fear, and she answers without judgment. “Everyone has the right to know about their own bodies and ask questions without fear,” Andelloux said.
Though each workshop is different — Andelloux tailors the talks to the school and to reflect current events and the newest research — the pleasure aspect remains the same because “sexual pleasure is a key aspect of reproductive justice,” Andelloux said.
It’s OK to have consensual sex, and it’s OK to have fun doing it. When we don’t talk about how to do that, we miss opportunities to protect the people we care about, including ourselves. Events like the Study Sex College Tour are steps in the right direction, to creating a society in which sex is something that we can all talk about and, in the process, keep ourselves happy and safe.
Have you been to the Study Sex College Tour at your school? What did you think?
The Providence Phoenix: Sex Ed 101 by Amy Littlefield
If you’re in the market for a steaming slice of sex advice, local sexologist Megan Andelloux is the woman you want to know.
Which is why I’m glad I know Megan Andelloux.
So what’s the first pearl of sexy wisdom Andelloux has for students in Rhode Island?
“Make it fun,” she says.
And if you’re not sure how to do that, Andelloux can help.
A former Planned Parenthood educator turned sex-positive specialist, Andelloux now runs the CENTER FOR SEXUAL PLEASURE AND HEALTH in Pawtucket, where she doles out advice and offers classes on blow jobs, female orgasms, and BDSM. I took a class with her once where people practiced cunnilingus on plum segments. It was splendid.
But fun sex is about more than just licking fruit. It’s also about knowing where to go for information, birth control, and safe sex toys.
For sex toy shopping right in Brown University’s backyard, check out Wicken-den Street’s MISTER SISTER, a store that’s as cheeky as its name. This little shop is queer-friendly — note the rainbow flag hanging in the back — and services a gay male crowd, although people of all genders and sexual orientations can find something inside, from the vast array of corsets and cock rings to the shelves lined with brightly colored vibrators. If handcuffs aren’t your thing, you’ll also find glow-in-the-dark massage lotion and massage oil laced with gold dust. If handcuffs are your thing, you won’t have to look far to find them. They’re in the front window. And don’t forget to pick up some condoms on your way out. Safe sex is fun sex, with or without the cuffs.
If you don’t mind a short train ride north, you can visit GOOD VIBRATIONS in Brookline, Massachusetts, where you’ll find top-of-the-line vibrators, dildos, and other sex toys (some for top-of-the-line prices, with others in a more reasonable range) and a friendly staff that is happy to talk to you about things like nipple-stimulating cream — without blushing. Good Vibrations is woman-friendly and seems designed to diminish the shame associated with sex toy shopping. You won’t find customers lurking red-faced behind porn magazines or pretending they mistakenly stumbled into a sex shop on their way to Starbucks. Instead, you might find people of all ages talking about sex as they buzz the display models on their noses and fingertips.
These shops also have a delightful selection of books for education and…pleasure.
For a huge selection of porn DVDs and magazines, there is AMAZING SUPERSTORES, an adult-store chain with locations in Warwick, Providence, East Providence, Johnston, North Kingstown, and Newport. (The store in Newport is called Wild Orchid but it’s part of the same chain.) Amazing’s Thurbers Avenue location is the only sex shop I’ve ever entered that has an in-house smoke shop, where you can find an array of bongs and pipes (for tobacco use only, of course). Locations in Johnston, Providence, and North Kingstown have viewing rooms for adult videos, if that’s your thing. If that’s not your thing, you can browse the range of sex paraphernalia, from penis-shaped cookie cutters to vibrators, butt toys, and lingerie.
ADAM & EVE is another adult-store chain with a shop in Seekonk, Massachusetts. The 5000-foot superstore carries lingerie, women’s outfits, men’s wear, and porn as well as the usual lubes, lotions, and toys for men and women. While I’ve never been to the store, the very friendly manager assured me over the phone that all her staff are knowledgeable about the products and that the store is woman- and couple-friendly.
Wherever you go, Andelloux says, keep in mind that not all sex toys are safe… and she’s not talking about what happens when you lose the key to your handcuffs.
Sex toys made with jelly latex or blended materials should generally be avoided unless you plan to throw a condom over them, says Andelloux. Elastomer, which can look jelly-like and is sometimes used in the infamous “rabbit” vibrators, is safer but porous. A condom is required here, too.
You’re in good shape with silicone, hard plastic, pyrex, and stainless steel. Andelloux’s general rule is that if it smells like a shower curtain, it’s probably going to leak nasty crap into your body. Most staff at reputable sex shops can talk to you about safe materials and whether you need to use a condom with a toy. If you get a blank stare when you ask about safety, it’s a good sign you should take your business elsewhere.
Now, a word about modesty. Unless you’re trying to scar your roommate for life, it’s probably a good idea to keep privacy in mind and negotiate boundaries…or just get a really quiet vibrator, says Andelloux. Some students may need to be sneakier than others. Salve Regina University, for example, has a policy that explicitly bans sexual intimacy in the dormitories, citing Catholic beliefs about sex before marriage. So if you go to Salve and you’re reading this article, you might want to slide it inside that biology textbook in case anyone is watching. It’s unclear from the handbook whether that policy includes good, old-fashioned onanism — Bible-speak for masturbation — but it’s probably best to be careful.
