Review by Frank Plowright
Is it ridiculous or obvious to suggest the world would be a happier place if more people were honest about both their enjoyment of sex, and their sexual preferences? Erika Moen enjoys sex, her enjoyment is enhanced by the use of sex toys, and Oh Joy, Sex Toy began as a web comic reviewing them, but rapidly broadened to looking at a wide range of sex related topics and featuring interviews. The earliest of those is the second strip, reviewing pole dancers costumed as Disney characters. Occasionally there’s a product whose use is exclusively designed for those possessing a penis, at which point Erika’s husband Matthew Nolan supplies his thoughts.
It’s important to note Oh Joy being a common sense enterprise. There’s no axe to grind, no point to make other than wanting the best possible service from any device, while every now and then some advice moves beyond sex, yet still dealing with the private parts, such as reusable menstrual device the moon cup. Contraception is also discussed, cleverly, the first time along with a refresher course in how pregnancy occurs, and where to head for further information. There’s also an interview with a pole dancer. Mostly, though, it’s about the sex toys.
As should be the case for any educational graphic novel, surprises abound, and despite what society may dictate, there’s no more shame in not knowing what a buttplug is than there is at not knowing the surgical procedures covered in Medicine: A Graphic History. For a lot of people the devices reviewed alone will be eye-openers. Who knew there’s a vibrator alarm clock, or a device intended to replicate oral sex with clitoral stimulation? Fleshlights can be purchased disguised as beer cans* and vibrators as finger pads. There’s a joy in discovery.
Moen’s cartooning is super attractive, but despite that, the honesty, the extra advice, and the cheerful positivity, the value of Oh Joy Sex Toy’s first volume ultimately distils to how great an interest you have in using sex aids, because discussion of them forms the bulk of the content. The personal interaction is friendly and informative, and content diverting from sex aids has a general appeal, a strip detailing Matthew’s first visit to Erika’s parents a gem, and the ‘Ask a Porn Star’ features funny and informative, yet they’re the minority. After a while window shopping voyeurism doesn’t sustain the interest, but is anyone other than a graphic novel reviewer going to be looking at the book for that purpose? If the pros and cons of assorted lubes and vibrators are of interest, it’s difficult to imagine you’re going to find more practical advice, and for the more general reader there’s a fair amount to entertain, just possibly not enough.
Bonus content: the final forty pages is a selection of short strips from other contributors discussing assorted sex related topics. Want a primer on Japanese sex comics? Leslie Ortego and Brad Brown provide it. Lucy Bellwood discusses rope bondage, Emi supplies a great history of vibrators, and Lucy Knisley advises on the contraceptive implant. The cartooning is more variable, with few as capable as Moen, but the advice and charm is along the lines of the main feature.
Three further volumes follow, starting naturally enough with Vol. 2.
* Now sadly discontinued.