The chatter of wine-loose women spills from the cabana-covered backroom of an Old Town wine bar. Jennifer Gunsaullus-otherwise known as Dr. Jenn-and her sharp sidekick, Nicole Scott, set up shop, stacking a small, rounded coffee table with sleek-looking dildos and vibrators, cleverly packaged condoms, sex books, erotic DVDs and tube after tube of lubrication and body oil.
The crowd for tonight's Sexy Women & Wine workshop is diverse. A young lady with black nails and a Bettie Page sensibility-who, later, during the icebreaker question of "If your vagina could get dressed, what would it wear?" answered with a shy but sure, "Black lace"-sits between a 69-year-old eccentric in a fuzzy pink hat (her answer to the same question: "Hot pink") and a mother with her 13-year-old daughter. The visibly uncomfortable young girl sits slumped over, hands dug deep into the pockets of a black hoodie, her dirty Cons crossing and uncrossing nervously in front of her.
"What is that?" asks one lady near the back of the room, pointing toward an object that could be some kind of fine-art plastic sculpture. "It looks like a bottle opener."
Dr. Jenn laughs a meaty laugh that should be bottled-it's that good and contagious-and scoops the thing up and starts making plunging motions in the air.
"Oh yeah, that one's great," she says, "I just found out what it was. I was reading about it last night. It makes me wish I had a man so I could use it."
The Aneros MGX, as it's called, is actually an anal device painstakingly researched and designed to tickle both the male's prostate, known in hipper circles as "the P-spot," and perineum, known in those same circles as the "taint" or "choad." It's just one of the many products Dr. Jenn and Nicole sell at their sex workshops, a progressive and evolved new take on the Tupperware parties of the past.
"I'm in education," Dr. Jenn makes sure to tell me before the workshop officially begins, "so it's really about sexual education and female sexual empowerment. The products are just the pathway."
A month ago, Dr. Jenn left her job at The LGBT Center, where she did HIV-prevention work, so she could pursue a career in sex education full-time. She now works at selling female-oriented sex toys with Nicole through their co-owned company, Zip Zap Toys; gives sexuality lectures around San Diego County through her own company, Sexuality Outside the Box; and writes, produces and stars in her own weekly video podcast, In the Den with Dr. Jenn, which is released every Monday and available through her websites, www.drjennsden.com and www.zipzaptoys.com, as well as iTunes.
"Disconnected," Dr. Jenn says. "I think that's the state of sexuality among women everywhere."
It's a few weeks after the Women & Wine workshop in Old Town and Dr. Jenn looks nice and cozy curled up on a bright red chaise lounge in her corner apartment in Mission Beach. She's wearing a pink T-shirt that says, "Voting is Sexy" and a cute red hat that matches the chaise lounge perfectly. Her toes are painted pink, complemented by a tiny silver toe ring. She serves blueberry green tea in a Wonder Woman mug and periodically glances at her Mac iBook sitting next to her (she's going into the studio tomorrow to record upcoming podcast episodes, so she's got a lot of work to do).
Dr. Jenn's book collection says it all. Next to her is the book she's currently rereading, Deepak Chopra's The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence. It sits next to a picture of Dr. Jenn and a friend flexing for the camera at the top of what appears to be a very high mountain. On a towering bookshelf next to the photo is an impressive collection of holistic and spirituality books with titles like The Power of I Am and Sacred Healing and an impressive collection of sex books with titles like 101 Nights of Grrrreat Romance.
In new-age terms, Dr. Jenn is conscious. She's a vegetarian and a feminist and she believes in a holistic, whole-body approach toward sex. Her raison d'etre is to educate women about their own oft-neglected and almost always misunderstood sexuality. She has a doctorate in sociology from State University of New York at Albany, as well as a lot of training and teaching in the field of sexuality under her bright pink belt, so now all that's left is finding an attentive female audience willing to learn about things like finding their own pleasure ritual-Dr. Jenn's consists of a new wool rug in her living room, aromatherapy candles and, if she's in the mood, a CD of chakra chants to make masturbation more meditative-or using lubrication and dildos that are kinder and gentler to a woman's body.
Dr. Jenn's been slowly building that audience through more modern means, like the Women & Wine workshops she holds pretty regularly on Tuesday nights at wine bars throughout San Diego County, and especially through her podcast, which she says is pulling in about 30,000 downloads a month.
Back at the workshop, things are getting a little too loud for Dr. Jenn's liking. She's used to the giggling and chatting that comes with drinking wine while fondling sex toys, but her inner educator can't handle the chaos. She shushes the crowd and asked for their attention.
"Any idea what percentage of women are able to orgasm through sexual intercourse alone, even with some reaching?" she asks in her teacher voice.
There's more chatter until a young lady in front says, "My friend Megan."
The ladies laugh and nod. Orgasms from sex alone, they all agree, are few and far between.
"Yeah, exactly," says Dr. Jenn. "The latest stat I saw is 25 percent of women are able to regularly orgasm from sex alone, and a lot of people don't know that.
"There's a whole bunch of reasons women continue to fake them," Dr. Jenn continues, "but it sets up a false understanding of how women's orgasms work. A majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation, which is the idea behind the design of this here vibrating cock ring."
Dr. Jenn holds up something that looks somewhat like a baby's teething ring.
"It helps you to get that extra stimulation during sex," she says with a sly smile, passing it to the eager woman beside her.
By the end of the night, the chatter has turned into full-volume conversations among strangers about their personal sex lives. A few women walk away with vibrators and personal lubrication; most walk away with a more open and comfortable view of their own sexuality.
"If these things were around when I was younger," says the 69-year-old in the pink hat, "I would have bought everything." She pauses, then adds, "Like Dr. Jenn was saying about the orgasms-I haven't had that many in my life. Maybe this would've helped."