If you’re on a tight budget — or afraid you’ll get reprimanded for going to a sex shop — your local drug store now has an increasing number of things that buzz and tingle. When shopping for lubricants, remember to avoid anything that has glycerine if you or your partner is prone to yeast infections, and don’t use silicone-based lube with silicone toys, says Andelloux. Drug stores now sell condoms in so many different colors, sizes, and styles that there is no excuse for not using one. They also sell the morning-after pill, which is another sex prop well worth remembering for emergencies. Plan B is available over-the-counter to those 17 and over and is most effective immediately after unprotected sex, so why not keep it on your nightstand next to the…pleasure reading?
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health is staffed Tuesday through Friday from 12 to 5 pm and on Saturday from 1 to 5 pm for those who want to check out the selection of books and documentaries. Andelloux and her staff offer sex-positive vibes without the pressure of selling anything. To speak with Andelloux about a particular issue, you should make an appointment (401.365.4819). Events on the near horizon include movie screenings, kinky craft nights, discussion groups, classes, and trivia nights.
Andelloux has one final piece of advice in the “make it fun” category: fun sex is consensual sex, which means all those involved enthusiastically agree to participate. How that enthusiasm is expressed is the fun part.
“Yes is a super sexy word,” says Andelloux.
Jezebel: He Wants to Jizz on Your Face, but Not Why You’d Think by Hugo Schwyzer
The sheer amount of porn featuring facial cumshots is so vast that it’s impossible to imagine an exhaustive analysis of all of it. But two things seem clear. First, as Megan Andelloux (founder and director of Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) noted in an interview with me, questions from college students about facials have risen dramatically in recent years. This isn’t something people are just watching porn stars do; it’s something a lot of young men (and some young women) want to try themselves. Second, as Glickman — a former adult film reviewer —pointed out, a lot more straight porn features women happily accepting facials than reacting with disgust and evident humiliation. That acceptance may be feigned, but it suggests that the primary turn-on about facials for men isn’t the desire to degrade women. (Glickman further suggested that the fact that facials are also so common in gay male pornography – where the sexual politics are radically different – argues against the assumption that coming on someone’s face is rooted in men’s misogyny.)
To read the article in full, click here.
“We’re not going to have any more WASP-y sex. We’re going to be dirty girls now.”
Megan Andelloux is standing in front of a group of roughly 20 people, holding a giant brown dildo in one hand and a bottle of lube in the other. All of five foot two inches, with a shock of vintage-inspired copper hair, sexy librarian glasses and a sleeve of tattoos, she’s equal parts adorably feminine and abjectly terrifying… or, on second thought, maybe I’m the only one experiencing that terror. After all, this is my first sex education class. Megan does this all the time.
The class in question is Fabulous Fellatio. While we’ve gathered at a store called Good Vibrations in Brookline, Megan is the certified sexologist in charge of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket. The first thing Megan says to her students is, “I’m going to make you feel awkward at certain points. Revel in that awkwardness. It’s only kinky the first time.”
Because I’m one to embrace my humiliations – hell, if I’ve done it, I might as well get a few laughs out of it – and because I honestly don’t think anyone will believe that I’m doing this, I’ve brought along a friend. When Megan invites us to the front to pick out the toys we’ll be using for the evening, my friend gives me the choice between a bigger red dildo and a smaller blue glittery one. I pick the blue. “I knew it,” she says. “I saw sparkly and thought of you. I also did your jaw a favor because some of them are huge.”
The consensus from the group is that our biggest problem with fellatio is – well, if we’re being blunt here – that it’s long. And hard. Our jaws get tired. Our eyes water. And quite simply, we can’t always last as long as our eager partners can. Before we start the really naughty part of the class, Megan addresses this. “If you’re doing something that hurts, I want you to stop and realize that sex should feel good. Just because you start a behavior doesn’t mean you have to end a behavior.” She’s frank, emphatic and quite serious about what she’s saying. “Now,” Megan says, snapping back into a smile, “We’re going to learn to put a condom on with only your mouth. Unwrap your dildos.”
“It’s a little like Christmas,” my friend says. We giggle. There is a lot of laughter in this room, and a lot of women freely waving plastic penises around, practicing hand techniques on them. Megan’s in-your-face perkiness and liberal use of phrases like “I could talk about balls all day” has turned a gaggle of wide-eyed, slightly shell-shocked ladies into a group of girls competing to see how much dildo they can handle in their mouths without hitting their teeth. Oh, was that just me and my friend? Well, whatever. We were in the moment.
WebMD the Magazine: The Secrets of Sex Therapy by Tracey Minkin
What really happens behind closed doors when a couple goes to a sex therapist’s office?
She (we’ll call her Janice, age 41) was unhappy with her husband (we’ll call him Pat, 42). After several years of his inability to sustain an erection, she started blaming herself and lost confidence in her sexual appeal. She began to doubt the value of their marriage and decided to see a sex therapist for counsel.
After her first few sessions with Rhode Island-based certified sexologist and sexuality educator Megan Andelloux, BS, Janice gained the courage to ask Pat to see a doctor to rule out a medical condition. That turned out to be the case: He had weight issues that were affecting blood flow (which can cause erectile dysfunction). At Andelloux’s suggestion, the couple began to explore intimacy not based solely on erections, while Pat worked to lose weight and improve his overall health. For Janice and Pat, it was a new beginning. For Andelloux, it was another day at the office.
