I knew as soon as the words came out of my mouth that I was in for a hassle. I was just trying to be honest. After all, isn't that the best policy when you're crossing the border into the U.S.?
Well, maybe not if you're en route to speak at a sex toy party convention. The custom officer looked at me, eyebrows cocked, and asked the very question running through your mind right now. "A sex toy convention?"
Um, yeah, home sex toy parties -- kind of like Tupperware parties except that instead of flogging food storage ideas, they flog, well, floggers and such.
"Right ma'am, pull your car over there, please."
The four custom guys stifled giggles as they spent the next half hour pulling my car apart looking for... for what, semi-automatic weapons disguised as Rabbit Pearl vibrators? Cocaine-injected dildos?
When they were satisfied I didn't in fact have a trunk full of illegal French ticklers or whatever it was they were looking for, they sent me on my way.
When you're in my line of work, travelling with sex toys is part of the job. Which is why I was relieved when earlier this year the Tranportation Security Administration officials in the U.S. announced that "whips, chains, handcuffs, vibrators, and other personal 'toys' that don't exceed certain measurements are OK to pack in your carry-on as long they don't become 'club-like,'" according to Lifehacker.com.
As far as I know, no one has ever been "clubbed" on a plane with a vibrator, but in these post-9/11 days, when a tube of liquid hair gel is a potential threat, what's a customs guy to do with a bag full of tubes of personal lubricant?
Confiscate them... of course.
"I needed them for a lecture and I was paranoid about them leaking in the depressurized baggage area, so I put them in my carry on," explains Trina Read, an author and sex coach from Calgary. "They exceeded the liquid restrictions and got confiscated. Duh! It cost me a lot to replace them and I'm sure security gleefully doled them out at the end of the day."
Sometimes, travelling with sex toys can work in your favour. Another time Read was travelling with a suitcase full of vibrators -- for a lecture NOT for personal use, she insists A security guy unzipped her bag, looked in, turned beet red and quickly closed it again. "I went through the security line in seconds," laughs Read. "I spend way more time getting checked when I'm not carrying vibrators."
Sue Johanson, Canada's most famous sex educator, lectures across Canada and never travels without her Elephant and her Juicer. Yes, both are sex toys.
At the tiny airport in Lethbridge, Alberta, she usually encounters a certain seasoned WWII vet turned airport security guard. "He can't for the life of him figure out what these things are used for," she laughs. "He thinks they're grenades or something that will explode imminently."
Luckily, when you're Sue Johanson, someone in line inevitably recognizes "that sex lady" and, before long, the entire line is cheering her on as security guards sheepishly sift through her bag of goodies.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority has no official policy when it comes to traveling with sex toys, and while their website lists hundreds of items that are and aren't allowed in your carry on -- Yaqua blowguns: illegal; snow globes: legal -- there is no mention of anything even remotely sex-toy related.
I called the 1-800 number to inquire if I could bring vibrators and lube in my carry-on for an upcoming lecture in another city. The lube would be fine as long as it was 100ml or less. The vibrators? Also fine as long as I didn't pack spare batteries in my checked luggage. Handcuffs and whips? One second ma'am, I'll have to check. When he came back on the line, he told me that only cops and security people can bring handcuffs on board. The cuffs and whips would have to go in my checked bag. Good to know. Thank you sir. No problem ma'am. Have a nice day.
Morpheus, a Toronto-based sex educator includes a whole section on travelling with sex toys in his book How to be Kinkier: More Adventures in Adult Playtime.
"You can travel with your toys," he writes, "but you need to use some common sense, pay attention to the rules and regulations regarding restricted and prohibited items, and put all your stuff in your checked luggage.
"And remember," he says, "baggage gets thrown around so don't be upset if you simply had to bring that $300 glass dildo along on a business trip and now it is in three pieces once you open up your luggage at the hotel; it's your fault for bringing it."
When he travels, Morpheus packs all his toys on top of his luggage. "If they are going to paw through them, I would rather they get to them easily instead of having to dig through my underwear and toiletries."
Or you could just do what American sex therapist Diana Wiley did. When she showed up at security with a bag full of sex toys for a speaking engagement, the male security guard opened her bag and simply stood there staring.
Wiley looked back at him with her most confident, sassy smile and said, "It takes a lot to get me off."
He waved her through.