Conventional wisdom goes like this: Sex ed is something you learn in school. But then what? You're supposed to go the rest of your life only knowing what you learned before you could rent a car?
The staff and educators at the Tool Shed, 2427 N. Murray Ave. in Milwaukee, don’t think so. Since 2003, the sex-positive sex toy shop has been a resource for adults of all genders and orientations to explore their sexuality. Selling dildos, vibrators, sexy underwear and kinky gear is just part of what the store offers. The Tool Shed has a staff of sexuality educators who provide information and resources to help customers improve their sex lives.
For the first time, the store is devoting a week to that mission, sponsoring the first-ever Milwaukee SHARE (Sexual Health and Relationship Education) series. From April 3 to 10, the event's organizers have planned so many events that education coordinator Lucky Tomaszek says she and the other Tool Shed educators are working on trimming the schedule.
As of this writing, Milwaukee SHARE will encompass almost two dozen sessions, discussions and events. They range from the general — a kickoff night when Tool Shed staff and guests will tell stories about real experiences they’ve had with sex and relationships — to the more specific, such as sessions on couples in which one partner is trans, sex for older people, learning to set up play parties for swingers and polyamorous relationships.
Tomaszek says the idea sprang from working with local universities on their biannual sex-ed weeks, which feature a similar mix of events. “The idea of having a campuswide sexuality event … really impressed me,” she says. “We never had anything like that when I was a young adult.”
But she says Milwaukee SHARE offers a chance to retroactively fill that gap.
The largest event Tomaszek will lead draws on her knowledge both as a sexuality educator and as a parent. “Tickling, Teasing and Touching: Creating a Consent Culture for Kids” (9 a.m. on April 7 at the Tool Shed) is a session designed to address the tension between teaching children about consent and bodily autonomy while also guiding them to avoid making autonomous decisions about sexual activity before reaching maturity. Parents also have to learn to resist forcing their children to give hugs or kisses when they don’t want to.
Tomaszek will also be involved with the Tool Shed staff in smaller sessions throughout the week, as well as two “Ask the Sexpert” sessions: one at Colectivo on Prospect (10 a.m. on April 6) and one at Riverwest Public House (9 p.m. on April 9). She’s hosted similar events before, asking attendees to anonymously write down questions for her to answer out loud for the group. She says that she's been consistently surprised by the sincere — and only-as-explicit-as-necessary — nature of the queries.
Tomaszek is also excited about “What Aren’t They Talking About,” a day-long conference on April 4 designed for health-care providers. She says Tool Shed's staff often counsels health-care professionals on handling issues that come up around sexuality and gender identity. “What Aren’t They Talking About” helps them to understand the unique sexual issues of four groups of patients: seniors, people with disabilities, transgender patients and patients who participate in fetishistic sexual activities, such as leather and kink.
Since this is Milwaukee SHARE's first year, Tomaszek says the overreaching goal is getting out the word and bringing in as many people as possible. Most of the sessions are free. “The goal is to make everything accessible,” she says, “and to let people know we’re an educational resource, not just a store.”
An up-to-date schedule for Milwaukee SHARE can be found at toolshedtoys.com or mkeshare.com, or by calling 414-906-5304.
They Didn’t Teach THAT in School: True Adventures in Real-World Sex: Twanna Hines, sex educator and founder of the blog Funky Brown Chick, and Tool Shed staffer, will tell stories about what they wish they’d learned about sex and relationships. 8 p.m. on April 3 at Hybrid Lounge, 707 E, Brady St. $5 cover.
Ask Me, I’ll Tell You: Talking Out Loud about Sex & Aging: Joan Price, senior sex author and advocate, hosts a candid discussion about how to solve problems of satisfying sex after 50, 60, 70 and beyond. 8:30 p.m. on April 5 at the Tool Shed. Free.
Tickling, Teasing and Touch: Creating a Consent Culture for Kids: Tool Shed education coordinator Lucky Tomaszek helps parents promote a consent culture in their home, giving kids the bodily autonomy they need. 9 a.m. on April 7 at the Tool Shed. Free.
Promises You Can Keep: Through Transition Together: Activist Helen Boyd — who helped her husband through his transition — will speak to the relationship strategies that help make transition as a couple survivable and even awesome. 8:30 p.m. on April 7 at the Tool Shed. Free.
Bacchanalia Basics: Cooper S. Beckett and Dylan Thomas, co-hosts of the non-monogamy podcast Life on the Swingset, break down the basics of play parties, from logistical concerns (how to ensure 10 people can fit on the bed) to ethical concerns (consent, STI disclosures, relationship arrangements). 8:30 p.m. on April 8 at the Tool Shed. Free.
Sex with Survivors: Embodied Sexuality for Survivors of Sexual Violence: Sex educator and professional dominatrix Sophia Chase focuses on embodiment and sexual empowerment in a session that helps survivors of sexual assault or abuse feel safe and in control of their bodies. 10 a.m. on April 9 at the Tool Shed. Free.
Share the Love! An Extravaganza of Grown-Up Sex Ed: Education can be fun as well as important, and this sex-ed party proves it! The evening will include a live “Ask the Sexpert” Q&A, live clothed kink demos with Lady Sophia, music by Lauryl Sulfate and Her LOL and Roxy Beane, and performances by burlesque troupe the Brew City Bombshells. 9 p.m. on April 9 at Riverwest Public House, 815 E. Locust St. Free, but tips encouraged.
The Mind-Body Connection: Yoga, Dignity and Long Term STIs: Yoga instructor and “sex nerd” Jessica Popp explores ways in which yoga’s boost in self-worth and viral immunity can help those living with a chronic STIs. 10 a.m. n April 10 at the Tool Shed. Free.
Porn Like Us: Celebrating Sexual Diversity in Cinema: Queer porn performer and advocate Jiz Lee hosts this event exploring examples of sexually diverse porn that can help everyone, especially trans and queer people, see themselves as deserving and capable of a happy and healthy sexuality. Lee will also appear at 4 p.m. at the Tool Shed to sign the anthology Coming Out Like a Porn Star. 7 p.m. on April 10 at Riverwest Public House. $5.