Which raises the question: Just what goes on behind the doors of a certified sexologist?
Sex Therapy, Talk Therapy
While any title that contains the word sex may sound provocative, what happens in the offices of certified sex educators, counselors, and therapists is all about talk, much like any other form of therapy and counseling. “We are not allowed to touch our clients, nor would we consider doing so,” Andelloux says. “No sex ever takes place in a sex therapist’s office.”
Her office is a venue for clients struggling with any range of sexual issues to feel completely safe and candid in discussing and working on these problems. “It could be about two people having different levels of desire,” she says. “We see everything from couples dealing with aging and changes in sexual functioning, to women dealing with rape trauma in their sex lives, to men being concerned and ashamed about the content of their fantasies. It’s a large range.”
As a sex educator, Andelloux’s work focuses on far-ranging conversations about sex and sexuality, including a typical technique in traditional therapists’ offices: homework. For couples having trouble with intimacy (a common problem), Andelloux may prescribe what’s called purposeful touch. “I might advise 10 minutes a day of touching one’s partner that doesn’t lead to sex,” she says.
For Janice and Pat, the homework goes on. “They’re still together,” Andelloux says. “He’s lost weight and gained confidence, and they’re working on their sex lives as well as their marriage.” It was a good day at the office.
What Is a Sex Therapist?
What leads a couple to a sex therapist?
Most begin dealing with relationship issues in traditional therapy settings, with marriage counselors or therapists, Andelloux says.
But sometimes this professional may not be educated in a range of issues regarding sexuality, so a referral is in order. Here’s how sex therapists learn their craft:
Added knowledge. While trained therapists such as those with a master’s degree in social work, or MSWs, receive a number of hours of sexuality training in their overall education, accredited sex therapists build on already-existing backgrounds in social work, medicine, psychology, or specific graduate work in sexuality.
Extra hours. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, the field’s central body of oversight and accreditation, requires 90 hours of graduate-level coursework, plus supervised clinical hours.
digBoston: The Little Sex Center That Could by Carol Queen
Sex-positive Bostonians ought to hop a train down to Providence on Sunday to celebrate the Little Sex Center that Could, also known as the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, run by the lovely and tenacious Megan Andelloux. When Megan, long a sex educator working with Good Vibrations and other Eastern Seaboard entities, decided to open her center in Pawtucket, RI, she heard from plenty of the anti-sex activists in that neck of the woods — and stood up to them, garnered tons of support and admiration from sex educators, therapists, and other professionals near and far, and opened the doors of her quirky, homey center in 2010.
Now, I run a center in San Francisco, in addition to my responsibilities at Good Vibrations, and can I just tell you — it’s not like there are lots of role models for these places. People who make them happen do it because they have a dream, not because there’s a franchise to buy into. Megan is a fiery and simultaneously sensible activist who deserves big support. I can’t be there this year (because I’m in Berlin at Venus, the Euro-sex show comparable to the one we have in Las Vegas in January). But my colleague Dr. Charlie Glickman will represent Good Vibrations and the San Francisco contingent. Get on down there and meet him!
And if you’re a collegiate type, keep an eye out for Megan’s fall Study Sex college tour. Good Vibrations is proud to be her original retailer this year. If you’re not on her 2011 itinerary, you can still surf over to YouTube and get in on the sexpertise.
RI Monthly: The SexEd Warrior-Queen by Tracey Minkin
Her Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health has opened in Pawtucket. So who is Megan Andelloux, what’s the story with that long zoning battle, and why does she care whether anyone else is having fun between the sheets?
Megan Andelloux sits in row three of the Pawtucket City Council Chambers, awaiting a verdict. Beautifully poised in a navy blue, tailored vintage dress, her red hair lovely and tidy, her hands in her lap, her pumps set squarely on the floor, she looks like a young real estate professional requesting a zoning variance.
In my mind, she transforms into the heroine of her own comic book series. Her pumps become stacked spike-heeled boots, her demure fifties dress evaporates into a corset blazing with the colors of the American flag. Her red hair let loose and wild, she leaps from her chair, a rolled up copy of the Bill of Rights in one hand, a vibrator in the other.
This is about sex, she admonishes the cowering panel. You know it is! My center will open! People will come! Men and women will have, finally, a safe place to talk about orgasms and erectile dysfunction, safe lubricants and spanking. And it will be in downtown Pawtucket!
But tonight is not the night for super heroine triumphs. Tonight is just another night for battling the grinding bureaucratic machine that Andelloux, thirty-three, encountered last fall when she attempted to open her nonprofit Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health in Pawtucket’s Grant Building. It turns out that educational organizations may not do business in this building, and so the city’s zoning office shut her down. Her appeal of that decision, tonight, will be denied. This is not about sex, the panel will assert. This is about zoning.
She will not transform into an erotic, pen-and-ink protagonist. She’ll nod, knowingly, at the denial she suspected was coming her way. She’ll sit through the rest of the evening’s decisions, then powwow with her lawyer Michael Horan in the cold, clattery hallway outside the Chambers. They’ll plan her next attack, not with sex toys, but with paperwork. She’ll tell local press that she’ll continue to assert her right to do business in Pawtucket. She’ll assure friends that she’s not ready to give up. Not by a long shot. It’s not comic book behavior, but it’s a fight all right.
