Toronto Star

Toronto Star

Dispenser of naked truth about sex


Toronto Star, Sept. 25, 2004

In the opening credits of the late and lamented Sex And The City, a bus poster featured a photo of Sarah Jessica Parker as sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw with the caption, “Carrie Bradshaw knows good sex.”

Sexpert Josey Vogels, who has been called “the Canadian Carrie Bradshaw,” writes the nationally syndicated columns My Messy Bedroom and Dating Girl; gives advice on her website; and was host of the series My Messy Bedroom, which ran for 26 episodes on WTN.

“It was me and my girlfriends talking about sex, cut to boys in a bar,” she explained over lunch at Bistro 990, where we met to chat about her book Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy. It’s her fifth book, she pointed out. The first two were collections of her columns from Messy Bedroom, the third was dating advice and the fourth was The Secret Language Of Girls.

We talked sex and shoes, which are not mutually exclusive, as anyone who has worn stilettos can attest.

Hers is not a Masters and Johnson or Shere Hite clinical approach to sex.

“Research?” she asked with (perfectly manicured) eyebrow raised. “I’ve been having sex for years and writing about it for over 10 years. The average person obviously does not have a lot of time to test sex toys unless you are a porn star.”

Which brings up a discussion of Passion Parties, hosted by middle-aged women selling sex toys at home — like Tupperware but different rubbers.

“I spoke at this convention for sex toys,” Vogels recalled. “Sex toys are illegal in Texas — but you can get a gun at a 7-Eleven and you can legally have sex with your first cousin.”

She is 39, born in Newtonville, east of Oshawa, pop. 500, but grew up in Toronto.

“I’m a farm girl, the youngest of eight kids from a big Catholic family. There was not a lot of birth control.”

She has an enviable figure but is not afraid of frites. “We are Dutch; we live on starch,” she laughed. “We are the worst candidates for Atkins.”

Her eldest brother and sister were born in Holland. Her parents came to Canada in 1953 with $300 and no words of English. “My father learned to drive a car from a manual.”

Little Josey would write “crazy stuff,” she recalled, but she really wanted to be a secretary.

“I’m a girl, I’ll be a secretary. There weren’t a lot of independent career women then.”

At 18, Vogels moved to Toronto, worked in a bar and volunteered at a radio station doing musical and arts programming. Because she wanted to learn French, she moved to Montreal and studied media and communication at Concordia.

“I got a job as the only female columnist at the English weekly Hour magazine. I had a teen weekly column called My Messy Bedroom because I liked the metaphor — the funny thing about sex is that it’s messy.

“Most people have sex in the bedroom — it’s the most comfortable. Having sex on a construction site with gravel in the heat of the moment means picking gravel out of your knees. Sex on the beach requires picking sand out of your orifices. First-time sex in the hay is a cliché: making out in the haystack means you’re picking hay out of your butt.”

Her parents are cool with her occupation even though no one talked about sex at home.

“I sent my first column to my parents and they sent it back with corrections. My dad is an aspiring writer.”

Vogels’s most-often asked question (aside from, “What is your most often asked question?”) is about the frequency of sex. What is normal?

“Normal is an unfortunate gauge in our sex lives,” she said. “How little is too little? Am I normal when I fantasize when I’m having sex? If it is working for each partner, it’s ideal. If it is not working, there are two different sex drives and different levels of desire. Don’t obsess if it’s not adversely affecting your lives and other intimacies.

“For men, it is performance issues: abilities and assets and feeling insecure about it,” she continued. “People talk about the Sex And The City generation. People are more open about sex now but people still struggle with the same things. Our dialogue changes but the inherent issues don’t change. We are all naked and vulnerable and embarrassed.”

As for her own sex life, because she’s a sexpert, people expect her to be a sexpot.

“I’m expected to be the Energizer Bunny of sex and pull a rabbit out of my butt,” she said. “I’m in a relationship; I was in a seven-year relationship. The men I go out with are smart enough to say, `It’s her job.'”

Vogels has a lot of male readers. “Women’s magazines are all about sexual relationships. Men don’t have places to go and are embarrassed but that doesn’t mean they aren’t curious.”

Her main demographic is 25 to 40, although she has virginal teen readers. A favourite letter was from a 60-year- old woman who’d never had an orgasm. Vogels suggested a sex toy.

She believes we are still too moralistic about sex. “In Europe, the Janet Jackson (wardrobe malfunction) and Monica Lewinsky scandals are a joke. Having lived in Montreal for 12 years and having started my column there 12 years ago, I wonder if it would have flown here. The attitude is different. We’re constantly embarrassed: `Omigawd he said `penis.’

“We have the idea in North America that our way is the right way. In my column, I challenge our norm.”

Vogels knows the old guard, Dr. Ruth and Sue Johansen.

“I had dinner with Dr. Ruth at The Drake,” she recalled. “I told her she looked exactly like my mother. It’s bizarre. I think she was a bit pissed off.

“People who grew up with Sue had different attitudes. Now people look for something more `out there.’ People know how to put a condom on, they know where the G-spot is — or they think they know.”

Vogels’s mentors include performance artist/sex guru Annie Sprinkle and humorist Cynthia Heimel, “women who are feminists but allowed to talk about sex,” she explained. “Before, feminists were anti-sex or felt objectified. It’s okay to like sex. Cynthia says that humour is such a wonderful tool. I think the message is that it’s okay to laugh about sex because sex is not comfortable. Anyone who has to negotiate a condom or gets a cramp in their foot during sex can attest to that.”

Vogels has no use for porn.

“Most porn is so distasteful: There is something so mechanical about performing for the camera. Unfortunately, it is where most guys learn their technique.”

As a rule, Canadians are polite but prone to prurience.

“Pierre Trudeau set the norm when he said the state had no business in the bedrooms of the nation. We are insanely curious about sex but too polite to say we are. I’m amazed that at parties, the most unassuming person asks the questions. The 905’ers are the swingers.”

Copyright (c) 2004, The Toronto Star