“Two things,” Andelloux says, tucked into the circa-1960s black vinyl sectional sofa in her CSPH offices, the 500-square-foot Ground Zero of her battle. The center is for counseling and classes, as well as distribution of literature ranging from safe sex to pleasure-related practices between (she constantly emphasizes) consenting adults. No sex takes place here and nothing is for sale. It’s Planned Parenthood with a little Lady Gaga thrown in; shame gets checked at the threshold while candor and humor make any question reasonable, any aspect of sex fair game. Andelloux says she loves the space because it’s an interior storefront. Patrons of any of the Grant Building’s tenants, from Flying Shuttles Studio and Blackstone Chess Academy to graphic design studios and Kafe Lila, enter through a central outer doorway to find individual businesses lining an interior gallery. From Andelloux’s point of view, this brightly lit, friendly vestibule provides privacy for anyone who might feel uncomfortable entering an organization dealing with sex, from the street. “Plus,” she says, “the building has its own cat. How homey is that?”
Andelloux embraces homey. She’s painted the center’s walls a cheery yellow and robin’s egg blue, colors more at home in a farmhouse kitchen than an office, and hung ephemera that reveal her collector’s mentality as well as her saucy take on sex. A vintage magazine ad for Lysol douches on one wall plays ironically against an oversized, pillow-like vulva puppet she uses for teaching, on a shelf below. On a nearby coffee table, four chunky pieces of stainless steel sit on a mirrored pedestal cake plate. They resemble oversize punctuation marks (they’re G-spot and prostate toys). She settles in to talk about the center with the warmth of a girlfriend dishing last night’s “Project Runway” over coffee.
She considers those “two things” — the two mistakes that brought her into the spotlight of the city of Pawtucket and onto the wrong side of narrowly interpreted zoning. She purses her lips, sighs. “I shouldn’t have testified about sex workers’ rights,” she says. “That got a lot of people angry. And I probably shouldn’t have put the word ‘pleasure’ in the title of the Center.”
She may be right. After signing a lease for her fledgling nonprofit in May, Andelloux, a proponent of sex workers’ rights, decided to testify at a June State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on eliminating Rhode Island’s statewide law allowing indoor prostitution. “I was terrified to testify,” she says. “But I felt some advocates were confusing trafficking with sex work, so I went.” Andelloux signed up to speak, lost her nerve and scratched off her name. “Then this woman stood up and said, ‘We need to stop sex…no…we need to stop sex trafficking.’ I thought this is a complete fear of sexuality. So I put my name back on. I thought, even if my voice shakes, I can go up.”
So up she went, but was dumbfounded when Donna M. Hughes, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island well known for her activism on sex trafficking issues (and a proponent of eliminating indoor prostitution), took her to task afterward in a series of public forums. First, on June 24, Hughes described (but did not name) Andelloux in a Providence Journal editorial as a “tattooed woman calling herself a ‘sexologist and sex educator.’” Hughes also wrote that Andelloux was “a reporter for a prostitutes’ magazine called $pread,” adding, “I couldn’t make this stuff up!”
The next day, Andelloux penned her own letter to the Journal. “Let me introduce myself,” she wrote. “I’m the nationally certified sex-educator and derogatorily labeled ‘tattooed lady’ mentioned by Donna Hughes in her June 24 opinion piece.
“Putting quotation marks around my profession was insulting,” Andelloux continued, “and yes, I am a contributor to the sex-workers magazine $pread. Is it so shocking that sex workers can read?”
The heroine, suddenly, had a nemesis. “As an alum of URI (’97),” Andelloux wrote, “I would have expected faculty to develop a reputation for science and truth. Instead, it seems that Ms. Hughes would rather resort to right-wing scare tactics. Perhaps if ‘the Professor’ really cared about women, she wouldn’t attack us for the way that we look.”
Things got nastier. In a September 23 issue of Citizens Against Trafficking, an online newsletter published by Hughes and Melanie Shapiro, a student at Roger Williams University School of Law, an unsigned article titled “Sex Radicals’ Vision for Rhode Island” said:
“But the advocates for prostitution are still active in Rhode Island. In fact, a new center to campaign for sexual rights is trying to open in Pawtucket. The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health calls itself the ‘Dormitory for Armatory.’ The proprietor, Megan Andelloux, is a member of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which is a subsidiary of COYOTE, the group that originally sued for decriminalization of prostitution in the 1970s. It too advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution. To date, the city of Pawtucket has prevented the center from opening, saying it violates their zoning ordinances.
“The sex radicals are entitled to free speech, but citizens of Rhode Island are entitled to resist their advocacy of prostitution and violence. The proprietor of the proposed center is a prostitute (she calls herself a ‘foot fetish model’) and a dominatrix. She is also on the ‘faculty’ of the Kink Academy in Boston, which holds ‘classes’ to demonstrate sexual sadism, masochism and torture. The classes often include live models. (The images are too obscene to include here.) One of the students at the Academy claims she became a ‘sex slave’ to one of the instructors and was ordered to prepare to be a prostitute. Andelloux claims to be a speaker on college campuses where she demonstrates whipping and has the students try on sex gear.”
Is this a fair portrait of Andelloux, or someone else’s comic book rendering?
She looks unthreatening enough, perched on the edge of a table in a large classroom at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut. Andelloux is indeed speaking on a college campus and receiving $500 for the two hours she’ll spend with 100 young men and women packing this room on a chilly fall evening. She has, indeed, allowed her feet to be looked at, photographed, and massaged by paying clients as a foot fetish model — although this never has involved genital exposure or contact, much less touching above her knee, she says. Yes, she has been paid to create educational videos for “Kink Academy,” a website that celebrates every aspect of consensual sex. And right now, yes, she’s tugging a strap-on harness up over her clothing to demonstrate for her audience what she describes as one of her favorite lube tricks.
“This one is great,” she says as she yanks the harness, complete with large synthetic phallus, into place around her hips. She grabs a plunger-bottle of lubricant; it looks like a hand soap dispenser that sits near a powder room sink. She tucks it into the harness — where a gun would sit in a holster.
“Okay!” she calls out, her rigging complete. Her voice reminds me of a home ec teacher’s — both perky and bossy. If it weren’t for the subject matter, she could just as easily be demonstrating how to sew a wrap-around skirt.
“So when you’re having sex with a strap-on, and your partner is getting really hot, here’s an amazing finish,” she says, and gives the bottle a couple of swift plunges that release spurts of viscous liquid. The audience knows exactly what this simulates and loves it. The kids cheer. Andelloux opens her eyes wide, nodding at their response. “See? See? Isn’t that cool?”
In these two hours, Andelloux’s workshop will range from this kind of taboo-busting demonstration to ardent discussion of safe ingredients in lubricants and sex toys (“If that dildo has a smell, it’s made overseas with dangerous synthetics. Don’t buy it.”) She’ll take dozens of questions penned on index cards, some of them endearingly naïve. She’ll give advice that is bumper-sticker outrageous, but gets to serious healthy practice. “Don’t put anything smaller than six inches up your butt,” she orders, reminding her audience that the anatomy of this part of the body is not equipped to expel items. “Once something gets lost up there,” she continues, “the only way you’re gonna get it out is at the emergency room.” As the kids hoot, she eyes them. “And trust me, you don’t want to be that patient.” Her mix of medical terminology and slang, sometimes folksy, sometimes colorfully current, makes her advice easy to embrace. It’s a remarkable marriage of tone and content. If Rachael Ray and the Marquis de Sade had a lovechild, it’d be Megan Andelloux.
After she finishes up by — yes — taking volunteers for a fully clothed spanking demonstration that raises the roof, students surround her and linger for nearly an hour, asking questions and inspecting the few vibrators and lubricants for sale. The fun and safety of sex takes her on the road like this nearly weekly, speaking to groups large and small, running sex toy parties for private clients, doing events at sex toy shops, attending and presenting at conferences. She creates “Tearin’ It Off,” a weekly podcast with WBRU at Brown University, and writes numerous columns for online sexual and feminist health and advocacy sites. She will appear, unpaid, in an annual production of The Vagina Monologues in Providence. For a sexologist, this cobbled-together assortment of education and entertainment keeps rent money coming in, and for Andelloux it is also, she admits, a bit of a calling.
“My parents were 1950s WASPs,” she says, describing her traditional upbringing in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. “I was totally raised in that environment.” The youngest of three kids (but fourteen and eighteen years younger than her sister and brother, respectively), Andelloux watered her activist seed with an issue embraced by many girls: animal rights. She became a vegetarian at fifteen.
A year later, Andelloux developed a quirky obsession. “I had a thing for memorizing sex facts,” she says, “you know, statistics. When people masturbate, average breast sizes…I would spout these off to my friends during supper.” Still passionate about animals (and specifically about orcas), Andelloux planned to study marine biology at the University of Rhode Island. Then she was date-raped. “I had a series of sexual assaults take place in the summer before my senior year, including the very first date I ever went on,” she says. “I was seventeen. I’d gotten good grades up to that point. After that summer, my grades plummeted, I had nightmares, I reverted to wearing baggy clothes, and I hung out with the ‘bad girls.’ My grades were nowhere good enough to get into URI.”
Andelloux went to Mitchell College, a two-year institution in New London, Connecticut, for kids needing a creative approach. She quickly realized that “sucking at math” was not part of a career in marine biology. Meanwhile, she happened to take a quiz on facts about sex, reading that 80 percent of Americans failed it. She got one question wrong. A human sexuality course she took fit her passions. She changed majors and planned a dinner out with her parents to give them the news.
“Right before my mother put the hamburger in her mouth,” Andelloux recalls, “I said, ‘I’m going to be a sex educator.’ ” She cracks up at the memory. “My mother said, ‘Megan, girls can’t do that.’ My father shook his head. But I told them that’s what I decided I was going to do.”
Andelloux got herself into URI from Mitchell, graduating in 1997 with a major in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Human Sexuality. She moved to northern New Jersey and worked for Planned Parenthood as a sex educator. Developing a reputation as a “spitfire,” in her words, Andelloux got herself in occasional trouble for a little too much candor. “I had a mouth on me,” she says. Once, after finishing a Planned Parenthood presentation at a high school, Andelloux was approached by a student. “She told me she’d been having sex with her partner with no birth control. She was freaked out. We had this long conversation and then I told her I’d send her some condoms. I told her I’d address the package as [though] for a school project.” But when the girl’s moth-er opened the package, freaked out herself, and called Planned Parenthood, Andelloux was in trouble. “Oh yeah. I got in trouble. I kept my job, but I was in trouble.”
Andelloux continued to butt heads with Planned Parenthood, so she leapt at the chance in 2001 to work at Miko, a well-known sex-toy shop in Providence, where she ran educational workshops full-time and worked the sales floor. When Miko closed in 2008, Andelloux reached her crossroads. “People kept telling me I should open a new store,” she says, “but I knew I didn’t have business sense. I know how to teach, how to make people feel comfortable, and I know how to talk about difficult concepts. [But] I knew my name, at this point, was too risque even for liberal organizations, so I started doing my own workshops.” One day last spring, as Andelloux was hanging posters for The Vagina Monologues, a passerby recognized her from Miko, and told her about a great place in Pawtucket that was looking for tenants.
On September 14, twelve days before the scheduled grand opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, Donna Hughes sent an email from her Blackberry to the nine members of Pawtucket’s City Council:
A center for “sexual rights” and “sexual pleasure” is opening in Pawtucket.
Twenty-six hours later, Andelloux got a call from the Pawtucket Police Department. Her opening needed permits, Major Bruce Moreau told her, and there were concerns based on activities advertised on her website (including burlesque dancing and a raffle of sex toys) that required special permitting. He shared the contents of Hughes’ email with her. Andelloux picked up her husband, Derek, a family medicine resident at Brown, and the couple walked up the squat, broad steps of Pawtucket City Hall into a confusing gauntlet of special event permits that led, ultimately, to having to describe the Center’s primary purpose to secure overall zoning approval — something Andelloux had never been informed by her landlords that she needed to obtain. She rushed through meetings in hallways and offices; she called city councilors to explain her mission.
Mostly, though, Andelloux worried that the words “sexual” and “pleasure,” pitched by an adversary directly to a council representing a famously Catholic city, might ignite further opposition beyond the inertia her paperwork seemed to be generating. She settled on stating the Center’s primary purpose as “education.” What she didn’t realize is that within the minutiae of the Pawtucket zoning codes lies the fact that a special use permit obtained by the developers of the Grant Building does not support educational facilities like schools. Andelloux never said she ran a school.
But it was that sole word, education, that prompted zoning official Ronald Travers to rule against the Center, and gave the Zoning Board reason to uphold his verdict.
Andelloux was caught in a knot of nomenclature, as binding as a corset, but nowhere near as fun. She prepared a new motion with Horan, this one to request a special use permit for her space, much like a yoga studio in downtown Pawtucket had obtained. They returned to the council chambers in late January, filing their motion and hastening to point out that she will engage in education, but on a scale that is consistent with the overall mixed use espoused by the city’s downtown plan. No one argued. No one challenged. Only one member asked one thing:
“So, you won’t be selling any sexual paraphernalia?”
No. No. Andelloux said, shaking her head.
Meanwhile, she rejected ongoing counsel from well-wishers to leave Pawtucket for more liberal and accepting (not to mention properly zoned) locations. She paid rent on her unoccupied space. She paid heat. She paid legal fees. She turned away paying clients. And waited for one more fight. The next step was going to be court.
Then, finally, it’s decision time again. Andelloux perches in her chair, her bright pink dress shifting under her nervously clenched hands. Her husband pats her knee from time to time. The zoning board rolls through decision announcements like a boss spins a Rolodex; it’s easy to lose track. Then Andelloux’s name pops through the bureaucratic fog. And, in a series of comments as mild and conciliatory as her previous hearing had been spiky and adversarial, the men who control her zoning destiny say yes.
Yes, they say, to Megan Andelloux, and several lean forward to their microphones to say, for the record, that they regret that things got off to a bad start. They mouth words of support, absolving their municipality of anything other than administrative vigor. They regret the tangle. They grant her permit. It’s almost, if you imagine an erotic comic book, like a bit of sex play. Yes? Yes? No, No… Yes!
It was just that easy?
Megan Andelloux nods and smiles.
Saying that the City’s action “raises serious constitutional concerns,” the Rhode Island ACLU has called on Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle to rescind a decision that has prevented a sexuality education center from opening in the city. In a letter to the Mayor released today, Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown labeled as “pretextual” the city’s purported reasons for barring the center from operating in Pawtucket.
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH) intends to provide sexuality education to adults and consultation services to institutions of higher learning. However, in September, shortly before the Center’s planned opening, city officials received an inflammatory email insinuating that sexual activity would be taking place at the Center. The ACLU letter claims that city officials “reacted to this misinformation reflexively, and inappropriately,” with zoning officials quickly advising the Center’s director, Megan Andelloux, that its location was not zoned for “educational” use and that it therefore could not open as planned.
Questioning that rationale, the ACLU letter points out that there are other educational businesses, including a chess academy, operating in the same building. In addition, the letter points to comments from the City’s director of administration, Harvey Goulet, who was quoted as objecting to “this type of business” as “not really something we feel is appropriate for our city.” Those comments, said the ACLU’s Brown, further make clear that the city’s zoning arguments are “pretextual,” and that “the city’s intent is to suppress the speech that would otherwise occur at the Center. Such content-based discrimination raises serious constitutional concerns.”
Brown also called the city’s actions “particularly unfortunate because it is very rare for women to be able to obtain feminist perspectives on human sexuality and objective information regarding sex in a women-friendly environment.” The letter concluded by urging the Mayor to reconsider the city’s actions and “permit the Center to open in the very near future.”
Andelloux is presently administratively appealing the zoning denial. A copy of the RI ACLU’s letter can be found here.
Good Vibrations Magazine: Sex Panic in Pawtucket by Dr. Lynn Comella
The sex police are on patrol in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Megan Andelloux, a professionally certified sex educator with 8 years experience working as a sex educator for Planned Parenthood affiliates, was looking forward to the grand opening of her not-for-profit Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket when she suddenly found herself in the middle of a firestorm. On the morning of September 15 she received a phone call from the Pawtucket Police Department telling her that a “concerned citizen” had emailed members of the Pawtucket City Council, alerting them that a “sex center” was coming to Pawtucket, a city of 72,000 located just outside of Providence.“Hello,” the email began, “A center for “sexual rights” and “sexual pleasure” is opening in Pawtucket.” Included in the email was a link to the center’s website. Short, sweet, and intentionally vague, the email was enough to set off alarms among the city’s elected officials.
The police officer who called Andelloux that morning informed her that without proper zoning approval, the grand opening event, which included noted experts on human sexuality and a short burlesque performance, could not take place and the center itself could not legally operate in the city of Pawtucket.
As soon as Andelloux saw a copy of the email, which was forwarded to her at her request, she knew that the issue at hand was much bigger than her small, not-for-profit health and education center. Andelloux’s center, it seemed, was caught in a broader political maelstrom surrounding the regulation of prostitution and commercialized sexuality in Rhode Island.
The “concerned citizen” behind the email to city councilors was Donna M. Hughes, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island and a leading anti-prostitution and anti-sex trafficking advocate. Over the spring and summer months, Hughes was at the forefront of efforts to convince Rhode Island legislators to enact harsher laws aimed at combating sex trafficking and outlawing prostitution, including indoor prostitution, which was decriminalized in Rhode Island in 1980.
Andelloux testified in front of the Rhode Island Legislature in June to speak out against efforts to criminalize prostitution, which many opponents feared would lead to more arrests of women yet do little to address the issue of trafficking. In an op-ed piece published in the Providence Journal following the hearing, Hughes openly disparaged those who had shown up to oppose the legislation. Describing the hearing as a “sordid circus” and a “carnival,” she attacked speakers based on their appearance, the smell of cigarette smoke, and “other odors” allegedly emanating from their bodies, successfully invoking a specter of disgust. She also deployed her penchant for using quotation marks to discredit those whom she perceives as her adversaries, referring to Andelloux as “a tattooed woman, calling herself a ‘sexologist and sex educator.’”
Perhaps it felt like political payback to Hughes when she fired off the email to members of the Pawtucket City Council. Whatever her motivation—genuine concern or something more nefarious—she is an experienced enough political player (by her own account she has testified at hearings in the State House on a number of occasions) to realize that her email would likely result in an alarmist response sure to cause a headache, if not larger problems, for Andelloux and her center.
For those who lived through, or who are familiar with, the feminist sex wars of the 1970s and 80s, Hughes’ strategy of throwing the “enemy” under the bus will ring eerily familiar. Indeed, there are elements of this story that resemble the unsavory tactics employed by anti-pornography feminists at the infamous Barnard Conference on female sexuality in 1982, where ideological divisions resulted in personal attacks on individual women whose positions on pornography, sex work, and other forms of so-called “deviant” sexuality were at odds with the anti-pornography feminist platform, resulting in sharp divisions between supposedly “good” and “bad” feminists.
For Andelloux, the immediate issue was zoning. Zoning ordinances have become an effective strategy for regulating the location of adult businesses and policing public expressions of commercialized sexuality. In New York City, zoning was the lynchpin in the city’s efforts to “clean up” the “seedier” elements of Times Square in preparation for family-friendly Disney’s commercial occupation in the mid-1990s. Zoning ordinances typically require that adult arcades, bookstores, and video stores, for example, cannot be located within several hundred feet of schools, places of worship, or other adult businesses. In many locales, this means that adult businesses are exiled to the most desolate, and very often the most dangerous, fringes of cities and towns.
Unlike typical adult businesses, however, Andelloux’s center is not a retail venture; it is a not-for-profit sexuality education center that she describes as a cross between Planned Parenthood and a feminist sex toy store, a place where she plans to hold educational workshops and maintain a library of sexuality resources. But in contrast to feminist sex toy businesses, such as Good Vibrations and Babeland, which have longstanding missions of sexual education combined with a commercial imperative, Andelloux is not planning on selling any products. As a result, her center falls into a nebulous, gray area when it comes to zoning. If it is not an “adult business,” what is it?
It was precisely this gray area that Andelloux found herself navigating in the days following the phone call from the Pawtucket Police Department. She met with zoning officials and city council members, several of whom toured her space, and she clarified for them that she would not be selling any adult products; she also cancelled the burlesque performance that was to be part of the grand opening, hoping that in doing so she might allay some of the city councilors’ concerns about the kind of establishment she was opening. Despite this, it was unclear to both Andelloux and those working in the zoning office what legal code her enterprise should be zoned under. Many visits to City Hall and many phone calls later, Andelloux was told she should apply for zoning as an “individual educator.” She did. On September 18 she was informed by an official letter from the City of Pawtucket’s Zoning Department that her application had been denied because the building in downtown Pawtucket where she had leased her space was not zoned for “education.”
It remains unclear what will happen next. In a meeting that took place in late September with Mayor James E. Doyle, which was also attended by the head of the Pawtucket’s Zoning Department, Ronald Travers, the Mayor made it clear that he did not think the city of Pawtucket would accept Andelloux’s center. But it is precisely because Andelloux has received so many requests from people in the community for a sexual education and resource center that she moved forward with her plans for the center in the first place.
Andelloux held her grand opening fete on September 26 as planned – albeit at an alternative location. According to her, the event was a success: it was attended by approximately 200 people and there were no protesters. The event also raised $1,000, which will go toward offsetting her legal expenses. Andelloux has retained a lawyer who plans to challenge the city’s zoning decision. It is also highly probable that a public hearing will take place where members of the community can weigh in on how they feel about the center’s presence in their neighborhood.
The irony of all of this is that if Andelloux was in fact opening a feminist sex toy business, or even a more traditional adult business, this brouhaha may have been avoided. For it would have been clear from the outset what kind of zoning she would have needed to move forward with her venture and the city could have responded accordingly. There are few models, however, for what she is attempting to do: a not-for-profit enterprise dedicated to adult sexuality education and health. According to Andelloux, “The city has said to me that they don’t know what to do with me. If I was a retail store, they could zone me or not zone me, but because there is nothing on the books [that reflects the kind of business I am proposing], they don’t know what to do.”
In an era overwhelmingly defined by abstinence-only education, which has created a generation of sexually illiterate adults, there is more need than ever for places like Andelloux’s Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health. But sex education, especially when it addresses questions of sexual pleasure, clearly remains an embattled issue, a cause for concern, and a source of moral panic for many – even, in this case, when the target population is adults.
My hope is that once the powers that be in Pawtucket, and “concerned citizens” such as Professor Hughes, realize that Andelloux’s center is exactly what she says it is – a not-for-profit sexuality resource center with an educational mission – and not a haven for child prostitutes and pimps, this ruckus will be put to rest and Andelloux can get on with the business of educating adults about how to get off in safe, consensual, and pleasurable ways.
Feeling good’s a tough sell in Pawtucket by Bob Kerr
The little sex shop on Main Street, Pawtucket, one floor up from the chess club, appears ready to help people find what they’ve been missing.
The books are there, the educational aids, the videos. Megan Andelloux’s two degrees — one from the American College of Sexologists, the other from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists — hang on the wall.
Megan herself is in residence, ready to put her training to work to help people deal with those things that never happen or happen at the wrong time. She offers counseling, instruction, reading material, a place to drop in and try to explain.
“Think of Planned Parenthood meets feminist sex toy shop,” says Megan.
She is sitting with her husband, Derek, whom she met at the University of Rhode Island, in the coffee shop across the hall from her Center For Sexual Pleasure and Health in the Grant Building in the heart of downtown Pawtucket.
Derek, a resident in family medicine at Brown, sees the center as the beginning of an ever-expanding business that will eventually include medical services.
“But it might not be in Pawtucket,” he says.
Ya think? The city of Pawtucket is not hailing Megan Andelloux for her entrepreneurial spirit, nor her personal approach to small business. City officials apparently see no civic boost in being home to a one-of-a-kind shop that is devoted to making people feel really, really good.
Megan thought she’d be OK when she rented space in the Grant Building. It’s a commercial building. She likes the other tenants and she likes Pawtucket’s appeal to artists. But when she started putting the word out on what she had to offer, she found she had a municipal hurdle or two in front of her.
She had planned to hold her grand opening two weeks ago. It never happened, at least not in the Grant Building, where she had planned for the celebration to spill all over the place. She had to move the event to Thayer Street in Providence.
The space she is in, she’s been told, is not zoned for education. She needs a zoning variance to teach people how to have better sex.
She and her husband went to City Hall. They met with Mayor James Doyle and his chief of staff Harvey Goulet. Goulet says they seem like very nice people. He just doesn’t like what they want to do.
“You have elderly living near there,” says Goulet. “And, usually, the elderly are not too much in favor of stuff like that.”
Actually, I know some elderly folk who are very much in favor of stuff like that. But maybe they haven’t been included in the opinion survey.
Asked whether someone teaching arts and crafts in the same space would have a problem with local zoning laws, Goulet said he didn’t think so.
So it’s about the sex, about the pleasure. Darn near everyone wants both, but when the words go up on a shop window, it sets off alarms in City Hall. Imaginations run wild. Rumors feed on rumors …
“It’s not porn, which is where most people learn,” says Megan.
She and her husband have hired a lawyer. They plan to challenge the city’s use of zoning laws to keep the center from opening.
“I’m a feisty girl,” she says. “I think adults should be free to seek information.”
No one would argue with that. It’s just a question of whether the world, or at least Pawtucket, is ready to put sexual pleasure right there on Main Street with art galleries and restaurants as part of the downtown shopping experience.